Collect the whole set, kids

lifestyle February 10, 2018 01:00

By Paisal Chuenprasaeng
The Nation

Here’s the headphone amp to complete Sony’s regiment of outstanding playback components

Sony’s pricey TAZH1ES headphone amplifier can unleash the full potential of the headphones they’re meant to be used with, ensuring that you get the full emotional impact of songs the way the artists intended.

Another component of the Sony Signature Series, the ZH1ES is designed to work best with the Z1R headphones and WM1Z Signature Walkman also reviewed on this page.

I got to test all three together and was bowled over by the sound quality.

More than just an amplifier, the ZH1ES also functions as a DAC (digital to analogue converter). It can receive digital-source files from your computer through a USB port or the WM1Z via a dedicated Walkman port. 

The ZH1ES then enhances the sound quality of the digital audio files and converts the input to analogue audio signals for your high-priced headphones.

Sony’s SMaster technology and new DA hybrid amplifier circuit boost both precision and sound quality. The SMaster amplifies music signals digitally before the amp further hikes the sound, and there’s no distortion at all.  

The ZH1ES supports headphones with impedance of up to 600 ohms.

Sony says the DA Hybrid Amplifier Circuit was developed to be optimised with an advanced FPGA (field-programmable gate array) processor. The amp comes with a DC Phase Linearizer to effectively replicate a wide variety of sonic signatures. It applies digital-signal processing to match the phase characteristics of various types of analog amplifier.

Best of all, the ZH1ES has Sony’s DSD Remastering Engine, so you can convert all PCM music sources into DSD 11.2Mhz for much better quality, making use of the FPGA processor. 

When you play files that aren’t Hi-Res Audio, the ZH1ES can upscale the quality close to it using DSEE HX technology.

The ZH1ES is capable of reproducing high-quality music because its chassis is designed to isolate the circuit board from vibration. Minimising vibration and preventing lateral movement reduces noise, so you get a cleaner, purer sound. The walls derive from a large aluminium block and are highly rigid. 

The top panel is a combination of steel and aluminium to eliminate unnecessary resonance.

The amplifier provides a variety of headphone output connections. It has one 4.4mm balanced connector for Z1R's balanced jack, a set of three-pole mini-plugs 3.5mm in diameter, an XLR4 plug (balanced four-pin), a standard 6.3mm unbalanced headphone jack, and a 3.5mm unbalanced stereo mini-jack.

You can also connect the audio out jacks (pre-out) to an integrated amplifier of your home sound system or an active speaker system.

The ZH1ES has several terminals to support a variety of input devices, including a Walkman digital port, TV sets and a Sony PlayStation console.

You can, for example, connect Lineout jacks to the Linein L/R jacks of the ZH1ES at the back of the amp, or a digital coaxial output jack from a CD player to the coaxial-in jack of the ZH1ES. Or you can connect a digital optical output from a CD player to the Opt-in jack of the amplifier.

I was pleased to note the USBB port at the back for hooking up a notebook or desktop computer so you can use Sony’s Hi-Res Audio Player to transport Hi-Res Audio files. They’ll be decoded and amplified without the need of a Hi-Res Audio music player.

Of course, the star of the connection ports is the port for connecting a Sony Walkman player, like the WM1Z, for channelling digital Hi-Res Audio files to the amp.

I found that Hi-Res Audio music files, especially DSD files, played from the WM1Z to the ZH1ES and heard through Z1R headphones had excellent sound quality. The musical instruments sounded realistic and the bass and drums sounded solid, deep and powerful.

When the ZH1S received DSD files from the WM1Z, it amplified the music without converting, but FLAC Hi-Res Audio files were upscaled in sampling rate to enhance the quality. 

For example, when I played a FLAC 96kHz/24-bit file, the ZH1ES converted it to PCM 384MHz/32-bit sampling. It converted FLAC 192kHz/24-bit files to PCM384MHz/32-bit.

Sony’s Signature Series TAZH1ES headphone amplifier has a suggested retail price of Bt75,990.

Key Specs

- Output power: Balanced 1200mW + 1200mW (32ohms 1kHz 1 per cent), unbalanced 300mW + 300mW (32ohms 1kHz per cent)

- Playing frequency range: 4Hz200kHz

- Frequency response: 4Hz 80kHz

- Impedance: 8 to 600 ohms

- Headphone output balanced: Balanced, balanced standard (4.4mm diameter), three-pole mini (balanced connection, 3.5mm), two XLR4 (balanced fpin) 

- Headphone output unbalanced: Standard (6.3mm diameter), stereo mini (3.5mm)

- Other input/output: Walkman / Xperia Input, USBB Input, Coaxial Input, Optical Input, Line L/R Input, Pre out (variable / fixed)

- Dimensions: 210x65x314mm including projecting parts and controls

- Weight: 4.4 kilograms