While some might be still debating the merits of hi-res audio, the music industry is about to make a big shift into surround-sound audio. Of the two leading surround formats — Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Reality Audio — Sony 360 appears to be getting a leg-up in the form of big support from Deezer. Not only is Deezer adding Sony 360-encoded tracks to its library of over 50 million songs, but the streaming company has also launched a dedicated app for the format, letting subscribers immerse themselves in the surround format if they choose.
“Our new app offers hi-fi enthusiasts a dedicated and exclusive experience where they can easily access their 360 Reality Audio tracks,” Stefan Tweraser, Deezer’s chief product and growth officer, said in an emailed press release. “The new format provides music fans with a virtual audio experience that could previously only be achieved with special sound gear in a dedicated space. Now, with the 360 by Deezer app, all they need is a pair of headphones.”
There won’t be a ton of music available in 360 Reality Audio at the outset, since artists will need time to remaster their back catalogs using the new format, but listeners will find albums and tracks by Aerosmith, Britney Spears, Earth Wind & Fire, Marvin Gaye, and Miles Davis, to name some of the big acts that are available at launch.
To enjoy the 360 Reality Audio tracks, you’ll need a $20 per month Deezer HiFi subscription, and the 360 by Deezer app for iOS or Android, and a set of headphones. The new 360 app will let you listen to Sony 360 RA content as well as any tracks you’ve favorited within the standard Deezer app (though these will not necessarily be available in the 360 RA format).
Sony has also decided to sweeten the pot: If you buy a set of select Sony headphones, you’ll get three months of Deezer HiFi for free, and then a monthly rate of just $15 per month on an ongoing basis. Depending on how long you stay a member at this subscription tier, the headphones could end up paying for themselves.
Sony’s 360 Reality Audio is a new music format that convincingly reproduces the effect created by being surrounded on all sides by individual speakers, but with just a standard set of headphones. It competes with Dolby’s Atmos Music format, which remasters music created in stereo audio using the same Dolby Atmos audio experience available in commercial and home theaters.
While Deezer is the first streaming music service to offer a stand-alone app to showcase its Sony 360 Reality Audio catalog, it’s not the only music service to offer the format. Tidal will also be featuring 360 Reality Audio. Amazon’s recently launched Amazon Music HD will host 360 Reality Audio too, along with hi-res music, and Dolby Atmos Music, giving it a considerable advantage when trying to woo music junkies who want to try all of the latest music formats.