Other Things to Consider
If you’re enthused by our descriptions of just what a difference going Hi-Res can make to your audio enjoyment but you use iTunes, we’ve got some bad news for you. Basically iTunes – with its obsession with purely Apple file types or MP3s – is not Hi-Res Audio’s friend. Try downloading FLAC files into it, and they just won’t appear.
To get FLAC quality on iTunes you thus have to convert FLAC files to Apple Lossless codec using something like the Bigasoft FLAC converter. This sort of hassle is something normal consumers simply do not want to be faced with. And while we might use this situation to suggest ditching iTunes, for a huge number of people iTunes is the only music portal they know or would think of using, and they’re already heavily invested in it with their existing music collections.
So for better or for worse, Hi-Res Audio’s chances of going truly big time really need Apple to start to get serious – and clearer than it is now – about its oft-discussed Hi-Res file aspirations.
It also seems to us that if Sony really hopes to make Hi-Res Audio a genuine tech ‘movement’, it could do with persuading other AV brands to start embracing it too.
Should I buy a Sony NWZ-F886?
If you listen to a lot of music on the go and you actually care about sound quality (we still wonder just how many of you really do!), then you certainly should seriously think about buying an F886. As a piece of hardware it’s far better — even with its supplied limited-range headphones — at demonstrating the joys of Hi-Res Audio than we’d expected such a small and reasonably affordable device would be. To this extent it crucially proves that Hi-Res Audio really does have the potential to break out of dedicated music rooms in millionaire’s mansions.
The only problem is that at the other end of the Hi-Res Audio story, the music sourcing, things are still a bit of a mess. The amount of Hi-Res audio content out there is growing but still not big enough, and some of the practicalities of getting Hi-Res Audio into your music system are more challenging and frustrating than they ought to be.
Here’s hoping that if Hi-Res Audio equipment starts to become properly popular the music industry will start banging their collective heads together to bring a bit more standardisation and content to proceedings than exists right now.
In terms of competition, the only other portable device you could buy that can handle hi-res audio files right now is the LG G2 phone – though unsurprisingly given its wider focus its not as well-equipped technically to deliver the full impact of Hi-Res Audio tracks.
There are of course other dedicated portable music products to
choose from too – most notably the iPod Touch. But none are as open-minded
when it comes to audio formats or, crucially, as well-equipped to handle
hi-res audio (in terms of their amps as well as their file
compatibility) as the F886.
From a hardware perspective, the F886 is remarkably talented. The ability of its new S-Master HX Digital Amp to expose the extra quality you get with high-resolution audio formats is truly startling, and well worth investing in for anyone who loves their music. Its touchscreen is good too, and its battery life is excellent. Hi-Res audio is still in nascent stages, but the evidence of ears suggests it has a future.
Score in detail
Sound Quality 10