Two Press Conference Experiences

Photo: Michael Lavorgna

Experience 1
On August 25, 2016, John Atkinson, Michael Lavorgna, and I attended an event at Battery Studios, Sony's Manhattan-based music production facility.

The event itself was very personal, as we three were the only non-Sony people present at this particular session. (There were multiple sessions held that day.) We were introduced to Sony's latest hi-res personal audio products—the "Signature Series," which consists of the MDR-Z1R headphones $2199.99), NW-WM1Z ($3199.99) and NW-WM1A Walkman players, and the TA-ZH1ES headphone amplifier ($2199.99).

The MDR-Z1R headphones, which use Kimber Kable leads, were the main highlight of the event. Mark Wilder, a Grammy-winning mastering engineer, and the senior mastering engineer at Battery Studios (left in photo), was there to present the headphones to us. Mark had played a major role in tuning the MDR-Z1R in collaboration with engineers from Sony Tokyo, including Koji Nageni, who has been with Sony since 1982 and designed the pro-audio workhorse MDR-7506.

We were able to listen to the MDR-Z1R in the same room that Mark had used to listen to numerous prototypes before. As in, we were able to listen to the same tracks used in the tuning process, on the same chair, in the same position, while comparing them to same monitors used, accompanied by Mark himself.

John, Michael, and I took turns sitting in the chair, listening to different tracks. I was even able to request a Fred Hersch track and listen to his piece "Floating," mastered by Mark himself!

The entire experience was unbelievable.

Sony PR Link, for further details on the new headphones and amplifier, which will be available in November, click here.

Experience 2
5 days later, on August 30 I attended a Sonos press event at NeueHouse Madison Square, as the sole representative of Stereophile.

We learned about Sonos's new partnerships with Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, various connected home leaders (Crestron, Lutron, Savant, Control4, iPort, and Deutsche Telecom's QIVICON), Airbnb, and OMI. You can find one of the campaign videos we got to watch at the presentation here.

The main point made by Sonos was people need to listen more —in more places, to more music, and more frequently. It shouldn't take a ton of effort and it shouldn't limit us. Music first.

In the official Sonos press release, Sonos president Patrick Spence is quoted saying, "Our mission is to fill every home with music. We don't care what you listen to, how you get to it, or in what room—we just want it to be effortless, quick, and epic." Sonos chief marketing officer Joy Howard adds, "There's a huge gap between how people feel about music and how they experience it at home. We're using the weight of our brand and our unique position in the industry to create a better future for music."

I have no qualms with this. I am a fan of music, of modern technology, and of Sonos itself. Despite the fact that words like "hi-res" or "Tidal" weren't uttered at all in the entire keynote, I still left NeueuHouse feeling inspired by technology and excited for the possibilities of the future.

But after experiencing Sony and Sonos, major forces on opposite ends of the market spectrum, I can't help but think—why, in the case of music reproduction, are accessibility and performance rarely combined when it would be so easy to do so?

We can listen more and we can listen better. It doesn't have to be an either or ultimatum . . . Or does it?

Anton's picture

In the early to mid 60's, the best I could do for music on the go was an AM transistor radio with a kind of hearing-aid looking one-ear plug. I rocked in my own little world and enjoyed music.

In 1980, I got my first Walkman and could put on a pair of foam pad headphones and play a cassette, for about 90 minutes before I needed new batteries, but I rocked.

Now, I can put on some Hi Fi in or out of ear Hi Fi phones and listen to stereo on my cell phone with a million albums to choose from.

I know it's easy to opine how I used to have to listen to crappy AM radio music while trudging in the snow, uphill in all directions, but we are getting to the promised land very quickly!

My son can plug his phone into the car and play me all the cool new music he has found, and I can make requests!

Pretty soon, lossless Hi Def music with no wires!

