The Sony HAP-Z1ES is a great unit in stock form, with lots of great reviews; TAS just listed it in their Editor's Choice awards for music servers. Vinnie @ Red Wine Audio added his Level 2.5 mod to the RCA outputs to bring it up to an amazing level. Vinnie isn't doing these mods any more, focusing on his LIO product range now. But there should be no issues with support in the unlikely event it's needed.
This player gets across-the-board favorable reviews, with modded versions getting pretty much raves. If you prefer a no-fuss player with all your music locally, this is a fantastic option. This does NOT, however, support streaming like Tidal, et al. (it has Internet Radio functions but doesn't support those services)
The Level 2.5 mod was a late add by Vinnie to his modification choices, above the tube output stage (Level 1) and power supply updates (Level 2). Level 3 included the battery power option, something I didn't want personally. Per Vinnie:
"This is a new modification package that I am offering for those who want to get as close as possible to the RWA-Z1ES-3 performance, but without using battery power. It is the RWA-Z1ES-2 modification, but the following (taken from Level 3) are added:
- New 3.3V and 5V “Super Regulator” boards installed on the audio board - feeding the L and R d/a converter chips - New 3.3V “Super Regulator” board installed on the audio board – feeding the clock circuitry (used for ALL music file types)
- The sections of the stock unit fed with the digital power supply board (DC-DC voltage regulated) are now powered via the heavily-modified analog power supply (not the stock digital supply) that uses new, low-noise inear voltage regulators. These now power:
1) System microprocessor 2) The FPGA and Audio DSP chips 3) Ethernet and USB ports 4) SDRAM 5) HDD (or SSD, if you wish to have one installed) 6) The front panel display
Based on my listening tests, I'd say with the RWA-Z1ES-2.5 you get 85% of the RWA-Z1ES-3 sound (The Level 3 gives you a little bit blacker background, a little bit more authority in the bass, and a little more natural sounding midrange), and you save $400. :wink:
The RWA-Z1ES-2.5 is for those of you who don't ever want to 'mess' with battery power (in terms of the play time limitations of pure BATT operation, and the fact that at some point, the cells will need to to replaced) - but who want to get as close as possible to the RWA-Z1ES-3 performance."
There is a bit of mechanical hum with the mods, but it has absolutely no effect on sound, I have it hooked up to a couple headphone amps (dynamic and electrostatic) and no hum or other noise came through. Because I want the buyer to see/hear this, and also the size, weight, and custom mods, I prefer local sale. I am in NE Mass, near the NH border.
That said, due to the possible sale with shipping that ended up falling through, I have a large secondary box for it and all original packaging, so I can ship. Shipping with insurance could push $100+, but I will cover anything over $80. So $2080 total shipped and PayPal'd, or $2000 local sale. Buy a superb modded unit for the cost of the basic unit!
Finally: there is a good amount of music (16/44 up through DSD) already on the drive that will stay.
Todd - chams_uk