Sony HAPZ1 For prospective buyers and owners

I have been encouraged to share my experiences with the new Sony HAPZ1ES. I hope a few who may be considering purchase of this unit will find this useful. I expect those not interested in purchasing this unit will want to tune this thread out. There is going to be some detail here. I will provide a summary statement with significant conclusions at the beginning of each days record for those not interested in the details.

It would probably be good to start with a few words to provide a frame of reference. I’m not a computer geek. I’m a reasonably bright guy, but a computer to me is just a tool. It’s a hammer that enables driving a nail, that’s it. I learn what I need to know to do what I want to do and that is all.

My interest in the new Sony is that I expected it would facilitate a long standing goal of assembling a computer based system. Further, it accommodates Hi Rez files, and does on the fly conversion of PCM to DSD. It also offers streaming audio, allowing convenient playback of internet radio. It has a 1 TB hard drive, so there is a lot of room for my substantial music collection.

For me, the deciding factor in purchase of this piece was Dan Wright’s enthusiasm for the stock unit and rapid development of a ModWright upgrade package which he says takes the HAPZ1 to reference levels.

Day 1- Initial set up easy, sound quality indeterminate.

I unpacked the unit and gave it about 4 hours to return to room temperature before turning it on. First order of business was to establish the wireless connection with my home network. This was straightforward and took less than 30 minutes to complete. The unit comes with a small amount of software on the hard drive, so this allowed me to begin playing without having to begin download of my existing music library to the internal hard drive. I played through the free music twice, just to give the unit a little burn in time. The free music selection was not my cup of tea, so I could not draw any real conclusions about sound quality.

Day 2- Some frustration with getting set up for download. Interactions with Sony Tech support a mixed bag. Concerned about Sony’s ability to help Mac users. Sound quality with a casual listen promising with under 10 hours burn in.

I spent about a half an hour transferring music from CD to my iMac. Once this was complete, I went to the Sony website and downloaded the free HAP music transfer software to my iMac. Again this was completely straightforward. Upon opening the program, I ran into the first snag. The box that popped up asked me to select the device to which I wanted to connect. There were no devices to select. I began a dialogue with Sony using the chat room accessible from their website. The person who attempted to help me was completely clueless. She referred me to documents which did not address my problem, referred me to documents addressing connection problems with windows machines, and finally, after wasting about 20 minutes of my time admitted she couldn’t help me. She gave me the Sony tech support number.
I called the number (1-800-222-7669) and went through about 3 people before I got to the correct department. This wasn’t as frustrating as it sounds- It just took a few seconds to get to the Sony home audio ES support line. There was about a 10 minute wait until someone took my call. The guy I talked to was pretty sharp. However, his ability to help was hampered by the fact that “ we don’t have a Mac here.” Well, I would suggest that Sony get one!
While we were talking, he indicated that sometimes it takes a few minutes for the music transfer software to find the device. We worked on the problem for a few minutes, and while he was looking something up, I figured out what was wrong. My iMac bluetooth was looking for the wrong network. Once I selected the correct network, the music transfer software found the HAPZ1 immediately. I selected the device, and he advised checking the content settings. A new box shows file extensions that you can select or deselect to be transferred. While flac, wav, mp3, and 12 others appeared as options, ALAC (Apple lossless) did not appear. However, the support guy did a quick Google and found that m4a is the correct file type for ALAC, and that is one of the types listed so I was OK there. I also added /users/my user name/Music/iTunes as a folder to be watched, which probably wasn’t necessary.
Next, I went to the transfer settings. I turned the auto transfer feature off, and selected internal HDD as the destination since I don’t have an external hard drive yet. I activated the manual transfer, which I was doing wirelessly to see how long it would take to transfer the 200 files (tracks). I walked away for a few minutes and when I came back, I found that the transfer had stopped incomplete. I started the manual transfer again and walked away again. When I returned, the same thing had occurred. This may be due to an auto standby feature which apparently shuts the HAPZ1 down after a few minutes with no activity. I turned this off, but I had enough music transferred to give a more serious listen to the unit. I listened to part 1 of the Dunedin Consort recording of the Bach Johannes Passion. This is a wonderful performance, with recording quality that I have found to be somewhat spotty. It is wonderful in the aria and recicitives, but rough in the Chorals. Played back through the HAPZ1, this was pretty close to what I remembered playing through my ModWright Sony 5400. Next I played the Purcell Quartet recordings of Bach’s Mass in G minor BWV235. This is a standard redbook CD, so I was interested to see what the conversion to DSD 2 would sound like. In a word, playback of this music was just absolutely lovely! I suspect this unit, stock, may give my ModWright Sony 5400 a run for its money, but a serious A/B is still several days down the road.
Brownsfan, thank you for your thorough report. Your info on the initial setup and your interaction with Sony customer service will prove invaluable to newcomers to this machine.
Brownsfan; great info. I'm also a Mac person and my future plans were to get a Mac Mini, but I'm glad to hear that after the learning curve, the Sony is a viable option.

