Sony Unveils the 'Future of Music' With 360 Reality Audio at CES 2019

It’s powered by object-based spatial audio technology to create a full spectrum musical experience.

If Sony has it way, in the not too distant future we won’t just listen to music — we will experience it 360 degrees. Similar to that feeling of first walking into a massive concert with the pulse of bass under your feet and sound vibrating through your body, Sony’s new immersive multi-channel 360 Reality Audio format is 3D for your ears.

This week, immersive experiences dominated the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which wraps Friday (Jan. 11), ranging from AI to VR to autonomous vehicles. One of the prevailing hierarchical themes was that when it comes to tech, the consumer is not just a bystander, but an active participant in the environment.

The biggest, splashiest and most awe-inspiring audio innovation came from the Sony 360 Reality Audio launch, calling itself the “Future of Music.” The demonstration had convention goers lining up for hours for the experience.

Described as a “musical ecosystem,” 360 Reality Audio is powered by object-based spatial audio technology.

In the recording studio, artists and engineers will spatially map sound for 360 Reality Audio to create a full spectrum musical experience. “Vocals, chorus and instruments [will be tagged with] positional information of distance and angle to suit their creative and artistic purpose,” said representatives from Sony during a demonstrated on the show floor.

During CES, the technology was played through speakers and headphones in controlled vignettes, with the sound hitting listeners from all angles on all systems. Through the headphones the technology will come in an app-based approach that will personalize the performance.

Sony representatives explained how the mobile application will work: “Sony is developing an app that will enable users to take photos of their own ears with a smartphone to create an optimized musical experience based on an analysis of the hearing characteristics of user’s ears. Speaker systems which project sound in all directions will be able to reproduce a 360 Reality Audio experience.”

Fraunhofer IIS, which created the MP3 format, is on board with the development as well and 360 Reality Audio is supported by MPEG-H 3D Audio. Sound engineers will also be able to take audio that is already cast in multitrack format and convert it to 360 Reality, opening up a world of possibilities with musical catalogs.

Digital streaming services Deezer, nugs.net, Qobuz and TIDAL will be the first to provide the format to their subscribers.  

For a first run of audio content, Sony has partnered with Live Nation to capture recordings from The Wombats, AJR, Good Charlotte and Kodaline performing at at a number of its venues across the country.

“Listening to our live concert through the new 3D technology is the closest I’ve ever come to actually being in the audience at a Kodaline show. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before,” said Steve Garrigan, songwriter and singer of Kodaline, in a statement.

There is not yet a scheduled release date or price tag associated with Sony 360.


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