Mobile Hifi 3.0 - Pulled the trigger on Sony NW-WM1Z

Posted by: Bert Schurink on 03 June 2018

I was brave today and pulled the trigger on a warehouse deal of Amazon with a discount of 1100 euros on this magnificent toy. I am still a bit scared as I donít know what to expect, how well will it look - why exactly has the device been discounted, it talks about some visual thing on the device...., so letís see if I will get remorse. Potentially this might not be the end of the mobile story as I might also upgrade my Shure SE846 with a Silverdragon Cable or even to upgrade to a Shure KSE1200. But let me first process this and see if I have made a great deal. Or bought a cat in the sack as we say in the Netherlands....

The one thing which makes me also a bit scared is the fact that itís an capped European version. But I hope thatís more than enough for my Shure...., otherwise I need to find a trick to uncap....

 

Posted on: 03 June 2018 by Bert Schurink

For those who donít know the beast, a sound review of the Sony...

 

SOUND

Letís put the last 2 pages aside now, and go for the real thing. It all comes down to this. All the effort from Project Leaders and Sound Engineers was to achieve the best sound reproduction possible. And in the end, ladies and gentlemen, youíre facing a true sounding, very special DAP here. Believe me, thereís no other way to tell it: itís simply remarkable.

This easily is the best audio player Iíve experienced, in terms of producing the sound in a musical and joyful way. And itís also the most special one for me, because it merges the musicality and technical prowess at once, which is so rare to find. Iíve experienced many top-tier DAPs and honestly, none of them give this kind of emotion. It evokes that weíre all here for listening to music, not listening to ďsoundsĒ over and over again. In the end, what you want is to sit back and enjoy your high quality music and just relax. If you want to experience that in the highest level, then I canít recommend this player enough.

It leans towards the full bodied sound which is a little warm and meaty. Mids are magical and trebles are well extended and detailed, together with a great soundstage. One shouldnít think that it lacks the technical prowess because of the sound signature. No, WM1Z proves that a TOTL DAP can sound highly musical and highly technical at the same time.

BASS

The Sony WM1Z gives the fullest and most complete bass Iíve heard from a DAP. Itís a huge bass response but neither midbass or subbass stands out in the recordings, unless the recording has such a trait in itself. It has a wonderful bass control and balance in terms of that, while continuously giving the body. Lows feel so complete all the time and that way you hear an atmospheric sound, especially with live recordings.

The deep notes of instruments are WM1Zís specialty and generally the sound has a delicious weight, without overly doing so. This DAP offers incredible quality of bass constantly and quantity-wise itís quite generous. When itís needed, the bass hits hard and slam can be literally felt with a basshead can. But donít interpret this like a too bassy source. I donít think this is a ďfunĒ type of bass character as I donít think it exaggerates anything in low region. It feels very natural and true to the recording.

When the guitarist hits the string, you will feel it, especially if itís a bass guitar. This success on bass tonality, texture and layering is absolutely amazing to hear and this makes WM1Z so special. This is not easy to describe if you havenít listened to it, but imagine that the deep tones donít just reach in your ear, but in your body and soul. And while doing that, it never feels unnatural or excessive. Also, the separation from mid region is another strong point, since nothing gets in the way of vocals and instruments to shine and show their emotion and emphasis.

Like I said, thereís no midbass problem, thereís no deficiency or excess. Great extension, great control, great decay and slam when needed. Everything is wonderful and in line in terms of bass presentation of WM1Z.

MIDS

Regarding mid resolution, this is one of the best you can find in the market but as a plus, you have the emotion, musicality and tonal accuracy throughout. If we have friends here who have listened to FitEar TG 334, just think about that incredible mid range. Much like a DAP form of it, WM1Z has the definition and emphasis that can make you a happy listener all the time. Heart-touching vocals, great instrument resolution and such a great tonality.

Mids contain tremendous musicality and technical achievement. Listening to instrumental music is incredibly enjoyable. I can say that the resolution is very high and the micro detail level is fantastic. And one thing that should not be missed here is that the sound is so pleasant and delicious, that at one point you could easily ignore the technical success of the device. But that is not the case because the WM1A, for example, has a more flat character so it can make you feel like itís more detailed. But in reality WM1Z is technically more successful and superior to WM1A.

Again, the warmth and organic way of sound is not an obstacle for the WM1Z to show the technical capabilities. The mids are very transparent,  have great resolution and micro detail-level, unlike the ZX2 which had a little laid back and just slightly veiled mid presentation. I think besides the bass, the mids are one of the prominent advancements from the previous generation. The WM1A is also better than ZX2 on the mid range.