How soon til you send it to ModWright?
Lowrider, I am going to call for the ModWright upgrade at the end of april, when the introductory price discount expires. I'm in no hurry. I want to spend some time with this getting it burned in and assessing the pre-mod sound quality.

I was going to go the Mac mini route also, but in my opinion, the learning curve for me would be substantially higher trying to build a system based on a Mac mini. This thing is really very easy to get up and running, all things considered.
Day 3- I’m going to love the internet radio function. Sampled a couple of the high quality stations and found them to be very good quality. I’ve got the music transfer thing figured out. No frustrations or calls to sony tech support today.

Today I explored the internet radio function. This is set up in a way that sorts stations according to genre, location, popularity, and other criteria. Since I listen to classical exclusively, I use the genre filter, which takes you to a second selection criterion screen. This one sorts by country, but also has a “high quality” station list. Opening this one reveals quite a few stations which can be selected. I listened to WGUC (one of my favorites since the late 70’s) this morning and the sound quality was very good. This evening I am playing the Linn Classical station, which is of excellent quality. There is also a station dedicated to live broadcasts of the Concertgebow. This will certainly get some use. The internet radio function is going to get a lot of use around my house. Even my wife expressed a mild interest in this function! At any rate, I had the internet radio function going for most of the day at a low level to give me some more burn in time.

I altered my Mac’s network hierarchy, setting my current home network name at the top of the hierarchy and this has eliminated the problem with my Mac not being able to locate the HAPZ1. I also had no further difficulties with wireless transfer of music from the Mac to the HAPZ1. I deselected all the file types other than flac, wav, and m4a. This should ensure that I don’t transfer anything other than music files from iTunes. I had some stuff from iTunes university that transferred to the HAPZ1 yesterday. Deleting unwanted files from the hard drive has (as of yesterday) become easy. One highlights the file, holds the enter button down for a couple seconds, and a screen comes up allowing you to delete the file. Sony documentation does not tell you this, I got this from yesterdays call to Sony tech support. Lots of smiles today. This thing is a steal at 2K.
Day 4 No issues. Found I like the DSEE function with internet radio. Really just enjoyed use of and listening to the HAPZ1

I loaded some more music onto the hard drive. I also evaluated the DSEE function with the internet radio. This function is intended to restore a more natural sound to compressed files. I found it added a bit more body to the internet radio.

I don't really like the inflexibility of the file organization system, but I haven't brought a tablet into play yet. I downloaded a free flac file of the adagio from Tacacs Brahms quintet that was recently released. It is a 24 bit 96K file. Had no trouble instructing the HAPZ1 music transfer program to look in my downloads for flac files. Download from Hyperion to my computer and from my computer to the Sony was very easy. I will give this track a listen later, but I don't have the original to compare. Bottom line is that I am really happy with purchase of the HAPZ1.
Day 5 Preliminary, totally non-scientific evaluation of file types and quick
A/B with Sony ModWright 5400.

I began with listening to the free download from Hyperion of the recent
Takacs quartet recording of the adagio from the Brahms G major quintet.
This is a 24 bit 96K flac file. I don’t own the recording (yet) but I was
interested in giving it a listen, thinking it might provide an interesting
comparison to the fairly recent Takacs recordings of Schubert and Haydn
quartets, which I do own in redbook CD. I heard the Takacs perform the
Bartok 2nd, 4th, and 6th quartets last Wednesday night, so there is a recent
live reference of the ensemble in memory. I transferred the Schubert Death
and the Maiden In ALAC and the Haydn Op 74 quartets in wav. I know, I
know, this is a completely bogus comparison, but at least it is the same
ensemble on the same label, so take this for what it is worth, which isn’t
much. In terms of sound quality, I preferred the WAV with the DSEE turned on
to ALAC and flac. Tomorrow, I’m going to see if I can transfer wav and ALAC
files of the same recording and do a more legitimate A/B on those 2 file types.
iTunes doesn’t give me the flac option, so that might end up being another
little project figuring out how to get a flac copy. Also tomorrow, I’m going to
try some A/Bs on file types with some Mahler 3.

