Jumping into high-res audio and skipping the USB DAC? Sony’s latest Walkmans might be for you, provided you have some hefty funds.
High-res audio isn’t for everyone, but those who do dabble typically do so with some aptly high-end gear.
You’ll probably want a decent pair of headphones able to be driven be either a headphone amp or a portable DAC, but another option is a media player, and not the iPod style.
While most of us have replaced a media player with a phone, folks who jump into the world of high-res lossless sound typically play in an area that needs a little more juice for those headphones, with either a digital-to-analogue converter that can be used with a phone, or something dedicated.
We’ve seen both, and in Australia, you can get examples of either, with Astell & Kern’s Type C DAC and the THX Onyx both providing portable ways to boost sound to your headphones, while more expensive media player options can be found from Astell & Kern, as well.
But A&K isn’t alone, and Sony has a couple of newbies on the way sitting in that high-end section, as well.
There’s the NW-WM1AM2 and the NW-WM1ZM2, media players with similar designs and features, but primarily a difference in materials used in the construction and componentry.
In the AM2, Sony has an aluminium alloy frame to keep electrical noise and interference down with a oxygen-free copper cable to keep distortion down for the headphone jack inside the body. On the ZM2, Sony ups the quality almost ridiculously, moving to a gold-plated oxygen free copper case and chassis worth a 99.99% purity which apparently makes the sound stronger, while the internal headphone cable replaces the copper cable with a braided Kimber Kable to keep the quality equally strong.
Beyond those materials, they’re both quite similar, with a 5 inch screen, Android 11, and support for lossless formats aplenty including MQA if you happen to listen to Tidal HiFi, with some proprietary tech inside for remastering audio into the DSD high-res format, while also using an algorithm to upscale audio in DSEE Ultimate, similar to what Sony uses in its headphones, such as the WH-1000XM4. There’s also a little bit more storage on the ZM2 compared to the AM2, the former of which offers 256GB while the latter gets 128GB, thoug both have a microSD card.
In short, while the names are a jumble of characters you’d probably never say out loud, it’s basically a case of premium and way more premium for Sony’s take in the high-res media player world, and distinctly different from the sub-$1000 high-res players we’ve seen from the company in the past.
Locally, Australians can expect to find them in April, with the WM1AM2 fetching a local price of $1899, while the WM1ZM2 (below) will cost a staggering $3K more at $4999.