What is Sony 360 Reality Audio? How it works and how to use it (2023)

By James Archer

last updated

How to use 360 Reality Audio, Sony's immersive sound format for music

What is Sony 360 Reality Audio? How it works and how to use it (1)

Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is an immersive sound technology that brings 3D effects to your favorite music. And Sony's system has one big advantage over Samsung’s 360 Audio: whereas this only focuses on movie and TV soundtracks, 360 Reality Audio can bring a similar 3D effect to your music. You can also use 360 Audio on a much wider range of audio hardware — it’s not even limited to Sony’s own headphones and speakers.

(Video) [Saidera Mastering] What is Sony's 360 Reality Audio? Audio Samples and Stereo Comparison!

However, this open approach might also make things more confusing. What do you need to start using 360 Reality Audio, and how exactly does the surround sound effect work? In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know.

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What is 360 Reality Audio?

What is Sony 360 Reality Audio? How it works and how to use it (2)

360 Reality Audio is Sony’s attempt to recreate the enveloping, exciting sensation of surround sound using only a pair of headphones — or a single speaker.

When you’re listening to music using 360 Reality Audio, it will sound as if individual elements of the recording will originate from different points around, above and below you. So you might hear a brass section always coming from your left, a strings section above you over on the right, and if it’s a live recording, you may hear cheering and applause from all around you to simulate being part of the crowd.

Think of it as an extension of stereo audio, which most music is recorded in and mastered for. This can spread sounds over a 2D plane that stretches from the left to right, but will always sound as if the music is coming from in front of you. 360 Reality Audio can make it sound like it’s coming from anywhere and everywhere, in a fully 3D space with you in the middle.

However, it’s also reliant on music being mastered to Sony’s specifications, so not every music service has compatible songs available — and 360 Reality Audio won’t work with TV and movie soundtracks. Sony is in talks with record labels to potentially bring the technology to video recordings of live performances, though.

How do I use 360 Reality Audio?

What is Sony 360 Reality Audio? How it works and how to use it (3)

Still, while there are limits on compatible content, one of the best things about 360 Reality Audio is that it doesn’t have extremely specific hardware requirements. The full, head-tracking version of Apple's similar spatial audio needs either the AirPods Pro or AirPods Max headphones, plus a recent iOS 14 device, while 360 Audio currently only works with the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro. Not to mention an expensive Galaxy handset like the Samsung Galaxy S21.

It's worth noting that Apple is bringing a simpler version of spatial audio to Apple Music, and this will apparently work with any headphones, though 360 Reality Audio's hardware requirements are still relatively loose. It can work with any headphones that support high-definition audio, and the source device can use either iOS or Android.

The last thing you’ll need is a premium subscription to one of three music streaming services: Tidal, Deezer or Nugs.net. Amazon Music HD also has compatible 360 Reality Audio content, but only for a certain speaker — more on that in a moment.

(Video) Sony | How To Optimize 360 Reality Audio on Your Compatible Sony Headphones

There’s no mandatory setup process to get 360 Reality Audio working on headphones, but the process of playing music varies by app:

  • For Tidal, sign up for a Tidal HiFi subscription. Then open the app, navigate to the Explore section and scroll through to find 360 Reality Audio content.
  • For Deezer, sign up for a Deezer HiFi subscription. This will allow you to download and install the 360 by Deezer app, which can then be used to play 360 content like any standard music app.
  • For Nugs.net, sign up for a Nugs HiFi subscription. Then, in the Nugs app home screen, scroll all the way to the right to find 360 Reality Audio content.

What is Sony 360 Reality Audio? How it works and how to use it (4)

If you own a recent pair of Sony headphones, like the Sony WH-1000XM4 or WF-1000XM3, you might be able to optimize 360 Reality Audio through Sony’s Headphones Connect app. Tap 360 Reality Audio setup and under “Analyze ear shape”, you’ll have the option to take photos of your ears using your device’s camera. Once the app has analyzed both photos, select Optimize Apps and 360 Reality Audio should be more finely tuned to your ear shape, improving playback quality.

That about covers 360 Reality Audio for headphones, but another thing that makes it stand out from spatial audio and 360 Audio is that you can use it with speakers too. Right now, admittedly, it’s only usable on the Amazon Echo Studio, with Amazon Music HD providing the content. However, Sony itself has released its 360-degree RA3000 and RA5000 speakers, adding a couple more options for playing 360 Reality Audio content at room scale.