What has more value, I think, was the A/B of the Haydn quartets using the
Haydn wav file on the HAPZ1 with the redbook CD played back through the
ModWright Sony 5400. What is immediately obvious is that the output of the
HAPZ1 is lower than the 5400. I had to turn the preamp volume knob down
2-3 steps to approximately match volume from the 2 players. At a high
level, I would say the 5400 had a bit more full bodied sound, and a bit more
oomph on low cello strings. But I thought the HAPZ1 was really more faithful
to Andras Fejer’s cello. There were a few instances where the low strings were
a bit muddled with the 5400, where they were not with the HAPZ1. There was
also maybe just a bit more sweetness in the violins with the HAPZ1. I don’t
think one can make a valid choice between the two based on one recording,
but the fact that the stock HAPZ1 can do this well, with less than 25 hours
burn in, is more than I expected.
Brownsfan . I've been considering the unit since I heard about it.
But I don't want to record music from my I-Mac, I would prefer burning it direct from my CD player , I'm not worried about the graphics .

Bassically , I want to burn 600 CD's onto it direct from my CD player then take it to the garage where there is no internet connection. Do you think this will work this way or should I be looking for a different machine ?

Thanks Tim
Tim, I had a similar hesitation. I have an existing library of about 1200-1500 cds. I thought, "this is not going to be a viable option without a digital in." Unfortunately, a digital in is not an option because of the design. The stock unit does not have digital in or digital out, and the guys who are offering mods have indicated that option will not (can not) be a part of the mod package.
Obviously, I rethought my position and decided I would slowly invest the time to transfer at least the more frequently played CDs. It takes a few minutes, probably 2-4 to burn an ALAC or wave file to your iMac. This is the big time drain. I would suggest you grab a half dozen cds, burn them to your iMac, multiply by 100, and ask yourself if it is going to be a reasonable time commitment spread over several months. I invested about a half an hour one day one, and since then, i just grab a few cds and burn them while I am at the computer anyway.

Wireless transfer from the iMac to the HAPZ1 is substantially faster and can be set to run automatically, so there is really no time burn on that part of the process.

If you don't have a router that will reach your garage, another option is to buy an external hard drive. You can transfer the files from your iMac to the external drive, then take your external drive to the location of the HAPZ1 and download the files via USB.

For a person who has a substantial music collection, and who may purchase hi rez files for download on a limited basis, purchase of the HAPZ1 is going to be primarily driven by the superb sound quality. It is not going to be the right machine for everyone, but for those who can accept it for what it is, it is a real gem.
Day 6. Limited listening time but settled on wav as the preferred file type.

I had limited time for critical listening. Family stuff, it's Easter, don't you know. I did get an opportunity to do a critical comparison to an ALAC and a wav file of the same music. I chose the Mahler 3rd, 4th movement for this comparison for several reasons. It is a delicate but emotionally powerful piece of music. You have the wonderful Mezzo singing O Mench gibt auch, the violin solo, the horns, it strikes me as the pinnacle of Mahler's work. At any rate, I transferred both wav and ALAC files made from the Zinman/Tonhalle recording. I listened to both file types through twice. They are very similar, but not identical. The wav file was preferred. The violin solo was sweeter, and the horns were totally devoid of a slight bit of roughness and digital sound present in the ALAC file. The wav file triggered that emotional response just a bit better than the ALAC file. I'm thinking this is the way to go. I also transferred a good bit (wav files) of the music of Heinrich Shutz, and got a good listen to both Die Sieben Wort and the Johannes Passions. I was very pleased with what I heard, but sadly, I had no time for any A/Bs with the ModWright sony 5400 today.
Thanks Brownsfan. I do already have all my CD's on my I-mac. I guess your saying there's no way to install the CD's direct from a CD player ? As this would be the best way to transfer music.
TMSorosk, There is no way to directly connect a CD player to the HAPZ1. However, if you already have all of your CDs on your iMac, and if you have a home network established, it will be very simple to download your music to the HAPZ1 either wirelessly, or wired via a one time ethernet connection. If you don't have a home network, I'm not sure how this would work. You should probably call sony tech support for an answer on exactly how to do that.
Using a CD player to transfer music to a hard drive is not the best way, it is one the worst ways to rip CDs. If your music is already on a computer the Sony transfer software would be perfect.
Onhwy61, I'm not about to dispute your claims, but I've always heard sonic improvements by burning direct from a CD, although it's definitely not the easiest way. Can you explain why there would be an improvement by transferring through the Sony software .

