Our take on the Sony TA-ZH1ES by Crutchfield's Jeff Miller
A winning combination
The powerhouse Sony TA-ZHIES headphone amp features a plethora of connection options, so it can work with all types of audio gear. Yet it was tailor-made for the Sony MDR-Z1R Signature Series headphones, and pushes them to their peak performance. Former Crutchfield scribe Dave Bar — a legendary audiophile 'round these parts, and hard man to please — was blown away by Sony's flagship headphone and amp combo:
"Listening to a high-res version of Bob Marley's hauntingly beautiful Redemption Song through the MDR-Z1R headphones and Sony's TA-ZH1ES headphone amp gave me chills. You could positively feel the anguish in Bob's voice as it carried over the spare, woody resonance of his acoustic guitar. I've never heard this track reproduced with such depth and emotion. Simply stunning. One of the best and most revealing headphone listening experiences I have ever had.
"One of the things I like most about these cans is their ability to unravel even the densest recordings, laying bare each element and placing it into its own respective space. They sound deep, detailed, and transparent without ever becoming harsh or overly analytical — much like the best vacuum tube electronics.
"I'm usually an “open back” headphone kind of guy — preferring their generally more airy and spacious presentation — but the closed-back MDR-Z1R not only provided much of that spaciousness I love, they also delivered the extra visceral punch and power that sealed cans do so well. It's like having the best of both worlds."
- high-performance D. A. Hybrid headphone amp design combines switching and non-switching amp circuits for smooth, accurate sound
- high-performance built-in USB DAC
- plays PCM digital audio files up to 32-bit/768kHz and DSD audio files up to 22.4 MHz
- supports AIFF, WAV, FLAC, and Apple Lossless formats
- selectable DSEE HX™ audio upscaling technology helps improve the sound of compressed files
- selectable DSD Remastering Engine converts incoming PCM audio sources to DSD (11.2 MHz)
- two-position gain switch optimizes performance with low- and high-impedance headphones
- top-panel push-button controls and display window
- vibration-resistant aluminum chassis helps minimize noise
- wireless remote
- USB (Type B) port for connecting a computer
- optical digital audio input
- coaxial digital audio input
- analog RCA stereo line-level input
- side-panel Walkman® port for connecting a Walkman portable with digital output or Sony Xperia smartphone
- balanced 4.4mm headphone jack
- dual balanced 3.5mm mini 3-pole headphone jacks
- balanced XLR 4-pin headphone jack
- full-size 1/4" stereo headphone jack (unbalanced)
- 3.5mm mini headphone jack (unbalanced)
- rear-panel line-level stereo RCA audio (fixed or variable)
Other Info & Specs:
- supported audio formats for USB input: PCM files up to 32-bit/768 kHz; DSD files up to 22.4 MHz
- supported sample rates for coaxial digital input: up 24-bit/192kHz PCM
- supported sample rates for optical digital input: up 24-bit/96kHz PCM
- works with Windows® and Mac® operating systems (driver installation required for Windows PCs)
- headphone amplifier power output: 1,200 mW per channel into 32 ohms (balanced); 300 mW per channel into 32 ohms (unbalanced)
- frequency response: 4-80,000 Hz (-3 dB)
- detachable power cable
- 8-5/16"W x 2-9/16"H x 12-3/8"D
- weight: 9.7 lbs.
- If connecting to a TV, please make sure you can select "PCM" output in your TV's audio menu. This DAC cannot decode multi-channel Dolby® Digital signals.
- warranty: 5 years
- Our 60-day money-back guarantee
What's in the Box:
- Headphone amplifier
- 6' AC power cord
- Remote control
- 2 "AAA" batteries
- 5' USB-A to USB-B cable
- Sony WALKMAN cable
- Operating Instructions
S-Master Amplifier w/ D.A. Hybrid Amplifier Circuit: High impedance headphones require high power, but this can create a difference between the actual and ideal signal. Sony's non-feedback S-Master technology maintains the purity of digital sound, while Sony's new D.A. Hybrid Amplifier Circuit corrects the conversion error caused by switching amplification for a cleaner, more natural sound,
DC Phase Linearizer: Sony's DC Phase Linearizer works to effectively replicate a wide variety of sonic signatures. It applies digital-signal processing to match the phase characteristics of various types of analog amplifiers to deliver a more analog-like sound.
Advanced FPGA Processing: To maximize the potential of the new D.A. Hybrid Amplifier Circuit, Sony engineers developed the amplifier using an advanced FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) processor.
Structural Integrity: The Sony TA-ZH1ES headphone amplifier has been precision-crafted from the outside in to maximize audio quality.
- FBW Chassis: The TA-ZH1ES features a rigid FBW chassis, which has been designed to isolate the circuit board from vibration. By minimizing vibration and preventing lateral movement, noise is reduced for a cleaner, purer sound. The newly added wall structure is made from a large aluminum block for high rigidity.
- Acoustically Tuned Panel: The headphone amplifier's top panel is made from a combination of steel and aluminum. These materials each have their own resonance frequency, and when used in combination, they suppress each other. The result is the effective elimination of unnecessary resonance.
- Double Layer Bottom Plate: The TA-ZH1ES features an innovative chassis design. The structure of the baseplate supporting the FBW chassis has two layers for enhanced rigidity and a low center of gravity. This added protection and durability enhances sound quality.
PCM & DSD Audio Formats: The Sony TA-ZH1ES headphone amp supports up to PCM 32-bit/768kHz and DSD 22.4 MHz.
