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Sony NW-A105 Digital Audio Player Review

Beershaun

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#81
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 as S8, S9, Note8 and Note9) for everything, which is better performing than the much lauded Apple dongle.
A Pixel 3. With no headphone jack...
 

bobbooo

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#82
A Pixel 3. With no headphone jack...
This is part of the problem, but if everyone just voted with their wallets and stopped buying phones without headphone jacks, more manufacturers would be forced to keep or even bring them back as Sony and Motorola have done with their latest models (and even Google are doing with their upcoming Pixel 4a).
 

Beershaun

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#83
@bobbooo Actually I don't have the problem. My commute has changed drastically since March so my phone is no longer my primary means of listening to music. :)

I agree with your point. But in my case best and fastest Android OS updates and software support was my top priority which basically means only Android Pixel phones for me. Because the rest of the Android ecosystem is a dumpster fire for software update support. But we digress from the OPs original ask...
 

gauc93

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#84
For me the reason why I went with DAP instead of a phone:

-The physical controls and size. Size might only apply for certain DAPs but this is what attracted me the most. Also it might be a bit old school but putting a small DAP like Sony's on a belt holster with the music play back controls facing up is just priceless. It cannot get more convenient than that, the Sony A series are tiny so it does not stick out at all.
You can possibly achieve some control with button remapping on Android but on all DAPs you have full control with those buttons. Play, pause, volume, fast forward/rewind and the Hold button. I wish we had phones like the Sony Ericsson Walkman back.

-I need a microSD slot (or two) and the phones I am considering to upgrade also don't have a microSD slot (Pixel 4a, Asus Rog 3, OnePlus Nord).
For anyone with a FLAC library, they're likely to go over 100GB easily. I am also done with streaming on the go, now I exclusively stream music while at home or on WiFi. I am based in Malaysia and no telcos provide unlimited data plans (or addons) for any music service except for Spotify. GPM started to get pricey with just some basic streaming daily (mostly playing offline), any lossless service like Tidal is gonna rip a hole in your wallet from data charges. Aside from that the occasional buffering and unavailability when the network is weak so I decided to go offline while out of home.

-Most phones that are coming out have no headphone jack.
Either way, I'd rather have a separate device for my music so when I use my phone I don't have cables hanging around.

-I hate the interruptions given by Android (and it's apps) a lot of apps stop music playback because of an ad/audio/video in an app/website. Even when playing games or using apps you get ads everywhere that interrupt the music playback.

-Battery, probably 80% of the time I am using my phone it's prob looking for music or skipping a track.

-Can pass my DAP to my friends and family so they can play their music from GPM, Tidal or my local library. I wouldn't if it was my phone.

Now I could have gotten another phone, there's a few in the market that fill my needs but even after bashing the new Sony A100, it's still good: small, sounds good despite all, can stick it in my shirt's front pocket or a small belt holster.

Would I buy the same one again? Nah. But I would still buy any other small DAP with physical controls and microSD slot just for the convenience, most are cheaper than a phone.
 
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#85
Interesting ABX test done in this video if anyone is interested to see proof that A105 is better than A55 in a subtle way, just as ZX507 is better than ZX300, due to software differences and hardware design.

It is difficult to pin down the ways in which hardware, particularly the analog part of the hardware, is affected by various factors.

We also know ZX507 wins over Xperia 1 II in terms of sound - https://note.com/karintokoba/n/n04f446694be2
More enjoyable sound in ZX507 I guess, but Xperia 1 II has speakers powered by a Cirrus Logic amp, https://androidnext.info/?p=3202
karintokoba acknowledges that Xperia 1 II comes close to ZX507 in terms of sound, so the difference is not massive.

Now we just need the consumer to consider whether flat, boring but accurate sound from Apple or Tempotec USB C dongles is preferred over painstakingly trialled, tuned and colored Sony In-House Signature sound which is also tuned just for Sony IEMs like M7/9 which are way beyond affordability. At some point there will be diminishing returns but at the ZX507 level it is still understandable.

