Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sony MAP-S1 Multi Audio Player System and SS-HW1 Speakers


The Sony MAP-S1 is a compact all-singing and dancing micro component system. 

As tiny as they come - the MAP-S1 is nevertheless functionally fully loaded.

The MAP-S1 consists of a 50 watt per channel (into 4 ohms loads) receiver integrated with a front loading CD slot. The built in DAC is capable of decoding high resolution audio files of up to 24 bit resolution and a sampling rate of 192 kHz. 

Input flexibility is excellent with a front panel high current (2.1 A) type A USB port for thumb drives / hard drives and a rear type B USB port for connection to a computer. DLNA support is provided via Wi-Fi or ethernet. All major file formats are supported, including DSD. Airplay and Bluetooth are also supported. On the analogue front, a pair of line level input and output jacks are also provided. 

The lacquer finish on the SS-HW1 is good enough to pass off as fine furniture.

A close-up shot of the top-mounted super tweeter.

Rear facing port and 5 way binding posts.
The SS-HW1 is a small bookshelf speaker, sporting 4 drive units, in a 3-way reflex loaded design. The drive complement consists of a 13 cm mica loaded woofer, a 25 mm soft dome tweeter, and a pair of 19 mm super tweeters. One of the super tweeters is forward firing, and the other unit fires upward.

Specifications wise, the SS-HW1 has a rated frequency response of 50 Hz - 50 kHz (no limits stated), 4 ohm nominal impedance and 83db sensitivity. Compared to it's peers, the SS-HW1 could be considered to be an inefficient and difficult to drive load. 

A detachable grill is provided, although in a rather daring move, the top mounter super tweeter is left fully exposed. I certainly hope Sony has a large stock of super tweeters on hand - itchy fingers are bound to result in a lot of dented units.

The reflex port is located on the rear of the speaker, together with a single pair of 5-way binding posts. The circular shape of the terminal block may present a bit of difficulty if your speaker cables are terminated with large spades.

The SS-HW1 is 171mm wide, 273 mm deep and 309 mm tall. A single speaker weighs in at 5.1 kg. 


Using the MAP-S1 out of the box was not too difficult. In fact, most of my time was spent removing the plastic inserts out of the speaker binding posts in order to use my banana plug terminated speaker cables.

Accessing the unit's functions via the various buttons and knobs on the front panel was a bit fiddly. It was far more efficient to download the recommended Sony app, "SongPal". Once I had the app running on my iPhone, I connected my phone to the MAP-S1 via Bluetooth. The app then prompted exporting the wireless settings of my home network to the MAP-S1, and established a connection within seconds. SongPal supports Deezer, and internet radio via TuneIn. SongPal definitely gets top marks from me for ease-of-use and stability. 

For purposes of this review, I set up the SS-HW1 on 24 inch tall Partington Dreadnought Broadside stands, with the speakers placed about 6 feet apart, and well away from the side and back walls. The speakers were toed-in with the speakers firing to a point a few feet behind me.

Although speaker cable was supplied, I used a 2.5 m pair of Acrolink 7N-S14000III speaker cables terminated with Oyaide SRBN banana plugs.

I tried the various inputs, but for most of this review, I settled for playback via CD, or feeding the MAP-S1 via USB from my Macmini running Pure Music software.

Sound Quality

Paired with the SS-HW1, the MAP-S1 exceeded my expectations given the high feature count and modest price tag.

The SS-HW1 produced a full mid-bass, smooth midrange and an airy top end. Mid to high frequencies showed a bit of restraint, with a slight emphasis on very highest frequencies. On classical music, this translates to sweeter and fuller than usual violin tone, with an increased sense of ambience of the recording venue. 

The Sony speakers also had no issues casting a wide and moderately deep soundstage with a good sense of image height (courtesy of the top mounted super tweeter ?). Image sizes were slightly larger than usual. The listening sweet spot was also generously large, and you probably won't need to fight with other family members for the best seat in the house. 

Resolving power is above average, although the SS-HW1 can be best described as a speaker with a "big-picture" perspective. There is some smoothing over of detail, but this can be quite useful in taming "hot" and poor quality recordings.

Any other downsides ? I noticed a bit of mid-bass colouration especially at louder levels (cabinet resonance perhaps ?). I also found that the SS-HW1 sounded better on smaller scale music like acoustic jazz, female vocals, chamber music, etc. The bass response on the SS-HW1 showed some signs of congestion on louder and fast types of music.   

Although I had some reservations about the ability of the MAP-S1 to drive a difficult load such as the SS-HW1, the combination seemed fine, with sufficient power and control at typical domestic listening levels. 

To further evaluate the quality of the SS-HW1, I hooked them up to my personal equipment, a Gryphon Diablo integrated amp paired with an Antelope Audio Zodiac Gold DAC. 

The generous power on tap (the Gryphon is rated for 500 watts per channel into 4 ohm loads) and grip really helped to keep the bass performance of the SS-HW1 under control. The Antelope / Gryphon lifted the performance of the SS-HW1, with a healthy increase in bass grip, speed, dynamics, staging confidence and overall resolution. 


I really think that Sony got it right with the MAP-S1. It sounds good, and it's internet / network play capabilities offer great flexibility. Performance wise, it punches well above its weight, especially for its asking price. I would highly recommend the MAP-S1 for the budding audiophile, or anyone who is looking for a compact and good sounding all-in-one component.

The SS-HW1 sounds good with the MAP-S1, and it is nice to know that these tiny speakers can grow together with any system upgrades. They are more expensive that I would have liked, but are otherwise a competent performer in a superbly finished package. I found it easy to overlook it's shortcomings and enjoyed it's rich and pleasing reproduction of music.

The recommended consumer price for the MAP-S1 is S$ 1,199, and S$ 999 for the SS-HW1.

I would like to thank Sony Singapore for supplying the review unit, and it's media partner Waggener Edstrom for making all the necessary arrangements.  

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