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

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 don’t 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 let’s 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 it’s an capped European version. But I hope that’s more than enough for my Shure...., otherwise I need to find a trick to uncap....

 

Original Post

For those who don’t know the beast, a sound review of the Sony...

 

SOUND

Let’s 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, you’re facing a true sounding, very special DAP here. Believe me, there’s no other way to tell it: it’s simply remarkable.

This easily is the best audio player I’ve experienced, in terms of producing the sound in a musical and joyful way. And it’s also the most special one for me, because it merges the musicality and technical prowess at once, which is so rare to find. I’ve experienced many top-tier DAPs and honestly, none of them give this kind of emotion. It evokes that we’re all here for listening to music, not listening to “sounds” 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 can’t 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 shouldn’t 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 I’ve heard from a DAP. It’s 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 WM1Z’s specialty and generally the sound has a delicious weight, without overly doing so. This DAP offers incredible quality of bass constantly and quantity-wise it’s quite generous. When it’s needed, the bass hits hard and slam can be literally felt with a basshead can. But don’t interpret this like a too bassy source. I don’t think this is a “fun” type of bass character as I don’t 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 it’s 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 haven’t listened to it, but imagine that the deep tones don’t 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, there’s no midbass problem, there’s 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 it’s 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: “I like sound that is clear and crisp and I like my treble, so if this DAP gives a warm sound – and costs big time – than I’m going to pass”.

No way. I strongly recommend you to listen to the WM1Z before making any judgement. I’m sure it’ll surprise you and you’ll 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 can’t say bright, but they’re surely quite apparent when it’s in the recording and there’s enough airiness when needed. That can be said as a general quality of WM1Z across the spectrum. If something’s in there, you’re going to hear it like it’s 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, it’s as simple as that. It’s not a night and day difference but it’s noticeable. Also, the difference between the WM1Z’s 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. That’s 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. It’s not super wide but it’s very deep and creates a great ambiance for concert recordings, thanks to the amazing bass. As you probably know, Sony’s been producing DAPs that have great staging and imaging performances lately and of course the new flagship wasn’t going to be an exception to that.

The background is fully black and there’s no hiss. Separation and imaging-wise you can easily pinpoint each instrument in the stage. There’s 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. It’s not crisp to the extent to be clinical or cold sounding of course, but it’s 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 don’t have a gain option in the software. This unit is sent me from Sony Japan so it’s 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 it’s 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. It’s very easy and you can search the web to find out how to do it. The output power is much much better that way.

 

There’s no need to talk about the battery life to be honest, because it’s simply unmatched by any other manufacturer. I never switch the device off (a habit from ZX2), because it’s extremely efficient and it doesn’t 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 don’t 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 “magical touch” to them which I haven’t heard on other DAPs. Paw Gold’s 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.  1Z’s resolution, separation and micro details are much better. Mids are just incomparable here, as WM1Z is miles ahead. So basically everything’s much better with 1Z, but the character of these 2 DAPs are close because both are warm and non-fatiguing. Except the treble, which 1Z’s highs are truer, better extending and not that thick.

vs. WM1A: Now everybody’s asking me if it’s worth spending the huge extra cash for 1Z. Well it’s 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, I’ll say it depends. If you want it to be more portable, 1A is much lighter. But if you’re 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 they’re quite different in terms of sound character. In the beginning I mentioned that Sony wanted to have two WM1’s 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 it’s warmer character, it has better extending trebles to me.

So yes, 1Z is the best Walkman by a margin, but it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it or not, because there are more factors than just sound. Also, in terms of sonic factors, they have different approaches. Of course it’s logical to say the 1A has a better price/performance ratio, but the 1Z is so magical and special, it’s 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. It’s a shame some units still have capped volumes but thankfully it’s easy to get around that limitation.

This is the very best audio player I’ve 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 you’re thinking about getting a TOTL DAP.

 

 

 

Will keep you guys updated on my progress, hope I don’t 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 doesn’t work for the NW-WM1Z and the WM1A, so still need to find the final tips...

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 I’ll 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 that’s what makes this device so special.

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.

İ 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 1z’s 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

Emre posted:

İ 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 1z’s 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.

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

Bert Schurink posted:
Emre posted:

İ 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 1z’s 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....

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. I’m not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesn’t 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 haven’t felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldn’t really do that with a fancy portable player. 

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. I’m not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesn’t 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 haven’t felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldn’t really do that with a fancy portable player. 