The mass market is fine with streaming from phones rather than Walkman/DAPs, and using XM3/4 or Airpods, which basically negate any positives that the ancient Walkman UI design might bring.

What we should look out for is the way Walkman has not evolved that much in terms of pursuit of sound quality. It is still fun to use and one is excited to think about what the Walkman becomes in the future.
 

win

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#86
Side note but I've always loved Sony's design aesthetic
 

stalepie2

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#87
Interesting ABX test done in this video if anyone is interested to see proof that A105 is better than A55 in a subtle way, just as ZX507 is better than ZX300, due to software differences and hardware design.

It is difficult to pin down the ways in which hardware, particularly the analog part of the hardware, is affected by various factors.
Interesting. I remember this reviewer, lachlanlikesathing, compared the ZX1 to the iPhone 5s and couldn't hear a difference:


However he later went on to work at an audioshop and in his sales pitch video for the iFi Audio hip dac said it sounded warmer than usual.

The reviewer you linked to should say what headphones he's using. He's apparently having to nearly max out the volumes on the devices, suggesting that they may not be easily driven, and an easier to drive headphone (say at volume level 60 to 70 on the devices) would provide more similar sound output?

I saw someone on Head-Fi claim that one of the recent Walkmans (I think A45) did not sound flat (unprocessed sound) by just leaving it at default; rather you had to turn the equalizer ON and set the bars to flat, because it had some kind of built-in equalization going on. Then he later claimed he was mistaken in this finding... but it wouldn't surprise me if some device makers pull tricks like this.

There's also differences in output impedance.
 
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#88
ZX1 is old. So iPhone 5s is similar! Interesting. And thanks for pointing out the headphone issue. Clearly the quest for pure and enjoyable audio will never end.

Ultimately, I support the Apple dongle (iPhone 5s etc) because it accentuates the differences DSEE HX brings on Music Center for PC more than Hidizs S8 on a variety of monitors. I used to think the Hidizs S8 was the holy grail but perhaps it is DMP-Z1 instead.

Many thanks
 

EJ3

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#89
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.
Friday morning through Sunday night I am in a place that I can only receive a cell tower signal if I stand at a specific spot on my deck (pull a chair up to sit down, signal gone). So I need a DAP; no phone. Headphones/Earbuds? Not only NO! But Hell No! I want to run it into the rest of my system. Guess I'll have to get one from Asia. The description of the High End DAP is exactly what I need.
 

bobbooo

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#90
Friday morning through Sunday night I am in a place that I can only receive a cell tower signal if I stand at a specific spot on my deck (pull a chair up to sit down, signal gone). So I need a DAP; no phone. Headphones/Earbuds? Not only NO! But Hell No! I want to run it into the rest of my system. Guess I'll have to get one from Asia. The description of the High End DAP is exactly what I need.
I don't understand why not having a signal means you can't just use your phone as a DAP.
 

EJ3

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#91
I don't understand why not having a signal means you can't just use your phone as a DAP.
Because when I go out there, I leave the phone in the truck. Since there is no signal, there is no point in having the phone with me. Being without the phone is the WHOLE POINT. It is an electronic leash. If a cell tower comes closer, I will get a place further out.
 

bobbooo

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#92
Because when I go out there, I leave the phone in the truck. Since there is no signal, there is no point in having the phone with me. Being without the phone is the WHOLE POINT. It is an electronic leash. If a cell tower comes closer, I will get a place further out.
Then just put it on airplane mode and use it as a DAP. Then it has a point, and you get no interruptions unless you want to make a call. Simple.
 

