CanJam at RMAF2016: Sony Signature Series MDR-Z1R Headphones; NW-WM1Z Portable Player; and TA-ZH1ES DAC/Amp
Talk about enthusiastic about headphones, Naotaka Tsunoda, Deputy General Manager, Acoustic Technologies, Headphones, at Sony, has been showing up to CanJams and other shows regularly for a couple of years. I've talked to him numerous times and am convinced the guy totally gets enthusiast audio. He's brought his experience back to his work and, to my eyes, has enlivened Sony's approach to this segment.
Sony's Signature Series personal audio products are very much in line with headphone enthusiast sensibilities. Boy there's a lot of bells and whistles to talk about here, but I'll just get right to the point: the new MDR-Z1R sounded pretty darn good on the gear. They didn't have any any familiar music, but it was an enjoyable listen, for sure. Can't wait to get these cans to Montana.
Again, lots of bells and whistle here, I'll just say this stuff looked and sounded the business, and link you off to the product pages for the MDR-Z1R Headphones ($2299); NW-WM1Z Premium Walkman ($3199); and TA-ZH1ES DAC/Amp ($2199). I'll also make the additional note that when I started HeadRoom 25 years ago, an array of Sony products like this would have been unimaginable. The fact they're now making high-end personal audio products is a sure sign the category is established.
For me, Sony's bravest statement of this Signature Series is they all use a new standard for a balanced headphone jacks. When faced with the complex environment of balanced connectors currently in useand there are a lot of them, and all have failingsSony decided to push forward an alternate, but traditional approach with a new 4.4mm TRRRS headphone plug. It has the advantages of being smaller than a 1/4"; more durable than a 3.5mm; having more contact surface area than an XLR; being simple to manufacture; and easy to solder. Yes, it still has the problem of potential shorting when inserted and removed, but I have to say I rarely see that happening in real world use. Sorry, it may be a little weird, but I like the idea.
Here's Naotaka to run us through it all.