Google and Sony team up to add 360 Reality Audio support in Android

Google and Sony team up to add 360 Reality Audio support in Android

Sony has been developing its 360 Reality Audio technology for a while now, based on the MPEG-H 3D audio codec. The tech is mostly limited to some of Sony’s own smartphones, and only works with compatible apps, but now it looks like broader 360 Reality Audio support could be coming to Android.

A series of code reviews in the Android Open Source Project mention 360 Reality Audio, with code submitted by developers from both Sony and Google. Some of the work is to bring MPEG-H 3D support to Android’s MPEG4Extractor system component, while other code is specifically for Sony’s 360 Reality Audio.

"MPEG4Extractor: support MPEG-H 3D Audio (2/2) MPEG-H 3D Audio is a new spatial sound codec, standardized in ISO/IEC 23008-3. Add support for demuxing MPEG-H 3D Audio format in MPEG4Extractor so that vendors can integrate MPEG-H decoder with Codec2.0 interface. - Add parsing logic of MPEG-H 3D Audio files. - Make sync sample to be recognized for MPEG-H 3D Audio data to seek properly because it uses USAC. Test: Parse MPEG-H file with MediaExtractor Change-Id: I9c1dc6f9ffd008392a8960896a58eb94cc55c530"

"Add support for 13ch audio layout for 360 Reality Audio - Add definitions for the front bottom channels. - Add definition for 13ch mask which uses surround 5 channels, top 5 channels and bottom 3ch channels. Test: Play wav with 13ch mask after OUT_CHANNEL_COUNT_MAX to 24 Change-Id: I2a620fb1175c6576bead7878315fc48ff5171ddf"

"Support 13ch audio layout for 360 Reality Audio - Add definitions for the front bottom channels. The name of the definitions are standardized in ITU-R BS.2051-1. - Add definition for 13ch mask which consists of surround 5 channels, top 5 channels and bottom 3ch channels. This channel mask is ideal speaker layout used by Sony 360 Reality Audio. Virtualizer can place individual sounds in a 360 spherical sound field from these channels on any headphones. Ignoring checkstyle warning, "'|' should be on a new line", to keep existing codestyle. Test: Play wav with 13ch mask after OUT_CHANNEL_COUNT_MAX to 24 Change-Id: I2b4deaac740a08ae3b1b8d8453650a876e2d6206"

There’s also a comment on the code reviews from Kei Murayama, a software engineer at Sony, that seems to confirm this is a joint venture between Google and Sony. “This is one of the patches mentioned in the meeting ‘Android OS 360RA support’ between Google and Sony,” it says.

Sony 360 Reality Audio currently requires the music provider to explicitly support it, as well as 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 does work with any headphones or speakers, the 3D effect will be most noticeable with speakers built for 360 Reality Audio, like Sony’s SRS-RA5000 speaker, the Amazon Echo Studio, and Sennheiser Ambeo Soundbar.

The ongoing work between Google and Sony means that Android will get a built-in decoder for MPEG-H 3D audio, so it will be easier for any apps to add 3D audio playback. As with the apps that already have 360 Reality Audio, you won’t necessarily need special headphones or speakers—one of the comments mentions that a virtualizercan place individual sounds in a 360 spherical sound field from these channels on any headphones.

Here’s hoping the changes will be finalized in time to ship with Android 12, otherwise we’ll likely have to wait until next year for enhanced 3D audio in Android.

Thanks to XDA Recognized Developer luca020400 for the tip!

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Corbin Davenport
Corbin Davenport

Corbin is a tech journalist and software developer based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He's also written for Android Police and PC Gamer. Get in touch with him at [email protected]