How does 360 Reality Audio work?

What is Sony 360 Reality Audio? How it works and how to use it (5)

Regardless of whether 360 Reality Audio content is played over headphones or a speaker, it starts with how music is mastered. Songs are engineered so that individual instruments, vocal tracks and any other recorded sounds are mapped to a spherical 3D space. The listener is effectively positioned in the middle of this sphere, so that all the different sounds can seem to come from any direction.

This needs to be applied manually to every compatible song, hence why not every artist or even every streaming service has compatible content available. It’s also extremely similar to the process for how Apple spatial audio content is produced, as well as how the content is delivered over headphones.

360 Reality Audio uses a technique called binaural rendering. To put it very basically, this means your headphones will fire sound into your ears in such a way that your brain is tricked into thinking different sounds are coming from different origin points. It essentially simulates how we hear real-life sounds: our brains can process even tiny variances in how each ear picks up a sound, such as how a sound on the left will be louder in the left ear than the right. By analyzing these differences the brain can pinpoint where the sound came from.

What is Sony 360 Reality Audio? How it works and how to use it (6)

On speakers, 360 Reality Audio needs to work differently. In fact it behaves very similarly to Dolby Atmos, bouncing sound off the walls and ceilings of the room. This creates a surround sound effect with more of a sense of height than 2D setups: the system can make a certain instrument or vocal track seem to originate above you, for example, by sending sound waves up towards the ceiling so they bounce down into your ears from an elevated position.

(Video) Sony 360 Reality Audio

One key difference between 360 Reality Audio and spatial audio is that when using headphones, Sony’s system doesn’t use head tracking. With spatial audio, and indeed Samsung’s 360 Audio, this can make playback even more immersive by keeping the origin points of sounds consistent even as you look around. With 360 Reality Audio, a sound that comes from your left will always come from your left even if you spin around.

Still, head tracking requires that the headphones include sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes. Because 360 Reality Audio doesn’t need these, it can work with a far greater variety of headphones.

  • More: How to play songs on your friends’ Echo speakers

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James Archer

James is currently Hardware Editor at Rock Paper Shotgun, but before that was Audio Editor at Tom’s Guide, where he covered headphones, speakers, soundbars and anything else that intentionally makes noise. A PC enthusiast, he also wrote computing and gaming news for TG, usually relating to how hard it is to find graphics card stock.




(Video) How 360 Reality Audio Sounds with Headphones | Sony

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    What does 360 Reality Audio do? ›

    360 Reality Audio is a new immersive music experience using Sony's 360 Spatial Sound technology. Dynamically place and control individual sounds in a 360 spherical sound field and immerse listeners in sound from all around.

    Do you have to pay for 360 Reality Audio? ›

    In all cases, you'll need a paid-for subscription to hear the right tracks. Amazon Music HD also has Sony 360 Reality Audio tracks, though at first, these will only be for playback through its speakers, not other hardware – of which more later.

    What apps are compatible with 360 Reality Audio? ›

    Listen with Speakers

    With Amazon Music Unlimited , deezer, nugs.net, and Tidal smartphone apps and compatible subscription, enjoy 360 Reality Audio with compatible speakers. *Activation of Chromecast built-in is required to listen on Deezer and nugs.net.

    What do you need for 360 Reality Audio? ›

    To experience 360 Reality Audio, it requires Amazon Fire TV (Fire TV Cube Gen 3) connection. To experience 360 Reality Audio with Neckband Speaker, connect with smartphone to stream contents from Music Streaming Service apps.

    How do I listen to 360 audio? ›

    Download compatible music streaming subscription apps (Amazon Music Unlimited 17 , nugs.net 18 , TIDAL) to your smartphones. Tap the 'Cast' icon in your music streaming app to stream 360 Reality Audio device to your speaker or AV receiver with playback control from your smartphone.

    How much does Sony 360 audio cost? ›

    Designed using what Sony calls “object-based spatial audio technology,” Sony's new 360 Reality Audio speakers (on sale right now for $178 at Amazon) create a concert-like environment in your own home by “floating” the music around you, rather than pointing it directly at you.

    What is the difference between 360 Reality Audio and Dolby Atmos? ›

    Compared to 360 Reality Audio, Dolby Atmos Music has the advantage that attention is paid to loudness normalisation and thus no strong loudness jumps occur. A different HRTF (head-related transfer function) is also used for binauralisation.

