Sony’s neglected 360 Reality Audio platform is finally getting the chance to prove itself. The technology, which uses special mixing techniques to place listeners in a virtualized “live” environment, will power a streamable Zara Larsson video concert on January 11th. Sony also plans to release a pair of 360 Reality Audio speakers before the end of the year.
You can watch Zara Larsson’s 360 Reality Audio concert through Sony’s Artist Connection mobile app (Android/iOS) at 5PM EST on January 11th. The concert works with any pair of headphones or a speaker compatible with 360 Reality Audio. As of now, the only speaker compatible with 360 Reality Audio is Amazon’s Echo Studio smart speaker.
Sony has also announced a pair of 360 Reality Audio speakers, the SRS-RA5000 and SRS-RA3000. These Wi-Fi connected smart devices use upward and outward-facing loudspeakers to fill the room with immersive, “3D” audio. While you can cast any streaming service to the speakers through Google Assistant or Alexa, you’ll have to hunt down 360 Reality Audio tracks on Tidal, Amazon Music, or Deezer to experience Sony’s new audio technology.
Unfortunately, only about 4,000 songs support the 360 Reality Audio platform. Sony plans to expand this library with the release of a 360 Reality Audio Creative Suite, which producers and musicians can use to create music that’s compatible with 360 Reality Audio.
What does 360 Reality Audio sound like? If the above video demonstration is accurate, then 360 Reality Audio is difficult to distinguish from regular stereo mixing. The technology may sound better with a 360 Reality Audio speaker, but it’s hard to imagine that a single freestanding speaker can sound more “immersive” than a traditional stereo setup or a surround-sound array.