RMAF 2013: Sony


The internet made its share of noise about Sony’s slew of late-summer press releases. Sony was back, they claimed. “What? Again?” asked everyone who ever bought a Sony product.

Which, let’s face it, is pretty much everyone.

But issuing press releases is one thing. Showing up with multiple exhibit rooms and a serious CanJam presence to build their cred with the audiophile crowd is another thing entirely. Sony jumped into that task with both feet.

Their primary room was mostly familiar to recent show goers. Anchored by the SSAR2 speakers and Pass amplification, the main change was to trade out their traditional Meitner converter in favor of their new HAP-Z1ES network music player and dac ($2,000). Sure, it’s from the ES line, but replacing seven-grand worth of a revered playback system with two grand of consumer-friendly box is a pretty bold move. It was also wholly satisfying on a brief listen.

More impressive was their smaller room, in which the speakers were changed to their smaller SS-NA2ES ($10,000), and the Pass products were replaced with Sony’s new TA-A1ES, 80 watt integrated amplifier ($2,000). The resulting system offered performance far too close to the Pass system for comfort.

The first-blush impression from both rooms is that Sony’s new electronics err more on the side of easy-listening omission than revealing exotica. While the dynamics and detail offered had little to do with what we think of as mid-fi, the tonal balance and forgiving nature of the sound were more comfortingly euphonic than the starkly revealing, third-party kit that Sony has been using recently.

Scot’s already covered Sony’s real effort to show willing down in CanJam, with a table full of sub-grand electronics and $300 headphones. Everything on offer was high-bitrate and dsd capable. Everything on offer was intuitively easy to use. Everything sounded pretty decent for the price. And, of course, everything on offer shared that Sony house sound.

I may not yet quite trust the idea that Sony is back — I’ve heard that story too many times to be too optimistic — but what Sony is showing off is the kind of kit that is sorely missed in today’s marketplace. We’ve spent too long being forced to choose between either Big Box Crap and unknown exotica. Sony’s name recognition and engineering seem on track to give back to us that long-missed bridge between those two categories.

I honestly hope that Sony really is back. I hope that their dark decade of utter uselessness is over. If this new product line is any indication of the future, that hope might not be too misplaced.