At CES 2021, Sony announced the expansion of its Sony 360 Reality Audio services and product offerings, including adding new video streaming capabilities and content creation tools, continuing to expand the 360 Reality Audio ecosystem.
Now the compatible Sony 360 Reality Audio speaker is ready for pre-order.
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.
At the time Sony announced the following enhancements:
First-ever Video Streaming Service in 360 Reality Audio for virtual concertgoers
Sony introduced the live performance video content aspect of 360 Reality Audio sound with an exclusive live performance provide by Sony Music Entertainment artist Zara Larsson. Viewers were able to stream this performance with the Artist Connection app on a smartphone. With select Sony headphones and the Sony | Headphones Connect app, users could also optimize their experience by analyzing their individual ear shape to enjoy a custom immersive musical field of their choice.
360 Reality Audio makes it possible to create a lifelike music experience, giving listeners the impression that they are in a live concert setting. Sony hopes to leverage this spatial sound technology to create an innovative solution for music lovers who are not able to enjoy live concerts, whether due to Covid-19 restrictions or other accessibility reasons. Sony, major music labels and service providers are working together with plans to begin streaming this new video content later this year.
New 360 Reality Audio Creative Suite Introduced for content creators
Sony and Virtual Sonics, Inc. have developed a new content creation software called the 360 Reality Audio Creative Suite to enable easier creation of 360 Reality Audio content by musicians and creators. The 360 Reality Audio Creative Suite plugin software is compatible with popular digital audio workstation (DAW). Virtual Sonics, Inc., through its subsidiary Audio Futures, Inc., will release the software at the end of this month.
Additionally, Sony and Music.com, with distribution by The Orchard, are launching a Creators’ Program, which makes it possible for creators to produce 360 Reality Audio content using the 360 Reality Audio Creative Suite and then stream their content.
Compatible Devices and Licensing Expanded
Beginning this spring, 360 Reality Audio compatible speakers SRS-RA5000 and SRS-RA3000 will be available for purchase. These WiFi-enabled speakers 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.
360 Reality Audio can also be experienced using headphones from most manufacturers when combined with an Android/iOS smartphone that has a participating streaming service app installed. Additionally, Sony is partnering with other consumer electronics companies to promote the 360 Reality Audio experience.
In order to continue expanding its library of compatible audio devices, Sony will license out the following technologies moving forward:
- Headphones personalization technology that analyzes the listener’s hearing characteristics
- Technologies that enable smartphones and automotive vehicles to play 360 Reality Audio
As the pre-order is announced here’s what the tech press is saying:
Sony’s New 360 Reality Audio Speaker Sounds So Damn Good, but It’ll Cost You (Catie Keck, Gizmodo)
Sometimes, a Bluetooth-enabled speaker is really all you need. But the nice part about having a speaker with wifi capabilities, too, is being able to simply tell your smart assistant what to play without having to fiddle too much with the speaker itself. It helps when that speaker also delivers exquisite audio the way it’s meant to be heard. [email protected]
What is Sony’s 360 Reality Audio? Object-based sound tech explained (Alistair Charlton)
What’s most interesting is their use of Sony’s 360 Reality Audio technology, which is an object-based sound system designed to surround the listener with a sphere of noise, instead of pumping music through the left and right channels of stereo. The technology was previously available on the Amazon Echo Studio smart speaker. 360 Realty Audio doesn’t take regular stereo music and turn into a form of surround sound. Instead, it requires the music to be encoded in a way that a speaker or headset compatible with the technology can understand. [email protected]
Sony’s 360 Reality Audio now ready for pre-order (Billy Steele, Yahoo)
Both the SRS-RA3000 and SRS-RA5000 are equipped to handle 360 Reality Audio. The only difference in terms of audio quality is the RA5000 is also Hi-Res Audio certified, which means it offers improved performance for those higher-resolution music files. Both speakers have a sound calibration feature that adjusts each unit for optimum performance in the room where it’s positioned. While you’ll need to press a button to carry out the action on the RA5000, the RA3000 does this automatically — even after you move it to a new spot. The two speakers also offer automatic volume adjustment to keep levels consistent across songs and both have Chromecast built-in and Spotify Connect over WiFi (in addition to Bluetooth) for wireless connectivity. Lastly, both models work with Alexa and Google Assistant, but not directly. You’ll need a compatible device (Echo, Google Home, etc.) that can handle the voice commands and sync with these Sony speakers for your spoken cues to be heard. The microphones on Sony’s speakers are dedicated to room calibration instead of voice control.
As part of today’s pre-order news, Sony also announced that both the RA3000 and RA5000 will work with Alexa Cast in Amazon Music HD on April 6th in North America. If you’re not familiar, think of it as Amazon’s version of Chromecast but for Alexa-compatible devices. More specifically, it’s a way to control music with your phone via Amazon Music when listening on a connected wireless speaker. 360 Reality Audio content was already available on Amazon Music HD, but both it and Dolby Atmos Music songs were both labeled with a generic “3D” marker. Sony says with this update, you’ll be able to tell which songs are 360 Reality Audio as they’ll be labeled clearly.
The real difference between the two speakers, besides overall size, is on the inside. The larger SRS-RA5000 packs in seven total drivers: three up-firing, three side-firing and a single subwoofer. The SRS-RA3000 uses a full-range speaker and a diffuser to spread the sound around the room. It combines those with two overlapping beam tweeters and a dual passive radiator that handles the low-end tone to complete the effect. Sony also made the RA3000 humidity resistant, so you can take it into the kitchen or bathroom without worrying that damp air will damage it. The speaker isn’t waterproof though, so you’ll still need to be careful to some degree.
Sony’s final step for getting its new(ish) audio format into your home was its own hardware. Before now, the only gear the company had that allowed you to tap into 360 Reality Audio was select models of its headphones. While it has expanded the content library, the total number of tracks is still a modest 4,000 at last count, so there’s more work to be done. But between debuting its own hardware, giving creators and engineers software tools to create their own 360 Reality Audio songs and leveraging the immersive tech for live performances, Sony is finally turning what initially seemed like a neat project into a full-on audio platform. And since the company is working with other manufacturers to certify more speakers and headphones to work with 360 Reality Audio, the number of options should increase soon. [email protected]