In short: Sony has today announced new additions to its Signature Series in the form of a new pair of in-ear headphones and a new digital music player. Both of these new arrivals are expected to become available in January 2019, and as they are both ultra-premium products, they do sport an ultra-premium price. The new IER-Z1R Signature Series in-ear headphones are expected to arrive to market priced at $2,299.99 in the US, while the DMP-Z1 Signature Series Digital Music Player will cost $8,499.99 in the US.
Background: Sony created its Signature Series as a tour de force to showcase the quality of products that can be had for an elevated price. As a result the new IER-Z1R Signature Series Headphones are in Sony's eyes designed to offer an extremely heightened sound quality which is in no small part due to the 5mm dynamic drivers which work in tandem with a 12mm diaphragm and a balanced armature driver unit. Sony explains its newly-developed triple-threat "HD hybrid driver system" not only results in a sound you can feel, but one which provides greater frequency response coverage – up to 100 kHz.
Similar to the IER-Z1R, the new DMP-Z1 Signature Series Digital Music Player is designed to offer a heightened listening experience but at the source level. As this music player is one which not only comes with a rich build quality, but also rich support for audio sources, as well as the ability to upscale incoming audio to ensure the output is as good as it can be. For example the DMP-Z1 features a vinyl processor which will help to emulate a sound as close to an actual vinyl player as possible, including emphasizing low-frequency resonance, tone-arm resistance, and surface noise.. The High Resolution Audio-supported DMP-Z1 features DSD (up to 11.2 MHz) and PCM (up to 384 kHz/32-bit) support along with an Asahi Kasei Microdevices (AKM) AK4497EQ DAC chip, as well as a built-in amplifier to power headphones powered by a Texas Instruments (TI) TPA6120A2 amp chip. Further adding to its feature list is NFC and Bluetooth (version 4.2) support for connection to Bluetooth-enabled devices such as smartphones, 256GB internal storage along with two microSD card slots, a USB Type-C port, a 3.1-inch color display, and even a built-in battery which is listed to offer up to 9 hours of hi-res playback or 10 hours of non-hi-res playback.
Impact: It should be clear already that these two new additions to Sony's portfolio are not designed with the everyday user in mind. If anything, they are more designed as proof-of-concept devices or for those who are looking to spend what it takes to obtain the purest and truest sound quality possible. While the cost will price many buyers immediately out of the market, those looking for the best in class, and a mix of digital with analogue, might want to take a closer look — and listen — to these two when they launch early next year.