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 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 danthpnh gorgeous looks and sound
I bought the unit one month ago, downloaded the majority of my music via Ethernet. Now make changes wirelessly. Works great.
In terms of sound quality, I am very impressed, the soundstage is wide, there is a sense of air and clarity in the music.
I like the fact that you turn the system on and it just works, no need to turn on computers, nas, etc., make it all work before you start enjoying your music. The app works great when it works but loses its connection to the unit sometimes.
March 16, 2015
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 AudioGineer Sony HAP-Z1ES is Audioincredible!!!
Purchased Sony HAP-Z1ES on Nov 20, 2014 from Audiotronics in Roanoke VA - thanks Alan. Silver faceplate., it was pretty heavy, very well made, top quality parts from what I can see. Ripping my CDs and organizing them was a chore - 35 years worth of CDs - it took over a month of almost daily work. I ripped to WAV format, since it is lossless and most generic format. Good thing I started ripping in October! I used MediaMonkey Gold ($25) to rip, organize and add meta-data to albums. Used Win 7 File Explorer to download files via WiFi (2.4GHz band) to Sony. The WiFi is slower (64Mbps) than Ethernet, but my Computer Room is different from my Stereo Listening Room, so WiFi it was. A typical album takes about 4-6 minutes to download, so this also took a while. I let the unit play Lou Reed Rock 'n Roll Animal for 48 hours to break in, then I started listening to my Martin Logan Monolith III speakers driven by Pass Labs electronics. I set up the Sony to upsample all WAV files to DSD 1-bit streaming format (most were 44.1kSps, 16-bit, but others are 96k or 192k / 24bit digital downloads). The sound was super clean, open, 3-dimensional, excellent sound staging, great highs, deep tight bass with tons of drive, super focused midrange made male and female voices and guitars sound amazingly realistic, triangles and cymbals glisten and sparkle without a hint of harshness, and the background is dead silent. The unit faithfully plays thunderous dynamics required in symphonic music and the better rock musics. And on top of that, the SmartPhone app controls the Sony play selection. The only nitpick I can find is that the Sony does not (yet) also control the Volume level! If it did, I would not long need a preamp. And on top of all that, it has an excellent sounding HD Digital Radio feature that can connect to streaming radio Internet sites all over the world - most of the best or the most popular stations in each country, in many different genres, are available - for free. Sony really knocked it out of the park with this product. Goodby old CD player, goodby old SACD player, goodby old DAC, goodby old FM tuner - the Sony replaces them all.
April 22, 2015
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