    Does Amazon music use 360 reality? ›

    Amazon Music Unlimited has a growing catalog of Spatial Audio songs mastered in Dolby Atmos and 360 Reality Audio from some of the world's biggest artists.

    Does 360 audio work with Bluetooth? ›

    See if the smartphone and the speaker are connected to the same wireless router (Access Point). Remember, you cannot play 360 Reality Audio music via a Bluetooth connection.

    Which app can I use to play music and record video at the same time? ›

    Together is the app for those who want to listen to music and record video at the same time. So if you often struggle to record video with music playing in the background, this free Android screen recorder is a good choice for you.

    Does Sony 360 audio work on Iphone? ›

    Download and use a music streaming service (charged) app that supports 360 Reality Audio on your smartphone or tablet equipped with iOS or Android. By optimizing the sound field and the acoustic feature of headset with the “Sony | Headphones Connect” app, you can enjoy a more realistic sense of reality.

    How do I listen to immersive audio? ›

    Immersive formats are designed for consumers, so playback is supported on headphones and many consumer playback devices, such as soundbars and smart speakers. Immersive audio can be streamed on mobile devices, desktop computers, gaming consoles, and streaming devices like smart TVs, and the Apple TV 4K.

    Is Sony 360 Reality worth it? ›

    In any event, Sony's 360 Reality Audio adds a new dimension to streaming audio on headphones; in fact, it's worth getting a subscription to Tidal, Deezer, or Nugs just to hear it. I strongly recommend giving it a long listen.

    Are 360 speakers better? ›

    It all depends on the design and the quality of the components. But what is beyond question is that most 360-degree speakers have been built for convenience first and quality second. That's not to say that many of them are not extremely good – but they can never be a match for speakers many times their size.

    How many 360 Reality Audio tracks are there? ›

    Check Applicable Products and Categories for details. More than 1,000 tracks from various artists and categories are currently available in the 360 Reality Audio format, and many more are on the way. The 360 Reality Audio content requires a subscription to a compatible online music service.

    Is 360 Reality Audio the same as spatial audio? ›

    Tidal has partnered with Sony to present 360 Reality Audio, which is what Sony calls object-based spatial audio tech. 360 Reality Audio only requires a smartphone, Tidal HiFi Plus membership and a set of headphones to work. There are some non-Apple products that could best suit your spatial audio needs.

    What is the difference between 360 audio and spatial audio? ›

    Compared to Sony 360 Reality Audio, Apple's spatial sound is a lot more floaty and forward-facing, while its competition features a more wrap-around, orb of sound that encapsulated your headspace.

    Which is better Dolby or Atmos? ›

    Typically, when a device is compatible with both of them, the Dolby Atmos gets higher priority than the Dolby True HD. In other words, if you play a movie with Atmos audio, your speaker set will decode the Atmos data and produce sound from it.

    How do I set up 360 Reality Audio on Amazon Music? ›

    On your smartphone, select 3D Audio music in the Amazon Music app, then tap the circle icon that represents the audio device. IMPORTANT: If you tap the circle icon , music will be cast via Amazon Alexa. This option allows playing music using the 360 Reality Audio feature.

    How do I play 360 music on Amazon Music? ›

    Use either voice commands or the Amazon Music app to play music:
    1. Operating the Amazon Music app to play music. Select 360 Reality Audio supported music (represented with a 360 badge) in the Amazon Music app, and then tap the source device. ...
    2. Using voice commands.
    Dec 1, 2022

    How do I turn on 360 Reality Audio on Amazon Music? ›

    When the song is available in Dolby Atmos or 360 Reality Audio, you'll be able to switch between Atmos/360 and stereo. To switch between Atmos/360 and stereo, swipe on the streaming information or tap the toggle at the bottom of the screen.

    How do I use my Bluetooth speaker as a listening device? ›

    Turn on Android bluetooth, connect to your bluetooth headphone. Start this app, try music 1 or 2 first, to make sure the sound audio goes to the bluetooth headset and not through internal speaker. Then start the Listen function. Voice from built-in mic of the Android phone will transmit to the bluetooth headphone.

    How do I play audio through Bluetooth? ›

    Use the Google Home app
    1. On your Android phone or tablet, open the Google Home app .
    2. At the bottom, tap Home .
    3. Touch and hold your device.
    4. At the top right, tap Device settings Audio. Paired Bluetooth devices.
    5. Check the paired devices and the date they were paired.