Thanks Tim
Tim- w/o putting words into Onhwy61's mouth, I think he is referring to ripping from a CDP vs.the optical drive in a computer.
Excellent report Brownsfan! I want to hear, I mean, read about your comparison w/ the HAPZ1 and the 5400 ES. Keep us posted as you burn-in this server.
And when using the optical drive, the computer ripping software uses error correction while reading the disk.
Jafant, I also am eager to get this done. I must say, I haven't really heard any significant change in audio quality after the first 10 hours or so, but I would like to get a few more hours on the HAPZ1 before getting serious about an a/b with the 5400. Also, I'm going to need to settle more or less once and for all on a file type for the comparison.
Great review Brownsfan! I am very excited as you appear to be a classical fan. I am too, with many old or out of print classical recordings on CD. My question to you would be one of metadata. I understand that WAV files do not carry metadata as opposed to FLAC and ALAC that does, and transfer can be marginal at best. Sometimes you rip Bach violin sonatas and the metadata reads something completely different on cover art and track listing - especially on old out of print recordings. Does the Sony do well in that regard? does it get cover art and track listings OK on WAV? How about classical organization? Most software is horrible with organizing classical. Again thanks for your report, much appreciated
Tim, I'm not sure we're talking about the same thing.

The Stereophile review of the Sony has a very apt description of the product, it's a very advanced iPod. It plays back music that has been collected on a separate computer. My earlier comment concerned how to get music files onto that separate computer. If you have CDs, as opposed to downloads, the preferred method is to have software to rip the data to your hard drive via a computer attached optical drive. Your post seem to say that CD player into the computer is better. From the print reviews and owner comments I've read the Sony software is required to transfer the audio files from the separate computer to the Sony.
Uomoragno, your concern about difficulties with wav files is well founded. I am having a time with wav files getting them transferred properly, and it isn't just the artwork. Too bad, because they sound beautiful. More detail on that later. The user interface with the Sony per se is not very sophisticated, but it is my understanding that using a smart phone or tablet you can do much more in terms of organization. I bought a tablet this evening, so I will probably spend my spare time over the next few days trying to figure out how to get things organized. You can create playlists, which may be of more use to us classical lovers than it might seem at first. Don't know for sure yet. but I think I could create a playlist containing, for instance, the Beethoven Quartet's Shostakovich cycle, and another playlist containing the Fitzwilliam or Pacifica cycles. For individual recordings not part of a cycle, one could either access them through the albums menu or yet another generic playlists containing, for instance, Bruckner symphonies. I'm not sure, but I think each playlist can hold up to 100 files. If so, this could be extremely useful.
Brownsfan Thanks for your kind response; you answered my question perfectly. Thanks for your time and enjoy your new toy. I will be watching for more of your very informative posts
Day 7 & 8.
More than a little frustration with wav files. Transfer of wav files is probably an exception rather than rule proposition. Sadly, transfer of the bulk of one’s library in wav is probably not a viable plan.

Having determined that at least in one case, a wav file sounded perceptibly superior to its ALAC equivalent, I was faced with a conundrum of sorts. If wav files are consistently superior, and one can purchase for download only flac and ALAC files, would one not be better off buying a cd, and transferring a wav copy? Is the file size of wav going to make it impractical to copy the bulk of one’s library in wav? As alluded to in Uomoragno’s post above, these questions were rendered moot by the difficulty I experienced in transferring about 6-8 CDs in wav to the Sony. While the wav copies were successfully created in iTunes, less than half of these albums transferred to the Sony correctly. In most cases, the metadata did not transfer, which one could probably live with. However, about half of the “albums” were seriously corrupted. As an example, the 3rd movement of the 3rd quartet from the Takacs Bartok cycle was extracted out of the “album”, and the sony created a separate “album” of this movement. Many cds transferred in similar but with even more extreme corruption. Sadly, I am forced to conclude we should not expect that transferring wav files will be practical. In actual fact, file size might well make this impossible anyway, but it would be nice to have that option for a few very special works. Alac appears to be robust with respect to music and metadata transfer.

I should mention that one cd would not properly copy into iTunes as either Alac or wav. So this is an example where the music is going to require playback through a cd player. The CD is a hybrid SACD/red book. Don’t know just yet if this is going to continue to be an issue, but it bears watching.

I bought a tablet last night and successfully transferred the HDD Audio remote app to the tablet. I will spend some time over the next few days evaluating what this app brings to the party.