The future is so bright for high quality audio, Sony's gotta wear shades!


volvic's picture

"why, in the case of music reproduction, are accessibility and performance rarely combined when it would be so easy to do so?" Licensing? red tape? lack of demand? God only knows. I am gradually coming around to the idea that I would be willing to pay to hear my favourite recordings of Milstein, Richter, Fischer-Dieskau, Melos Quartett etc, in higher resolution. I am still waiting from Universal or whoever has all these recordings to make it easy for me to listen to them in higher formats. Why it hasn't happened is the same question I ask myself.

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

A number of EMI's classic analog titles were remastered in 24/96, and are available on HDTracks. This includes at least one Fischer-Dieskau recital, another by Schwarzkopf, Du Pré, etc...

volvic's picture

Might have to look into that and HD tracks catalogue. As someone who owns over 5000 classical and Opera CD's and as much in vinyl, the temptation to to pay for something I already own in HD is not appealing unless, of course I can get the complete catalogue under one roof. Which was my reason for posting and agreeing with Jana on accessibility and performance. How I wish this could happen.

BTW, I have not yet complimented Ms. Dagdagan on her fine posts, well written, and very insightful.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Those guys were not recorded in high resolution.

volvic's picture

Why did DG release the Karajan Beethoven set in SACD a few years back? Have also seen Lush Life by Coltrane on SACD as well as recordings by Harnoncourt, Miles Davis, etc. Just did a quick search and offers the complete DG/Karajan box set in 96 kHz / 24-bit AIFF. That is much higher than my lowly 16 bit CD box set, so why can't that be offered up for streaming?

Anton's picture

I think our multi-channel inclined digitally grey-matter-washed friend was making a joke about analog not being Hi Rez, which is true....analog is Higher Rez!


dalethorn's picture

HDTracks sells a lot of 192 khz albums that were recorded long before digital - albums that were reviewed here on Stereophile. Jimmy Scott's All The Way, for example. And it does sound great, dithered down to 96 khz.

Archimago's picture

Ya mean... *Resampled* to 96kHz...

dalethorn's picture

I could assume that the DAC does a specific thing, or that it does what the vendor says it does, but who knows? At least reading 96 out of 192 would be clean enough given the exact 2-1 ratio. Since digital and analog don't have a direct correspondence, it seems logical to me to have as high a resolution as practical to capture as much of the analog sound as possible. But I would like to have the 96k option to get the $18 price instead of the $25 price.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Only partly a joke. IMHO, most of the improvement heard in SACD reissues of older analog originals is due to the care in remastering and not the new format. If it was, how does one account for the many such "hi-rez" reissues that offer no improvement (or worse)?

volvic's picture

The Karajan Beethoven box set that I mentioned was panned as offering no sonic improvement, and there were other SACD releases that were criticized for offering no sonic benefit. However, I did hear far more detail in the Sketches of Spain SACD then the original, and do have a remastered DSD CD which sounds very good as well, but have not been able to do comparisons between the SACD and DSD, so your point is well taken. However, higher rez or better re-mastering, I still do hope for higher than 16 bit from these old recordings, should they ever be offered under one "roof" for streaming, for us old curmudgeons. If it is not financially feasible or not worth it, then I suppose my future does not include high resolution streaming, and that would be a shame.

JackA's picture

How do you really know what you are listening to? An xth generation Master tape? Personally, I took "Remaster" to mean "remixing" to create a new Master. Most of the time, an existing Master will have greater tape noise, since multi-tracks are seldom used.

mtymous1's picture

...Tyll Hertsens at Battery Studios??

John Atkinson's picture
mtymous1 wrote:
Why wasn't Tyll Hertsens at Battery Studios??

The event was for New York-based press and Tyll is based on Montana. The Sony products will be demonstrated at the RMAF in October, which I believe Tyll will be attending.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

JackA's picture

Wonder why they changed name from Sony Studios to Battery Studios?
Maybe due to some not liking Sony?

Allen Fant's picture

Nice pic- Jana. You are looking good at the controls.

Staxguy's picture


Could we have more writing / explanation?

I was following you until "the whole experience was unbelievable." when you stopped.

