Rated 4 out of 5 by BillS Great concept and sound, interface not so hot
The HAP-Z1ES is an astounding product. The music is stored in one compact place, over 2000 CDs and counting, gone are the bulky cabinets and the CD clutter. The music sounds better too. To be clear, rip the CD and transfer the file from computer to music server, then do an AB comparison and the Sony sounds better, a lot better. Wow! What is not to like? Well, the App to interface either a tablet or phone to control the music server is not consistent. Sometimes it works, and sometimes not, or it is slow and balky. Accessing the music with the control knob on the music server is awkward to see and slow to use. The more CDs that are stored the more difficult it gets. The Internet radio feature is on and off, lately mostly off. Finally, by ripping your CDs and storing them on the hard drive, means that you lose the tactile feel of having the disc in hand and liner notes to read. On balance the Sony HAP-Z1ES is a winner and is highly recommended.
September 26, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by soundpurist Amazing Sound Quality
I have a high-end stereo with tube preamp, McIntosh amps, and Tannoy speakers, and admittedly initially reluctant to purchase a music server advertised as adding input to the sound (notably the DSEE and 24bit conversion features). The musical results are above my expectations: DSCC significantly enhances Internet radio sound, while the 24-bit up-conversion removes aggressiveness from the sound of 16-bit CDs. The result is a rich and detailed sound, very pleasant to hear after hours of use.
For Internet radio, I used to have a Logitech connected to a stand-alone DAC, Sony unit replaces both and sounds significantly better.
Setting up the unit and the software that will copy the music on your PC's HDD to the Sony's internal drive is extremely easy, so are the controls from the iPhone/iPad. I would personally like a PC-based control as well, but tablet/cell phone control is good enough. Another positive, unit is completely silent, unlike first-generation music servers of twice the cost.
It is easy to spend a lot of money in sound system components, but this unit represents the best return of my money in my entire sound system.
June 2, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by CrystalClear Ahhh, this is what I'm talking about. Beautiful
Finally, a music player that has the absolute highest quality sound possible in the digital realm. Of course you need to play Hi-Rez files to fully bathe in its dimension. As for your old rips, the up convert is amazing. Not a single noise, it makes me cry.
This player was intricately engineered to please the most discerning audiophile. The HAP transfer was a breeze. And with ever expanding library of Hi-Rez music on line, I feel this is the beginning of the long awaited technologically advanced age of new High Fidelity sound reproduction.
I am happy they included silver, a few buttons and left the wealth of functions to the app. I love the radio function too. Now if only Sony would make their premium ES speakers easier to buy, I for one am an American consumer ready for it.
February 18, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by DonD2 Fantastic audio quality!
After three months of use, the HAP-Z1ES has became the main input for my living room audio system. Playing ripped CDs and downloaded hirez audio files, it has replaced a PC and DAC costing several times the Sony's price. The Sony's soundstage and realism is simply outstanding when run with DSD remastering ON and DSEE OFF for playing lossless PCM and DSD files. Initially, the high end treble was a little light (with ripped CDs), but this has improved considerably with software/firmware updates (and, perhaps, some break in time). Internet radio with DSEE ON is considerably better than PC software packages but still not equivalent to lossless audio. The Android/Apple remote app is the best way to control the player (the front panel screen is too small for use in a room sized environment) and with the proper tablet driving a monitor can provide a room sized visual interface.
There are a couple of areas for improvement. First, the DSEE really should be completely disabled automatically for lossless PCM - if ON, it sometimes messes with the soundstage and some vocals. It would also be nice if the remote apps would let the user chose the portrait or landscape interface rather than automatically forcing the interface depending on your phone/tablet's physical screen characteristics.
May 6, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by xray A month with HAP-Z1ES
Like the previous reviewer, I had a return number by Sony in my hand in favor of using my trusty Transporter by Slimdevices (later acquired by Logitech). But I had two weeks to finalize my decision during which I listened to the my library phrase by phrase alternating Transporter and HAP using balanced outputs.
To sum it up: much lower and tighter base than the Transporter, much better resolution (on speakers or Audeze and Westone headphones), much better orchestral reproduction, and much narrower sound stage.
The latter is what makes one love the Transporter. A whole stage is reproduced, much wider than your speaker setup! Amazing! The cost? It was difficult to figure but I knew it was there since I could never enjoy Tchaikovsky's piano concerto which I have listened to live many times. This is just an example for a type of music that the Transporter cannot handle and that HAP plays with ease. The wide stage achieved by the transporter is the result of coloration of the sound and a weakness at the mids which brings the soloist (singer or an instrument) farther back than the rest of the band. The Sony does the opposite - brings the soloist next to you and the band somewhat back.
Sony's HAP-Z1ES reproduces music smooth and natural - no extras. That said, some singer-songwriters recording, e.g. Wille Nelson, sound better on the Transporter. Plus, HAP is not a true streamer by any stretch of the imagination. As a result now I use both players, stacked on top of each other! Go figure....
February 16, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Carbry Very Pleased
Very easy too use, audio is everything I expected. The one feature, I wish was included; direct record of my many DSD album to the device, or include software that would allow for this. I have many DSD album, and in need for software.....Carl
June 1, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by LouCiro Great sound
Very good sound quality . Needs random play mode. Needs ability to support other iwireless nternet radio sources like Sirius XM radio.
Wireless sets up easily. Could use more detailed instruction manuals.
September 27, 2014
Rated 2 out of 5 by jcaudio Would be great if Vtuner ever worked
While there are many things I love about my unit I need to comment on a couple items of concern.
Their packaging for a high end product is definitely not. They still use the cheap styrofoam that if dropped in shipping (which is not that uncommon) disintegrates. My unit arrived with outside of box not looking bad but inside was total mayhem.
Needed to order another.
Worse though is my Vtuner has worked maybe 50% of the time I have owned it with a complete outage from September 5th until today which is September 12 with no fix in sight. When I called Sony they first tried to tell me it was a problem Vtuner was having. When I told him my Marantz receiver in bedroom was playing Vtuner as we were on the phone he backed off and said that Sony was aware of the problem and had something to do with their server not connecting properly with Vtuner but would be fixed shortly.
That was a week ago now!
Considering one of the main reasons I purchased the unit was to stream classical radio stations this was a huge letdown.
Lastly on the negative side is customer support was anything but helpful when I tried to get help with transferring a DSD file off the Blue Coast Music site . Cookie, from BCM was a 1000 times more helpful than Sony.
On the positive.
Unit is beautiful and well built. The screen is very crisp and overall ease of use is easy and very intuitive.
Other than the DSD transfer, the other files from my Mac transferred flawlessly. I recommend connecting your internet via cable rather than wirelessly as it transfers more quickly.
September 12, 2014