The realism and naturalism across the mids are fantastic to listen too, especially if you have something like Noble K10 or Oriolus V2 laying around.

TREBLE

The treble is surprising. In proportion to the warm sound I was expecting them to be far back in the stage. But no, while giving a non-fatiguing treble response, it again prevails to sound technical with high resolution and extension. In fact the treble is more pronounced than on the WM1A and again it is technically better. Therefore, it would be extremely wrong if we evaluate this device with a classical approach. If it is approached in this style of thinking it would be very wrong: ďI like sound that is clear and crisp and I like my treble, so if this DAP gives a warm sound Ė and costs big time Ė than Iím going to passĒ.

No way. I strongly recommend you to listen to the WM1Z before making any judgement. Iím sure itíll surprise you and youíll ask  yourself how it can be this musical and technically so strong? I think treble lovers can hear the success of this DAP in every possible way. Articulation and extension are at a really high level so it deserves praise for giving this quality despite generally sounding warm and analogue-like. And just like the bass and mid regions, it extracts the tiniest bit of micro information in the recording for you.

Highs are very rich and detailed but very controlled. I canít say bright, but theyíre surely quite apparent when itís in the recording and thereís enough airiness when needed. That can be said as a general quality of WM1Z across the spectrum. If somethingís in there, youíre going to hear it like itís supposed to. Nothing is excessive, digital sounding or artificial, but nothing is laid back either.

BALANCED

The strongest and best sound of WM1Z is from the 4.4mm balanced output. Also you have Native DSD from there. Note that DSP settings are disabled while running DSD songs from balanced.

With going balanced you have a wider stage, better separation and better imaging, itís as simple as that. Itís not a night and day difference but itís noticeable. Also, the difference between the WM1Zís balanced output and that from other DAPs is that, the bass or any other frequency range does not change in terms of quantity. Usually when you switch to a balanced output on many DAPs, you hear the bass is trimmed and mids somewhat change and treble is better extended etc. Thatís not the case with the Sony WM1Z. Everything is the same frequency-wise, but you do get better imaging and separation with a little wider staging.

TECHNICAL ASPECTS

With all those qualities, the WM1Z also has a big sound stage. Itís not super wide but itís very deep and creates a great ambiance for concert recordings, thanks to the amazing bass. As you probably know, Sonyís been producing DAPs that have great staging and imaging performances lately and of course the new flagship wasnít going to be an exception to that.

The background is fully black and thereís no hiss. Separation and imaging-wise you can easily pinpoint each instrument in the stage. Thereís great control on the congestion side, as it manages to present the sound separated at all times, even in the complex passages. You can also pick one instrument and focus on that during the song, because if you focus nothing gets in the way and distracts you, as all elements have their own space. Despite having a big bass and warm-organic character, the sound is very clean and crisp. Itís not crisp to the extent to be clinical or cold sounding of course, but itís surely very very clear. The dynamism of the WM1Z is also fabulous as it gives a great bass and crisp treble with an emotional accented mids.

In terms of power, the EU versions have a sound limit and they donít have a gain option in the software. This unit is sent me from Sony Japan so itís the uncapped version. For giving you an example, I tried the HD800S from the single ended output on high gain, and it managed to drive it to a very good volume level. Of course itís not the most ideal setup for a headphone like HD800S, but since the balanced output is better I assume you can drive many headphones with 4.4mm connections. I strongly recommend you to uncap your device though. Itís very easy and you can search the web to find out how to do it. The output power is much much better that way.

 

Thereís no need to talk about the battery life to be honest, because itís simply unmatched by any other manufacturer. I never switch the device off (a habit from ZX2), because itís extremely efficient and it doesnít lose any power when it sits idle. I get around 20 hours with Hi-Res files (DSD and 24bit) and this can get longer if you donít use the screen too much and you just listen FLAC files. Also, DSP settings has an affect on battery time, as it lasts longer when Direct Sound is on.

