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.

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

At CES 2019, Sony showed a demo that featured personalized audio tuning for every participant’s ears. While Sony says the above music-streaming apps will work with any headphone, users of Sony headphones such as the WH-1000XM3 will be able to use the Headphones Connect app for advanced tuning options.

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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