Fully customised? Really? The linked article states that they tried to customize it and failed because the original one sounded the best and so they gave up. Maybe we have different definitions of "Fully Customised". For me, doing minor adjustments that doesn't matter to be able to implement it in the device is not fully customised.
You are cherry picking the interview - it's fully customised because in the beginning they tried changing the body with different materials instead of the original brass (such as substituting it with aluminium) but found them not as good as the original, Sony then suggested they try using the gold plating method over copper they've invented in the WM1Z and apply it to the RK501, which they then did by first plating the brass body with copper, and then plating it with gold to get the fully customised RK501. It is fully customised because Alps never had this in their line up for the RK501 and it was Sony who provided them with the know-how to do it - this is exactly how fully customised is supposed to mean, as in you can't buy it as it is from the seller.
And yes the Kimber Cable is just Co Engineering by Kimber but what is the point here?
Then it's not "off the shelf" - which is EXACTLY the point, because you were criticising the DMP-Z1 for it not being as "exotic" as the Chord Hugo TT2 because it is using "off the shelf parts", if Sony co-created the cables with Kimber and as a result they are using parts which is only available to them, then it's not "off the shelf" anymore is it?
This really is nitpicking the hard level and why do discussions about the DMP-Z1 always feel like I'm discussing with an religious cult.
Because you started off with a poor definition of what "exotic hardware" means, if you aren't prepare to defend it, don't cry about it now.
Sony buys the DAC, the Amp and the volume knob of the shelve and your argument is "But Chord bought the FPGA". What level of arguing is this?
It's just a music player, gosh. It's not a holy grail. There are devices that measure better and if you prefer achromatic amps, there are devices that sound better too.
You were claiming Chord uses "exotic hardware" which made it superior to the DMP-Z1 - but that's objectively wrong. Chord uses common electronic hardware but made it special with SOFTWARE. To me actual "exotic hardware" would be like the Sony S-Master - a IC chip that is COMPLETELY fabricated by Sony themselves in their own chip fabs that's not sold to any other OEM even if they want it, not a Xilinx FPGA chip that is programmable by a 500 dollar Windows PC with a USB port and a 3000 dollar Xilinx FPGA kit that you and I can buy off Mouser (and again, the special source is COMPLETELY in Rob Watt's software code).
I love Chord products myself and happily paid for them before (I've owned a Mojo and a Hugo 2) because yes, they and Sony are the only two company that pushes the envelope in either creating dedicated hardware or fully supplementing available parts with their own sound-related technology that's not simply a different software UI. You have to frame the issue in the proper context, which IMNSHO, you weren't doing. You can open up a Chord product and even completely copy their internals, but without Rob Watt's software, it's not a going to make it a Chord product. On the other hand for the DMP-Z1, you can't get the same RK501, you can't get the same Sony Kimber Kable (though arguably you can buy direct from Kimber and get a better cable), and you most definitely can't get the DSD Re-mastering engine source code. So using your metric, wouldn't that actually make the DMP-Z1 more "exotic hardware" than the Chord products?