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TIDAL unveils Sony 360 Reality Audio

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Bob Romano

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I subscribe to TIDAL and love it. They have unleashed 360 Reality Audio. That being said, this is pretty much a travesty. All of the titles available on TIDAL are Sony titles.

They had a section where you could see all 360 titles but that is gone from the home screen now.

Some of the titles off the top of my head are
Bitches Brew - Miles Davis
Blow By Blow - Jeff Beck
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
Kind Of Blue - Miles Davis
Head To The Sky - EWF
That's the Way Of The World - EWF
Gratitude - EWF
They Only Come Out At Night - Edgar Winter
Crow Left Of The Murder - Incubus
Watermelon man - Herbie Hancock
Time Out - Dave Brubeck
Sexual Healing - Marvin Gaye
Ashes Of Wake - Lamb Of God
My Private Nation - Train
360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - Billy Paul
Body Talk - George Benson
Illuminations - Santana & Coltrane
Eli & The 13th Confession - Laura Nyro
In The Zone - Britney Spears
Just As I am - Bill Withers
Love Is The Message - MFSB
Live It Up - Isley Brothers
Phoenix - Labelle

So far it just sounds like a hollow muddy mess. IMO I hear no real space or separation at all. I Have all of these surround discs and I would much rather listen to the real thing than these versions. I even installed the Sony Headphone connect app to "Optimize" my phones (which are listed and are Sony) but it still sounds crappy to me..

  • 360 Reality Audio
  • What is 360 Reality Audio?

    360 Reality Audio is an immersive experience using Sony's spatial audio technology to map out sound at any point or distance from your ears. This new listening experience is the culmination of years of acoustic and physiological studies of how we hear and place sounds. When streaming in 360 Reality Audio, the listener is made to feel as if they were at a concert experiencing a live performance.
    If you want to learn more about 360 Reality Audio, you can do so here at Sony.com.

    How does 360 Reality Audio work?

    In conventional stereo or 5.1ch surround sound, speakers are fixed in position and the sound can only be panned around that fixed-format on a horizontal plane. 360 Reality Audio utilizes a spatial sound field by creating multiple virtual speakers which can be heard in front, back, above, and below you in a true 360-degree space.

    What plans will include 360 Reality Audio?

    360 Reality Audio will be available to enjoy for all TIDAL HiFi subscribers starting October 28th, 2019.

    What hardware is required to enjoy 360 Reality Audio?

    Experience 360 Reality Audio with your smartphone*, any headphones, and a TIDAL HiFi subscription.
    While 360 Reality Audio works with all headphones, soon owners of compatible Sony headphones can configure a personalized experience via the Sony Headphones Connect app. Just open the app and follow the instructions from within the app. For more information, please refer to Sony.
 

JonUrban

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Sadly I am afraid that this is the future of Surround Sound, at least from the major studios, going forward, and what we have now from the quad and DVD-A/SACD era is what we are going to stay with through our lifetimes. The odd trickle of "Abbey Road" here and XTC there will be the outliers, but the main push from the majors will be what Bob's reporting above and what Amazon will do with their surround Alexa deal. The source files may start out discrete, but the playback will be arguably equal to those old first gen Sound Design Quad decoders. In other words, SHIT. :poop:🧻

"Oooh, wait! Listen! I think I heard an oboe over there somewhere! Nice!"
 

sjcorne

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They had a section where you could see all 360 titles but that is gone from the home screen now.

