Sony 360 Reality Audio could change music forever

Although the conference is now long over, one of the striking demos from CES 2019 was Sony’s 360 Reality Audio.

During the show I was hanging about the Sony stand, playing with robot dogs and gawping at OLED TVs when I was approached about a demo to hear this new tech.

A small group of us were ushered into a dark room with a large projection screen, loads of speakers and chairs with headphones placed next to them on small pedestals.

The demo began and we were treated to a demonstration that steered music all around the room.

 

Next the techies helped us fit a small microphone into our ears. Sounds were played first from the speakers and then with the headphones, the goal to measure the characteristics of our ears to tailor the sound to our unique ear shape.

 

One day your normal Sony headphones might have this technology (Image: Ian Morris)

The impressive bit came next when the headphones played sound that was a dynamic as that from the speakers. Music moved all around us and the immersive experience was very involving.

If you’ve ever experienced Dolby Atmos for films then you’ll understand how this works. If not, the sensation is much better than you’d expect from speakers or headphones in fixed positions.

The sound can literally be placed anywhere, even though you’re only wearing stereo headphones.

That gets exciting if you think about an audio track with isolated audio. Imagine a live concert where the audience is surrounding you, making noise, signing along and from the front comes the voice of your favourite artist.

 

Sony showed off the tech at CES 2019 (Image: Ian Morris)

It adds up to a really involving experience.

One thing I noticed in the demo was that the actual quality of the music wasn’t quite as high as you might expect. It wasn’t awful, but I assume that this would improve when a final product was launched.

And when is that final product due? Well Sony wouldn’t say. The idea is that this tech would be built into music streaming services like Deezer and Tidal. If you have the right equipment then you’ll be able to turn on 360 Reality Audio and experience something very different.

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