Sony has kicked off CES 2021 by announcing two new wireless speakers that support 360 Reality Audio, the company’s equivalent of Apple’s Spatial Audio.
Both the compact RA3000 and the RA5000, which features a distinctive trio of up-firing drivers, aim to create an immersive 3D audio experience by blasting sound upwards in addition sideways, giving playback a sense of height as well as width.
This sounds more like Dolby Atmos than Spatial Audio, but Sony had previously introduced 360 Reality Audio solely for use with headphones like the WH-100XM4, where it provided a relatively straightforward surround sound effect by mapping different vocals and instruments to various parts of a digital 3D space. However, the much more advanced Spatial Audio feature shared by the AirPods Pro and AirPods Max, with its dynamic head tracking, has left 360 Reality Audio in its shadow.
The RA3000 and RA5000 are therefore an attempt to revitalize Sony’s tech by turning it into a feature you can enjoy without headphones, anywhere in your home. The RA5000 achieves this in a very Atmos-esque fashion, using its up-firing speakers to bounce sound off the ceiling while a set of three middle speakers (and an integrated subwoofer) spread it horizontally.
The RA3000 only has one full-range speaker, but also creates 3D sound using an omnidirectional diffuser cone, while a dual passive radiator helps out with low end reproduction.
In addition to the surround sound effect, these speakers also feature an automatic room calibration feature similar to that of the Apple HomePod: the RA3000 and RA5000 can detect the dimensions of the room they’re in an adjust the volume and EQ to best fit the acoustics.
Both Sony 3D speakers also have some smart speaker capability: they have Chromecast built-in, are compatible with Spotify Connect and can be paired with a Google Assistant or Alexa device to control playback through voice commands or act as part of a multi-room setup.
It will be exciting to see how well Sony’s rejigged 360 Reality Audio works in Bluetooth speaker form, even if it does now sound like more of an Atmos competitor than a Spatial Audio one.
We should find out next month, as the RA3000 and RA5000 both launch in February in the U.K. and Europe; U.S. availability and pricing isn’t available yet, but judging by the U.K. pricing of £280 for the RA3000 and £500 for the RA5000, you can expect them to cost roughly around $375 and $675, respectively.