Some of the titles off the top of my head are
Bitches Brew - Miles Davis
Blow By Blow - Jeff Beck
Behind Closed Doors - Charlie Rich
Kind Of Blue - Miles Davis
Head To The Sky - EWF
That's the Way Of The World - EWF
Gratitude - EWF
They Only Come Out At Night - Edgar Winter
Crow Left Of The Murder - Incubus
Watermelon man - Herbie Hancock
Time Out - Dave Brubeck
Sexual Healing - Marvin Gaye
Ashes Of Wake - Lamb Of God
My Private Nation - Train
360 Degrees Of Billy Paul - Billy Paul
Body Talk - George Benson
Illuminations - Santana & Coltrane
Eli & The 13th Confession - Laura Nyro
In The Zone - Britney Spears
Just As I am - Bill Withers
Love Is The Message - MFSB
Live It Up - Isley Brothers
Phoenix - Labelle
Perhaps there is some sort of silver lining here - there are several 70's quad titles on that list (Phoenix, Live It Up, They Only Come At Night, Love Is The Message) that haven't yet been released on digital. I wonder if these are actually encoded versions of the quad mixes?

I guess what I'm hoping is that Sony has digital transfers of the quad masters (presumably done for this project) that they can exploit somewhere down the line.
 
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Bob Romano

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I can tell you that the Edgar Winter is NOT the quad version. The first thing I checked was Frankenstein. On the original quad, at the break down, the synth comes in too early. On the 360 version it is the same as the stereo.
Perhaps there is some sort of silver lining here - there are several 70's quad titles on that list (Phoenix, Live It Up, They Only Come At Night, Love Is The Message) that haven't yet been released on digital. I wonder if these are actually encoded versions of the quad mixes?

I guess what I'm hoping is that Sony has digital transfers of the quad masters (presumably done for this project) that they can exploit somewhere down the line.
 

J. PUPSTER

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I’ve never thought this was going anywhere good. Just read between the lines from this:
This new listening experience is the culmination of years of acoustic and physiological studies of how we hear and place sounds. When streaming in 360 Reality Audio, the listener is made to feel as if they were at a concert experiencing a live performance.

Have these folks ever been to a Rock Concert; some of the worst audio I’ve ever experienced was at “live” performances, and certainly not discrete.
 

Audiowannabee

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Sadly I am afraid that this is the future of Surround Sound, at least from the major studios, going forward, and what we have now from the quad and DVD-A/SACD era is what we are going to stay with through our lifetimes. The odd trickle of "Abbey Road" here and XTC there will be the outliers, but the main push from the majors will be what Bob's reporting above and what Amazon will do with their surround Alexa deal. The source files may start out discrete, but the playback will be arguably equal to those old first gen Sound Design Quad decoders. In other words, SHIT. :poop:🧻

"Oooh, wait! Listen! I think I heard an oboe over there somewhere! Nice!"

Well Jon maybe they'll eventually get it right in like a decade or two...unfortunately most of us here will be long gone or deaf by then...save that equipment n sacds / dvda for those "youngsters" who want REAL Surround sound!!!

I knew this amazon/uhd/atmos thru an echo n steaming was but a dream....think ill stick to the almighty disc n my humble 5.1 n QUAD

Peace
 

Beefalo

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Well Jon maybe they'll eventually get it right in like a decade or two...unfortunately most of us here will be long gone or deaf by then...save that equipment n sacds / dvda for those "youngsters" who want REAL Surround sound!!!

I knew this amazon/uhd/atmos thru an echo n steaming was but a dream....think ill stick to the almighty disc n my humble 5.1 n QUAD

Peace
I get a little paranoid thinking about a "discrete-less" future. I double up on my favorites just in case.
 

fredblue

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Perhaps there is some sort of silver lining here - there are several 70's quad titles on that list (Phoenix, Live It Up, They Only Come At Night, Love Is The Message) that haven't yet been released on digital. I wonder if these are actually encoded versions of the quad mixes?

I guess what I'm hoping is that Sony has digital transfers of the quad masters (presumably done for this project) that they can exploit somewhere down the line.
i couldn't get any of the 360RA tracks to preview in Tidal (territory thing by the looks of it?) but casually/unscientifically checking out the MFSB track on YT (i linked to earlier tonight) i'm pretty sure its not the Quad.. plus it sounded pretty rough just in straight Stereo, hyped treble, not much bass.. wonder what's afoot here.. why would they do all these "former Quad" tracks but not use the Quad mixes..!? hmm.. 🤔
 

quadtrade

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Is sony mixing at 25 grand a mix, or is Sony doing anything but subjecting stereo to another scheme and try and sell another failed format, Let me hear from corporate.
 

steelydave

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As @fredblue linked to above, someone's posted a few of these 360 Reality-encoded tracks on YouTube. Obviously the provenance has to be taken with a grain of salt given that they're unofficial uploads, but from the looks of things the seem to be the same audio that's been made available on Tidal etc.