It is fortunate that my purchase of the HAPZ1 coincided with my retirement. This is not a plug and play proposition. It does require time and learning. On the other hand, we have all spent a good bit more time on issues like getting speaker placement dialed in, so its not like this investment is out of proportion to the return.
brownsfan - there is a lot of info at

there is about 4 or 5 different threads concerning the sony

not sure if you saw them
Why not use Aiff files? Better metadata support.. Or you could use Uncompressed Flac
Brownsfan, I'm a little bummed about the news regarding wav files. If wav is the perceptively superior sounding file type, it seems the goal would be to have have wav files on the hard drive for optimal sound. There must be someone somewhere with a solution to moving wav files without corruption.

Thanks again for being a trailblazer with this unit. Your info is invaluable and we appreciate it. I look forward to your continued updates. You might want to forward your chronicle to Sony when you are done with your assessment. I'm sure they'd appreciate the feedback and may consider addressing some of the challenges you face with the unit.
Mitch, I'm working on something that may be a fix for the track order getting screwed up. There is a way to link "songs" together in iTunes so they always play in the same order even if you do a shuffle play. I also think I may have figured out how to address some of the artwork problems. I'm going to spend some time on this.
Erik, thanks for the suggestion. I'm new to all of this, so I knew nothing about aiff files. I will give that a try and see how it sounds.
AIFF and WAV are the preferred formats in pro-audio for exporting files; uncompressed and universally accepted. But of course, they're not concerned with transferring the artwork.
With a little bit of research I learned that FLAC has metadata imbedded in the file (ALAC as well)so it sticks to whatever you transfer it to. WAV does not so it will not transfer correctly. There is a theory floating around out there that states that the reason WAV sounds better than FLAC, is that the processor has to "unfold" or "unpack" a FLAC file as it is a compressed, lossless format to save space on a hard drive. WAV is only lossless. PCM bit for bit. I found that with DBpoweramp ripping software you can have your FLAC and stream it too without file compression. You can actually choose your level of compression - from a lot to nothing at all - of course your files will be bigger but they are supposedly better sounding. I have no idea if it sounds as good as WAV, some literature says it does - just something to try. Good luck
All my ingenious fixes proceeded to screw things up worse than before. It has been a frustrating couple of days, my friends. However, one of my bosses once said, " I give all the hard stuff to Bill." Another one characterized my research style as relentless. Another one characterized me as like a tank. It looks like you are stuck in the trenches, then all of a sudden you take off and raise all kinds of ****. We will see what tomorrow brings.
Uomoragno, It would take a bit of doing to figure out how to run flac with my iMac/ITunes set up. Once I get through this initial tsunami of new technology, I will give that a try and see what it sounds like.

Smargo, I've followed the modwright threads, but not the red wine audio threads. I will take a look and see what else might be there.

Today I'm going to try to load a Beethoven cycle, one at a time, using Alac, and see how the files transfer and what gives with the metadata. If I have issues with this , I will give Sony a call. If I don't I may give them a cll anyway just to see if they have any tips on wav files.
If it has to be Alac, so be it. It does sound really good,
Brownsfan, you are a brave man for stepping out, up or into this new player. My tolerance for any "computing" issues is less than zero and find that hardware/software compatibility problems just about push me over the edge. Somehow I find tweaking speaker placement more satisfying than sorting out sound file issues....just saying. Good luck and keep us posted on your adventure!
Brownsfan..Uomo is right about flac. The XLD free download for mac handles flac and all others. Its a ripping sofware way more versatile than itunes. I think its advantage is handling metadeta.
Brownsfan, great job recounting all of this experience, which will undoubtedly prove invaluable to many others in the future.

You might find this discussion of sonic differences between various lossless formats to be of interest. **NOT** because I think it has applicability to the HAP-Z1ES, but to make two points:

1)My takeaway from that thread, and from everything else I have seen on the subject, is that no explanation of why wav or any other format may provide superior sonic results in any given setup has been conclusively established.

2)Given that, and given the fact that the design approaches used in the Sony unit appear to be fundamentally different than those used in all or nearly all other computer-based and music player-based setups, I see no reason whatsoever to assume that previously reported format comparisons have any applicability to the HAP-Z1ES.

So as you appear to be doing, and as I would have expected you in particular to do, I would suggest approaching your comparisons with a completely open mind, and as the traditional audiophile cliche goes, "trust your ears."

Best regards,
-- Al
DAY 9 All the wav corruption has been purged, ALAC flawless today.

Al, thanks much for your kind words. I will take a look at the discussion you linked shortly. I had a couple frustrating days trying to do just exactly what you indicated should be done. I got a bit of a tease with a relatively subtle, but important, difference in a couple of tracks recorded in wav. It was never my intention to make too much of that limited sample, but with respect to the HAPZ1, the enormous frustration associated with about a 50% failure rate on wav transfers made any comparison of wav and ALAC moot. Today I uploaded a bunch of Beethoven and Schubert using ALAC. The transfers went flawlessly, and they sound wonderful, although in one case I thought the sound was a bit rougher than the typical ultra smooth sound from the HAPZ1. I'm going to give the suggestion from Lowrider and Uomoragno a try, and see what an uncompressed flac sounds like on that particular recording. It is, as you said, it is up to the ears to be the only arbiter.

