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Sony Brings High-Resolution Audio To The Dash

Sony will bring high-resolution audio to the car with the December availability of the first in-dash aftermarket head unit announced to date with high-resolution audio decoding, including native DSD decoding.

The $1,499 RSX-GS9 CD-less digital media player was shown at 2015 CES and was originally slated for summertime availability. It will join a series of high-resolution home and portable audio gear from Sony.

The single-DIN head unit will be accompanied by a $299 high-res-capable XM-GS4 4-channel amplifier, which connects via optical cable to the head unit, which lacks power.  The head’s optical output delivers digital audio at up to 96kHz sampling rates.

The product will be joined by a $199 XS-GS1 25mm soft-dome supertweeter to extend frequency response beyond 20kHz.

The products can be paired with previously released XS-GS6921 rear speakers, XS-GS1621 and XS-GS1621C front speakers, XS-GSW121 and XS-GSW121D subwoofers, and the XM-GS100 mono amplifier to create a complete a high-res car audio system, the company said.

Though it is the first in-dash high-res head unit, at least one other company, Audison, offers a pair of hideaway components that add high-res playback to aftermarket and most OEM car audio systems.

The $649-suggested bit Play HD, which accepts a hard drive, and the $749 bit Play HD SSD, which includes an internal solid-state 240GB SSD HDD, play FLAC audio files up to 24-bit/96KHz.

The Sony head unit decodes 24-bit/192kHz WAV, Flac, AIFF, ALAC and PCM files as well as native 2.8GHz and 5.6GHz DSD files.

Other-brand aftermarket head units play back 24-bit/192kHz and 24/96 FLAC and PCM files, but the heads lack high-res DACs and therefore down-converted the files to CD quality. The Sony head unit, in contrast, incorporates ESS Technology’s ES9018S 32-bit audio D/A converter to deliver dynamic range of up to 135dB and THD+N (total harmonic distortion and noise) of -120dB.

On the Sony head, high-res content can be played back from USB drives and connected smartphones and portable media players. The head unit incorporates two USB type A slots (one front, one back) and a front USB micro- B slot.

The head also plays back music streamed via Bluetooth from smartphones and portable media players, and with Sony’s proprietary LDAC technology, music can be streamed wirelessly in near-high-res quality from Sony portable music players also equipped with LDAC. The head also streams AAC over Bluetooth.

It also features Sony’s DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) technology to upscale lower resolution music files to high-res.

The front panel is made from machine-cut, hairline-finished 14mm aluminum with OLED display, backlit keys and a large aluminum-trimmed volume dial in the middle.

Detailed amplifier specs were unavailable.