Sony has introduced two new additions to its high-end Signature Series line, both demonstrating the company's "relentless lifetime pursuit of sound excellence." Aimed at music lovers with deep pockets, the IER-Z1R in-ear headphones sport a hybrid driver setup for the promise of audiophile-grade listening, while the DMP-Z1 digital music player features a gold-plated volume knob, balanced and unbalanced headphone jacks, a stationary class headphone amp in a portable package and dual DACs.

Sony is promising that the latest additions to its Signature Series will deliver "astonishingly faithful sound reproduction that's definitively clear and expressive, where even the subtleties and delicate nuances of micro-sounds and bigger scales at higher dynamics are effectively reproduced." Let's begin with the DMP-Z1 digital music player.

The consumer tech giant reckons that the eye-catching gold-plated rotary volume control out front is much more than mere bling. "As the audio signal directly passes through the volume controller, this affects sound quality and is one of the most important aspects of audio design. The DMP-Z1 uses a Sony customized high-end analog rotary volume controller which is copper plated followed by gold plating and supports the volume for four separate signal paths (L+ / L- / R+ / R-). This ensures signal purity and ensures the DMP-Z1 reproduces transparent and clear vocals as it maximizes the DAC chip performance by retaining all audio source information even at low volume levels."

Inside a rigid aluminum chassis that allows for the amplifier board to be isolated from the main board to reduce noise, Sony has included dual AK4497EQ digital-to-analog conversion chips and a TPA6120A2 analog amp. The DMP-Z1 can handle native 32-bit/384 kHz PCM and DSD formats up to 11.2 MHz, has a wide 20 Hz to 40 kHz frequency response and can drive headphones rated at 16 ohms.

In a claimed first, Sony allows listeners to convert any PCM music source into DSD 5.6 MHz courtesy of the DSD Remastering Engine, and the player will even bring some vinyl warmth to digital music by recreating "tone-arm resonance, tiny surface noise and the rich sound from the vibration by acoustic feedback from the speakers to the turntable." The DMP-Z1 makes use of AI processing too, automatically enhancing tracks based on real-time information analysis.

Its Li-ion battery offers up to 10 hours of music playback per charge, with the five cells split between the digital and analog blocks within the DMP-Z1 to prevent noise bleed from the digital section. Rounding out an impressive specs list, there's a 3.1-inch, 800 x 480 resolution touch panel user interface, both 4.4 mm balanced and 3.5 mm unbalanced output jacks, 256 GB of internal solid state storage with two microSD slots for expansion, a USB-C port and a Bluetooth 4.2 receiver for streaming audio to the player.

As you might expect for a Signature Series music player, the DMP-Z1 invades Astell&Kern territory (and then some) with a recommended retail price of HKD 61,880 (that's about US$7,880!). It's due for a Hong Kong release in December.

Naturally, music lovers with such a huge wad of cash to throw around will need decent earphones to get the best from their new music player, and Sony has them covered with the IER-Z1R earphones.

These in-ear headphones are built around a hybrid driver system made up of three new Sony drivers strategically positioned in a magnesium alloy inner housing: a 5 mm dynamic driver with an aluminum-coated liquid crystal polymer diaphragm, a 12 mm magnesium alloy driver and balanced armature driver with a magnesium alloy diaphragm and silver-coated copper voice coil.

Sony says that it's also made use of a unique sound control method – where "ventilation is accurately controlled by connecting the acoustic tube to the extended acoustic cavity behind the driver unit" – that's reported to result in a wide soundstage with rich, smooth and accurate sound reproduction. Listeners can also look forward to low distortion thanks to a dedicated film capacitor.

All of this audiophile-pleasing ear candy is wrapped in a durable zirconium alloy outer skin, a 5 pole 4.4 mm balanced audio cable is provided for optimum listening and a good selection of different-sized earbuds (six triple comfort buds and seven hybrids) and a pre-formed ear hanger should provide a stable and comfortable fit. The IER-Z1R go on sale in November for HKD13,990 (US$1,780).

Product pages: DMP-Z1, IER-Z1R

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