COMPARISONS

vs. Lotoo Paw Gold: Paw Gold has an intimate and narrower sound stage. It gives closer treble, mid-bass oriented lows with a studio-kind of sound. The Sony WM1Z has a better stage and better imaging, more relaxed and warm character, with more complete feeling bass which has a better slam, because of the more pronounced subbass compared to Paw Gold. Paw Gold has very clean mids but WM1Z gives a ďmagical touchĒ to them which I havenít heard on other DAPs. Paw Goldís general resolution still amazes me though.

vs. ZX2: The flagship of the ZX series has a very good stage dimensions but 1Z has more realism and much better imaging overall. Midbass is weaker and overall bass presentation is lighter than the bigger and complete bass on 1Z.  1Zís resolution, separation and micro details are much better. Mids are just incomparable here, as WM1Z is miles ahead. So basically everythingís much better with 1Z, but the character of these 2 DAPs are close because both are warm and non-fatiguing. Except the treble, which 1Zís highs are truer, better extending and not that thick.

vs. WM1A: Now everybodyís asking me if itís worth spending the huge extra cash for 1Z. Well itís not easy to answer. Just like every audio purchase, the best way is to listen to it and decide yourself . If you want to know my opinion, Iíll say it depends. If you want it to be more portable, 1A is much lighter. But if youíre going to spend your listening time at home in your couch, and if you also have top-tier IEMs in your possession, I would say go and get the best. Why not?

On the other hand, these 2 DAPs maybe are the same in terms of size and design; but theyíre quite different in terms of sound character. In the beginning I mentioned that Sony wanted to have two WM1ís to offer two different sound choices. 1A is flatter, faster and feels more roomy. Thanks to that it sounds a little wider and airy. But 1Z has better mids, better resolution, bigger bass and despite itís warmer character, it has better extending trebles to me.

So yes, 1Z is the best Walkman by a margin, but itís up to you to decide if itís worth it or not, because there are more factors than just sound. Also, in terms of sonic factors, they have different approaches. Of course itís logical to say the 1A has a better price/performance ratio, but the 1Z is so magical and special, itís hard to deny the amazing cohesive sound.

CONCLUSION

In my opinion, Sony produced a masterpiece with this DAP. I really appreciate their R&D, because they develop their own technologies. Sony has their own S-Master amp technology and Pulse Width Modulation system, which creates unrivaled battery life time in the market. The biggest criticism was on the S-Master but they seem to have solved its weak points now, with a much better noise floor and power. Itís a shame some units still have capped volumes but thankfully itís easy to get around that limitation.

This is the very best audio player Iíve experienced together with the AK SP1000. I personally would choose the Sony, because of its heart-warming sound and long lasting battery. This DAP immediately makes it to our recommendations list, and I strongly recommend it if youíre thinking about getting a TOTL DAP.

 

 

 

Posted on: 03 June 2018 by Bert Schurink

Posted on: 03 June 2018 by Bert Schurink

Will keep you guys updated on my progress, hope I donít feel obliged to sent it back.......

Would also appreciate tips on uncapping it. As I so far have seen software which does it but it clearly states that it doesnít work for the NW-WM1Z and the WM1A, so still need to find the final tips...

Posted on: 03 June 2018 by ChrisSU

Hope you enjoy your new toy, Bert. I bought a ZX2 on the back of your recommendation and still use it regularly, so Iíll be interested to hear just how much better the newer models are. Not too keen on the gold bling styling, though!

Posted on: 03 June 2018 by Bert Schurink
ChrisSU posted:

Hope you enjoy your new toy, Bert. I bought a ZX2 on the back of your recommendation and still use it regularly, so Iíll be interested to hear just how much better the newer models are. Not too keen on the gold bling styling, though!

Could have done with another styling as well. It is what it is, the sound matters, and thatís what makes this device so special.

Posted on: 03 June 2018 by Perol

What headphones do you intend to use ?

What does 3.0 mean ?

 

 

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Bert Schurink
Perol posted:

What headphones do you intend to use ?

What does 3.0 mean ?

 

 

I intend to use Shure SE846 or Shure KSE1200. The 3.0 indicates that i already once before made a significant upgrade in my Mobile Hifi experience.

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by james n

Thanks for the review Bert - looks a beast !

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Richard Dane

Good luck Bert.  As you probably recall, I had a ZX2 but just couldn't get on with it, probably because I don't like to use in-ears, and I found it wasn't able to drive some regular headphones as well as I would have liked.  But I'm intrigued about this new one.  Do you know how the A version compares at least than half the price?

p.s. Could you attribute and credit the review you have quoted?  Thanks.

