One Signature Sound: Sony Pushes the Boundaries with Ultimate ‘Signature Series’ Audio Range

As part of its 70th anniversary celebration, Sony Electronics unveiled today a new line of high resolution personal audio products that have been specifically designed to deliver the ultimate in music performance. All four models – including the MDR-Z1R headphones, NW-WM1Z and NW-WM1A Walkman® players, and the TA-ZH1ES headphone amplifier – have been meticulously crafted to address the needs of the most demanding music enthusiasts.

Sony’s new Signature Series: reference standard MDR-Z1R headphones, NW-WM1Z and NW-WM1A Walkman(r) players, and TA-ZH1ES headphone amplifier. (PRNewsFoto/Sony Electronics)

Designed to complement each other as a “Signature Series”, together the headphones, Walkman® and amplifier bring the ultimate sound quality to listeners’ ears. Taking an unconventional approach to design, Sony brought together the highest quality materials and structures for reproducing the best possible sound. The organic shapes visible in every detail reflect a design based on the laws of physics for creating superior audio quality. All materials have been selected based on the principals of acoustic design.

“This series of audio products faithfully conveys the heart and soul that artists pour into their music, from the sublime resonance of an orchestra to the overflowing passion of a live concert,” said Dunja LaRosa, Director, and Head of Mobile Audio at Sony Electronics. “Together, the Signature Series devices push sound to an entirely new level – taking the headphone experience from ‘listening’ to ‘feeling.'”

Headphones Developed in a Mastering Studio


The Signature Series features the new premier MDR-Z1R headphones optimized for hi-res personal listening enjoyment. The headphones utilize a 70mm, magnesium dome HD driver for the widest frequency response (up to 120kHZ) possible; along with a lightweight aluminum coated LCP edge diaphragm, and a powerful neodymium magnet, ensuring greater velocity, less signal loss and more natural sound.

Spatial resonance is minimized thanks to the Z1R’s resonance-free housing in which an acoustic resister is used to optimally control ventilation. The headband is constructed from lightweight, flexible beta titanium for more elasticity. Both the headband and ergonomically correct ear pads are covered in genuine leather for added comfort. The balanced cable uses the new industry 4.4mm plug and the ear cup connection jack utilizes a non-magnetic plated Corson alloy jack for low resistance.

Most significantly, the MDR-Z1R was developed in collaboration with one of the top mastering engineers at Sony Music Battery Studios, who benchmarked its overall performance in comparison with his super high-end reference speakers.

How does the MDR-Z1R sound? Remarkably like the ceiling-high speakers in the corner of the room. Voices have the same expressiveness and timbre. While the headphones lack the deep bass, the texture is still the same. Only a slight treble zing in the Sony headphones separates them from the reference-quality speakers, but they still shy away from being overly analytical.

Not Just a Player but an Instrument


A highlight of the Signature Series is the new flagship NW-WM1Z Walkman®, which features an entirely new, gold-plated, oxygen-free, copper chassis to help reduce contact resistance and oxidation while minimizing magnetic interference. It incorporates a dual clock circuit with low phase noise quartz oscillator, which achieves superior sound reproduction at virtually any volume setting. To further reduce noise, both the WM1Z and WM1A utilize separate analog and digital circuitry as well.

Both models also support virtually every popular Hi-Res music format, including 384kHz/32bit recording and Quad (11.2MHz) DSD native playback if used with a balanced connection and a compatible listening device, such as the Z1R headphones. Additionally, they feature selectable multimode DSEE-HX™ signal processing with five settings: Standard, Female Vocal, Male Vocal, Percussion, or Strings, to carefully upscale lower bit rate files to near High Resolution Audio quality. High output S-Master HX™ technology and a power supply that uses newly developed FT CAP high polymer capacitors to improve bass response.

To further enhance the user experience, the WM1 Series includes a new touch panel UI design with more intuitive operation and elegantly recessed side panel controls. Plus, the WM1Z provides refinements that one expects only from Sony, including being the first music player using cable engineered with Kimber Kable®.

The Elevated Standard in Headphone Amplifiers


Finally, the Signature Series marks the introduction of the TA-ZH1ES, the first headphone amplifier to carry the coveted ES brand. It features a new D.A. Hybrid Amplifier Circuit, which utilizes the combination of Sony’s full digital amplifier S-Master HXTM together with an analog amplifier circuit, preserving fine detail sound of S-Master HXTM and low distortion sound with the support of an analog amplifier circuit.

Additionally, the new ZH1ES supports the vast majority of Hi-Res music formats, including the highest resolution native DSD and PCM recordings. For preserving the feeling of original sound, ZH1ES has new DSEE HX™, which has selectable multimode for up sampling lower resolution music and DSD Remastering Engine which converts PCM sources to DSD 11.2MHz

The newly developed Frame/Beam/Wall (FBW) chassis combines Wall structure with the familiar FB chassis that has been cultivated in the ES series. The Wall is created by shaving extruded aluminum and realizes a ridged body that can suppress unnecessary vibration. Also, the Acoustically Tuned Panel achieves the ideal sound while controlling vibration and resonance. It also supports a wide variety of headphone connectors, including both balanced and unbalanced designs without any compromise.

Pricing and Availability

The new NW-WM1Z Walkman®, MDR-Z1R headphones and TA-ZH1ES Headphone Amplifier will be available this November, while the NW-WM1A Walkman® will be available early next year. All four models will be available via a select group of Sony authorized dealers.

  • The MDR-Z1R Signature Series headphones MSRP is $2,299.99
  • The NW-WM1Z Signature Series Walkman® MSRP is $3,199.99
  • The NW-WM1A Signature Series Walkman® MSRP is $1,199.99
  • The TA-ZH1ES Signature Series headphone amplifier MSRP is $2,199.99

As you can tell, none of this lineup is especially cheap and the pricing is nuts. Definitely not for people who are insanely in love with their audio as has already been mentioned. Sony also just announced it’s Xperia XZ and Xperia X compact smartphones at IFA which seem to be following the same kind of target audience, “not for everyone”.


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