Over the past couple of years, Sony has become known for their Walkman experience in the Xperia line of Android smartphones and tablets. What used to be just another bundled music player soon became a whole suite of options to fine tune your listening experience, adjust settings to give you better quality overall and more recently to provide excellent noise cancellation while listening on the move. With the Xperia Z3 series however, Sony have taken things a little further and bought their 'Hi-Res' audio solutions to their new smartphones and new tablet.
Just what is Hi-Res audio though? Well, Sony have taken to their mobile blog to give us all a crash course in what Hi-Res audio is, according to Sony of course. In a nutshell, Hi-Res audio is simply Sony's term for outputting audio at 96 Khz rather than 44.1 Khz. Analogue audio is carried in signals that can be depicted as a wave, but in order to turn that into digital it needs to be converted into a step form, Hi-Res audio basically adds more steps into the wave form and apparently gives you a better sound experience, delivering more of the track as it was intended to be heard. I'm not going to get into a debate on why high-resolution audio is or isn't a genuine improvement, I believe the discussion over 24bit vs 16bit audio has been hacked to death thanks to Mr Young and the Pono Player.
Anyhow, the important part of all this is that the new Xperia Z3 line of devices have the DSEE HX 'up-scaling' tech built into them, which should brighten up your standard music, but it also has the required converter that the Xperia Z2 needed built into the hardware, so there's no need for anything else. Just a "Hi-Res compatible" pair of headphones, which Sony says the MDR-NC31EM set I recently reviewed is and these will more than likely ship with the majority of Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact devices. I have the Xperia Z2 and while I don't have any of this fancy 'Hi-Res' audio stuff, I can honestly say it's one of the best listening experiences I've had on a smartphone I enjoy the simple to use system-wide equalizer, the noise cancellation works brilliantly without any extra hardware – if you have the MDR-NC31EMs that is – and everything is crisp, bright and punchy. So, at the end of the day, it's nice to see Sony pushing things here, but I honestly can't say that there's going to be a huge difference from 16bit 44.1 Khz audio and 24bit 96 Khz audio, but if you're looking for a good-sounding smartphone, Sony won't disappoint here.