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SONY HAP-S1 HDD Audio Player System review

Kat Orphanides
10 Jan 2014
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
799
inc VAT

Brilliant sound and build quality are let down by limited streaming options

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Specifications

The Sony HAP-S1 is a hi-fi separate with a built-in hard 500GB disk on which you can store high quality, high-resolution audio tracks as well as regular CD-quality MP3 and WAV files. Although a separate, the HAP-S1 has a built-in 40W amplifier, so you only need to connect a set of speakers to use it.

SONY HAP-S1 HDD Audio Player System

The HAP-S1 is part of Sony’s push to make high-resolution audio more common and therefore supports 192KHz/24-bit high-resolution audio files, as well as Sony’s own DSD format. Given that a FLAC track of under four minutes duration, a sample rate of 192KHz and a bit-depth of 24-bits occupies over 100MB of storage space, there should be enough room for well over 4000 such files.

Should you require more storage, you can also connect an external hard disk to the HAP-S1 via a USB port at the back. Annoyingly, you can't just plug in a USB drive full of your favourite music and play it directly or copy your music to the HAP-S1's internal hard disk. Instead, you must format connected external drives for use as additional storage.

You can either transfer your music to the HAP-S1 with Sony’s HAP Music Transfer utility, which is available for Windows and Mac OS X, or simply copy files to the HAP-S1’s hard disk over your network. Conveniently, you can select a folder on your PC and have any tracks that you add to it transferred to the HAP-S1 automatically.

The HAP-S1 looks fantastic with its brushed metal exterior, uncluttered controls and bright 4.3in display. At the front, along with dials to navigate the menus and change the volume, is a 1/4in headphone port. At the back, you’ll find speaker connections. There's also a stereo pair of phono outputs, two sets of phono inputs, an optical S/PDIF input and a coaxial S/PDIF input.

SONY HAP-S1 HDD Audio Player System

The remote control, although very stylish, is limited in function, as it provides no way of navigating the player’s menus. You can change the volume, skip, start and stop tracks, turn on and mute the HAP-S1, but that's it. Fortunately, there's an iOS and Android app that gives you full access to all of the HAP-S1's features.

It would have been great if the mobile app could stream tracks from our phone to the HAP-S1, but that isn’t possible. The HAP can't play DLNA streams or access files from a shared folder on your network, either. These would have been extremely useful features, particularly given the relatively small capacity of the built-in hard disk. The only audio streaming option is vTuner internet radio. It includes BBC radio and plenty of interesting independent music stations, but all are fairly low quality, with none higher than 192kbit/s. We were disappointed to find that the HAP-S1 has no support for popular streaming services such as Spotify and Last.fm.

SONY HAP-S1 HDD Audio Player System

However, the menu system of both the app and the HAP-S1’s on-screen display are elegantly designed and easy to control, and your music can be sorted by artist, genre or album. Alternatively, Sony's SensMe music analysis system can create playlists of songs that fit into various categories such as Mellow, Energetic, Emotional and Extreme. We were delighted to find that our music, which is analysed and put into a SensMe category when you transfer it to the player, was accurately assigned to different categories, making it easy to find something to suit your moods without having to build a playlist by hand.

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