The uploader made a playlist of the dozen or so tracks, and a few of them (Herbie Hancock, Mahavishnu Orchestra, MFSB) were ones I was familiar with, so I had a listen. I'll get to my thoughts on the sources, but right off the bat, if this is what 360 Reality audio is, to my ears it is what the British would call "a damp squib" or what I'd call a steaming pile of crap. The surround effect is negligible at best, and I actually feel like I can hear less of the original recording because one of the things this process seems to do is push center-panned instruments and vocals back in the mix. I believe this is to create a kind of horseshoe-shaped soundfield that projects a sense of depth, but the net effect is that stuff from the sides of the soundfield (drums, rhythm instruments) overwhelms the lead vocals and solo instruments.

I didn't check all of the tracks, but by A/Bing with my own music collection, it appears that the MFSB tracks are just upmixed from the stereo version, whereas the Herbie Hancock track I listened to (Sly) definitely appears to be sourced from the quad mix - the panning of the sax to the hard left and rhodes to the hard right in the 360 Reality version is identical to a downmixed version of the quad mix, whereas in the original stereo mix the rhodes is spread in stereo between the left and right speakers. I didn't check the Mahavishnu Orchestra track (Miles Beyond) as intently but I think it's probably also sourced from the quad mix, as the drums in the 360 Reality mix match the really wide left/right panning of the quad mix, compared to the stereo mix which is quite a bit more narrow.

Obviously the wide panning of the drums in the Birds of Fire quad mix was because they were in the rear speakers and couldn't have any rear-center activity thanks to the demands of SQ, another failed encoding system from the same people who are bringing us 360 Reality Audio - it's almost like history is repeating itself again, or something. :rolleyes:
 

HomerJAU

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@steelydave I haven’t been following Sony 360. How did you listen to Sony 360 in your testing? I‘d assumed S360 needs a proprietary decoder (software or hardware). Or is this purely a headphone system (stereo psycho-acoustic pseudo surround system)?
 

steelydave

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As far as I understand, it is as you've stated, a proprietary psychoacoustic headphone surround system. I was dubious to start with when I read that it supposedly works on any set of headphones with no calibration, so my listening was more out of curiousity about what they were using for their sources, if they were upmixed stereo or quad/5.1 - the answer, from the samples I listened to on YouTube seems to be 'both'.

I tried the YouTube samples I linked to on three sets of headphones: OPPO PM-3 planar magnetic and Sennheiser HD598 dynamic (which are both over-ear headphones) and a pair of Shure SE535 IEMs in custom shells. The "effect" (or lack of) was identically unimpressive across all three, so i have to presume it is functioning as intended.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a big proponent of headphone surround, in theory, but these half-baked schemes do more to harm than help To me it seems like something that should be able to solved with the rapid pace of technology, and if someone could effectively crack it, it could have an exponential effect on the acceptance of surround sound. I've heard about the Smyth headphone surround processors, but as long as they remain in in the multi-thousand dollar range, they're never going to achieve any level of acceptance. Imagine if there was an Android or iOS app that could convert 5.1 FLAC/DSD or decode Atmos effectively in to a pair of headphones? You'd suddenly have billions of surround-ready consumers, people who'd otherwise have no patience for setting up and calibrating multiple speakers and a subwoofer, and all they'd need was the music to play on their phones. I know there are people who do not, and will never have interest in listening to music on headphones, but for someone like me who already has their entire surround collection ripped to files, the ability to listen to it when I'm out and about, or up late at night would be a massive boon.
 
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