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Sony speakers with 360 Reality Audio coming to challenge Dolby Atmos

Sony SRS-RA5000
(Image credit: Sony)

Sony’s first 360 Reality Audio speakers were a CES 2021 highlight, and now we have both pricing and a release date.

The Sony SRS-RA3000 and SRS-RA5000 will cost $299 and $699 respectively. You can pre-order both of them on Amazon ahead of their full release on March 29.

It wasn’t just the distinctive triple-driver design of the SRS-RA5000 that caught eyes back during CES; these speakers mark the first time Sony has attempted to bring its 360 Reality Audio tech to audio hardware other than headphones.

For the unfamiliar, 360 Reality Audio maps individual components of a music track — different instruments, vocals, crowd noises in live recordings and so on — to a simulated 3D space that seems to surround the listener. The result is a more immersive 3D surround sound effect, geared specifically for music. This also sets 360 Reality Audio apart from similar systems like Apple’s spatial audio and Samsung’s 360 Audio, which are designed to add 3D sound to video content.

With the SRS-RA3000 and SRS-RA5000, Sony can’t rely on being able to pipe sound directly into the listener’s ear from close range. Instead, these speakers bounce sound off walls and ceilings to create a room-scale 3D sound. We haven’t tried it yet, but this iteration of 360 Reality Audio is a lot closer in technique to Dolby Atmos.

Sony SRS-RA3000

(Image credit: Sony)

The SRS-RA3000 and SRS-RA5000 are smart speakers as well, offering a choice of Alexa or Google Assistant, complete with their respective voice commands and smart home controls. 

Chromecast and Spotify also come built-in, and like the recently-revealed Sonos Roam both Sony speakers can calibrate sound output to their immediate surroundings, for optimized acoustics. Unlike the Roam, though, these are very much indoors-only wired speakers.

Sony also revealed that from April 6, both speakers will be compatible with Amazon Music HD’s Alexa Cast feature, and Amazon Music itself will more clearly label which content supports 360 Reality Audio. Currently, 360 Reality Audio songs are labeled with the same “3D” marker as Dolby Atmos, which isn’t cross-compatible.

The pricing is lower than we expected, given the already-announced U.K. prices, though the SRS-RA5000, in particular, is still a very premium investment. But, you do get much bigger vertical drivers than the SRS-RA3000, which could boost the 3D effect, and the SRS-RA5000 is the only one of the two to come with Hi-Res Audio certification.

We’re hoping to try out the SRS-RA3000 and SRS-RA5000 for ourselves very soon; with this much tech, they could be contenders for our best smart speaker rankings.