Review: Sony hi-res audio player and headphones

Like us, you too must be tired of hearing music purists banging on about the superiority of vinyl and how the world will discover peace and prosperity if only we would all just enter the light… and buy very expensive vinyl players and discs.

But brushing off the clouds of pretension, these audio hipsters aren’t wrong about the sound quality. Music on vinyl does sound better than any other medium. But you can’t exactly lug these around wherever you go. This conundrum gave rise to the Free Lossless Audio Codec (FLAC) format, which manages to compress audio files without compromising on quality.

SonyA25 HRA Player

This brings us nicely to Sony’s A25 Hi-Res audio player, which the brand claims is the world’s smallest and lightest device that can play FLAC and other lossless formats with digital noise cancelling. At 66g, it’s twice the weight of an iPod Nano. The A25 measures a very reasonable 43.6x109x8.7mm with a 2.2-inch QVGA screen, which does the job for picking music but is rubbish for video. The device comes in blue, red, black, yellow, pink and silver. The only complaint I have is with the buttons; having been spoilt by touchscreens for more than five years, it’s hard readjusting to these. #GNTECH had the blue one, which we tried along with the matching optional MDR-NW750N (h.ear on) headphones.

As a rule of thumb, it’s important to listen to songs you’ve heard at least 1,000 times. Going with Pink Floyd’s 1979 magnum opus, The Wall, I knew what I was going to hear, but not how I would hear it. The opening of Hey You sounds pretty good, but is nothing mind-blowing. That starts with the rich bassline that enters on 00.09. David Gilmour’s voice sounds sweeter than it usually does, but I really hit peak excitement two minutes in when the electric guitar goes high into a solo and the bass goes from ponderous to menacing in one fell swoop. No matter how I try I cannot break free of this spell I’m under.

It’s nice that the h.ear on headphones’ tangle-proof cable securely fits into the left can, but more importantly, the set manages to achieve a fine balance between portability, comfort and quality. The cans are easy to fold, comes in a soft splash-proof drawstring case, and the hinges double as swivels, so the set never rests awkwardly on one’s head. I put h.ear on to the test alongside a Marshall set and HTC in-ear earphones. Sony bested both thanks to noise cancellation superiority.