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Sony NW-A105 Digital Audio Player Review

bobbooo

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#61
Samsung s9 has quite good audio performance, it is better than s10, and it leads most DAP.
Samsung Galaxy S9 (48kHz)


Compare the above THD measurement of the S9 with that of the S10+ in my previous comment. As I said, the S9 and S10 series (as well as the S8, Note8 and Note9) all use the same audio chip (the WCD9341), so they all likely have equally good audio performance. (I'm talking about the Qualcomm Snapdragon versions by the way.)
 
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Jimster480

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#62
This is just disappointing overall. To spend more money than a decent phone and get something that has a lower output vs most good phones is just horrible.... better to buy a used LG G7 for $100-200 less than this device and have one device that is better at everything.
 

Tks

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#63
This is just disappointing overall. To spend more money than a decent phone and get something that has a lower output vs most good phones is just horrible.... better to buy a used LG G7 for $100-200 less than this device and have one device that is better at everything.
Worst of all is, it's not like they're reaping any rewards for such a low output (like perhaps breaking ground with exceptional noise/distortion metrics with not having to bother worrying about design incorporation of maintaining high power output). But of course not, they continue their stumble. I feel we're somewhat lucky Sony is heavily corporatized. Imagine these divisions leaking into other parts of the business, like their TV's and cameras for example? Boy that would be awful..
 

Jimbob54

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#65
By the way, the reviews on Amazon complain bitterly about poor battery life.
Worth pointing out this was the model (or a very similar variant) they chose to gussy up as a the 40th anniverary of Walkman edition. Basically this in a tape walkman case for $$$$. Sad.
 

doctorjuggles

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#66
By the way, the reviews on Amazon complain bitterly about poor battery life.
Yeah I started a thread in here asking why dedicated DAPs have such poor battery life when they’re so chunky and do fewer things than phones. iPods used to last absolutely ages and they had spinning rust!
 

majingotan

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#67
Yeah I started a thread in here asking why dedicated DAPs have such poor battery life when they’re so chunky and do fewer things than phones. iPods used to last absolutely ages and they had spinning rust!
IIRC, only the Sony WM1A and WM1Z have decent battery life (20 hours). Also, Astell & Kern is claiming their newest SR25 DAP also has 20 hour battery life

Capture.PNG
 

stalepie2

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#68
No, the smaller "S Master" amp Walkmans have the long battery life, not the Android-using ones. That was actually part of their selling point that they would go past 30 hours. But they didn't put out much power. I think the NW-A35, A45 and A55 models upped it to 35mW + 35mW (whereas the earlier A15/A25 was more like 15mW+15mW output, which may be like a Sandisk Clip Jam. Older Discmans and tape Walkmans also had fairly low output, so that used to be the norm for portable devices).

This late model Minidisc player may measure better than this new Walkman? If the RMAA results are to be trusted:
http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-and-review-sony-mz-eh1-24-bit

That's with no load, though. I like this ohm-image site because he measures it with various loads of real headphones, and it varies a lot depending on what's plugged into it.

He's got measurements of the ZX300 here:
http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-sony-zx300-24-bit

There are factors like hiss which are not being measured at this site (ASR). People care about whether their earphones hiss a little, and it depends on the earphone and which device it's plugged into.
 
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amirm

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Thread Starter #69
Yeah I started a thread in here asking why dedicated DAPs have such poor battery life when they’re so chunky and do fewer things than phones. iPods used to last absolutely ages and they had spinning rust!
Well, they are doing the same thing as a phone and that is their problem. It appears they use the same (but older) phone platform and just put some software on it and call it done. The OS is active all the time, consuming power.

A dedicated player doesn't have a fancy OS and can go to very low standby modes that last days and months when not in use (kind of like a remote control).
 

bobobo1618

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#70
It's a pity Sony doesn't release the OS source-code for their DAPs, the same way they do for their phones. Maybe it'd have been possible to port Rockbox or something to it and get days-long battery life.
 

tential

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#71
I do question the reason for a A105 level DAP to exist today. It is the audio equivalent of a point and shoot pocket camera. Once upon a time there was a reason to have them, namely an affordable way to take decent pictures without spending big bucks on proper SLR gears. But with the emergence of smart phones and the phone camera, the affordable point and shoot camera is obsolete. Ditto affordable audio players.

I read that this kind of device is still somewhat popular in Asia though. Things are different there - for example SACDs are still a thing over there and far from gone. I know this, because over the last year or so I have been amassing a sizeable collection of c-pop DSF files made available by local fans and available for download. A lot of popular artists / albums from the past 20 - 30 years are being reissued in limited edition SACDs today, and they get snapped up immediately upon release - you can't even buy them if you have the money, and they are very expensive.

