A few photos showing the guts of the machine:
|Hate to be that guy, but 10 seconds staring at this is about 7 too many.|
· My final wish-list is also a kudo to Sony for doing the right thing, right out of the gate. Their Android app has no unnecessary and over-bearing DRM. Sony doesn't have their app available from the Amazon app store, but I was able to download the APK directly from the Google Play Store then side-load it onto my Amazon Fire tablet. The app didn't kvetch and die over not being able to do a license check with Google Play Services, which isn't installed on the Fire tab. Nice. Let's give credit when credit is due.
Before signing off I wanted to extend my personal thanks to our blog host for keeping us entertained and informed these many years. As one who cares deeply about sound quality, yet gets no intrinsic pleasure from, nor wishes to maximize the amount of money spent in said pursuit, I often feel "audiophiles" are actually "enemies" to the rest of us. Their purple prose and ludicrous claims of hearing acuity destroys any credibility with the broader public they might hope to gain support from. I know I'm not voicing a new criticism here by any means. Nonetheless, people like Archimago, who write evidence-based reviews, call out snake-oil when they see it, and remain polite, rational, and entertaining through it all, I feel deserve our support and appreciation. Again, credit when credit is due. It's my honor to have written this review for Archimago and his audience.
Thanks again Allan for the contribution!
As promised, I think the review represents a fair, "no holds barred" review of a product including some obvious annoyances that many users would have issues with like the mandatory USB drive rescanning with each power up, line-out that can't switch between inputs nor has volume control, and the strange inability to load up the internal HD with music off a USB stick!
In any event, the device does look quite capable and could very well serve those who want an all-in-one unit capable of streaming Spotify and TuneIn, where 500GB hard drive space (and 25,000 track limit) is adequate, supports up to DSD128, and the ease of control using an app. Furthermore, it looks like the 2x40W into 4-ohms Class AB amplifier will allow small efficient speakers to fill a reasonable-sized room with music. Allan, if you have the opportunity to plug in a pair of passive speakers at some point, you'll have to let us know how the amplified audio sounds.
I certainly like Allan's comment about having a measure of dynamic range included as part of the "vital stats" when looking at track information. Of course this will require a bit more time as the device will need to scan through the music. JRiver (Tools --> Library Tools --> Analyze Audio) and Roon are the only two that I know that will allow one to incorporate measured dynamic range values in the track viewer. Will certainly be nice to see this feature added over time!
Also, if anyone has the opportunity to measure the difference between standard MP3 and MP3 with DSEE (HX) [Digital Sound Enhancement Engine], it would be interesting to know what it actually does. Based on the graphics by Sony, it looks like DSEE fills in the high frequencies that were filtered out by the lossy psychoacoustic algorithm up to 22kHz and DSEE HX will upsample that and perhaps even add further ultrasonic content.
Speaking of Sony and their drive towards HRA ("Hi-Res Audio"), here's an interesting article based on comments by Sony's "Chief Sound Architect" reported back in 2016 in AVHub Australia. Basically he implied that 256kbps MP3 upsampled to high-res will sound "near high-res". Yeah, is that surprising? Remember that blind tests like the one we did here years ago suggested that high bitrate MP3 sounds like lossless FLAC already. And as discussed years back, to do hi-res right requires numerous factors to align... Not the least of it being of course that the original recording be captured well and subsequent processing like dynamic compression and DSP effects maintain the pristine signal integrity. Not many recordings are done right (and certainly not the usual classic rock originally captured on old analogue tape!).
Have a great week ahead everyone! Hope you're all enjoying the music...