The new Sony NW-A100 and ZX500 series Walkmanshave arrived at Minidisc.
As successors to the wildly popular A50 andZX300 series, these new models feature Android operating systems with full support for streamingapps, larger displays and USB-C output.
But the new Walkmans also come with a substantialincrease in price and decrease in battery life.
So what do we think of the upgrade here atMinidisc? Now in Australia, we carry the NW-A105 andZX507 models, which come with 16GB and 64GB of onboard storage respectively.
One thing we will say right off the bat: despiteSony detailing some improvements to the internal components of the A105 and ZX507, we didn’thear any big differences in the way either of these units sound compared to their predecessors.
Power output, output impedance and noise floorseem mostly unchanged.
The A105, like the A55, still hisses a greatdeal with sensitive earphones, and the ZX507 still sounds great with the Campfire AudioAndromeda by producing a slightly clearer, but still smooth sound with a low noise floorcompared to devices like the Fiio M11 or Chord Mojo.
Neither of these Walkmans produce a greatdeal of power.
If you want a portable player that can drivefull size headphones, we would still recommend the Fiio M11 Pro or the Kann Cube from Astell& Kern.
Even the ZX507 with its more powerful 4.
4mmbalanced connection has trouble driving high impedance headphones to sufficient volumefor tracks with high dynamic range, like classical music recordings.
Of course, the same balanced connection doesfine with less demanding headphones and earphones.
So the most important changes with the newWalkmans are practical: we have improved UI performance and database creation speeds.
The matte screen is gone from the ZX300, butthe new larger displays are easier to navigate.
There’s a limited edition of the A105 Walkmanthat comes with a unique case that celebrates the 40th Anniversary of Sony’s originalWalkman model, the TPS-L2 cassette Walkman, though the charming tape display screensavercan still be used on the standard models.
The change to USB-C makes the new Walkmansmuch better as transports, as USB-C OTG cables are much easier to find and more convenientcompared to Sony’s proprietary WM-Port adapter.
The ZX507 has a unique USB-C port placement, on the left side of the player.
This makes it more awkward to use as a transportwith short OTG cables.
The A100 keeps things traditional with a USB-Cport on the bottom, and makes for a cute little transport for DACs like the Chord Mojo.
And of course, the headline feature is supportfor streaming apps thanks to the Android operating system, which is pretty much unskinned Android9.
0 with full Google Play Store support.
With Wi-fi, you’ll get support for bothonline and offline listening, and we’re happy to say that everything works as you’dexpect as far as the OS goes.
Unfortunately, with the new OS comes a dramaticdecrease in battery life.
Sony quotes that battery life has basicallybeen cut in half with the new models, and in our own testing we found that this is actuallyoptimistic.
Active playback time on the NW-A105 can beas short as a few hours depending on what kind of tracks you play.
Standby time on the new Walkmans is disappointingas well.
If you leave Wi-Fi turned on – after abouta day, the ZX500 will go to 25% battery and the A100 will drain completely flat withoutyou touching it.
We should know because we have to charge thesethings daily.
Of course, if you leave the players with Wi-Fiturned off, or if you use the auto power off function added in recent firmware updates, you can extend the battery life.
But the new Walkmans take up to 1 minute tofully boot up from cold, and having Wi-Fi turned off sort of defeats the purpose ofthe new streaming app support – downloading all your tracks and then using offline listeningwill be your best compromise.
Now the ZX300 and A55 used to be the playerswe would recommend to people who wanted an elegant music device that would just playmusic files you downloaded, and do that really well.
The new Walkmans add a bunch of new features, but thanks to the decrease in battery life, the actual core functionality of the playersisn’t as good.
So considering the higher prices, we thinkthat most people would actually be better served by a player like the Fiio M11 or M11Pro.
But if you do love the Sony’s slick andcompact design, the Walkmans are still decent options – just not outstanding.
This is Lachlan for MinidiscTV, and we’llsee you next time.
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