But the recent development of high end DAP are really awesome. My WM-1A has 128gb of internal memory. I put in a 400gb microsd card and I can carry nearly my entire collection of DSF and high rez PCM music with me whenever I travel. If I go visit my folks in Canada for a few weeks I will even take my Focal Clear + 4.4mm balanced cable with me, and I can enjoy my music in quality close to my home system.
Head over to headfi and you'll see how much people love this device. It exists because "audiophiles" will buy it because it must be a "special" device because why else would Sony make it?

Well, they are doing the same thing as a phone and that is their problem. It appears they use the same (but older) phone platform and just put some software on it and call it done. The OS is active all the time, consuming power.

A dedicated player doesn't have a fancy OS and can go to very low standby modes that last days and months when not in use (kind of like a remote control).
They also rewrote the way android handles audio to go to the dac rather than through Android src first so I mean they did so SOMETHING.

And it is something people asked for. Myself specifically. I really did bug these guys to make android based daps and I'm sure others did too.

The battery life sucks because of a multitude of things, and it doesn't help that they use old power hungry socs. 28nm manufacturing process for your soc when we are on 7nm(++ whatever derivative of it)? The soc are years old, we never get new soc, even Sony will use old soc.
 

Archsam

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#72
Well I own 2 current generation Sony Walkmans so I obvious value a good DAP. But as mentioned many times in previous posts, it is this specific model that is being questioned.

The sound quality / functionality of the A105 is not vastly different compared to a good smartphone, so what is the point of spending £300 (just checked Amazon's price) when what you already own is about as good as this unit?

The only thing good about this unit is its size - it is quite tiny and cute.

Sony-Walkman-main-7.jpg
 

majingotan

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#73
The sound quality / functionality of the A105 is not vastly different compared to a good smartphone, so what is the point of spending £300 (just checked Amazon's price) when what you already own is about as good as this unit?
I see that you also have the NW-WM1A. What's special about that unit aside than battery life and the obvious dedicated DAP buttons? Does it measure better than smartphones today (probably not from Sony's streak here)? I do think the DSP processor (Vinyl mode, tone controls etc.) and the S-Master amp (probably adds a modest amount of distortion to make the sound pleasing). I do think if you disable all those extra DSP and S-Master stuff, there should be no difference in DAC mode (line out to pre)
 

Archsam

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#74
I see that you also have the NW-WM1A. What's special about that unit aside than battery life and the obvious dedicated DAP buttons? Does it measure better than smartphones today (probably not from Sony's streak here)? I do think the DSP processor (Vinyl mode, tone controls etc.) and the S-Master amp (probably adds a modest amount of distortion to make the sound pleasing). I do think if you disable all those extra DSP and S-Master stuff, there should be no difference in DAC mode (line out to pre)
I bought both Walkman before I became interested in measurements TBC. I bought both on black Friday sales on Amazon (bought the 1A one year after I got the ZX300) so I didn't pay the full retail price, which is part of the reason I went for them.

I choose them for their physical design as well as their SQ. I like the big buttons and the balanced output. I don't use any of the filters and I almost always listen to them with all DSP turned off. Subjectively my 1A sounds notably more detail than the ZX300, and with my Etymotic ER-4XR it sounds close to my home setup. Both players sound better than my Samsung Galaxy S10. While the SQ of my phone is actually very good, what annoyed me is that I cannot turn off the sound processing software completely. And while the sound is detailed and clean, due to the software there is always an artificial 'hollowed' ring to the sound.

These DAPs don't get tested a lot (not yet anyway). From what I can find they are decent performers, but not spectacular. This is what I found:

http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-sony-nw-wm1z-24-bit
http://ohm-image.net/data/audio/rmaa-sony-zx300-24-bit

Note: the WM1Z is identical to my WM1A, the only difference is the casing (the 1A is made in aluminium, the 1Z in gold plated copper, and a £1200 price difference)
 
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#75
This is indeed a powerful measurement for non-Japanese fans of walkman.

But simply for reference, a digital audio player's final sound quality is adjusted by the hardware and software, and so this walkman series is what the engineers intended. They intended for it to measure badly and still sound pleasing for the majority of buyers. I think well-measuring products should be regarded as a threat by manufacturers like Sony. Sony must have a higher level of basic quality (and keep having a high level of musicality) at the same cost. The quality has to be measurable rather than a list of components for marketing. This thread achieved giving such a message I think.

Why walkmans are just so useless now?

It has lost these features:

おまかせチャンネル (solely Japanese) – no longer with us, besides x-appli software has it.

