Sony Introduces New Range Of Hi-Res Products – Will This Change The Music Industry Norms?

Sony, one of the first to make High-Resolution Audio products available to consumers, yesterday launched a wide range of hi-res devices including Walkman®, headphones, portable amplifiers and digital stereo recorders aiming to bring audiophiles closer to the spirit and soul of the artist’s actual performance – just as they’d hear it on stage or in a recording studio.

What is Hi-Res

The Digital Entertainment Group, the Consumer Electronics Association and The Recording Academy have teamed up with Sony, Universal and Warner Music Group to come up with four different file formats:

MQ-P: from a PCM master source 48kHz/20-bit or higher (typically 96/24 or 192/24 content).
MQ-A: from an analogue master source.
MQ-C: from a CD master source (44.1kHz/16-bit).
MQ-D: from a DSD/DSF master source (typically 2.8MHz or 5.6MHz content).

MQ – means Master Quality

Artists usually record their albums in Hi-Res (24 bit/96kHz) in the studio and, once mixed, the tracks are compressed for CD and music download (16 bit/44.1kHz). With seven times more data compared to a CD source, High-Resolution Audio captures the finest nuance of each note.

Product Range

NWZ A15 Sony


Sony’s new range of Hi-Res Audio products includes reboot of the Walkman® – newly styled NW-ZX2 that features a host of meticulous design refinements ensuring excellent audio quality. The Walkman® NW-A15 is the world’s smallest and lightest High-Res Audio digital music player that brings true audiophile credentials to portable high-resolution audio players.

The headband-type MDR-Z7 (Cost AED 2599) features a newly-developed 70mm HD driver unit that completely envelopes the listener’s ear, revealing every musical nuance with startling integrity – from powerful sub-bass lows to crystalline highs. The MDR-1A (Cost AED 1199) headphones utilize 40mm HD driver units, which render incredibly wide bandwidth audio performance, from low to ultra-high up to 100 kHz frequency. This level of quality produces atmospheric musical nuances that are characteristic of High-Resolution audio.

MDR 1A MDR Z7 Sony

With high-resolution audio hardware now available, Sony’s next step is to make high-resolution music readily available – ideally music people actually want to listen to and buy. There is growing catalogue of Hi-Res music already with over 300,000 songs available. For the UAE, Sony has partnered with Sony Music Entertainment allowing audiophiles to download Hi-Res Audio tracks when they purchase select Sony Hi-Res Audio products.

Why Hi-Res Now?

There have been attempts to popularise Hi-Res Audio in the past, most notably with the DVD-Audio and SACD disc formats, both of which entered the market in 2000 which had limited success. This time there is collective push on Hi-Res from the Consumer Electronics Association, Sony Electronics and three major music publishers (Sony, Warner and Universal).

If you want Hi-Res to be popular amongst the younger generation, Sony will have to avail this technology via smartphones as most non-audiophiles don’t sit at home listening to music through incredibly expensive equipment.

One of the major hurdle is convincing recording studios to record music in Hi-Res as the many of them can’t afford the equipment to create such content. This may lead to lack of Hi-Res content that may not justify the spend on the hardware.

The Hi-Res music also costs 2 to 3 times more than your regular i-tunes download.

But will it go massive? Apple doesn’t seem interested, neither does it offer more than 16-bit compatibility on its products. However the loose partnership between the music giants and recording studios can turn the tide. So hi-res is coming – but will it sustain the momentum? We would know about it in the coming few years.


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