Some say the MP3 has destroyed music. Others say it saved it. No matter your position, the truth is that the portability of digital music files has transformed how we listen to music forever. Unfortunately, when portability became a priority, sound quality got flushed down the toilet. But that was then, and this is now. What once made high portability and high quality mutually exclusive – storage capacity – is now bringing the two together. High-volume storage is cheap now, so there’s no longer any excuses for toting around crappy sounding music. All we needed was one major manufacturer to bring high-resolution audio to the masses. And it looks like that might just be Sony.
Sony brought us the Walkman, then the Discman. Then…well, Apple went and conquered the portable music world. But now Sony is back with a whole suite of high-resolution audio products, and while none of them are designed around portability – yet – the company’s efforts to bring high-res music to the masses might just pay dividends in the portable music market down the road. Here’s what Sony announced today as part of the IFA 2013 conference in Berlin, Germany.
As part of Sony’s ES line, the HAP-Z1ES is the cream of Sony’s new high-res audio crop. Essentially an HDD music player, this component is designed to store all of your music – any file type, from 128k MP3 to 192kHz/24 bit FLAC to 5.6 DSD – and play it back through your audio system using a premium digital audio converter to resolve all the detail and dynamics contained within high-res audio files. For lossy files, the player includes a “DSD Re-mastering engine” to convert and enhance virtually any music files to DSD (5.6M) quality (similar to that of an SACD). The player comes with a 1TB hard drive built in and is said to be of top-notch build quality with an Analog FIR filter, low-phase noise liquid crystal oscillator, and large-capacity twin transformers on board.
Sony touts its HAP Music Transfer software as simple, automatic syncing with PC or Mac to import and store music files. The software can be controlled using a free HDD Audio Remote app available for both Android and iOS mobile devices.
While the HAP-Z1ES is designed to work with an existing audio system, this HAP-S1 is designed to be a one-box high-res audio solution. Armed with an 80-watt class A/B amplifier and a 500GB hard drive, this player needs only speakers to compete the package (and Sony has that covered, too.) Though this is not listed as a premium ES component, it packs in most of the goodies found in the aforementioned player and features an LCD display screen in addition to compatibility with Sony’s HDD Audio Remote app.
For those who would rather outfit a premium desktop solution and use their computer as their music server, Sony offers the UDA-1 USB DAC. Unlike many USB DACs, this piece includes a 40-watt amplifier to drive a pair of desktop speakers. Like its high-end music player cousins, this piece will process low-quality files through Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) for better sound quality. Sony says the UDA-1 is compatible with virtually all music players through its asynchronous USB connector, but it also supports coaxial, optical and analog inputs.
To compliment the HAP-S1 and UDA-1, Sony says it tuned these speakers specifically to match those components. Details on these speakers is scant at this time, other than some fancy marketing names for the tweeters and cabinets. But, we can expect to have a listen to them this fall.