Despite 2 rather frustrating days, I think the HAPZ1 is a fine piece. The frustration was after all, primarily self imposed. I am virtually certain the HAPZ1 is going to be my primary source, especially if the level of improvement after the ModWright treatment is anywhere close to what I expect. While comparisons with my beloved Modwright Sony 5400 have not yet been extensive, I think the only clear advantage of the 5400 is with respect to dynamics.

I've got the HDD control software up and running on my tablet. I haven't tried creating any play lists yet. Now that the track sequence and album art issues are for the most part straightened out, I can continue to use the album field to select music for a while. I've got some ideas about using playlists to sort out the Bach cantatas by liturgical Sunday.
Amen! To Almarg's post.

"I've got some ideas about using playlists to sort out the Bach cantatas by liturgical Sunday."

I have to say you are totally speaking my language. I thought I was the only one in the world that said things like that.

Awesome! I'm not alone
All the best to you Brownsfan!
Days 10 and 11.
Joe, we are not quite alone, but you can get us all together in one room and still have room for an angel choir singing "Lobet den Herrn."
Now then, having been reminded that my life (and wife) will not permit me full time devotion to this project, I have gone light the last couple of days. I am still experimenting a bit with file types, but for the time being, I am ok with ALAC for the majority of my transfers. They really are quite good in the substantial majority of cases.
There are a few transfers I have made where I was not quite satisfied with the sound. I took Erikminer's advice and transferred in aiff 3 CD's, where the ALAC file was not up to par. Of those three, 2 did not transfer at all (which is far better than a corrupted transfer), while one transferred perfectly. If one changes the cd title in I tunes before the transfer ( I added aiff to the title), the new title transfers and it is easy to distinguish between the 2 in the HAPZ1 menu. The one that did transfer (metadata and all) exhibited a subtle but important improvement over both the ALAC and the original cd as played back through my modwright sony 5400.

For the time being, my best practice is to try Alac first, followed by aiff, followed (reluctantly, and only if it is an important recording) by wav. I have been looking into XLD as suggested by lowrider, but I haven't tried it yet. Reviews appear to be mixed on this software.

Again exposing my ignorance here, I wonder about one of the programs like audirvana? By the time I get done with the ModWright mods, I'm going to be in 4-5K on this thing, so I'm not sure it makes sense to get cheap on $80 worth of software.
I'm not sure about your corrupted transfer. However, you can copy the files to Z1Es directly without using the Sony tool, follow by a re-scan to rebuild the database.

The Sterophile Review For The Sony HAP-Z1ES Player
I’m about 2 weeks in on the HAPZ1 now. It’s had a decent burn in, so I thought it was time to do some serious A/B with my ModWright Sony 5400, hereafter to be referred to as MW 5400. For this comparison, I pulled everything out of the rack, then turned the backs of the sources forward to facilitate rapidly swithching the ICs. The HAPZ1 was powered through a VooDoo Vector Dragon from my Audio Magic MiniRef, while I used an MAC digital power cord for the MW 5400 per se (my normal Audience e wouldn’t reach with everything pulled out of the rack) and a VH Audio AirSine for the MW PS 9.9 power supply. This had a new production Gold Lion 5AR4 rectifier, which I prefer even to the old mullard GZ34 rectifier. For the first installment of this A/B, my system was configured as follows: Each source fed my Coincident Statement Line Stage preamp via a 2M VH audio spectrum AG IC. VH audio Symmetry (Ag) balanced IC (3M) fed my Cary 500.1 MBs, which drove Coincident Triumph Extreme MK II monitors through Audio Magic Liquid Air speaker cables. I chose the Coincident monitors over my Magnepan 3.7Rs for the first part of this comparison because they are wonderfully (or brutally) revealing of upstream components. They are fast, coherent, articulate and have great timbral accuracy. I chose 3 CDs for tonight’s comparison. All music files were ALAC prepared using iTunes. Everything was powered up and sat idle for about 2 hours, then was used for background music for another 2 hours prior to serious listening.

