In the ever-evolving world of electronics, most head units sport a multitude of amazing features, like built-in navigation, rear view camera plug ins, video playback, hand free calling and all sorts of awesomeness, all of which Sony caters for. Above all of that niftiness, they’ve dedicated their new RSX-GS9 to those who want more than just cool features. The RSX-GS9 is all about delivering pure, high resolution audio playback. These units are available from and distributed by Audio Connections at 031 579 1752.
Functions and features
The Sony RSX-GS9 has a rather plain looking trim panel with a retro sized single-line alphanumeric display with four small buttons underneath it. In the centre is the NFC One-touch which allows you to pair a smart phone to the head unit via Blue Tooth. The outer ring is the master volume control, and is nicely dampened, while the faceplate is made from 14-mm machined aluminium which tells you it means business. To the right is a 3.5mm auxiliary input, a micro USB input and then a USB input.
At the back of the head unit is a second USB port which comes with an extension lead as well as the six RCA outputs for front, rear and subwoofer (all of which are 5V pre-out). The one loom houses the illumination, ignition remote out wires along with the Aux 2 inputs which can be used to link to a second head unit. Above that is the remote in which is used with the necessary adaptor to link your vehicle’s steering wheel control. Next to that is the Optical digital output with both 96kHz and 48kHz sample rates, followed by the mic input which is used for hands free calling. The main power and earth wires have their own looms and are kept away from the rest of the wiring. You would have noticed I didn’t mention anything about speaker wire outputs as this unit doesn’t have a built-in amplifier. It is intended for use in a high-end system application where external amplifiers are used.
As far as the audio settings go, I didn’t want to go through the slow and tedious process of working via a one line text display, so I installed Sony’s free SongPal app onto my Bluetooth-paired Apple device as well as on my Sony Smart phone which is Android based, ( it works on Apple iOS 7.0+ or Android (4.0.3+) and it opened up a plethora of features. Via the SongPal app, you can access the 10-band graphic equaliser which can be custom set or you could use one of the many pre-sets. There is also a low-pass filter for the subwoofer outputs with eight different cut-off points to choose from (50Hz to 250Hz) as well as an adjustable filter slope (12 to 48dB). there is a high-pass filter for the front and rear channels which has the same cross over points as the subwoofer channel (I would have loved more flexibility here). Another cool setting which I feel is a must-have on any high-end head unit is the digital time alignment. The SongPal app also acts as a remote control which allows you to switch between the number of different source units and also allows your phone to integrate with the head unit.
Regarding the music formats, this unit supports ALAC (Apple Lossless) and FLAC, AIFF and WAV. It also handles resolutions up to 24-bits/192kHz which is what separates this unit from most others. It also supports Sony’s own DSD (Direct Stream Digital) format as well as their LDAC which allows you to enjoy “high quality” wireless audio via Bluetooth. The unit also sports DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) which up scales existing sound sources to near High Resolution sound quality. On the USB side, it covers the standard 2.8MHz sampling as well as 5.6MHz.
I wanted to hear if there was a difference between the various inputs – i.e Bluetooth streaming vs USB vs iPod vs a hard drive – all done using the same songs. I kicked off with the Adele 25 CD as I have a commercially available CD as well as an SACD (which is essentially High Definition). Naturally I copied the normal CD onto all four devices and then copied the SACD onto the USB and a hard drive.
Starting off with the Bluetooth streaming. I must admit that I was a little sceptical about its ability to rival a good old fashioned CD however that quickly changed after listening to a few tracks. The first thing I noticed was the distinct difference in the amount of detail present, which was something you’d expect from a CD. I then played a bass edited version of Enya’s “Only Time” track to hear if the very low frequencies were affected via BT streaming. Note, this is something I’ve tried a number of times before and there was always an audible difference in how the system played the lowest notes, but not with this unit. It played every note with authority and detail.
After playing around with the BT streaming, I decided to see how well it does with an iPod plugged into its second USB slot. I was able to switch the source from BT to USB 2 and to my surprise I lost all control of the iPod via the song pal app and then struggled to get back into the app until I physically disconnected the iPod. I then tried connecting via my Sony device and plugged the I-Pod back in and it worked perfectly so that tells me the unit gets confused by requesting it to run two apple devices at the same time. Maybe they don’t expect users to own an iPhone and iPod as they somewhat do the same thing so it is quite understandable.
I then switched over to Cheskys ultimate demonstration CD (which again was copied onto all devices). Here I used my phones OTG cable to connect to the head unit using the front input while the iPod was plugged into the rear USB input (which was later switched out with the hard drive). I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have “golden ears” as they call it where some can hear the difference between 1Hz on a track. Based on my listening experience, I heard no difference between using the OTG connection and the hard drive. The biggest differences that I heard was when I switched from the commercial CD to the SACD which was copied onto the hard drive and understandably so.
The amount of information that came rushing through was nothing short of amazing. One would swear that the music was being played via a high end HD home audio player. The music was smoother, more transparent and I could even pick up the difference in the air of the recording studio. I know it sounds strange because how does one hear air, but trust me, you immediately will hear how everything sounds so much better and life-like. The head unit really and truly reproduces the hi-resolution music like nothing else I’ve heard (via a hard-drive).
The Sony RSX-GS9 really is all that and more. It’s designed for a niche market of true audiophile nutters who demand nothing but the highest quality of components. It’s rich in features and has the coolest bells and whistles that you’d need and more. Personally, I would have preferred if the head unit had eight pre-outs as opposed to six as your typical high-end user will more than likely have a 3-way active component system and woofer as opposed to the confines of a two way active system with woofer. A few more cross over points and options would also be nice. Other than that, it’s difficult to fault.