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Playing 24/96 on the go

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Sony PCM-M10 for 24/96 playback


For the frequent traveller, audio playback devices are many, a few can playback FLAC files, i ”some things” can play ALAC but none play 24/96 files, FLAC or ALAC natively. It either means to convert the files to Redbook, but it’s not a simple process to maintain the same fidelity, which bits do you throw out converting from 24/96 to 16/44.1? That bugged me a lot. Also the ubiquity of the 3.5mm plug versus USB and too many adapter cables especially for hire car audio systems is a challenge in itself. Keep it simple.


Come the Sony PCM-M10 recorder, this device is primarily a portable audio recorder, with many positive reviews for this function alone, however, it can, playback 24/96 files in PCM format with very, very good results. Coupled with some hi end head phones, and a 3.5mm male to male cable for cars, here’s a device that can solve that dilemma of playing back 24/96 files on the road, air, bus, train, anywhere.


If you either have ALAC or FLAC, both are lossless, each can convert to a wav easy enough without loss of fidelity, or from AIFF for that matter. With Wavs, you don’t get any artwork, but if you’re driving, you don’t need to look at the artwork. The Sony PCM-M10 has a structure of folders where you can drag and drop files from your computer, so it’s a no brainer, even for a Macintosh. The interface is minimalist, you do get the first 20 characters of the filename to see which songs are available for playback. The built in memory is 4GB, you can add tiny MicroSD card (16GB are common now), so there’s quite a few music tracks to keep you busy. Transfer times, 11, 24/96 wavs at 2.37GB take about 10-15mins to download using a USB-USB mini cable. No wi fi, and it would be slower anyway. Another big plus, doesn't need iTunes.


How does it sound? You can’t compare a home system with a portable system, so I won’t go into that. The S/N ratio for the Sony is 87db, that spec doesn’t mean much until you listen. An iphone (3G) is coarser, less defined, very thick I would say playing the same Redbook files. The noise floor is quite high on an iphone, the Sony is a lot better in that regard by a wide margin. You can hear the tap hiss easily enough on Shelby Lynne’s “Just a little lovin’ ”as well as that pre-echo on the Sony.

Jazz is especially good on the Sony, Chesky’s New York sessions 1 and 2 will have you toe tappin’ in no time, and they are played in their native format from HD trax. Drum and cymbals, piano are all there, and this is from a portable system that’s about the size of the classic cassette walkman from the 80’s. Playback from iTunes m4a works as well with the inherent limitations of that format in mind.


Getting used to the navigation coming from an iphone is certainly different, but expected if you look at the context of the unit’s prime use, being that of a recorder first. 2 x AA battery life is rated for 24 hours, so far I would believe this, you get an AC adapter. Rechargeable can be used, but the adapter doesn’t charge rechargeable batteries.


Sony PCM-M10 comes in a grey or red, I got the red cause it goes faster...highly recommended at USD299.



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I recently bought the Korg MR-2 portable recorder which records and plays back DSD and can also play back WAV files up to 24/192. Also runs on 2 AA batteries, but gets only about 2.5 hours. It's pricier (cost me $625) and the other disadvantage is no line or digital out. I run the headphone out through a small Ray Samuels portable amp and JH-13 IEM's. Sounds great and I can fit about 15 albums on a 32g SD card. I think it provides serious sound quality in a small package.


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