Shostakovich string quartet #7, Pacifica Quartet. This is a 24 bit PCM recording on Cedile Records. I listened to the entire quartet twice using the HAPZ1 and once using the MW 5400. The HAPZ1 exhibited better spacial localization and separation of the 4 instruments. There was more air and hall ambience, and the cello was reproduced with more bite and faster attacks. Pizzicato was sharper and faster. The MW 5400 presented with a somewhat darker, richer tonality, and rendered the cello a bit more “wooley” sounding. I much preferred the HAPZ1 with this music.
Brahms, Cello sonatas Op 36 and Op 120 #1. Wispelwey (1760 Guad) and Lazic, Steinway D. (Channel Classics SACD). The MW 5400 was a runaway winner with this music. A bit of grain present in the HAPZ1 was gone, and the 5400 had a wonderful, warm, analog sound that was just gorgeous. The 5400 had less air, and attacks were not as fast, but this was not missed at all. The 5400 was just more musical. Both sources were on a par, with the piano centered and the cello just to the left of center. This is a very good recording without excessive hall ambience.
Strauss, Vier Letzte Lieder, Luisi/Harteros/Dresden State Orchestra, Sony SACD. I chose this work because I also have a redbook copy of this recording. In the event that I preferred the MW 5400, I wanted to be able to compare the redbook CD on the MW 5400 to the HAPZ1 Alac file. Again, the MW 5400 gave a smooth, warm, analog sounding account. I noticed that the German was a little tough to pick out. I noted the brief horn solo in “September” as being particularly pretty, as was the violin solo in “Beim Schlaffengehen.” The HAPZ1 did something right here that I could not quite put my finger on. The German was marginally easier to pick out. Neither the horn nor the violin solo were as pretty through the HAPZ1, yet it all came together better somehow through the HAPZ1.

Tomorrow night I’m going to run through the same drill with another 3-4 CDs. I also want to run a similar evaluation using the Magnepan 3.7R’s. I’d like to defer drawing any firm conclusions until I’m done with that comparison also, just to see if any of tonight’s observations would go differently with a change of speakers.
Brownsfan, excellent review, thank you.
Uomoragno, you need to visit some of the download sites with classical music downloads when it comes to music for the HAP-Z1.

Some interesting choices there, including the first ever DSD releases by Cobra Records on NativeDSD.Com.

Apparently those 10 albums were recorded on the Sony Sonoma DSD Workstation years ago but only available as Stereo CD discs until now when we get Multichannel and Stereo DSD via downloads.
One more installment of the HAPZ1/MW5400 comparison.
Shostakovich, Symphony 13, "Babi Yar" Kitajenko, Gurzennich Orchester Koln. SACD Capriccio. This proved to be an outstanding choice for the comparison. The ALAC file through the HAPZ1 exhibited superior articulation of the Russian. (Not that I could do anything with this, since I don't understand a word of Russian). I also noticed better reproduction of the upper harmonics in the brass. The tuba had more bite. In fact, all of the brass had more of that wonderful brassy bite that one hears live in a hall with good acoustics. This more faithful reproduction of upper harmonics was also evident in the low string opening of the 3rd movement. There were a few instances where the MW5400 shone. This was mostly in reproduction of solo violin or massed violins. Lovely, silky smooth. But really, I thought the HAPZ1 bettered the MW5400 by a fair margin on this music.
There were a few instances where the MW5400 shone. This was mostly in reproduction of solo violin or massed violins. Lovely, silky smooth.

This will be interesting to compare with the Modwright HAPZ1. It can only get better one would hope.
Lowrider, exactly. While I am not done with my comparison yet, I think it is safe to say the stock HAPZ1 is very good. Having detailed notes on particular pieces of music and having the MW Sony to use as the control for a comparison of the MW HAPZ1 should provide a very good measure of the order of magnitude of the improvement provided by the modification.

I am on the waiting list for the modification. I will ship my HAPZ1 out on May 15th, with the mod scheduled for after the Munich show. By then Dan will have had time to evaluate the Bybee rails.
Brownsfan, i also listen almost excusively to Classical Music so I find your comparisons instructful. I own the SACD of the Kitajenko Babi Yar and I have been very happy with it through various SACD players.
I am curious how the software has been at recognizing the recordings. a few years ago I tried an Olive product and gave up after it's recognition system could only identify 2 out of 15 discs that I fed it. As you know identifying Classical discs, that may have only sold a few thousand copies 25 years ago, is more of a challange for software programs such as itunes that are geared for more mass entertainment.
Richard, at a high level, I have been very happy with the HAPZ1 based on its sonic merits. Its operation is not perfect for our needs, but it is pretty good in most ways and excellent in others. In my opinion, the sonic merits of the stock HAPZ1 justifies any logistical frustrations associated with file transfer.
While I do work hard to keep my cd collection organized, I have some recordings that are MIA. Once a disk is misfiled in my racks, it is a real chore looking through 1500-2000 cds to find it. I've had a Mahler 1 missing for 6 months. The HAPZ1 makes it extremely easy to organize even a very large collection in such a way as to make it extremely easy to find a given recording.