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Emre

? was between 1z and sp1000

then i get the sp1000 mainly because of Tidal and streaming capabilities, now i am using it as a streamer with my stereo as well

both great players, warm vs technical

but 1z requires and deserves a better headphone than 846 which is fun and nice but nowhere near to show 1zís capabilities, there are many alternatives includes iems and full headphones as well such as focal clear and utopia which are easy to drive

i am using noble encores and very happy with them

ks1200 is an interesting for home use...

great player enjoy it

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Bert Schurink
Emre posted:

? was between 1z and sp1000

then i get the sp1000 mainly because of Tidal and streaming capabilities, now i am using it as a streamer with my stereo as well

both great players, warm vs technical

but 1z requires and deserves a better headphone than 846 which is fun and nice but nowhere near to show 1zís capabilities, there are many alternatives includes iems and full headphones as well such as focal clear and utopia which are easy to drive

i am using noble encores and very happy with them

ks1200 is an interesting for home use...

great player enjoy it

Thanks for the tips. I will definitely consider the headphone piece as well. But will first get it warming up etc, and hope I don't have to sent it back.

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Bert Schurink
Richard Dane posted:

Good luck Bert.  As you probably recall, I had a ZX2 but just couldn't get on with it, probably because I don't like to use in-ears, and I found it wasn't able to drive some regular headphones as well as I would have liked.  But I'm intrigued about this new one.  Do you know how the A version compares at least than half the price?

p.s. Could you attribute and credit the review you have quoted?  Thanks.

Sure Richard. The review is coming from Headfonio.com and was written by : 

Berkhan

As a lover of personal audio, Berkhan always seeks perfection in his reviews. He chooses a simplistic expression of sound at all times, and tries to maintain his photography enthusiasm at the same level with audio. Sometimes the photography wins, and sometimes his love for music takes him over and he puts that camera aside. Either way, he will always do his best.

 

The A version is quoted to be a better one as compared with the ZX2. Both the 1Z and the 1A have more power to drive the headphones. Obviously only in full spades there with the uncapped version of the devices. The 1Z is further refined and more detailed than the 1A.  According to review the hierarchy is ZX2, WM1A, WM1Z

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Emre

you can uncap the A1 and 1Z with ZX2 you are stuck with EU version which can not drive a headphone but item/ciem

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Emre
Bert Schurink posted:
Emre posted:

? was between 1z and sp1000

then i get the sp1000 mainly because of Tidal and streaming capabilities, now i am using it as a streamer with my stereo as well

both great players, warm vs technical

but 1z requires and deserves a better headphone than 846 which is fun and nice but nowhere near to show 1zís capabilities, there are many alternatives includes iems and full headphones as well such as focal clear and utopia which are easy to drive

i am using noble encores and very happy with them

ks1200 is an interesting for home use...

great player enjoy it

Thanks for the tips. I will definitely consider the headphone piece as well. But will first get it warming up etc, and hope I don't have to sent it back.

it gets a full fetch 500 hours to burn in....so enjoy it, check 64 audio as well if you looking for iem, focal clear is currently is the best for the price in my opinion....

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by The Strat (Fender)

Bert - Fascinating will be interested to hear more.  

Guys - could usually something like this in the car?  I presume yes but would the interface (BMW) be simple. Iím not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by ChrisSU
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Bert - Fascinating will be interested to hear more.  

Guys - could usually something like this in the car?  I presume yes but would the interface (BMW) be simple. Iím not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesnít seem to want to play into my car  (BMW, now 5 yrs old) but a USB stick full of CD rips works perfectly, so I havenít felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldnít really do that with a fancy portable player. 

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Emre
ChrisSU posted:
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Bert - Fascinating will be interested to hear more.  

Guys - could usually something like this in the car?  I presume yes but would the interface (BMW) be simple. Iím not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesnít seem to want to play into my car  (BMW, now 5 yrs old) but a USB stick full of CD rips works perfectly, so I havenít felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldnít really do that with a fancy portable player. 

How about 3.5mm input? Or Bluetooth? 

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by ChrisSU
Emre posted:
ChrisSU posted:
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Bert - Fascinating will be interested to hear more.  

Guys - could usually something like this in the car?  I presume yes but would the interface (BMW) be simple. Iím not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesnít seem to want to play into my car  (BMW, now 5 yrs old) but a USB stick full of CD rips works perfectly, so I havenít felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldnít really do that with a fancy portable player. 

How about 3.5mm input? Or Bluetooth? 

I nearly always have my phone connected by Bluetooth, for calls and satnav. The 3.5mm input does work with the Sony, but you would need to pick it up and select music via the touchscreen, which you can't really do whilst driving. The USB stick allows me to use the car's display and controls to browse a simple list of artists/albums, which is all I need, and it sounds pretty good. 