EJ3

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#93
Then just put it on airplane mode and use it as a DAP. Then it has a point, and you get no interruptions unless you want to make a call. Simple.
Can't make a call from where I go anyway. It seems that a modded iPod 5th Gen classic using the Wolfson audio chip with 256 GB iFlash memory will do the trick. I REFUSE to carry a phone wherever I go. Even when I am in the city. If I lose it (or it is stolen [anywhere]) while hunting, climbing, boating, horseback riding, dirt biking, (how I get to my location where I go for the weekends) whatever, it's a serious PITA (and money) when I get back to where I need to communicate via cell phone. I would just as soon leave the phone sitting in my home, at my desk (and in fact, do that on a regular basis) so I know where it is at and where it will be. If I must communicate, there are VHF walkie talkies, CB radios, HAM radio and SAT phones. Also, (I may be wrong here and just may not know how to) I can't use the phone WHILE listening to music over speakers (the only way I listen to music, [when I use headphones it's because I am learning {spoken word} or I am choosing not to bother others while they are sleeping when I am watching a movie]), an option that I don't see happening on the phone or phone dongle.
 
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#94
Interesting ABX test done in this video.....
I bought a Sony NW-A55L on Amazon prime day for a great price, cheaper than you usually find them used. It arrived yesterday. I'm sending it back for a refund tomorrow morning :oops: It is a beautiful piece of design and clearly very well manufactured. The problem is that even without any measuring kit I can tell it has a problematically high output impedance because my different multi balanced armature IEMs (Massdrop EDC3 & Massdrop Plus) sound *so* different compared with using them with a JDS Labs Atom or my LG V20. The Massdrop Plus become *massively* bloated on the A55. It's actually worse than on my Sony XZ1 smartphone. The EDC3's seem a bit thin. I also have Drop + HIFIMAN HE4XX, Sennheiser Momentum circumaural 1st gen, Shure SE215, Koss KSC-75 & Koss Porta Pro. The Koss 'phones work well with the A55 but every single IEM & headphone performs *obviously* better via the LG V20. The A55's only advantage over my Sony smartphone is output power (once region has been changed to disable the EU level restriction). In every other respect my Sony smartphone is its equal or superior (because it can run apps like Neutron with proper parametric EQ, output to DLNA renderers etc.). The old, clunky, huge LG V20 is superior in every way by sound quality, though sadly and obviously inferior in terms of build and thoughtful design.

Anyway I truly expected to love this new device so am disappointed, especially as I already ordered a case on aliexpress :facepalm: It's a dedicated audio player that doesn't play audio as well as the same manufacturer's smartphones and is distinctly inferior to the best modern phones. Such a shame.

Old codger's anecdote: while my 1TB microsdx card was filling up I resorted to using my ancient iRiver H140 (with rockbox & 128GB SSD) and my old Shure SE215's while I went into town. I was both amused and kind of shocked that this throwback combo's sound quality, despite being limited to 16-bit 44.1 kHz, beats seven shades of shiii.... shiii..... shinola out of the Sony NW-A55. I bought the iRiver in 2004 o_O
 
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#95
I bought a Sony NW-A55L on Amazon prime day for a great price, cheaper than you usually find them used. It arrived yesterday. I'm sending it back for a refund tomorrow morning :oops: It is a beautiful piece of design and clearly very well manufactured. The problem is that even without any measuring kit I can tell it has a problematically high output impedance because my different multi balanced armature IEMs (Massdrop EDC3 & Massdrop Plus) sound *so* different compared with using them with a JDS Labs Atom or my LG V20. The Massdrop Plus become *massively* bloated on the A55. It's actually worse than on my Sony XZ1 smartphone. The EDC3's seem a bit thin. I also have Drop + HIFIMAN HE4XX, Sennheiser Momentum circumaural 1st gen, Shure SE215, Koss KSC-75 & Koss Porta Pro. The Koss 'phones work well with the A55 but every single IEM & headphone performs *obviously* better via the LG V20. The A55's only advantage over my Sony smartphone is output power (once region has been changed to disable the EU level restriction). In every other respect my Sony smartphone is its equal or superior (because it can run apps like Neutron with proper parametric EQ, output to DLNA renderers etc.). The old, clunky, huge LG V20 is superior in every way by sound quality, though sadly and obviously inferior in terms of build and thoughtful design.

