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Sony NW-A105 Digital Audio Player Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Sony NW-A105 "high-res" digital audio player (DAP). It is on kind loan from a member. The NW-A105 costs US $348 from Amazon including Prime shipping. It runs the Android OS.

As DAPs go, I like the lighter weight and smaller form factor of the Sony:

Sony Walkman NW-A105 Digital Audio Player DAP Review.jpg


You can't see it in my picture but the display has very good contrast and nice to look at. Likewise the controls are on the side are a big step above typical DAP and phones.
Navigation for the most part is intuitive if you keep min mind the mishmash of Sony software on top of Android. This is the same problem with other DAPs built on top of Android.

Navigation and playback is responsive enough though you can watch the pixels draw when interacting with Android. Definitely not in the same class of performance as any modern smartphone.

One thing I did not like is the fact that it doesn't act like a USB DAC. Only choices given are charge only or file transfer. Why not both?

Not being a DAC heavily limits the tests I can run on it because my audio analyzer can't control what it plays. Instead I have to transfer a few files to it that enable measurements that are not sweep based. Still, I think we can get a decent feel for the device.

DAP Audio Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard:

Sony Walkman NW-A105 Digital Audio Player Audio Measurements.png


Output of just 1 volt means it can be anemic and unable to drive difficult headphones. I like to see 2 volts in little dongle. Not seeing it in a large dedicated music player is disappointing. Looks like they used a standard phone chipset for the DAC.

SINAD of 89 dB by DAC standards is poor:

Best digital audio player 2020 review.png


Again, we have dongles that nearly approach the green zone.

Signal to noise ratio is good enough for CD but certainly not for "high-res:"

Sony Walkman NW-A105 Digital Audio Player Dynamic Range Audio Measurements.png


Jitter performance was good which was a relief:
Sony Walkman NW-A105 Digital Audio Player Jitter Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
As DAPs go, my general experience was more positive with the Sony than other Android based DAPs. Performance is reasonable for the class as few produce anything competitive to best phones (LG) or dongles. I am not a fan of these devices but if you don't want to use your phone, the Sony is an OK choice.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

I really need to become much wealthier to higher a helper. This device was sent to me last year and only now I am getting to reviewing it! Being out of work, my only choice is to milk you guys for money. So please reach deep in your paypal account and donate what you can using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Blumlein 88

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#3
I'm wondering why this would sell much at all. For this money you could buy a second mid-tier smart phone and just use it as a music streamer. I get that maybe the hands on experience is nicer, but still seems like a limited market for this unless it were offering exceptional performance. Instead performance is pedestrian and phone like.

Glad you reviewed it however. Be nice if one of these had near SOTA performance in this price range.
 
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#4
I'm wondering why this would sell much at all. For this money you could buy a second mid-tier smart phone and just use it as a music streamer.
That's exactly what I was doing before I bought this. When I visited Japan however I saw it on the shelf, fell for Sony's marketing and there were no reviews to tell me otherwise. I kind of just assumed "it must be better than just a smartphone, right?", Sony makes the high-end NW-WM1Z after all.

I think aside from that angle, Sony is probably relying on people just wanting a dedicated device for listening to music. This is significantly smaller than most smartphones and given that the smartphone you have otherwise probably lacks an SD-card slot, it's not a horrible option.

Also, this was released in a variant that had a special case that makes it look like an old cassette tape Walkman. There's a big nostalgia factor.
 

doctorjuggles

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#5
It's also worth pointing out that in the EU most of Sony’s DAPs ship with an EU volume cap. On some of them it can be removed with 3rd party software or rooting, but in the one I had (NW-ZX507) it simply cannot be removed. I’m not sure about the A105, but in the 507 it was so bad with my IEMs (none of which are particularly difficult to drive) that I sold it within a week or two.
 

CJ Miller

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#6
Look am much as I love the idea of daps and have owned a few. They cost as much an a couple year old lg g series phone, and in my experience don't sound any better. I personally don't think my Dap sounds any better than my galaxy s9. They both sound much worse than my desktop system but between the two its a wash to my ears.

These hyper expensive daps should be putting out state of the art performance since they are supposed to be purpose built devices. Looking like Avr situation all over again with this device.
 
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#7
I bought FIIO once, and the sound was absolutely horryfick so i got rid of it and paid twice as much for hifiman, and was very suprised when the audio quality was on the level of cheap nokia smartphone, but no 5,5" screen or streaming services, well, basically nothing.

I explained to myself that this devices must have at least more power for demanding headphones (but who uses these kind of headphones on a bus ride to work?) - oh look, they don't.

Thank God for LG phones.
 

Archsam

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#8
The EU volume cap is a real issue for some of the newer android based Sony DAP's. I own the ZX300 and WM-1A and both can be uncapped via a 3rd party software - all it does is allow the user to set the region setting, since most other regions around the world don't have the volume restriction. If you select the right region there is an option to set the output to high gain and it is much better for bigger cans.

This is the site where you can find the uncap software:
https://www.rockbox.org/wiki/SonyNWDestTool

I set both my players to 'Canada' region for that reason. I don't even need to select high gain and it's plenty loud for all my headphones.

Unfortunately all the Android based Walkmans cannot be uncapped at the moment.
 
Last edited:

Yuno

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#10
I bought FIIO once, and the sound was absolutely horryfick so i got rid of it and paid twice as much for hifiman, and was very suprised when the audio quality was on the level of cheap nokia smartphone, but no 5,5" screen or streaming services, well, basically nothing.

I explained to myself that this devices must have at least more power for demanding headphones (but who uses these kind of headphones on a bus ride to work?) - oh look, they don't.

