Home Entertainment ANALYSIS: HOME AUDIO

Berlin’s 26

wall of sound

Bluetooth, noise-cancelling and ‘near-fi eld’ audio made a strong showing at September’s IFA trade show in Berlin, writes Jamie Carter


usic moves. From Bluetooth speakers and noise-cancelling headphones to ‘true wireless’ buds and even multi-room audio for the smart home, the almost 2,000 exhibitors in the vast halls of Messe Berlin were laser-focused on keeping music mobile. However, between product previews at IFA of mobile audio gear from the likes of Sonos, Dali, Sennheiser, Pioneer, Technics and even a resurgent Braun Audio, there was one company with its very own vision of what music should sound like. Hidden away in a dark room on Sony’s colossal stand was the SA-Z1, a brace of desktop speakers that provided the ideal counterpoint to the streaming circus going on around it. A near- field speaker system that’s part of Sony’s Signature Series, the SA-Z1 provides ultra-high-resolution music for small spaces. Powered by Sony’s DA Hybrid Amplifier Circuits, the SA-Z1 is all about the physical layout of the driver units, along with the time alignment of soundwaves from each driver unit, with a coaxial layout of woofers and

tweeters. Due out in 2020 for a whopping £6,500, the SA-Z1 is all about delicate resonance and sound you can almost touch.

A headphones-free future?

Personalised audio was something another Japanese company was talking-up in the crowded IFA NEXT hub. The brainchild of Pixie Dust Technologies, its Holographic Whisper ultrasonic speakers deals in tight beams of directional audio that can only be heard by one person in a room while standing in a very specific position. As well as one person being able to listen to audio headphones-free in a family room – something that will surely be necessary if giant multi-screen 8K videowalls catch-on – Holographic Whisper could have uses in public places. However, we’re not in a headphones-free future just yet, as evidenced by a slew of all kinds of in-ear, on-ear and ‘true’ wireless products at IFA 2019. Danish hi-fi company, Dali, issued its first headphones in Berlin. Based on Bluetooth, the

Above: Audio Technica’s stand at IFA 2019. Top: As part of Sony’s Signature Series, the SA-Z1 provides ultra-high-resolution music for small spaces

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