The digital music revolution killed analog sources for the sake of convenience, but has left many audio fans yearning for clarity and higher resolution playback. It began with the introduction of compact discs which offered amazingly crisp sound and reliable portability, however physical discs are limited by storage capacity. MP3 files and digital music players entered the scene and solved the storage issue, but have ultimately led music fans to accept compromised sound quality for the sake of maximizing storage. In recent years we’ve witnessed the growth of high-resolution audio as formats such as PCM, DSD, FLAC, and AIFF (among others) have taken flight, giving audiophiles the convenience of digital files without compromised sound quality.
Sony Electronics has recently been rolling-out a line of high-res audio components that play nicely with nearly all advanced music files, claiming total optimization for digital audio playback. This month, Sony unveiled two new High Resolution Audio devices: The PHA-1 High-Res Portable DAC/Amplifier and the TA-A1ES Integrated Stereo Amplifier.
"Sony continues its commitment to audio enthusiasts who truly care about music by offering the finest quality products that meet practically every lifestyle need," said Aaron Levine, Business Manager for Sony Electronics' Home Entertainment & Sound Division. "High Resolution Audio is elevating the digital music experience to a whole new level and both of these devices provide an outstanding listening experience – whether at home or on the go."
Sony PHA-2 High-Res Portable DAC/Amplifier
For those of you unfamiliar with the acronym “DAC,” it stands for Digital-Analog Converter. In essence, it’s the part of a device that converts a digital binary code (1’s and 0’s) into an analog signal. The PHA-2 is a small portable headphone DAC-amplifier designed specifically to deliver the highest quality sound reproduction of digital music stored in virtually every high-resolution digital file format. Compatible file formats include 192kHz/24-bit PCM, DSD (2.8MHz) and Double DSD (5.6MHz). Sony claims that the PHA-2 also produces “upgraded sound quality” for users playing MP3 files.
The PHA-2 has a USB 2.0 interface allowing it to be connected to PC and Apple computer products. It also can be connected to iOS devices through a digital input or Android devices through an analog input. Sony says the unit offers precision digital to analog conversion along with the following features:
- A dedicated signal generator to reduce timing errors
- A custom amplifier IC with high slew rate
- Ultra-low distortion
- Output capacitor-less current feedback architecture
- A dual power supply operation
- And, an aluminum chassis to shield the unit form external interference.
Pair those technologies with a variable gain headphone output and nearly 17 hours of battery life, and Sony says the resulting sound is outstanding. The PHA-2 will be available in March 2014 at an MSRP of $599.
Sony TA-A1ES Integrated Stereo Amplifier
The TA-A1ES is a next generation amplifier designed to be paired with Sony’s new HAP-Z1ES Hi-Res music player. The Z1ES sources its music from Hi-Res files stored on its 1TB hard disc or streamed from a Mac or PC. The TA-A1ES pairs-up with the Z1ES to send it’s work to speakers using the power of an audiophile-esque Class-A amplifier (80 Watts X 2). The amp and it’s other technologies are housed in a rigid – vibration free – chassis originally developed for Sony’s R-series components. Sony touts the Z1ES’ discreet pre-amp stages and other technologies – including features such as volume controlled through a discrete volume amplifier – that reduce opportunities for distortion and increase overall fidelity.
The TA-A1ES will be available in November 2013 at an MSRP of $1999.
Image Credit: Sony