Anyway I truly expected to love this new device so am disappointed, especially as I already ordered a case on aliexpress :facepalm: It's a dedicated audio player that doesn't play audio as well as the same manufacturer's smartphones and is distinctly inferior to the best modern phones. Such a shame.

Old codger's anecdote: while my 1TB microsdx card was filling up I resorted to using my ancient iRiver H140 (with rockbox & 128GB SSD) and my old Shure SE215's while I went into town. I was both amused and kind of shocked that this throwback combo's sound quality, despite being limited to 16-bit 44.1 kHz, beats seven shades of shiii.... shiii..... shinola out of the Sony NW-A55. I bought the iRiver in 2004 o_O
Great to know you can refund them.

You might have fared better by using https://www.mrwalkman.ml/p/dmp-a50-series.html
a modded firmware but I don't think it would have changed your case anyway.

It's a shame that Sony has not satisfied every buyer. They do advise buyers to try it out in store first.
But we buy blindly because they don't try to sell them at all except in Japan.

ASR's measurements of Sony disappoint us because A55/105 probably haven't even entered the ballpark in terms of properly implemented engineering, and even if the low results are due to software DSP (which is unlikely because it's all off by default?) the sound leaves a lot to desire for - although there may be better luck for users of Sony headphones.

As a user of A55 with DMP-Z1 tuning I would say A55 sounds better than Sonata HD Pro when playing back badly compressed files thanks to DSEE AI. Strangely Sonata HD Pro perhaps is too true to the source and the compressed files fatigue the ear. Sonata HD Pro's 'wider stage' sounds 'less engaging' - like it's further away from you - perhaps objective, which mastering engineers would like. However, Sonata HD Pro's DSD playback is good enough and I can't compare it with A55. A55 is said to be analog like, thicker sound compared to iPhones, and its DSP software is the sole reason it might sound better than phones.

One must also remember that Sony engineers spend days without good sleep wrestling with the darned S-Master HX chip CXD3778GF just as they did for previous iterations of S-Master. For low-end A55, I don't think they would have worked as hard as say, WM1A/Z. S-Master HX is focused on PCM output. In the past, DSD would be converted to PCM, and some still think the current S-Master HX still uses 1-bit processes! With ZX507, DSD is now output as PDM not PWM I think, but in any case any S-Master HX prior to ZX507 wouldn't have been doing true DSD playback.

S-Master HX seems to be unnecessary trouble. A simple Cirrus Logic chip would be far simpler to implement, and there'd be no need to pursue the famous Sony philosophy of 'trial and error' that seeks to add the extra mile of creative genius into various products mainly because objectively verifiable textbook implementations don't seem to automatically lead to great sounding performance, at least in the Sony world. It only forms the foundation. Then they start to chip away at the high specs and the result is the stuff you see in ASR's A105 measurements. Seriously, it's sad to think the chassis, solder, battery, circuit design, components etc all have to be adjusted and then the differences evaluated carefully by data and by ear - and who knows which is good and which is bad!? - only to have most customers prefer the off-the-shelf components way which involves ESS/AKM/CS/Realtek DAC+amp chips - different from the S-Master full digital amp which I haven’t really understood yet (in terms of early 2000s versions – modern iterations are likely to be way different because it’s all portable) but I surmise it is possible to say it is not a dac but rather the amp itself functions like a dac.

in terms of sales, buyers of walkman either don’t expect that much, are strangely nostalgic of the tape era, or find the devices sound good or something else.

in theory, S-Master amps as used in walkmans doesn’t achieve as much as it should (and did in the 2000s). It is more like an empty name like DSEE Ultimate right now is simply using more CPU without as much benefit – the benefit they tout in Japan is simply a re-recognition of the very-difficult-to-describe effect DSEE AI has on mp3s thanks to the use of the word ‘Ultimate’. Why make life that much harder and yet fail to win over the ESS chip group?
 
