Sony has been developing its 360 Reality Audio technology for some time, based on the MPEG-H 3D audio codec. The technology is mostly limited to some of Sony’s smartphones and only works with compatible apps, but now it looks like wider support for 360 Reality Audio could come to Android.
A series of code reviews in the Android Open Source Project mention 360 Reality Audio, with code submitted by developers at Sony and Google. Part of the job is to bring MPEG-H 3D support to Android’s MPEG4Extractor system component, while other code is specifically for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio.
There is also a comment on code reviews from Kei Murayama, a software engineer at Sony, who appears to confirm that this is a joint venture between Google and Sony. “This is one of the fixes mentioned at the ‘Support for Android OS 360RA’ meeting between Google and Sony,” he says.
Sony 360 Reality Audio currently requires the music provider to explicitly support it, along with compatible speakers or headphones. Sony’s website lists Amazon Music HD, Nugs.net, and Tidal as the only music streaming services that offer 360 Reality Audio tracks. While the technology works with any headset or speaker, the 3D effect will be most noticeable with speakers designed for 360 Reality Audio, like Sony’s SRS-RA5000 speaker, the Amazon Echo Studio. and the Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar.
The ongoing work between Google and Sony means Android will get a built-in decoder for MPEG-H 3D audio, so it will be easier for all apps to add 3D audio playback. As with apps that already have 360 Reality Audio, you won’t necessarily need special headphones or speakers – one of the reviews mentions thatirtualizer “can place individual sounds in a spherical 360 sound field from these channels on any headphones.“
Hopefully the changes will be finalized in time to ship with Android 12, otherwise we’ll probably have to wait until next year for improved 3D sound on Android.
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