    How do I listen to music and record? ›

    Play Music While Recording Video on Android
    1. Open Google Play Store and download the Together app on your device.
    2. Launch your music player and play the song you want to feature in the video.
    3. Then, open the Together app and tap the video camera icon to start recording.
    4. Hit the same button to stop recording.

    How do I play music and record voice at the same time? ›

    Right-click the microphone and click "Properties" under the "Listen" tab, and tick the box before "Listen to this device." In this way, the audio from the microphone can be simultaneously recorded with the audio playing on your computer.

    How do I combine recording and music? ›

    How to merge audio files online
    1. Select an audio file. To put your songs together, you can add two or more files from your PC, Mac, Android or iPhone. ...
    2. Combine MP3 and other audio. If you want, you can add more tracks to merge. ...
    3. Save the result. And it's done!

    How do I use my Sony wireless headset? ›

    Go to Settings and turn on Bluetooth. In Bluetooth click “Pair new device”. When you see your Sony headphones or speaker come up in the list, tap it and it should be paired with your phone.

    How can I play VR audio through speakers? ›

    To turn audio mirroring on:
    1. Open the Oculus app on your PC Computer.
    2. Select Devices in the left menu and click Rift S and Touch.
    3. Use the toggles to select if you want to: Hear VR audio from Computer: Your computer's speakers will play the same things you hear from your VR headset.

    How do I setup my wireless headset? ›

    How to connect Bluetooth wireless headphones or earbuds to your phone or tablet
    1. 1 Open the Settings app.
    2. 2 Tap Connections.
    3. 3 Tap Bluetooth.
    4. 4 This screen will display any device you have paired to previously and the Available devices.
    5. 5 Tap on the device you wish to connect.

    Does VR come with sound? ›

    A VR headset is a head-mounted device that includes a display screen, stereo sound, sensors, and compatible controllers to deliver an immersive and interactive audiovisual experience.

    Where does the sound come from in a VR headset? ›

    In virtual reality, all the sounds come from stereo headphones, which are part of the VR headset, but sounds seem to emerge from every direction because the audio is processed in a way that mimics how a person actually hears.

    Which service is best for 360 Reality Audio? ›

    Tidal. Tidal has done a lot since its founding in 2014 to distinguish itself, including becoming one of the best music streaming services for audiophiles. With a $19.99 per month HiFi Plus subscription, you can take advantage of both Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio as you stream at up to 9216 kbps.

    What is the difference between Dolby Atmos and 360 Reality Audio? ›

    Compared to 360 Reality Audio, Dolby Atmos Music has the advantage that attention is paid to loudness normalisation and thus no strong loudness jumps occur. A different HRTF (head-related transfer function) is also used for binauralisation.

    Can you talk on the phone with Sony headphones? ›

    It's available for both Android and iOS. To get started, just open Headphones Connect and select the headphones or earbuds you're using. Then tap on the Sound tab. Here you'll see the toggle for Speak to Chat.

    What app is needed for Sony speaker? ›

    Music Center (SongPal™) is a mobile app that allows you to manage your Wireless Audio devices, and is essential to the setup of Wireless Stereo, Surround and Multi-room features.

    How do I connect my Sony speaker to my phone? ›

    Touch the NFC-compatible devices to your speaker to pair and connect them.
    1. Turn on your speaker.
    2. Set the NFC function of your mobile device or Walkman player to ON.
    3. Touch your mobile device or Walkman player to the NFC logo on your speaker.
    4. Follow the on-screen instructions to complete the connection.
    Jun 26, 2022

    How do I connect my phone to my Sony sound system? ›

    On your soundbar, press and hold the BLUETOOTH button for two seconds.
    Perform pairing registration on the device you want to connect.
    1. Check the device manul for more information.
    2. If the device requests a passkey, enter 0000.
    3. The connection is established if the Bluetooth indicator on your soundbar lights in blue.
    Feb 2, 2022


    1. 360 Reality Audio vs. Conventional Stereo Sound | Sony
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    2. Sony 360 Reality Audio: The future of your music
    3. 360 Spatial Sound Mapping Demo | Sony
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    4. Inside the SRS-RA5000 wireless speaker with 360 Reality Audio | Sony
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    5. Sony 360 Reality Audio Speaker | SRS-RA5000 | First Impressions
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