USB DAC function – dongles are everywhere!

Record from external players – use IC Recorder!

FM radio – just record off your phone! Or podcasts.

Bad battery, extra price and worry about android updates, problems and stresses...

Yes. A55 is the end of an era. A55 was easier to use.

But supporters of walkman argue that the Walkman is not like chinese medicine. Objective measurement has no correlation to subjective "enjoyment"- an emotional state which is triggered differently for individuals, for some people that are a m their enjoyment is derived from physical pain, which most average people will not enjoy, so there's an example of a subjective form of "enjoyment", and nobody can tell a m that they shouldn't feel enjoyment because it is induced via physical pain, it simply doesn't work like that. However for medicine, you are either healed or not healed which can be objectively verified so there's no subjectivity in that - your cancer tumour is either there or it isn't, a cancer patient can't claim they don't have cancer when doctors can see and physically touch it. So you are making a false equivalence.

That was an overly strong reply to We have to believe the engineers know their stuff and arrived at the best configuration. Hardware buttons on the side vs screen UI is a major point also. I'd much rather rely on measurements for audio. But I expect it will take some time before good sound correlates with good measurements. Not exactly correlation, just that Sony must have a higher level of basic quality (and keep having a high level of musicality) at the same cost. Good sound isn't exactly musicality and it's a long explanation about source quality and playback quality. In trying to achieve good sound, somehow the specs were ruined.

Walkman is like chinese medicine though, since they offer tailor-made IEMs via consultations in Japan, and rely on what they hear instead of what is measurable, and it works for most people in Japan but isn't so prevalent overseas.

I would like to see a lot of DIY work get commercialised, as it seems much better compared to the old flashy products mass produced to specifications nowhere near their original prototypes.
 
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#76
I just registered to this forum to say that the NW-A100 (A100 series) / ZX-500 (ZX-507) series are absolute garbage for the price you pay.

Over the lower tier A series like the A40 and A50, you lose:
-Sound enhancements/features/options that are no longer there or are not customizable
-INABILITY TO CREATE OR EDIT PLAYLISTS? IS THIS A MUSIC PLAYER????? Their solution is "Bookmarks" which cannot be exported or backed up!
-Native music player just SUCKS, you cannot even scroll down on a list properly.
-Battery is okay, just similar to any phone out there but VERY slow charging.
-Inability to play bit-perfect mode. Question here tho, is bit-perfect required for MQA? If so how can they state they support MQA?
-NO android app supports the internal DAC. JetAudio, USB Audio Player Pro, PowerAmp, Onkyo HF, Fiio, etc. NONE, more above this below.

I contacted the developers of a few of these apps and general android devs, they all told me the same it's Sony's fault on how they came about with the OS. A person close to Sony and the dev team mentioned this to me:

" Sony has implemented is a proprietary upscaling across the board to 192 kHz / 32-bit, this will not be reflected in the software logs of the third-party software logs as the S-Master HX™ chip performs the up-scaling before converting into analogue signals.... An implementation that is universal and fuss-free, however, does not offer Bit-Perfect. I have provided feedback to the Sony team who are now sticking to this implementation which I can understand why. "

This is what I get from the audio policy configuration:

<mixPort name="primary output" role="source" flags="AUDIO_OUTPUT_FLAG_PRIMARY">
<profile name="" format="AUDIO_FORMAT_PCM_16_BIT"
samplingRates="48000" channelMasks="AUDIO_CHANNEL_OUT_STEREO"/>
</mixPort>
<mixPort name="offload output" role="source" flags="AUDIO_OUTPUT_FLAG_DIRECT|AUDIO_OUTPUT_FLAG_COMPRESS_OFFLOAD">
<profile name="" format="AUDIO_FORMAT_PCM_16_BIT"
samplingRates="44100,48000,88200,96000,176400,192000,352800,384000" channelMasks="AUDIO_CHANNEL_OUT_STEREO"/>
<profile name="" format="AUDIO_FORMAT_PCM_32_BIT"
samplingRates="44100,48000,88200,96000,176400,192000,352800,384000" channelMasks="AUDIO_CHANNEL_OUT_STEREO"/>
<profile name="" format="AUDIO_FORMAT_DSD"
samplingRates="2822400,5644800,11289600" channelMasks="AUDIO_CHANNEL_OUT_STEREO"/>
</mixPort>
</mixPorts>

TL;DR

Absolute trash of a DAP, it just cute and useful if you want a generic music player with hardware buttons and support for streaming apps. But for that price?! Nah, thanks!

Message for Sony:
Revert back to your proprietary OS, better battery life, MORE features and BETTER support.
 

