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Sony Creates 360 Reality Audio With Regular Headphones

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio positions sound in a spherical space to evoke feelings of being in a music studio or live concert venue. It works with any headphone.

Sony 360 Reality Audio Behind the Scenes with Zara Larsson

Sony just announced the expansion of its 360 Reality Audio services and product offerings, including adding new video streaming capabilities and content creation tools. Through these efforts, Sony will continue to expand the 360 Reality Audio ecosystem.

Introduced in 2019, Sony’s 360 Reality Audio makes it possible for artists and creators to produce music by mapping sound sources such as vocals, chorus and instruments with positional information and placing them within a spherical space. This revolutionary musical experience, powered by Sony’s spatial sound technologies, evokes feelings of being in a music studio or live concert venue — all without leaving the comfort of home. 

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio Creative Suite provides real-time rendering to emulate a 13-channel speaker system. Music mastered using Sony’s 360 Reality Audio Suite (software) allows a maximum 1.5Mbps bitrate with up to 24 objects. For an upgraded experience, Sony recommends using two apps (Artist Connections App & Sony’s Headphone Connect App) in conjunction with a Sony headphone model “optimized” for 360 Reality Audio, such as Sony’s best-in-class WH-1000XM4 wireless headphones. However, Sony also says 360 Reality Audio can be heard through any headphone so it’s unclear what, if any, technology is inside the headphone itself.

Sony SRS-RA5000 360 Reality Audio Wireless Speakers Lifestyle
Sony SRS-RA5000

In addition to headphones, Sony announced two table-top wireless speakers which support 360 Reality Audio, models SRS-RA3000 and SRS-RA5000. These WiFi-enabled speakers are said to create an immersive, room-filling 360 Reality Audio sound experience by utilizing Sony’s unique Immersive Audio Enhancement algorithm. The speakers can be controlled with Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa devices, so users can manage their music with ease. Pricing and availability are still unknown.

Listeners can currently access approximately 4,000 songs in 360 Reality Audio from artists like Alicia Keys, Lil Nas X, Megan Thee Stallion, Noah Cyrus, Zara Larsson, and more. To demo this technology, Sony released a YouTube video starring Zara Larsson, singing Talk About Love, at the Alexandra Palace Theatre, London.

If you listen through headphones (no app required), you should be able to hear sounds coming from all around you. Zara’s voice even shifts vantage points as the camera follows her across the stage. I tested with run-of-the-mill Sennheiser HD450BT headphones (wired to my MacBook Pro) and spatial audio effects worked surprisingly well. So try it out yourself, and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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