DSEE HX Upscaling Technology: Sony's new DSEE HX upscaling technology lets you experience your compressed digital music as the artist intended, in near high-resolution audio quality. You can choose between five DSEE HX modes - Standard, Female Vocal, Male Vocal, Percussion, and Strings - for optimal sound reproduction.
DSD Remastering Engine: A new DSD Remastering Engine lets you convert all your PCM music sources into DSD 11.2 MHz. The technology uses FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) to convert any PCM signal into the DSD sound format.
Analog Input: The Sony TA-ZH1ES features a set of stereo RCA inputs for connecting an external analog audio device to the headphone amplifier
Digital Inputs: The TA-ZH1ES headphone amp is also equipped with an optical (toslink) digital input and coaxial (RCA) digital input for connection of an external digital audio source device, such as a CD player.
- Coaxial (RCA): The coaxial digital input supports 2ch PCM (32/44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192 kHz; 16/24-bit).
- Optical (Toslink): The optical digital input supports 2ch PCM (32/44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz; 16/24-bit).
Note: The digital inputs do not support Dolby Digital, DTS, or other multichannel audio formats.
USB-B Input: The USB-B ports lets you connect your Windows PC (Vista/7/8/8.1/10) or Mac (OS X) computer to the headphone amplifier for playback of 2ch PCM & DSD music files stored on your computer or laptop. If you have a Windows PC, you will be prompted to download a USB driver (Mac does not require this driver installation).
- 2Ch PCM: 44.1/48/88.2/96/176.4/192/352.8/384/705.6/768 kHz; 16/24/32-bit
- 2Ch DSD Native: 2.8/5.6/11.2/22.4 MHz; 1-bit
- 2Ch DSD DoP: 2.8/5.6/11.2 MHz; 1-bit
WALKMAN Port: The side-panel proprietary "WALKMAN" port supports connection of a Sony WALKMAN digital audio player or Sony Xperia smartphone. You can playback DSD Native (up to 11.2 MHz), DSD DoP (up to 5.6 MHz), and PCM (up to 384kHz/32-bit) music files stored on your compatible Sony device. This port will also charge your WALKMAN device (not your Xperia smartphone.
Headphone Outputs: The Sony TA-ZH1ES uses a variety of headphone output connections, including both balanced (0.17", 3-pole mini plug x2 & XLR4) and unbalanced (stereo standard plug, stereo mini plug). It supports headphones from 12 to 600 ohms.
- Balanced: 1,200 mW + 1,200 mW (32 ohms 1 kHz 1%)
- 0.17" (4.4mm) single balanced headphone jack
- two 3-pole mini headphone balanced headphone jacks
- XLR4 balanced 4-pin headphone jack
- Unbalanced: 300 mW + 300 mW (32 ohms 1 kHz 1%)
- 1/8" (3.5mm) unbalanced headphone jack
- 1/4" (6.3mm) unbalanced headphone jack
Stereo Pre-Out: The Sony TA-ZH1ES is outfitted with a set of stereo RCA pre-outs to connect the headphone amp to an integrated amplifier or powered speakers. The stereo pre-out can be set to variable or fixed.
Detachable AC Power Cord: The Sony TA-ZH1ES headphone amplifier comes with a detachable 6' AC power cord which will need to be plugged into an AC wall outlet, surge protector, or power line conditioner.
Sony's Hi-Res Audio Player: Sony's Hi-Res Audio Player (for Windows or Mac) is a player software that allows you to play back high-quality audio files stored on your computer through the TA-ZH1ES. You can play back high-resolution audio files, such as PCM (44.1-768kHz; 16-32 bit) & DSD (2.8/5.6/11.2/22.4MHz; 1-bit) files, purchased in music distribution websites, simply by connecting the headphone amp to your computer via USB. You'll be able to create, save, and edit playlists, and play your favorite music in any order.
Top- & Front-Panel Controls: On the front-panel of the Sony TA-ZH1ES is a rotary volume knob. On the top-panel of the headphone amp you'll find push-button controls for Power, Input, Output, Menu, & Gain.
IR Remote: The included IR remote provides wireless operation of the headphone amplifier. Control functions include Power, Input, Output, DSD Remastering, DSEE HX, Volume, Mute, Display, & Dimmer.
Front-Panel LCD: The front-panel LCD window indicates Input Name, Input Signal Format, and Menu Items. It does not display song/artist/album information. There are three dimmer settings for the display including Bright, Dark, and Off.
Gain: Depending on your headphones' impedance, the volume may remain low. In this case, set the Gain switch to "High" after tuning the volume down. In normal use, the Gain switch should be set to "Low".
Balance: You can adjust the right and left balance of the output signal that is output from the headphone jack or pre-outs.
Auto Volume Down: Auto Volume Down turns down the volume level of the amplifier automatically when changing the output, inserting/removing the headphone plug, changing the Gain select switch setting, or turning the amplifier on while the volume level is set to loud.
Auto Standby: Auto Standby turns the amplifier off automatically when you do not operate the amplifier in a silent state for approximately 20 minutes.
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1 question already asked
The Sony TA-ZH1ES does not offer any streaming capabilities of it's own so you would need the connected source (commonly; a computer connected via USB) to provide the capability for you. For additional assistance and personalized recommendations, feel free to contact us directly by phone or through our online chat service: https://www.crutchfield.com/support/ContactUs.aspx [ Ryan Oct 20, 2017 ] Staff