Sony Introduces 360 Reality Audio Music Experiences Powered by Object-Based Spatial Audio Technology

January 9 2019, 01:15
At CES 2019, Sony is not focusing so much on products and mainly highlighting content and experiences instead. Among those, Sony is promoting an all new music experience called "360 Reality Audio,” delivered by MPEG-H object-based spatial audio technology developed in collaboration with Fraunhofer IIS and promoted as “a new musical ecosystem for content creation, distribution and music playback.” The demonstrations cover all types of reproduction platforms, from fully featured speaker arrays to binaural reproduction on headphones with HRTF profiles.
 

As confirmed during the company’s spectacular press event at CES 2019, Sony is working with major music labels, music distribution services such as Deezer, nugs.net, Qobuz, TIDAL, and other such music organizations to provide the technology for “building a musical ecosystem around 360 Reality Audio, which will include the creation, distribution and playing of music content. Meanwhile, Sony is working to promote this new music experience to music creators, artists, and music fans, looking to create an entirely new world of music entertainment.”

For this initiative, Sony is trying to engage also its multiple business units. As Dennis Kooker, President, Global Digital Business & U.S. Sales, Sony Music Entertainment, stated, "Sony Music is pleased to be partnering with Sony Corporation to support the growth of 360 Reality Audio. We are long-running believers in high quality audio solutions that enhance the listening experience for consumers, and this three-dimensional sound format is an exciting new option for fans seeking a more immersive way to hear their favorite music. We look forward to working with a growing number of digital service providers to make songs from our artists available for streaming in 360 Reality Audio.”

Bernhard Grill, Director, Audio and Media Technologies, Fraunhofer IIS added: “We are excited to be part of this innovative project which allows consumers to listen to music in a completely new way. Sony's 360 Reality Audio, based on MPEG-H 3D Audio, is providing audiences with a highly creative, cutting-edge music experience. Thanks to the underlying support of MPEG-H object-based audio, the vocals, instruments and effects can be placed all around the listeners, immersing them like never before. With 360 Reality Audio, Sony offers a pioneering service for music lovers and creatives alike.”
 

Ole Obermann, Chief Digital Officer & Executive Vice President, Business Development, Warner Music Group, says, "We are always looking for new ways to amplify our artists' music, and fostering a diversity of listening options is great for our artists and their fans. Sony's immersive audio tier will add a new dimension to streaming services and offers music lovers a high quality experience they won't get elsewhere. We are impressed with what we have heard so far, and happy to support the launch of this new technology."

The 360 Reality Audio Concept
360 Reality Audio uses object-based spatial audio technology to provide an immersive music experience. On the creation side, makes it possible for artists and musicians to create a 360-degree musical experiences by mapping sound sources such as vocals, chorus and instruments with positional information of distance and angle to suit their creative and artistic purpose. When listeners play back the resulting content, they can enjoy a music experience that immerses them in sound from every direction as intended by the content creator.
 

Sony will provide content creation tools and work with major music labels to prepare and augment music into 360 Reality Audio content. Also, existing music that is already in multitrack sound format will be able to be converted into a 360 Reality Audio compatible format using the production tools that Sony will provide.

Sony plans to release a format optimized for music distribution. With the cooperation of the Fraunhofer IIS, part of Europe's largest organization for applied research, the format will be compliant with MPEG-H 3D Audio, an open audio standard. The plan is to distribute 360 Reality Audio compatible content on the premium plans offered by music distribution services.

Sony is also looking into the potential for a variety of audio devices to support this new music content, but it will initially focus on technological development of Sony's headphones and speakers.
 

For headphones, a dedicated device will not be needed for the user to play back 360 Reality Audio compatible content and experience a sound field with a realistic feel unlike anything conventional headphones have been able to offer. However, to deliver the best possible musical experience, it will be necessary to measure the hearing characteristics of the individual user's ear and apply signal processing accordingly to the reproduced sound. 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.

Sony also confirmed it will develop speaker systems which project sound in all directions and will be able to reproduce a 360 Reality Audio experience. Other manufacturers’ audio products that support the distribution format from Sony will also be able to play back 360 Reality Audio content. For headphones, in particular, it will be possible to enjoy the content simply by using apps offered by the participating music service providers.

New Music Experiences in 360 Reality Audio
On the content side, at CES 2019 in Las Vegas, Sony Video & Sound Products, the operator of Sony’s video and audio business, announced that 360 Reality Audio music experiences will be promoted in cooperation with Live Nation, the leading live entertainment company. Sony will capture 360 Reality Audio from an array of concerts, including The Wombats, AJR, Good Charlotte, Kodaline and more to be announced, directly from performances at Live Nation Clubs & Theaters 
 

Fans will be able to access the audio content of the aforementioned artists and relieve the live experience by using headphones and selecting the "360 Reality Audio" content, which is planned to be provided via Deezer, nugs.net, Qobuz and TIDAL.

"Our 360 Reality Audio will make it possible for us to provide lovers of live music with a new and highly-realistic music experience," says Kichiro Kurozumi, Head of Branding and Product Planning Division of Sony Video & Sound Products Inc. "We are very proud of this collaboration with Live Nation, the world leader in live entertainment, and Sony, a company that is working with creators and artists to pursue the frontiers of music capability."

The Live Nation venues where the 360 Reality Audio content was captured include, Hollywood Palladium (Los Angeles), House of Blues Chicago (Chicago), Irving Plaza (New York), The Fillmore (Philadelphia), The Masonic (San Francisco) and The Wiltern (Los Angeles).
Additional details are available at: https://www.sony.net/360RA/
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