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Sony’s 360 Reality Audio could revolutionize live music

In reality, I’m hearing a recording of McCartney’s song that has been programmed so that I hear specific sounds within the music from different places around my head—a new form of music mixing that Sony calls 360 Reality Audio (360RA). I’m a seasoned musician with four records under my belt, but this kind of music production is totally new to me. Sony hopes 360 Reality Audio will revolutionize the way we listen to music, a change as transformative as the company’s Walkman portable cassette players in the 1980s.

If Walkman used the magic of stereo, where sounds are placed along a left-right axis, Sony’s 360RA is an attempt to more closely replicate real world audio experiences where sound comes from all around your ears. A Sony software program called “Architect” uses complicated audio processing algorithms to place specific sound sources, like a voice or a saxophone, at specific locations within a sphere that surrounds the listener. Using the 360-degree approach for live music in particular makes sense because the goal is to recreate a concert experience, not so much to capture the soul of a piece of music.

Sony Architect [Image: courtesy of Sony]

Sony’s North America president and COO Mike Fasulo may think of it in those terms. “Personally, I am a huge music fan and when I first heard a song by my favorite artist, Billy Joel, via the 360 Reality Audio, I felt like I was right on stage sitting somewhere between the vocals and drums,” he said in an email to Fast Company.

While it might not be the revolution that the Walkman was, Sony’s 360RA provides a compelling alternative for listening to live recordings, some of which are now available through the streaming services Tidal, Deezer, and

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