Sony is undoubtedly the leader in the design, manufacture, and promotion of high-resolution audio equipment. They have aggressively invested in new lines of products from music servers, headphones and speakers, to portable players. Well, now they’ve added am automobile setup to their Hi-Res lineup with the introduction of the RSX-GS9 digital media player ($1,499), the XM-GS4 4-channel amplifier ($299), and the XS-GS1 Super tweeter ($199)…for automobiles. They’ve previously released an array of speakers including the XS-GS6921 rear speakers, XS-GS1621 and XS-GS1621C front speakers, XS-GSW121 and XS-GSW121D subwoofers, and XM-GS100 mono amplifier. These products are among the best available for enhancing your in car listening…although I still regard my 2004 Acura TL with its ELS DVD-Audio system as a notch above other systems because of its capability for surround sound.
It comes back to the comparison between moving to high-resolution audio and content or expanding the number of speakers for surround sound. Listening in a car can be really great. I’ve had AIX customers write to me and tell me that they enjoy sitting and listening in their cars to 5.1 music more than standard stereo in their living room. I would tend to agree. The PR announcement seems to indicate that the preamp outputs of the RSX-GS9 can drive discrete 5.1 surround sound, but they never mention 5.1 or surround specifically.
The press release also mentions “the head unit RSX-GS9 is natively compatible with DSD, an audio format that reproduces music with unprecedented accuracy”. This claim of superiority for DSD encoding is to be expected from Sony but including DSD in a car unit is not typical. And the information says that is will do 5.6 MHz as well as 2.8 MHz. DSD lovers will appreciate this feature.
In addition to acting as a tuner, the media player has advanced connectivity features such as LDAC™ supported Bluetooth®/ NFC™ in connection with Sony’s SongPal App, two USB (Type A) slots and a USB micro-B (USB DAC) insuring you can play your music from a variety of media storage, including smartphones, USB flash drives, and MP3 players. I guess SACD, CD, and DVDs are no longer appropriate for car systems.
Also from the press release, “Sony incorporated the ES9018S, the high performance 32-bit audio D/A converter by ESS Technology, Inc. The D/A converter translates your music files to analogue signals in an impressive dynamic range of up to 135dB and THD+N (total harmonic distortion and noise) of -120dB to deliver a clarity and presence that rivals live performances.”
Once again the people that write advertising copy have had a little too much Kool Aid and bring up high-resolution specifications without addressing the problem that very few if any commercial recordings will ever demand these specs. It always goes back to the fidelity of the content…and we know how heavily mastering engineers hit the compressors.
Getting Hi-Res Audio in your car is possible (as long as you’re not driving) but comes with a hefty price. As good as the system offered by Sony sounds, I wouldn’t invest thousands of dollars in a custom audio sound system claiming to deliver high-resolution audio specs. The performance of an average automobile sound system is probably sufficient unless you spend a lot of time in your car and want that extra level of fidelity.
It’s challenging to perceive high-res audio in a good home system, I’m doubtful that have super tweeters and 192 kHz/24-bit files playing in your car is really going to elevate your listening experience. If it does surround, then maybe.