Sony HAP-Z1ES Hard Drive Upgrade

by Michael Liang

Doubling Down 

In autumn of 2013, Sony introduced their flagship Hi-Res audio player HAP-Z1ES. It features a 1TB internal storage, Ethernet and WiFi connectivity. It can be controlled by an app on a tablet or phone (Android and Apple iOS), will up-sample any format to double-DSD, and handle native single-DSD and double-DSD files. Designed by the same engineers as the sought-after SCD-1 from 1999, the Sony HAP-Z1ES is very competitively priced at $1999 USD.

The HAP-Z1ES has received numerous rave reviews from professional reviewers and customers. As an owner of two of these beautiful machines, I love the magnificent sound, solid build quality and the ease of use. One thing that many users crave is more storage –– myself included. On average, a terabyte of storage can hold around 1000 full-length albums at CD quality 16/44.1kHz in uncompressed WAV files. But the HAP-Z1ES can also store and play DSD and double-DSD files which take up significantly more space. The average audiophile will likely hit the internal storage ceiling in a blink of an eye. The Z1ES supports playback from an external hard drive via the single USB input around back, but the IMPORT CD feature can only rip CDs to the internal hard drive. The ideal solution is to upgrade the internal hard disk to a larger capacity unit.

Sony has chosen to use a laptop-size 2.5mm, SATA II/III, 5400rpm spinning hard drive for music storage in the HAP-Z1ES. Due to the physical size limitation, 2TB is the largest capacity "bare drive" currently available. I did find a 3TB portable hard drive on Amazon, but it is not compatible because the internal drive is set up for USB 3.0, not SATA II/III. The Linux operating system and firmware are stored in the system’s flash memory so removing the hard disk will not harm the server. I tried a 960GB SanDisk SSD (solid state drive) and have not experienced any improvements in sound quality or speed when accessing stored music files.

I strongly suggest backuping your music before performing the hard drive upgrade. It is important to note that replacing the internal drive means you’ll have to re-import all of your music to the new drive. You can do this via the Sony HAP Music Transfer application or "import CD" feature with an external optical disc drive (not included). Additionally, opening up the server to upgrade the internal hard drive will likely void the five-year Sony ES factory warranty. 

Perform the hard drive upgrade at your own risk! I am not responsible if you “brick” your Sony HAP-Z1ES.

Update [01/20/2017]: 
Reader Roland wrote us about his experience installing a hard drive larger than 2TB. 

"Just tried it with the brand new 5TB Seagate drive ... and failed (it will be recognized/formatted as 570GB - although being recognized correctly by the system, you can see this in the (hidden) service menu). So I had to "downgrade" to my "old" solution - the mentioned WD Green drive (which has been replaced by WD in the meantime by a "newer" blue model) - 2TB works fine…”

This matches my early research at the time of the article, but I was unable to get a confirmation from Sony or a deep technical understanding why. Roland did some digging and found the following.

"unfortunately the devices maximum internal HDD capacity is limited to 2TB. This is, because the Sony formats the internal drive with a MBR partition table (GPT is not supported). Internal drives filesystem is "ext3" (whereas external drives will be formatted "ext4" by the device). Since the combination ext3fs/MBR cannot support partition sizes >2TB ... that's the limit.”

The EXT USB input does support drives beyond 2TB and reader Roland was able to confirm this using a 4TB drive formatted by the HAP-Z1ES. Firmware upgrade (version 18033R) released on 10/18/206 adds USB hub support for connecting one HDD drive, one CD drive, and one USB DAC through the EXT port. Anyone looking to expand the storage beyond 2TB should use the EXT port on the back.

Things you need

Let's Get Dirty

1: Remove the five screws that secure the top cover.

2: Remove the power connector to the fan (light grey wires). Grip onto the edge of the connector and gently pull. Do NOT pull on the wires.

3: Remove the two SATA II cables by pulling on the connector.

4: Remove the chassis ground screw (black wire).

5: Remove the four screws that secure the hard drive and fan assembly. The lower left screw is the most difficult to remove, so be patient.

6: Carefully maneuver the hard drive and fan assembly out of the chassis.

7: Once out, the entire assembly should look like this.

Left: factory 1TB hard drive from my early 2014 unit.  Right: factory 1TB hard drive from my late 2015 unit.

Left: factory 1TB hard drive from my early 2014 unit. 

Right: factory 1TB hard drive from my late 2015 unit.

8: Make note of the direction the SATA II/III connector is facing. Remove the four screws that secure the hard drive to the bracket.

9: Install the new 2TB hard drive in the same position and secure with the four screws at the bottom.

10: Go back to steps 2 thru 5 and put everything back. Connect the SATA II/III cables to the new 2TB hard drive.

11: When you're done, it should look like this. 

12: Reinstall the top cover and connect the HAP-Z1ES to AC power.

13: Upon bootup, you will get this error message. Don't panic! Select OK. Now you should see another error message "File System Recovery Failed, HDD function is not guaranteed." Press ENTER to select OK.

14: Now you'll see the familiar Main Menu system. Go to Settings/System Settings/Factory Reset and select OK.

15: Select YES to the confirmation message.

16: The operating system will now reformat the new 2TB hard drive. This should take 1–2 minutes. DO NOT disconnect from power while the system resets. Doing so may cause permanent damage to the unit.

Bingo!

All done. Select OK and the unit will reboot.

To check the new storage capacity, go to Settings/HDD Settings/View HDD Status. You should now see 1.8TB of storage goodness.

Enjoy!