It was at this point where I was waiting for (expecting to read) a description of the sound which you heard there.

I thought you were one of the Sony models.



stereoGoodness's picture

that alleged trolls get banned but sexist creeps like Staxguy and Allen Fant are permitted to linger here.

Staxguy's picture

I meant no disparagement.

I once dated a girl who had worked as a show host in Japan. She filled me in on the culture. I thought the girl in the photo was there for photogenic reasons at first - so be it - it was a great photo, and a great set of cans. I'm talking of the headphones, just to be clear! really. It's cool that it was the writer.

I was just writing to ask for an description of the sound of the headphones.

The article got me interested, as it's a nice looking product - most headphones today suck in design, imo - not just the phones, but the amplifier - not sure about the portable, though - and I had read another reviewer's description of how the sound of the headphones differed from the speakers in the room.

I was looking for the author's description of the sound. All the other writing was - for me - details - but not the meat of the story.

I know today, one is not supposed to comment, positively on someone's appearance - but I prefer to speak in the cultural manner of the time I was raised rather than adopt today's standard.

So if that is Rat Pack / Dean Martin, and that makes me a sexist creep, then oh well.

To be honest - it is a genuine pleasure to see a good looking person - like the guys of Sonus Faber - or Fabio as a hobbist, previously - working in stereo!

I don't know this Allen Fant, but he must be a nice guy.

As for myself, I played music but never had the chance to play with the likes of a Frank Sinatra. The closest I got was sitting in with Kenny Coleman, Denzal Sinclare (who did a nice Nat King Cole thing, and my what a fantastic vocalist), and stealing a few solos from Diana Krall. That's about nothing, musically speaking, but such is life.

As much as I like headphones, I get tired by the same over-weight tired-looking people in all the hobbyist photos.

So I'll just state and admit that that is my prejudice.

We can't all be models, and my days of doing ballet 3-5 hours a day along with jazz, hip hop, and looking great in cycling pants are far behind me.

But still I am happy to see someone good looking in hi fi.

The hobby really lacks a get-out-there audience.

It's nice to have the show-reports though.

Maybe someone else can comment on the event and the sound of the gear and the room.

I would really have liked to read this as a part of this article, and that was the gist of my comment.

Oh well. I'm glad Stereophile isn't yet like a college campus of 2016.

I though Austin Powers and Canada's Mike Meyers would leave it open to making positive comments. :)

Staxguy's picture

To be fair, Stereo Goddess, I'll give you my full initial visual impressions, so you may brand me as your like.

"That's a good looking girl at the console. Oh. Homemade bracelet."
"That's a nice looking Herman Miller Arion Chair."
"My, that equipment sure looks dated."
"Who'se that balding guy with the round glasses?"
"Is that a Gucci Wide Band ring on the lady's finger?" :)

"What ever that ring is, I should get one. Maybe a Gucci Widebander. Wonder if it is the same ring as the young guy wears in Schitts Creeek. Great choice. Fashion."
"Probably should get that Herman Miller Chair too."
"Probably also the Sony headphones!"

So really, my main interest in any photo is finding out what to buy that I don't already have, like most here.

What surprising reading the other event report is how dated the listening hardware is. Dunlavey SC-IV. Krell (likely KSA-300?) Amplifiers.

Great stuff, but hardly reported on - today - in the the audio press.

I'm just rather surprised with Sony's engineering resources, that they tune a contemporary headphone to such a studio.

Maybe I like things Japan, but I'm a Sony fan as much as a Stax one.

They've developed some great equipment!

As for Dunlavey, yeah, great equipment, but I'm rather not sure why the stereo press bothered with all their products when there was still Duntech in existence with their Sovereign loudspeaker - another mastering studio favourite.

It's like the stereo press was set up to promote new events and products, regardless of their quality.

Wonder if your're the stereo goddess who has a love of NAIM and Nagra amplification.

Perhaps guys and girls like visually different things. Or maybe the same things, who knows.

