About the perspectives of 360 Reality Audio format, ear photos and well-forgotten old

The appearance of the new 360 Reality Audio format at the beginning of this year at CES was expected, and therefore did not produce the effect of an information bomb explosion. Among the potential end users, the format was rather cool and was mostly interested in specialists. Meanwhile, getting to know him and realizing what he is, we can talk about the great future of this development. Amazon Music, Deezer, Tidal and nugs.net have already shown serious interest in the format.

A month ago, services confirmed the information that they intend to broadcast music in a new format. I believe that the use of traditional two speakers played a role for streaming services, instead of the large number of sources that are necessary for correct playback when using the competitor format Dolby Atmos. But is this format really new and what can be expected from it in the future. Under cat I talk about 360 Reality Audio and a little wang about its immediate prospects.

Novelty for those who did not know about binaural recording

So, to call the development of SONY something fundamentally new is to lie, since the theoretical and technological base for its creation appeared a long time ago. Anyone who has ever encountered binaural recordings will instantly recognize them by listening to a demo track on the SONY website. For comparison, you can use any of the virtual barbershops created using binaural recording. For example, this

The main advantage of 360 Reality Audio is the ability to accurately localize many KIZ (apparent sound sources), while most binaural recordings have exactly one – maximum two instruments, the rest is often less clear.

Another feature of the technology is the consideration of the individual characteristics of the ear of the listener. For analysis, ears are enough to photograph. Interestingly, earlier there were also projects that take into account the features of the auricle, for example, the Nura startup, which used a test signal and reflection analysis.

“Having learned” about the shape of the auricle from the photo, the software forms an individual profile and allows you to adapt the playback to a specific user. Thanks to all of the above, SONY offers a realistic sound picture with the exact location of many sources in a stereo panorama.

Compatibility and devices

If we talk about wireless speakers and headphones, then using the format will require mandatory hardware support, i.e. decoder from SONY. For now, the only compatible stationary wireless device is Amazon Echo Studio, which will decode the signal from Amazon Music HD. AU will be on sale on November 7th. It is important to understand that the use of new technology is possible only with a paid subscription.

When using the vast majority of modern headphones, you can hope for their sane work with the new format. To work, you will need Deezer, Tidal or Nugs.net with the appropriate application for your operating system. Amazon Music Unlimited does not yet support the technology.

As already mentioned, when used with headphones compatible with Headphone Connect technology, you can create an individual profile optimized for specific ears. It should also be noted that many users question the effectiveness of this function – they simply do not feel the difference between the sound in their own profile and a profile optimized for another person.

In the future, SONY plans to implement hardware support for 360 Reality Audio on promising Alexa devices as well as those that will support Google Chromecast. It is expected that in the future support will be implemented in the basic functionality of mobile chips from Mediatek I, NXP Semiconductors, Qualcomm. In addition, SONY announced a collaboration with Fraunhofer IIS, which will make 360 ​​Reality Audio available to music creators.

Regarding technology prospects

Despite the fact that there is nothing fundamentally new in binaural recording, the format still offers users higher fidelity of reproduction and realistic localization of phantom sources. And considering that 360 Reality Audio is not engaged by one and a half enthusiasts (as happened with binaural recordings before), but by such a giant as SONY and large streaming services, we can count on turning this format into a new standard.

Initially, it will be only a niche, but given the difference that is noticeable to anyone with traditional stereo, it will gain popularity within 5-7 years. Also, he is unlikely to be able to squeeze Dolby Atmos, since the latter is designed more for home theaters than for playing music. Moreover, the effects are relatively comparable to Dolby Atmos, 360 Reality Audio is possible only in headphones (which developers primarily rely on), which is guaranteed to reduce the audience.

The process of integrating the format into the studio process has already begun. According to Sony, more than 1000 tracks in a new format have already been prepared for streaming services, among artists Mark Ronson, Farrell Williams, Billy Joel and Jeff Beck.

I also say that in Russia the format will become popular and widely used much later than it will in the USA and Western Europe. This will happen due to the fact that streaming services primarily rely on a Western audience, whose tastes differ significantly from the musical preferences of Russians. I would traditionally appreciate your views on the prospects and usefulness of the format and technology in the comments.

We sell audio equipment, it is likely that devices supporting 360 Reality Audio will appear in our catalog in the near future.

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