Sony’s new 360 Reality Audio format will launch this fall with several hardware partners and streaming services. Spotify and Apple Music are not on the list.
Sony says the format is all about providing immersive surround sound. The goal is to replicate actual live experiences using object-based spatial audio technology. A spatially-mapped audio experience should feel like attending the real thing.
Back in January, Sony revealed plans to work with major labels to expand 360 Reality Audio. Now at launch, there will be about 1,000 songs available in the new format. The inaugural tracks span several genres with tracks from Pharrell Williams, Bob Dylan, and Billy Joel.
Sony also captured live performances from Charlie XCX and Kodaline for the new format. Aside from leveraging content from its own label — Sony says Universal, Warner, and Live Nation will support the format.
To get consumers on board, Sony has partnered with several hardware and streaming partners. At launch Amazon Music HD, Deezer, Tidal, and nugs.net will support the format. You’ll notice both Spotify and Apple Music are missing from the list.
Amazon’s new Echo Studio speaker will support 360 Reality Audio playback natively when it launches. Other speakers will require an audio decoder along with multiple speaker units. It’s unlikely the format will catch on for people who aren’t willing to re-buy their audio set-up.
At launch there’s not much mobile support beyond streaming partners, either. Sony says certain recent headphones will be able to produce a “custom immersive musical experience” using the Headphones Connect app. But there are no details on how that will work with the new 360 Reality Audio format.
Starting with support on Amazon’s newest Echo device is a pretty good bet. Amazon dominates the smart speaker market in the United States — nearly 70% of households use their smart speaker daily, with music playback being the number one request. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if this audio format is another Betamax or a Blu-Ray.