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Sony 360 Reality Audio coming to mobile phones, Amazon Echo Studio this fall

The proprietary surround music format will launch on select streaming services with an initial catalog of 1,000 songs.

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James Martin/CNET

Sony's latest surround sound music format, 360 Reality Audio, will be coming to iOS and Android mobile devices and the Amazon Echo Studio smart speaker in late fall. Approximately 1,000 songs will be available at launch through Amazon Music HD, Deezer, Tidal and live music service Nugs.net, with more songs coming in 2020. The format will feature music from the three major labels, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group, in addition to concerts from Live Nation.

The technology was launched at an event on Tuesday night in New York, with representatives from streaming services and the music industry turning out in support. 

Surround sound music promises a more immersive experience than standard stereo. While 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos music are two recent examples, the idea has been around for 50 years, starting with the short-lived Quadraphonic. Since then VHS, DVD, SACD, Blu-ray and streaming have all offered music in surround, but stereo music -- whether vinyl, streaming or CD -- is still the most popular music format. 

While surround sound has a long history, Mike Piacentini of Sony's Battery Mastering Studios told attendees at the launch event that 360 Reality Audio's low cost of entry should make this format the most attractive to users.

"This is the first technology you don't have to buy anything else for and I think that's really going to help push the format," Piacentini said.

While Sony says the above music-streaming apps will work with any headphone, users of any Sony headphones including the WH-1000XM3 will be able to use the Headphones Connect app to take a picture of their ears and tweak the sound quality. 

Meanwhile, there are a number of competing simulated surround formats including Dolby HeadphoneDTS Headphone:X and Auro 3D, as well as hardware solutions like the Smyth Realiser A16

The 360 Reality Audio format was developed in conjunction with Fraunhofer IIS, the inventor of MP3, and it will also be compatible with the MPEG-H 3D Audio format. Sony says future support is planned for devices featuring Amazon Alexa, Google Chromecast built-in or with MediaTek, NXP or Qualcomm chipsets onboard.

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Originally published Oct. 15.
Update, Oct. 16: Adds quote from Mike Piacentini.