JEntwistle

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#77
Why walkmans are just so useless now?

It has lost these features:

おまかせチャンネル (solely Japanese) – no longer with us, besides x-appli software has it.

USB DAC function – dongles are everywhere!

Record from external players – use IC Recorder!

FM radio – just record off your phone! Or podcasts.

Bad battery, extra price and worry about android updates, problems and stresses...

Over the lower tier A series like the A40 and A50, you lose:
-Sound enhancements/features/options that are no longer there or are not customizable
-INABILITY TO CREATE OR EDIT PLAYLISTS? IS THIS A MUSIC PLAYER????? Their solution is "Bookmarks" which cannot be exported or backed up!
-Native music player just SUCKS, you cannot even scroll down on a list properly.
-Battery is okay, just similar to any phone out there but VERY slow charging.
-Inability to play bit-perfect mode. Question here tho, is bit-perfect required for MQA? If so how can they state they support MQA?
-NO android app supports the internal DAC. JetAudio, USB Audio Player Pro, PowerAmp, Onkyo HF, Fiio, etc. NONE, more above this below.
I really appreciate this review and the comments in this thread. I have been really confused over what are the supposed differences among the differently priced Walkmans. And now that I've joined ASR, I question the DAP segment in general.

I own the A45 as well as a set of the Sony WH-1000XM3 Noise-Canceling Headphones. I bought these before joining ASR. If I were to do it over again, I would likely have gone with the recommended LG phone.

BUT having said that, for my use case I am very happy with both the A45 and the headphones. They were used for work travel pre-covid, and for that purpose I am pleased with both. I really don't want to load music on my phone for both storage reasons and battery reasons (I don't want to have to nurse my phone's battery on a long flight). And the A45 is small enough and simple enough that it works beautifully on planes. They both got a lot of happy use in the days of travel.

Honestly, though, after learning more about them and comparing to my home sound devices, I can't think of another really good use case for these. I'm happy I only spent $150 (on sale) for the A45 and did not buy up in the model line.

I see a lot of reviews on retailer websites raving about the top of the line WM1Z / WM1A paired with those 1Z(?) $1,200 headphones. Makes me wonder about the value. (Maybe the headphones are good?)

(Edited for typos)
 

Beershaun

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#78
I don't understand why people would buy a DAP over an LG V10+ phone? The LG has a more modern version of android. A decent DAC and headphone amp, and it's dirt cheap used and unlocked. Plus it has an external microsd card slot to load a metric buttload of music and you can run any app you want sideloaded or downloaded from the google play store. And you can swap out the battery.

I went down this road about 2.5 years ago and picked up an LG V10 used and unlocked (originally Tmobile phone) ~$110 and loaded it up with a 256gb SDcard. It's great as a DAP. I get any streaming service I want from google play store still supported and updated regularly and I can use my media player of choice.
 

JEntwistle

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#79
I don't understand why people would buy a DAP over an LG V10+ phone? The LG has a more modern version of android. A decent DAC and headphone amp, and it's dirt cheap used and unlocked. Plus it has an external microsd card slot to load a metric buttload of music and you can run any app you want sideloaded or downloaded from the google play store. And you can swap out the battery.

I went down this road about 2.5 years ago and picked up an LG V10 used and unlocked (originally Tmobile phone) ~$110 and loaded it up with a 256gb SDcard. It's great as a DAP. I get any streaming service I want from google play store still supported and updated regularly and I can use my media player of choice.

Well, it's the marketing right? These purpose-built devices are supposed to have superior signal processing and sound quality. If you weren't on this site, you probably wouldn't even know a humble, older generation phone would outperform most DAPs in that regard.
 

bobbooo

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#80
I don't understand why people would buy a DAP over an LG V10+ phone? The LG has a more modern version of android. A decent DAC and headphone amp, and it's dirt cheap used and unlocked. Plus it has an external microsd card slot to load a metric buttload of music and you can run any app you want sideloaded or downloaded from the google play store. And you can swap out the battery.

I went down this road about 2.5 years ago and picked up an LG V10 used and unlocked (originally Tmobile phone) ~$110 and loaded it up with a 256gb SDcard. It's great as a DAP. I get any streaming service I want from google play store still supported and updated regularly and I can use my media player of choice.
What do you use as your regular everyday phone? That will likely also be audibly transparent if it was made in the last 5 years or so, then you wouldn't have to carry around two devices. I just use my (Snapdragon) Samsung Galaxy S10e (same audio chip in the S8, S9, Note8 and Note9) for everything, which is better performing than the much lauded Apple dongle.
 
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