How about 3.5mm input? Or Bluetooth? 

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. I’m not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesn’t 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 haven’t felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldn’t 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. 

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. I’m not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesn’t 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 haven’t felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldn’t 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 didn’t seem to identify the files, I’m currently using 320k MP3. I’m 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.

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!

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. I’m not savvy with this stuff.  

Regards,

Lindsay

My ZX2 doesn’t 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 haven’t felt the need to try making other solutions work. The stick just lives in the car permanently, so the music is always there; you couldn’t 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 didn’t seem to identify the files, I’m currently using 320k MP3. I’m 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, that’s all I would want. Mine is not the HK version, so may be different to yours. 

Apologies to Bert for the thread drift. 

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.

Bert Schurink posted:
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 didn’t find it.....

Search “ Sony sound regulation rockbox “ it is easy...

you may check the headfi forum thread

Emre posted:
Bert Schurink posted:
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 didn’t find it.....

Search “ Sony sound regulation rockbox “ it is easy...

you may check the headfi forum thread

Thanks got it done. Still need to find out which setting I prefer now got it to the us version...

I had the first listen late yesterday evening, and got late into my bed. Just WOW, so full complete sound, more detail, more bass extension, better highs........, only left with one question, why didn’t I pull the trigger earlier. And then it’s as well clear what still has to come, as I know that especially with the devices of Sony it requires about 200 hours to hear the full potential. So will be on an interesting journey still. No regrets at all so far.

Wait till you change the 846.... but keep the 846 as a fun portable,  1z will be all different ball game with a nice pair iem or utopia/clear

now enjoying my sp1000 with Tidal as kid making noise and I am listening a guy called Albin lee for the first time..

enjoy it but don’t buy gold chains and gold watches once you started.....

Emre posted:

Wait till you change the 846.... but keep the 846 as a fun portable,  1z will be all different ball game with a nice pair iem or utopia/clear

now enjoying my sp1000 with Tidal as kid making noise and I am listening a guy called Albin lee for the first time..

enjoy it but don’t buy gold chains and gold watches once you started.....

Hi Emery, how well is the Sony driving the Focal Utopia ?

Bert

Balanced is dramatically better (more powerful).

I run the Utopia with a Kimber Axios copper cable terminated balanced 4.4.  As I have previously said many times before - when I retire my 552/500/KDS I will be VERY happy with a 1Z/Axios/Utopia.

Best

Gregg

Bert Schurink posted:
Emre posted:

Wait till you change the 846.... but keep the 846 as a fun portable,  1z will be all different ball game with a nice pair iem or utopia/clear

now enjoying my sp1000 with Tidal as kid making noise and I am listening a guy called Albin lee for the first time..

enjoy it but don’t buy gold chains and gold watches once you started.....

Hi Emery, how well is the Sony driving the Focal Utopia ?

I did not listen Sony/Utopia but SP1000 Utopia / Clear / Elear and there are just fine.... Focals are not fussy, another good candidate if you like 846 sound could be Fostex Th900, warm and exciting loosing little bit on details.. 

But depending on where and how you listen off course dont underestimate iem/ciems, my noble encore is very good with classical music, you hear everything but everything in the recording... it feel like a live event with chair noises  

Bert - I'll be interested in more of your thoughts on the 1Z as it runs in. My ZX2 has been fantastic (as are the 846's with the Silver Dragon cable) but it's good to hear some thoughts other than the online reviews.

Gregg's comments regarding his 1Z setup is food for thought though...

James

 

I will provide further thoughts when my 1Z is running in further. It’s just so more fun now to listen to music in the office. It shows also much more of what the Shure SE846 are capable off. And I guess my jaw will drop with even more capable ear or headphones. For now I just have thrown some albums on the beast to enable me to run it in and enjoy it.

Soon I will also fill my 400 GB micro sd card and structure the libarary around the then available 600GB, and I am also seriously considering to get another 400GB card which then should enable me to have a lot of the music I would like to have portably with me always at hand.... great times ahead.

With regards to the listening experience from a can perspective...., I am considering a couple of options to review...

- improve my 846 experience with silver dragon cables

- move to the Shure KSE1200 or Noble Kaiser Encore - while I haven’t seen so far a comparable review between the two

- or moving to one of the Focals, the new Sennheiser HD820 or an Ultrasone - Edition 5 or 15 or 8EX

 

Obviously for all of that I first would need to ensure that I have some serious hours on the Walkman (200).....

 

So let’s see where I land...

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