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It's been another tumultuous 12 months for Pioneer's A/V division, what with being sold to Onkyo and losing one of its most respected speaker designers in Andrew Jones. Like fellow Japanese company Panasonic (which recently released some new Technics gear), Pioneer is pursuing the high end in what seems to be an attempt to reestablish the company's audio credentials.
Pioneer has announced three new products at CEDIA 2015: a ultra-high end pair of $2,500 headphones, the SE-Master1; a $600 digital stereo receiver, the SX-N30; and the $700 XDP-100R portable music player, but it is arguably the latter that will be of most interest to hi-fi fans.
Portable hi-fi is big business, and while Pioneer has done MP3 players before, such as the Japan-only NSP-D10P, the XDP-100R is the company's first hi-res player. It shares a lot of features with the Sony ZX2 player -- namely an Android operating system, a 4-inch-plus touchscreen, compatibility with DSD, and a metal casing.
However, the Pioneer carries a few more cards up its sleeve in the form of two microSD card slots, removable aluminum bumpers, and compatibility with Meridian Audio's new MQA digital format. Meridian says MQA offers smaller sizes than typical hi-res files and is backward-compatible with PCM and non-MQA players (which will play back CD quality instead). The Pioneer player is also $500 cheaper than the Sony.
Given the company's relationship with Onkyo, it's only natural the Pioneer device includes the ability to download directly from the OnkyoMusic.com store without needing a PC.
As an Android 5.1.1 (Lollipop) device, it will offer compatibility with streaming apps, and uniquely, it also offers an onboard speaker if you forget your headphones.
Meanwhile, as far as the other two products are concerned, the SX-N30 Network Stereo Receiver is a 80-watt-per-channel amplifier with Wi-Fi connectivity. It enables the use of streaming services such Pandora and Spotify in addition to Apple Airplay and Bluetooth.
Lastly, the SE-Master1 is a "beautifully crafted, reference-grade headphone" which is created by a single craftsman, the company says. It features aluminum drivers, and there are apparently over 100 individual processes to produce a single unit.
The three products will be available in 2016 with more details yet to come.