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Eoink
ChrisSU posted:
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Bert - Fascinating will be interested to hear more.  

Guys - could usually something like this in the car?  I presume yes but would the interface (BMW) be simple. Iím not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesnít seem to want to play into my car  (BMW, now 5 yrs old) but a USB stick full of CD rips works perfectly, so I havenít felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldnít really do that with a fancy portable player. 

Which format rips Chris? I tried WAV files in my 18 month old MINI using the BMW/MINI Harmon Kardon system, and it didnít seem to identify the files, Iím currently using 320k MP3. Iím not convinced that better quality is worth the effort given the road/engine noise, but if FLAC works I might leave dbpoweramp converting for a day or 2.

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Bert Schurink
Emre posted:

you can uncap the A1 and 1Z with ZX2 you are stuck with EU version which can not drive a headphone but item/ciem

Very interested to know how I can uncap, a lot of text on it, but yet seen the real solution...

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Richard Dane

Bert, it something best not detailed on this forum, however, a quick google search and you should be able to find what you need.

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Bert Schurink
Richard Dane posted:

Bert, it something best not detailed on this forum, however, a quick google search and you should be able to find what you need.

Thanks you are right - so far looked at it but didnít find it.....

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by glevethan

Bert

Congratulations.  I have had my 1Z for more than a year and use it with both Focal Utopias and its matching Sony Z1R headphone (closed back). Both have a Kimber Axios copper cable and are run balanced.

I truly maintain that when I grow tired of all of the black boxes in my 552/500 system I could live happily ever after with my 1Z and Utopias/Axios.  Do keep in mind you get what you pay for as a 1Z/Utopia/Axios is about $8k so definitely not cheap.  But - since I consider it to be something I could be happy with in place of my 500 system -  I guess it may be considered reasonably priced.

As for the volume uncap it is quite easy.  As Richard suggested a quick Google search should work (hint - Rockbox).

There is a German company which makes a glass protector specifically for the 1Z (Brotect Airglass).  Ebay will yield a clear composite protective case or for something extravagant have a look at Dignis from South Korea.

A Sony WM1Z and Focal Utopia is truly something special.  More than 20 hours of battery life is just icing on the cake!

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by ChrisSU
Eoink posted:
ChrisSU posted:
The Strat (Fender) posted:

Bert - Fascinating will be interested to hear more.  

Guys - could usually something like this in the car?  I presume yes but would the interface (BMW) be simple. Iím not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesnít seem to want to play into my car  (BMW, now 5 yrs old) but a USB stick full of CD rips works perfectly, so I havenít felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldnít really do that with a fancy portable player. 

Which format rips Chris? I tried WAV files in my 18 month old MINI using the BMW/MINI Harmon Kardon system, and it didnít seem to identify the files, Iím currently using 320k MP3. Iím not convinced that better quality is worth the effort given the road/engine noise, but if FLAC works I might leave dbpoweramp converting for a day or 2.

The car will not play FLACs, so I use WAVs which are mostly Unitiserve CD rips, or downloads converted to WAV on a Mac. The only metadata viewable is album, artist and track name, but when driving, thatís all I would want. Mine is not the HK version, so may be different to yours. 

Apologies to Bert for the thread drift. 

Posted on: 04 June 2018 by Bert Schurink
glevethan posted:

Bert

Congratulations.  I have had my 1Z for more than a year and use it with both Focal Utopias and its matching Sony Z1R headphone (closed back). Both have a Kimber Axios copper cable and are run balanced.

I truly maintain that when I grow tired of all of the black boxes in my 552/500 system I could live happily ever after with my 1Z and Utopias/Axios.  Do keep in mind you get what you pay for as a 1Z/Utopia/Axios is about $8k so definitely not cheap.  But - since I consider it to be something I could be happy with in place of my 500 system -  I guess it may be considered reasonably priced.

As for the volume uncap it is quite easy.  As Richard suggested a quick Google search should work (hint - Rockbox).

There is a German company which makes a glass protector specifically for the 1Z (Brotect Airglass).  Ebay will yield a clear composite protective case or for something extravagant have a look at Dignis from South Korea.

A Sony WM1Z and Focal Utopia is truly something special.  More than 20 hours of battery life is just icing on the cake!

Thanks for the tips, got it. I still need to decide what I do on the earphone headphone side. For now I will start of with my SE846 of Shure and than after run in decide how it will continue.