Can High-Res Audio Reboot Sony Walkman Sales?
Remember standard definition boxy television sets? Sure, they’re still around in some people’s homes, but CRT TVs have long since left retail stores, to be replaced by high definition and now even higher 4K definition flat screen TVs.
When it comes to music players, however, audio quality has gone backwards as initially small storage capacities measured in megabytes rather than gigabytes, alongside slow dial-up Internet speeds during the time of mp3’s creation, forced the invention of ways to make sound files skinny – at the expense of rich audio quality.
The audio industry tried combating this problem with the introduction of Super Audio CDs and DVD Audio discs, but these never really took off either – certainly not in the same way that regular CDs and DVDs did.
Of course, it is possible to get high quality audio from various DVD and Blu-Ray movies, what with 5.1 and better sound systems, but these sound tracks are the audio for a video track, and aren’t audio files on their own.
In addition, it’s just not very easy to cart your Blu-Ray player, flatscreen TV and speakers around whenever you want to hear some high-fidelity audio.
So, after well over a decade of the mp3 revolution having come and gone, so much so that legal and easy audio streaming has finally started replacing legal and illegal individual track and album purchases, it seems the time for High-Res audio is nigh.
Sony kicked off its efforts earlier this year with its 128GB ZX1 video and audio Walkman, a US and AUD $700 media player that sports official Hi-Res Audio playback.
The Wall Street Journal says the ZX1 has been a success in Japan, and while it notes that Sony won’t disclose sales figures, analysts expect that Sony has sold several thousand units in Japan.
Those sales obviously haven’t been anywhere near enough to offset Sony’s billion-dollar-plus losses, but they do point to a Hi-Res Audio future being closer than many expect.
Indeed, while it is already possible to get some higher resolution audio to play on iDevices, as Macworld explains here, other reports suggest that Apple’s forthcoming iOS 8 will natively play back true Hi-Res Audio format files at long last.
If that’s the case, Hi-Res Audio will be truly propelled into the limelight, suggesting iTunes sales of Hi-Res Audio tracks, along with the potential of Hi-Res Audio streaming, both of which “sound” like they put the US $3b Beats purchase in a whole new light.
Whether Sony decides to start selling its ZX1 in the US before iOS 8 launches is yet to be announced, as the ZX1 is not listed on Sony’s US site, but the company does have limited supplies of the ZX1 on sale in Australia, as can be seen here.
Limited supplies suggest that the 128GB, $699 ZX1 player isn’t exactly flying off the shelves, but it does offer true audiophiles a spacious way to transport top quality sound.
Given that, it may well take the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 to truly propel sound quality into the stratosphere at last, but until then, there’s always the sweet hi-res sound of Sony.