I like the look of a Sunny Cable Majectic - or an Apogee Grand Ribble tweeter. Is that sexual or sexist? Who knows.

Good looking bass drivers, also. A nice mid-range.

Perhaps this is object fetishism. Hence the 'phile in Sterophile.

I have a friend who used to look at all of his cars before going inside. Took the time to admire each one (usually had 9 of them at a time, as the garage only had so much space...) before going inside.

When it was evening, I though he was being like a father, looking at his children.

I could of categorized him as crazy (being judgemental), but he enjoyed the daily habit of buying cars - or at least looking at them - and all the communications it involved.

He couldn't be happy having just one S600 insured, he'd have to have an identical one in a different colour for his drives.

Likewise, us Stereo addicts have our particulars.

We get funny in our habbits.

The longer I read audio journalism, the more I despise looking at photos of men - well, musicians.

When I was younger, I wouldn't mind. I would find them interesting. Fascinating. Other creatures. The heavy metal guys would seem like creatures from an alternate reality. Magical or something.

Now they're just men, and why would I want to look at photos of men? Well, sports men I don't mind as that's my hobby.

When I was a music student, I wouldn't mind seeing pictures of musicians. Male ones.

Now it's a pleasure to see a picture of a female at a recording console, listening to headphones.

I had no idea that was Jana, and that's cool.

stereoGoodness's picture

The creepy sexists do protest too much, methinks.

Staxguy's picture

Ok, here's another report. And again, not that good.

They serve to point to the items and pricing, but leave out entirely any listening notes description of the event and the sound.

[Insulting question deleted by John Atkinson]

I think these are some of the best looking headphones, and quite affordable, so I am naturally interested in hearing about them.

Collectors like myself really want to gain from your experience.



Jancuso's picture

Let's stay focused on that. Thanks.

Anton's picture

I've been reading audio journalism for decades and it really does have no gender.

dalethorn's picture

That's because it's pretty much all-male. I don't know what y'all read into that journalism, but I count the way I was taught in school - i.e. two plus two equals four. When I get a few cameras on my youtube channel, the female participation reaches as much as eight-nine percent, but when it's mainly headphones and amps it drops to less than six percent. And I for sure do not have a male-oriented channel. I just read the numbers and know what's out there. I expect journalism to talk to its readers. When the readers are male, the journalism is mainly male. Do the math, as Buffy the Vampire Slayer would say.

Anon2's picture

I thought that this publication did not endorse making reports related to new product "press releases?" I thought I read this in at least one reply to a reader's comments. Is it OK to write about manufacturer's "press conferences" but not "press releases?"

While manufacturer press releases are presumably off limits, we frequently get news bulletins of dealer events, and the trade-publication-like who's-who at shows or the aforementioned dealer events.

Can we get some clarification regarding the official policy of this publication on what sort of announcements or news-related events do, or do not, garner coverage in these pages?

I don't have any objection to this article. It just seems a bit inconsistent with the message that we have gotten in the past.

In any event, the rest of us just go to manufacturer's websites or get manufacturer e-mails for press releases. For the rest we increasingly refer to offshore publications for new product press release-related announcements and, sadly, for more and more new product reviews.

John Atkinson's picture
low2midhifi wrote:
Is it OK to write about manufacturer's "press conferences" but not "press releases?"

Yes, when there is something more than just the announcement of a new product. In this case, the trigger was the contrast between the two press events.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

JackA's picture

But what Sony issues on CD of 70's Pop music is a far cry from great sound. Never an explanation, but my guess: Columbia Records farmed out recordings, only a Master was gained. Even Bob Irwin (Sundazed Records) who worked with/for Sony noticed this. Sony even goes as far as issuing Quadraphonic mixes as Stereo. I think that is why some don't trust Sony. But it's not Sony, per se', it's their music reissue depts., such as Battery, not being honest. Like my new Sony MDR7506 headphones :)

Staxguy's picture

My I like Sony headphones! Still have a pair of MDR-V6. :)

JackA's picture

I "hear" the MDR-V6 are good, too! :)