Sony kicked off its IFA 2016 press conference by remarking that back in 2012 it was predicted to fail, but now just four years later, the company is going strong. Then, as if to prove its point, the presentation shifted right into the company’s new Signature Series headphones, headphone amp, and Walkman digital music players, all of which are designed to complement each other.
The new MDR-Z1R headphones are optimized for high-resolution audio, featuring 70mm magnesium dome drivers and neodymium magnets. The premium materials aren’t the only thing that speaks to the quality of these headphones either, as they were developed in collaboration with one of Sony Music Battery Studios’ own top mastering engineers.
The headphones use a beta titanium headphone that is flexible and also helps to keep them light, which combined with the leather-covered ear pads, should make these quite comfortable. If you plan to use these with a standard headphone amp, you’ll need an adapter, as they use the new industry 4.4mm jack instead of the traditional 1/4-inch or 3.5mm jacks.
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Speaking of headphone amplifiers, the new TA-ZH1ES is Sony’s first to carry its ES branding, meaning this one is seriously high-quality. It uses a combination of a Sony S-Master HX digital amplifier and an analog amplifier to bring the clarity and low distortion of digital with the touch of audio magic that analog circuits are known for.
The TA-ZH1ES features support for nearly every high-resolution audio format out there, including DSD up to 11.2MHz. The highest resolution native PCM formats are supported as well, though for both this and DSD, you’ll need to be using a compatible player, like Sony’s new Walkman models.
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Sony NW-WM1A ($2,000) and NW-WM1Z ($3,200) series Walkmans
Sony’s new Signature Series products include two Walkman models, the NW-WM1Z and NW-WM1A. These function as high-resolution music players, but are also capable of recording as well, making each, in Sony’s words “not just a player, but an instrument.”
The same high-resolution formats supported by the TA-ZH1ES amplifier are also featured in both players, included DSD 11.2 MHz, but the Walkman models are also capable of up to 384kHz / 32bit quality recordings. Both models feature a new touch panel UI, and are generally similar feature-wise, though the WM1Z seems to use much higher-grade components internally, and Sony says its the first to be built using high-quality Kimber Kable.
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None of this lineup is especially cheap. The MDR-Z1R Signature Series headphones retail for $2,300, while the TA-ZH1ES headphone amp goes for $2,200. The NW-WM1Z Walkman has a MSRP of $3,200, while the NW-WM1A is the least expensive of the bunch at $1,200. The headphones, amp, and NW-WM1Z are coming in November, while the NW-WM1A will be available starting early next year.