Sony has re-joined the race for digital audio supremacy with a range of hi-res components in its much vaunted ES range. HAP-Z1ES (above, £1,999) is an HDD audio player with a 1TB internal drive and a USB socket to add extra capacity. It will play all the desired formats including DSD the codec Sony created as the basis for SACD. Operation can be via smartphone app or the on-board display and supplied remote, you can also ‘remaster’ files to DSD at 128x. Wireless or Ethernet socketry are provided to connect it with a network in order for the smartphone apps (Android and iOS) to be used and for it to access the vTuner web radio service. Outputs are both single ended and balanced and there is a USB input for computer audio. TA-A1ES (below) is a matching amplifier at the same price with a FET input buffer, SEPP hi-current output stage (single-ended push-pull) and intelligent bias control. Sony always was keen on acronyms but the unusual thing in the spec is an identical 80 watt output figure for both eight and four Ohm loads. This is unusual and not unlike the result found with digital amps but Sony does not describe it as such.
An all in one HDD player is also available with a 500GB drive, HAP-S1 is a £799, 40 watt stereo amplifier with features to enhance compressed formats as well as compatibility with all the serious alternatives. It can also be run via an app and has onboard wireless connectivity as well as digital inputs. Most surprising is that it comes in a compact 88mm (3.5inch) high chassis. Completing Sony’s hi-res electronics line-up is the UDA-1 USB DAC/amplifier, this is also pretty compact at 225mm wide (9 inches) and combines a 23 watt amp with a converter that accepts PC and smartphone connections.