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Sony UDA-1 review

Andrew Unsworth
18 Feb 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
500
inc VAT

Great sound, but it’s expensive with no wireless streaming

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Specifications

The Sony UDA-1 is designed for people who just need a high-quality amplifier to which they can connect their PC and smartphone as well as other devices such as CD players. Not only is the UDA-1 an exquisitely produced piece of equipment with a heavy, metal chassis, it’s also designed for the playback of high-resolution audio.

Sony UDA-1

High-resolution audio is any track recorded at a 24-bit bit-depth with a sample rate of 96KHz and higher. Compared to the 16-bit bit depth and 44.1KHz sample rate of CD-quality audio, high-resolution audio should deliver more information about a track so that instruments sound more natural and less harsh, with greater detail. To get the best out of the UDA-1 you’ll need to connect it to speakers designed for high-resolution audio, such as the Sony SS-HA1 speakers (£499, www.hificonfidential.co.uk) that we used. There’s no reason why you can’t use other speakers with the UDA-1, but it’s a little pointless paying £500 for a system capable of handling high-resolution audio if you then attach it to speakers which aren't up to the task.

WE LOVE DAC SOUND
When connected to your PC, the UDA-1 works as a digital-to-analogue convertor (DAC), which means it takes the digital audio sent to it from your PC and it converts it into sound you can hear using its high-quality components. The benefit is better-sounding audio.

To use your computer with the UDA-1 you must download a driver from the Sony website, install it on your PC and then connect your PC to the UDA-1’s rear USB port. Setup is as simple and straightforward as that, although you must remember to select the UDA-1 as the output device in Windows. From there, you can play music using your favourite media player, whether it’s Windows Media Player, iTunes or something else.

If you want to play music stored on your mobile phone or tablet you must connect it to the UDA-1’s front USB port. You can then select the track on your mobile device that you want to play and it’ll play through the UDA-1. Annoyingly, we couldn’t use our iPhone with the UDA-1 without putting it in Airplane mode. If we didn’t, we’d hear intermittent buzzing and clicking because of the phone’s radio transmitter. Although putting the iPhone into Airplane mode solved the problem, it also meant we ran the risk of missing calls so it isn’t an ideal solution.

Sony UDA-1

AUDIO UNLOCKED
The sound quality of the UDA-1 when connected to the SS-HA1 speakers and playing high-resolution audio tracks was almost entirely excellent. The low-end, mid-range and part of the high-end possessed great clarity with lots of detail. We noticed things in our tracks that we don’t normally, and there seemed to be a lot more space in the sound mix.

The only problem was that the very high-end sounded a little harsh, and this took the shine off the excellent impression made by sounds in other frequency ranges. This harshness was more noticeable when we played CD-quality MP3s and AAC files played from our iPhone. We’re unsure if the harshness is due to the unit itself or the SS-HA1 speakers.

We also found that low-frequency sounds were more prominent in the mix, so that we got a booming earful of bass and not enough mid-range. Mostly, though, the sound quality was great whether we played high-res or CD-quality audio, and we think the majority of listeners will be happy with it.

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