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#96
In the world of digital audio players, it is often said that what kind of DAC IC is installed is a measure of performance. Asahi Kasei Electronics' AK4499 and ESS Technology's ES9038 are typical examples of high-end chips. With that in mind, some people may wonder, "What is the Walkman's DAC?"
It should be noted here that even if it is called digital, the input to the DAC is PCM (Pulse Code Modulation), and the digital amplifier handles digital signals in a format different from PWM (Pulse Width Modulation).

A general digital amplifier (switching amplifier) converts the input analog signal to PWM format and amplifies it. Therefore, the model equipped with a digital amplifier is configured to once return the PCM digital signal to an analog signal with a DAC and pass it to the digital amplifier. Since digital-to-analog-to-digital conversion occurs, it is not a full digital process, but it is used by many models because it is easy to make products by combining commercially available chips.

In other words, "S-Master is a digital amplifier with a PCM to PWM conversion function". However, S-Master uses a format called C-PLM (Complimentary-Pulse Length Modulation), which Sony has independently improved, instead of PWM, which is handled by general digital amplifiers.

So, in other words, S-Master can be said to be a digital amplifier (or switching amplifier) that has the function of converting PCM to C-PLM.
Originally, S-Master was used in the world of pure audio, but its high efficiency and power saving characteristics made it suitable for mobile applications, so it has been adopted by the Walkman. And the one that has been improved especially for mobile is "S-Master MX".
Furthermore, the one that supports high resolution of S-Master MX is the "S-Master HX" that is often used today. The S-Master HX is the first technology adopted in the "NW-ZX1" and can be said to be the core technology of Sony today, which is also installed in other devices.

The advantages of S-Master are that it is fully digital, so the signal does not deteriorate easily, and it is highly efficient, does not generate heat easily, and saves power. On the other hand, since the S-Master itself is an IC chip, it is not so easy to modify the inside. Therefore, in the early high-performance models such as the Walkman NW-ZX1 and "NW-ZX2", it can be seen that the differentiation point is mainly placed on the enhancement of the analog part in the latter stage.

Also, because the architecture was specialized for PCM, native playback of DSD was not possible at first (the DSD signal is in the form of PDM, which has a similar idea to PWM, but the pulse generation method is different). From these points, it can be inferred that the signature series high-end player "DMP-Z1" took the form of a general DAC (AK4497) + analog amplifier. The AK4497 is a DAC IC especially suitable for native playback of DSD. (of course there were many reasons why S-Master didn’t get used, but I’ve forgotten them) Also, in the multi audio player "MAP-S1", the DAC is equipped with a separate PCM1795, and the "S-Master HX" is used only as an amplifier, as it was also in Xperia Tablet, VAIO desktops R/L and some laptops, BRAVIA TVs etc – it’s more like ‘fake S-Master’.

However, with the recent S-Master HX equipped with the "NW-ZX500", DSD support has come to be made inside the S-Master. In addition, the near-field powered speaker "SA-Z1" and the stationary headphone amplifier "TA-ZH1ES" use a hybrid format in which the S-Master and analog amplifier complement each other. S-Master is a great technology, but it's not as perfect as any other technology. In this way, it will continue to evolve and improve in various ways.
Huh? There simply is no reason to use S-Master if you're using a portable device - S-Master was built for a generation of amplifiers which work better than analog amps (except vacuum tubes) although analog amps can be improved to some extent.
Anyways, PCM is the way to go if you use S-Master.
 
