When Sony gave us a chance to demo its new 360 Reality Audio format at CES 2019 earlier this year, we were very impressed with what we heard. Our only question was, when will we get a chance to experience it in the comfort of our own homes? The answer, according to Sony, is “late fall, 2019” — in other words, much sooner than we expected. The immersive audio format, which will compete with Dolby’s Atmos Music, will be added to Tidal, Amazon Music HD, Deezer, and Nugs.net through an initial release of about 1,000 tracks.
Sony says it’s working with music labels including Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group, and Warner Music Group to expand the amount of music that is produced in 360 Reality Audio. The initial 1,000-track library includes current hit artists such as Mark Ronson and Pharrell Williams, but also has classics such as Billy Joel and Bob Dylan. There’s also going to be around 100 live concert recordings from Live Nation Clubs & Theaters.
360 Reality Audio is a very sophisticated format that acts as a kind of virtual reality for your ears. For it to work, you need a compatible mobile app and a set of headphones, or a speaker system with Sony’s unique decoder of the 360 Reality Audio music format, multiple speaker units and signal processing technology.
The easiest way to get on the 360 Reality Audio train will be to use the Tidal, Deezer or Nugs.net apps on your iOS or Android phone, connected to a set of headphones. However, for an even more customized and immersive 360 experience, Sony recommends you pair one of a select set of its headphones with its Headphones Connect app. The app analyzes your hearing characteristics using images of ear dimensions and then leveraging Sony’s audio algorithm. Sony’s superb WH-1000XM3 will work, as will its new true wireless earbuds, the WF-1000XM3.
Another way you can get the 360 experience, though perhaps with a little less overall immersion, is with Amazon’s recently announced Echo Studio speaker.
There’s no word yet on whether folks will be able to buy and download music in Sony’s new format, but we do know that Sony won’t be alone on the immersive audio stage. Dolby Atmos Music will also debut soon on Amazon Music HD, and though we haven’t seen any music produced in Sennheiser’s Ambeo binaural format yet, we suspect it’s headed our way too.
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