Last year the Consumer Electronics Association developed guidelines for what qualifies as high-resolution audio now several manufacturers including the likes of Sony, Harman Kardon, and Panasonic with their Technics brand and Neil Young’s Pono are set to deliver new high res audio products.
What is hi-res audio? According to the experts at CES 2015, it’s anything higher than CD. CD music is recorded at 16 bits/44.1kHz, while hi-resolution music files can be up as high as 24 bit/192KHz.
Several vendors are looking to take on Sonos with high res audio sound bars and speakers, currently a Sonos speaker only delivers full uncompressed 16 Bit, 44.1 KHz. Harman Kardon has a new high res soundbar and speakers coming along with a new sub that sells at half the price of the Sonos system.
Here are a few of the new high-resolution audio products shown at CES 2015:
Pono Player (Looking for OZ distributor).
The PonoPlayer is Neil Young’s baby, and started life as a very successful Kickstarter project. Pono supports playback of high-fidelity audio of up to 192 kHz/24 bit resolution. The PonoPlayer includes two 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) audio output jacks which offer you four modes of operation: personal (with headphones); home stereo; PonoShare (for two simultaneous headphones); and balanced (left and right outputs are piped separately through both headphone jacks for high-impedance headphones or high-end home stereo systems.)
Sony Walkman NW-ZX2
Walkman is a venerated name for people of a certain age. I got my first cassette tape Walkman in the 80s. Now the Sony Walkman has moved into the digital age with portable NW-ZX2 which can play digital files up to 192 kHz/24 bit in a variety of formats including MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, AIFF, WAV and ALAC including DSD. It comes with 128GB of built-in memory and an expansion slot for a micro SD card slot. The built-in S-Master HX digital amplifier was developed for Hi-Res audio and reduces distortion and noise while reproducing wide frequency response. Just add your own high-quality headphones. At $1,119 it’s a little more than your average iPod.
Technics SU-R1 Network Audio Player
Panasonic is back in the audio market again with its original Technics brand, and the products have come a long way. The SU-R1 Network Audio Player receives audio signals from digital devices, such as NAS, PCs, USB memory devices and digital interfaces and passes the signal and volume control information directly to the power amplifier in digital form
The system features a Digital Noise Isolation Architecture, a high-precision clock generator and independent high-precision Burr-Brown PCM1792 (Texas Instruments) digital to analogue converters for left and right channels. The circuits after the D/A converter are of a balanced configuration, using non-magnetic film resistors, low equivalent series resistance capacitors and a high-quality LME49720 (Texas Instruments) OP amp. Analogy inputs are converted to digital with the high-precision Burr-Brown PCM4220 (Texas Instruments) 192-kHz/24-bit A/D converter, allowing high-purity sound with digital and analogue sources alike.
Also set to flog a high res audio player is Astell & Kern who already have a distributor in Australia, however little has been done to build the brand in Australia with the reality now that the brand could be swamped by new players.
Astell and Kern AK500N
Astell & Kern have recently built a strong reputation among audiophiles for their headphones and personal music players, but the AK500N it the company’s first home music server and network audio player for high resolution music. With a built-in 1 TB solid state drive, you can rip CDs straight to the system in one click. It includes PCM to DSD conversion, jitter and error correction. CDs can be saved as 32 bit/384 kHz WAV PCM or 24 bit/352 kHz FLAC PCM file and converted to DSD64 data without any down-sampling. Album art and metadata automatically gets downloaded from the Gracenote database.