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#97
Getting 'drunk in dsee'
Facts with how A55 does DSEE for hard core walkman fans:
  • USB DAC IS NOT EQUIVALENT OF DSEE ULTIMATE FOR STREAMING – PROVEN VIA FOOBAR AND MC4PC THAT device DSEE AI doesn’t apply during DAC mode because the difference cannot be heard (when same files stored on SD get the effect clearly). Even MC4PC makes cymbals artificially high sounding but DAC makes no effect. OBVIOUSLY maybe harder for DSEE to analyse ASIO input so it doesn’t do so. I’m disappointed but I guess I was sceptical of whether USB DAC really could be used for youtube browsing and so on – here it is totally placebo!
  • HE AAC (Apple CVBR 48-9kbps) ON A55 GETS DSEE EFFECT CLEARLY, JUST LIKE MP3, SO ONLY MC4PC AVOIDS DOING DSEE FOR HE AAC – it’s not AI or is an older DSEE version. YOU ARE THEREFORE FREE TO CHANGE SOME HIRES TO HE AAC AND EXPECT VERY GOOD RESULTS ON A55 – I did use Winamp CBR 24 kbps HEAACv2 but it turned music into bad sounding unnatural sound which DSEE could not fix – it can add high freq but not change the rest. HE AAC (Apple CVBR 48-9kbps) will be my default encoder for now.
  • Spectrum analyser UI bar- ‘HIGH’ shows whether DSEE is taking effect, and usually if it shows many bars there is audible change in the song.
 
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#98
No kidding, HE AAC (Apple CVBR 48-9kbps) still makes classical music sound terribly compressed.

DSEE can't help that. At least AAC 128kbps or mp3 248kbps is the 'sweet spot' in terms of the amount of data the DSEE engine takes in and analyses. CD audio likely is analysed differently, who knows.

But it’s not an overwhelmingly great difference. It is very difficult to characterize the sound changes but it is rare to have any detrimental outcome on compressed sources. I think DSEE would make a very interesting series of measurements for analysis.

The DC phase linearizer is a function that controls the phase of the low frequency range to bring it closer to an analog amplifier.

In general, analog amplifiers have their phase advanced toward the low frequencies. On the other hand, the phase of the S-Master method is flat up to DC. And it is theoretically ideal to have a flat DC.

However, considering the actual music playback, it is not always good. This is because existing music and movie software is made in an analog amplifier environment. So is the speaker. In other words, much music was created on the assumption that the low-frequency phase of the amplifier is advanced even if it is not intentional.

If the phase of this low frequency range changes, the phase relationship between the fundamental and harmonic overtones of the bass will shift, and the waveform will change. Then, it can be said that the state adjusted by the mixing engineer is different from the volume and tone of the bass.

Analog amplifiers are usually AC amplifiers (alternating current amplifiers). In other words, direct current cannot be amplified. When the low range is cut, the phase advances 45 degrees at that -3dB point, and then advances to 90 degrees toward the low range. The cutoff frequency is usually around 4Hz for well-received amplifiers. But the phase rotation has already begun to advance at 10 times the cutoff frequency, or 40Hz. It is no wonder that 40Hz affects the feeling of low frequencies.

Now, in order to achieve exactly the same amplitude and phase characteristics as an analog amplifier, it is necessary to perform a high-pass filter operation called IIR. IIR is an iterative calculation, so if the calculation accuracy is poor, the sound quality will deteriorate.

The A-curve rotates the phase obediently and has three center frequencies of 2, 4, and 8 hertz.

The B-curve is to delay the phase by a few degrees below 50 Hz and then advance the phase at a lower frequency range in order to enhance the effect. In other words, it fakes to emphasize the effect, but it may be too effective, so you can think that the B curve is an effecter.

Leaving it OFF. This is a characteristic that is flat up to DC and is usually difficult to achieve with analog amplifiers. If you have a recording with a very long echo, such as a church recording, and you haven't messed with it too much with mixing, you may hear a very good sound.

https://www.sony.jp/feature/products/vinyl/?s_pid=jp_top_201810_feature_vinyl_feajrny_waljrny

The Sony vinyl processor allows you to listen to digital audio as if you were playing an analog record. Not an occult effecter! The scientific grounds are solid. It is a physical phenomenon.

One of the keywords is to increase the initial sensitivity of headphones/speakers. The other is that the vibration of the record and the turntable changes the sound.

