The Sony SA-Z1 is a holistic effort by Sony audio engineers to create a near field listening system that operates with exceptional accuracy, allowing the listener to experience soundstage and imaging that's normally associated with much larger systems, and to listen deep into a mix while retaining accuracy and neutrality. The speaker have an industrial sci-fi look, are made of thick, solid aluminum and priced at $7999.99 for active stereo pair.

I first heard the SA-Z1 at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019 and left that demo thoroughly impressed. A speaker system sitting on the desktop managed to outperform the soundstage and imaging of many five or six-figure stereo systems that I heard at the show. As long as you accept that this is a one-person experience, the Sony SA-Z1 provides a listening experience that is quite out of the ordinary.

The best way to describe how these speakers sound, when set up properly and listen to from the optimal position, is like headphones that have none of the limitations of headphones. The soundstage is rendered panoramically and with a three dimensionality that eludes even the finest headphones.

These are more than just a typical pair of active speakers. There is an integrated DAC, of course, but there's also the processing that goes into ensuring the driver arrays deliver time-aligned sound to each ear. The unorthodox driver layout features dual-opposed cone drivers in the main chassis of each speaker, with a tweeter array (a dome flanked by top and bottom super-tweeters).

One of the more interesting aspects of this speaker system is that it appeals to both audiophiles who want a hyper-resolute, personal way to experience their music collection, but it is also a tremendous tool for music creators. These are, at heart, nearfield monitors that allow you to fine-tune a mix to incredible levels of precision, with predictable results that translate to both headphones and full-size stereo systems. I used these speakers in both capacities during the time I had them, but the most rewarding experiences involved using them for music creation.


The SA-Z1 speaker system makes a perfect "bedroom studio" for music creators