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Sony HAP-Z1ES - A Hi-Rez Media Streamer (Part 2)

1/29/2014 10:07:17 AM
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Good work with low-res files

Even compressed tracks and internet radio stations sound relatively luxurious through the HAP-Z1ES. A 320kbps AAC rip of Eminem’s Bad Guy obviously lacks the dynamic headroom and outright resolution of the CD original, but the Sony’s forgiving ability to unearth detail and keep the organization and rhythm of the track intact is a real highlight.

Sony HAP-Z1ES

Sony HAP-Z1ES

Internet radio is, of course, a hazardous melting pot of seriously low bitrates (some fall well into double-figures). There’s no shortage of machines that find it hard work making ridiculously compressed music sound listenable, but the Sony manages it.

To help, Sony recommends using its DSEE (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) which claims to be able to improve sound quality, but switching it on and off, we couldn’t hear any major differences, certainly nothing as obvious as the differences you can hear with the DSD Remastering engine.

The HAP-Z1ES is a great blend of the traditional and modern. If you’re already in the habit of using a NAS for storing all your tunes, then the Sony probably isn’t for you. But if all your music is stored on a home computer, then this could be the audio solution you’re looking for. It’s a sensible approach and, with Sony’s moreish, musical sound, a successful one.

Sony high-end digital audio

Sony high-end digital audio

Free control app

Better than the standard remote

The lack of a quality remote control is actually a great excuse to download Sony’s free HDD Audio Remote app for Android and iOS devices. Sony has obviously put a lot of time and effort into getting it right. It’s a really slick, enjoyable operating system for the Z1ES. The glossy interface grabs your attention from the get-go, as does the speed at which you can navigate the app and create and manipulate playlists.

Nice little touches

Little things like being able to wake the streamer from sleep by simply activating the app, and the way the background color of the app changes according to the color of the artwork, all bring a smile to your face.

Reviewer’s notes... 5 things about the HAP-Z1ES

The Sony’s build quality is excellent – there’s a real feeling of quality and that large colorful display is an eye-catcher. It feels like you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

Sony’s HAP Music Transfer software makes moving music over to the hard drive pretty painless. The fact it can automatically scan for new stuff and transfers it across wirelessly is neat, too.

We quickly grow tired of the standard plastic remote control and switch to Sony’s HDD Audio Remote app. On our iPad Air, the interface looks slick and it’s really responsive and satisfying to use.

Sony HDD Audio Remote app

Sony HDD Audio Remote app

The Sony is in its element with high-res music, and we’re captivated by the smooth, sultry sound of the DSD version of Marvin Gaye’s album What’s Going On. It’s as soothing as a cup of hot chocolate.

Internet radio comes courtesy of vTuner, and there’s a decent range of stations at your disposal. We’re particularly taken with AVRO Film, which streams movie soundtracks as 256kbps MP3s.

Rating

For: Excellent build quality; good display; slick control app; produces a refined, hugely enjoyable and beautifully balanced sound.

Against: Remote feels cheap; it isn’t DLNA enabled so won’t stream from network attached storage devices.

Verdict: Sony’s ventured into high – resolution audio delivery with impressive results – this is a smartly designed, superb-sounding piece of kit.

Specifications

  • Type: Streamer
  • Hard: disk 1TB
  • Wireless: Yes
  • Outputs: Analogue
  • Tuner: Internet
  • Formats supported: MP3, AAC, AIFF, WMA, WAV, ALAC, FLAC, DSD
  • Remote control: Yes
  • Dimensions (hwd): 13 x 43 x 49cm
  • Weight: 14.5kg

 

 
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