You have to admire the dedication that Sony put into their recent comeback into high end audio with products like the Sony HAP-S1. They setup dedicated teams to work on these new products, and employed all of their know how to produce what we think was a fantastic range of products, the standout of which for us is the Sony HAP-S1.
In light of all the attention piled on to this machines big brother, the HAP-Z1ES, why does this stand out exactly you may well ask? Well, the Sony HAP-Z1ES was an all out assault on high end audio that delivered a spectacular high resolution music player, but it came at a cost. The Sony HAP-S1 put the exact playback interface from the HAP-Z1ES into a very compact chassis and threw in a high quality amplifier as well, and THAT is no mean feat!
It was clearly an attempt to bring high quality music playback to the masses, and it brought with it a thoroughly respectable and thoroughly sorted product with little in the way of flaws in my view. From a music playback point of view, there is little it will not play, including ALAC files for those with music libraries in iTunes. High res PCM files as well as DSD playback, FLAC, MP3, AAC you name it, it plays it and does so without a single glitch as it shuffles from MP3 to DSD and FLAC, flawless.
The Sony HAP-S1 comes with a 500GB hard drive, and a USB port on the rear to expand the storage. Yes you can replace the internal drive if you are careful and it can take a 2TB drive but no more. This limitation is a software limitation not a physical one, the system simply will not address a larger capacity drive, but 2TB is enough anyway given the song/file limitation of 25,000 tracks.
The accompanying app for IOS and Android was also very well sorted from day one with few if any problems in nearly two years of use. Is it as capable as the Roon app? No, but it was very bloody good just the same. The amplifier section utilises transistors designed decades ago called EBT (emitter ballast transistor), why? “Because there was something unforgettable about the sound of EBT” says one of the Sony engineers working on the development of the HAP-S1. You have to admire that level of purist thinking on a product of this price point.
Read interviews with the Sony engineers here, use Google translate to convert to your preferred language.
I could go on endlessly about the HAP-S1, such is the impression it has left on me after two years of using it at least 8 hours a day, seven days a week. It has been truly flawless, and has provided me with a very musical sound system in that time. I must however mention speaker pairing. I tried a number of speakers prior to settling on the made to match Sony SS-HA1. I have never been a huge fan of Japanese speakers, but I have to say these speakers sounded excellent with the HAP-S1. Sound was never overly bright, they were louder than any other speaker I paired with the HAP-S1 and delivered a full, musical sound at all times.
Sony HAP-S1 Specifications:
- Power output into 4 ohms: 40 watts per channel
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 100kHz
- Signal to Noise Ratio: 100db
- Weight: 5.8kg
- Dimensions: 265 × 88 × 304 mm
Why you want the Sony HAP-S1:
If you are after an all in one music system based around digital music playback, that offers high-resolution playback to a very high standard, you simply must try the Sony HAP-S1, it is high end audio crammed into an impossibly small chassis that is built like a tank and is near flawless in operation. Very highly recommended.