By analogy, he doesn’t explicitly say this, but clearly he’s saying that if we don’t use this DSP, our speaker/headphone won’t be ‘always speaking’ and therefore if there are moments of quiet, we’d not hear good sound when it starts speaking again because it stops vibrating? and low volume tones get missed as well because it’s hard to express them clearly? And tone arm does the bass changes while surface noise is for emphasizing high/mid freq (by increasing the noise in the bass area) and record/player vibrations caused by the speaker (a random 38 cm subwoofer) cause vocals to become analog/classical becomes grouped together more (perhaps blurred or mixed?).

Mysteriously vinyl makes sound easier to hear?

A bold one-man show off which seeks to recreate vinyl in a way unlike a plain boring VST effect?

The Sony vinyl processor, DC Phase, DSEE HX AI, and 10 band EQ/spectrum analyser/VU meter together make A55 such a nice introduction to the Sony world, a world where measurements are disregarded yet the sound doesn't exactly go top-notch based on subjective evaluations, but at least S-Master is simpler than many DACs and with DC Phase, it can be like a digital amp or an analog amp, while headphone listening with vinyl-like sound is made possible, and the plethora of compressed audio can become the equivalent of hires even though switching off and on doesn't bring a big difference, and you can 'see sound' via spectrum analyser/VU meter particularly the 'HIGH band' which appears if DSEE AI is ON.

There is very little to be found in academic circles/journals or measurements when it comes to Sony walkmans. And asking Sony engineers doing jobs completely unrelated to walkmans yielded little. However it can be said that DSEE HX AI did get tested by mastering engineers at Sony Music Studios Tokyo a couple times and in the latest testing it has been virtually perfected, although it does not surpass the original hires. The rest of the DSP tends to be explained subjectively and I sought to clear up the mess a little by providing here some of the facts that engineers know when they evaluate the sound.
 
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#99
A great puzzle I am trying to unpack here stems from this: Sonata HD Pro's DSD playback is good enough and yet I can't compare it with A55, as to me, A55 is simply the best for compressed files, while Sonata HD Pro cannot do compressed files. A55 is said to be analog like, thicker sound compared to iPhones, and its DSP software is the sole reason it might sound better than phones. What is 'analog like' and how is it measured - the S-Master causes this? What is 'thicker sound', more information? And I have just gone through DSP software above. It doesn't matter how much detail I pull out - HQPlayer for Sonata HD Pro, etc in the end there is the question of the extent to which one relies on measurements or on unverifiable reviews and high end studios used by mastering engineers. Bernie Grundman finds that boards with very good specs don't seem to create the necessary 'good sound', and that measurements are only the foundation - acceptable results are enough, and the rest is mystery that can be glossed over with 'experience', trial and error, and music being a complex thing that isn't simply two tones.

Elsewhere I did mention the need to have better results but still achieve whatever 'musicality' is required.

It's frustrating to know that what seemed like the end-product is dismissed by senior engineers as a 'good basis', and subsequent changes derogate from that basis in pursuit of what sounds good but perhaps measures worse. At this point I am skeptical of the effect and tradition that senior engineers have had on generations of newcomers, despite the extreme efforts to increase sound quality through engineering and mastering. Perhaps all of it was flawed from the start. Perhaps everyone heard wrongly.

Several other points - to use S-Master as it was intended - as an amplifier for speakers, seems to have fallen out of fashion. But could the walkmans and dongles not be the mainstream? Obviously to consider the room and the need for space to keep very large equipment is beyond the casual listener. But it is fairly easy to become 'bored' of portable listening.
 
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I'm familiar with fully digital PWM amplifiers as I have a couple at home (I.AM.D V200). The problem with the NW-A55 is definitely not DSP because my dynamic driver & planar magnetic headphones & dynamic IEMs whose sound balance is unaffected by output impedance all worked really well with the device. My BA IEMs which require low/very low output impedance to work as intended sounded horrible. It's very plainly a problem with the hardware design, not the software or the sleep patterns or work schedules of Sony employees(!)

All the "enhanced" sound modes are irrelevant. For me the device is merely required to properly drive a variety of earphones with all the DSP stuff inactive. It failed.
 
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