By "recognizing" I assume you mean properly associating album artwork with a particular recording. If that is your meaning, I would say that the sony is probably picking up about 70%. With a little work, my guess is that could go as high as 90%. What I am finding is that when I import the CD to iTunes, iTunes many times has a variety of possible titles for the same recording, one or none of which allows one to import the artwork into iTunes, This data comes from the iTunes store. When you change the title or artist to match the iTunes record associated with the artwork, this change imports into the sony, but the artwork does not always import. However, in many cases, one can do a search within the sony software that allows one to find the correct artwork. Still it is hit or miss, but the Sony database (Gracework) is much better than iTunes at assigning the correct artwork.

As an example, the Padmore/Lewis Winterrise has the correct artwork associated with it in iTunes, but this did not import into the sony, and instead the sony assigned another recording artwork (different tenor and pianist) to the recording. Searching through the database did not turn up the correct recording.

For me, this is more of an annoyance than a problem, since one can change the album title in iTunes to anything you want and this does import into the sony. This means it is no problem to associate an unambiguous title to the album.
Bmoura - Thanks so much, I'll check it out!!

Brownsfan thanks so much for your review, I love Shosty's 13th and your references I could relate to.

I have one more offering on metadata and cover art: I've now been using db poweramp software (there is a Mac equivalent that is free) and I have found that in the software you can assign the metadata and cover art before/while you rip it and if you use FLAC, ALAC or AIFF, it sticks to what you transfer it to; And if you do it right iTunes takes it as the metadata is imbedded in the file. If ITunes or windows has to guess, it may guess wrong which can destroy organization. The ripping software has access to many databases that allow you to choose/edit the correct cover art and edit track listings, genera, artist, ect., as well before you rip and make it permanent. For example as a fan of Shostakovich I purchased the Haitik RCO London/Decca recordings in the early 80s as they came out. Decca, then what became Universal, re released those with different cover art and track listings, to make it worse, part of that recording cycle included the LSO not the RCO, It can be a mess trying to sort through that but the database presented to me while ripping with the ripping software had all the correct cover art and track listings of the original releases. They even have access to all the old Nimbus stuff - Whaaaat?
Its all in the Rip. Rip it once, rip it right. And rip it with a plan in mind as to how you want to use and access your collection. Mind you I'm sure I will run into a snag here and there, such is the plight of a classical music fan ripping CDs
ITunes/windows media a great way to "see" your collection but as far as organization they stink pure and simple when it comes to classical. I would pay good money for a very complete and thoughtful software product that can organize and stream classical music correctly.
Have fun!
Guys, I am pretty sure the HAPZ1 imports cover art directly from Gracenotes, so that what the computer software (iTunes etc) does on cover art is irrelevant. However, the album title and track information does import from the computer program, so you can edit this information to your hearts content. However, this may interfere with the ability of the HAPZ1 to assign the proper cover art.

Those computer programs that use Gracenote as the source of cover art should correlate better with the HAPZ1 than does iTunes, which I think utilizes Gracenote indirectly through the iTunes store. This means that if a work is not available in the iTunes store, it won't show up in your iTunes software, but it may very well show up in the HAPZ1 file imported from iTunes. No doubt, this is all clear as mud.
I completely second your comments, Uomorango, and I appreciate your responses, Brownsfan.
I recently digitalized my James Levine/Chicago SO and my freaking itunes an't find it? It doesn't help that I've digitalized 3 other Mahler 3s in the interim.
I wound up purchasing the boxed set of Levine/Mahler, at basically the price of 1 CD, just to reobtain this recording. It makes me very hesitant to rely on itunes to completely digitalize my 3000+ CDS.
Richard, It appears that iTunes has it in for Mahler 3. I can't get iTunes to find any of my Mahler 3 recordings! One of them wouldn't even transfer into iTunes properly. I completely agree with respect to iTunes. I am still in the exploratory phase on all of this, so iTunes is OK for now, but I am certainly going to be looking for something else as soon as I have a little time.
In an earlier post, I asked a question about some of the programs that are not free, e.g., audirvana, with respect to use with the HAPZ1. I didn't get any responses. However, it seems to me that the cost is fairly insignificant if the organization and functionality is good. There is a 15 day free trial, so once my unit comes back from ModWright, I may give this a try.