Thank God for LG phones.
We don't know yet if fiio daps are bad, all Amir measured so far are Sony and a bunch of kickstart or audiophool brands. As far as chinese brands go, fiio was always the one that makes good stuff as proven by multiple devices measured here that turned out to be good.
I would love to see some of their stuff measured, as well as shanling and some daps based on es9218p. All es9218p based phones turned out to perform great, and it's such a simple all in one solution I would be surprised to see dap performs badly with it.
 
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#11
We don't know yet if fiio daps are bad, all Amir measured so far are Sony and a bunch of kickstart or audiophool brands. As far as chinese brands go, fiio was always the one that makes good stuff as proven by multiple devices measured here that turned out to be good.
I would love to see some of their stuff measured, as well as shanling and some daps based on es9218p. All es9218p based phones turned out to perform great, and it's such a simple all in one solution I would be surprised to see dap performs badly with it.
FiiO's flagship device has an output impedance of three ohms (according to the manufacturer) and ~104dB SINAD (but the A5 was much better than FiiO's provided spec, so there might be a trend).
 

Archsam

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#12
> no physical buttons
> general purpose OS for specific task
Garbage.
Lots of buttons on the right side. It's one of the reason I bought my two Walkmans - I usually put a playlist on shuffle when I go out, and I can reach into my pocket and ffwd a song without taking it out. It's great.

I also understand why Sony uses Android on some of their DAPs - it's to allow users to install any streaming apps via Google Play. When I bought my ZX300 a lot of users were not happy with the lack of wifi and streaming capability, and Sony's answer is the ZX507.

And for me another reason to get a DAP is so that I don't use up my phone's battery when I listen to music in the office. Working a desk job means I sometimes listen to headphones for 6-8 hours a day.


Sony A105.jpg
 
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#13
And for me another reason to get a DAP is so that I don't use up my phone's battery when I listen to music in the office. Working a desk job means I sometimes listen to headphones for 6-8 hours a day.
And you cannot charge your phone sitting at the desk in the office?
 

q3cpma

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#14
Lots of buttons on the right side. It's one of the reason I bought my two Walkmans - I usually put a playlist on shuffle when I go out, and I can reach into my pocket and ffwd a song without taking it out. It's great.

I also understand why Sony uses Android on some of their DAPs - it's to allow users to install any streaming apps via Google Play. When I bought my ZX300 a lot of users were not happy with the lack of wifi and streaming capability, and Sony's answer is the ZX507.

And for me another reason to get a DAP is so that I don't use up my phone's battery when I listen to music in the office. Working a desk job means I sometimes listen to headphones for 6-8 hours a day.


View attachment 60960
Whoops, didn't see the buttons. But really, when a $50 Sansa Fuze+ with Rockbox (a very simple OS made for the purpose) can last something like 20~30 hours playing vorbis, I don't want to look at these.
 

Archsam

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#15

Archsam

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#18
I sometimes have to use other colleague's workstation based on the stage of the project i'm on, so i might not be at my own desk all the time. Let's just say it's often easier for me to keep my phone and DAP in my pocket while working.
 

AudioSceptic

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#19
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Sony NW-A105 "high-res" digital audio player (DAP). It is on kind loan from a member. The NW-A105 costs US $348 from Amazon including Prime shipping. It runs the Android OS.

As DAPs go, I like the lighter weight and smaller form factor of the Sony:

View attachment 60937

You can't see it in my picture but the display has very good contrast and nice to look at. Likewise the controls are on the side are a big step above typical DAP and phones.
Navigation for the most part is intuitive if you keep min mind the mishmash of Sony software on top of Android. This is the same problem with other DAPs built on top of Android.

Navigation and playback is responsive enough though you can watch the pixels draw when interacting with Android. Definitely not in the same class of performance as any modern smartphone.

One thing I did not like is the fact that it doesn't act like a USB DAC. Only choices given are charge only or file transfer. Why not both?

Not being a DAC heavily limits the tests I can run on it because my audio analyzer can't control what it plays. Instead I have to transfer a few files to it that enable measurements that are not sweep based. Still, I think we can get a decent feel for the device.

DAP Audio Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard:

View attachment 60938

Output of just 1 volt means it can be anemic and unable to drive difficult headphones. I like to see 2 volts in little dongle. Not seeing it in a large dedicated music player is disappointing. Looks like they used a standard phone chipset for the DAC.

SINAD of 89 dB by DAC standards is poor:

View attachment 60939

Again, we have dongles that nearly approach the green zone.

Signal to noise ratio is good enough for CD but certainly not for "high-res:"

View attachment 60940

Jitter performance was good which was a relief:
View attachment 60941

Conclusions
As DAPs go, my general experience was more positive with the Sony than other Android based DAPs. Performance is reasonable for the class as few produce anything competitive to best phones (LG) or dongles. I am not a fan of these devices but if you don't want to use your phone, the Sony is an OK choice.

-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

I really need to become much wealthier to higher a helper. This device was sent to me last year and only now I am getting to reviewing it! Being out of work, my only choice is to milk you guys for money. So please reach deep in your paypal account and donate what you can using : https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
So it's "Hi-Res" but can't even meet CD standards. What a letdown from Sony! As for not wanting to use a phone, that only makes sense if you don't use a mobile phone at all. Why carry 2 expensive gadgets around when one will do?
 

dmac6419

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#20
I bought FIIO once, and the sound was absolutely horryfick so i got rid of it and paid twice as much for hifiman, and was very suprised when the audio quality was on the level of cheap nokia smartphone, but no 5,5" screen or streaming services, well, basically nothing.

I explained to myself that this devices must have at least more power for demanding headphones (but who uses these kind of headphones on a bus ride to work?) - oh look, they don't.

Thank God for LG phones.
The worst Fiio DAP is 10x better than the best Hifiman dap,you have my word on that son.
 
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