Sony NW-A55 DAP

General Information

”Sony improves last year’s Award-winning budget Walkman”. ’What Hi-Fi?’ 2020 award-winner.

High Resolution sound – the reference standard music replay

The highest quality sound, pure and simple, High Resolution Audio takes music to the next level. The difference between Hi-Res music and typical MP3/AAC compressed music files is immense. Hi-Res music even sounds better than CD, giving a smoother yet at the same time more detailed sound.

MQA playback
Compatible with Meridian's MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) technology, the Sony NW-A55L delivers Hi-Res audio to studio standards. Although studio master quality, the beauty of MQA is that files are small enough to easily stream and don't take up so much storage space. A wide range of High Resolution files are supported, including DSD, FLAC and WAV.

S-Master HX low distortion amp
Unlike smartphones, the Sony NW-A55L features a built-in amp that’s optimised purely for High-Resolution Audio. Designed and made with incredible attention to detail, even the solder has been refined to maximise clarity. High precision components mean you’ll hear more of the music, more of the time.

Enhanced sound from compressed music files with DSEE HX
DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) up-scales compressed digital music files to a level that's close to CD quality. Working with MP3, ACC, ATRAC and WMA files, DSEE HX restores high-level information previously lost in the compression process. The result is a more detailed, fluid and natural sound quality that's much closer to the original recording.

Get more from your smartphone, with Bluetooth Receiver Mode
Connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and stream the audio to the NW-A55L. You can then enjoy a sonic boost from all the music playing from your smartphone – with enhanced sound from DSEE HX upscaling in play.

Upgrade your computer audio with USB DAC function
The High Resolution DAC (Digital to Analogue Convertor) and associated hardware fitted to the Sony is much higher quality than the one fitted to most computer soundcards. Upgrade the sound from your PC or Mac by simply connecting the NW-A55L via USB (cable supplied). All the music stored on or streamed from your laptop, PC or Mac gets an instant upgrade.

Top quality Bluetooth with LDAC
Connect up to your headphones or speaker system with Bluetooth, for a wireless connection. Using Sony’s LDAC technology the sound quality via Bluetooth is greatly enhanced. Transferring approximately three times more data than conventional Bluetooth, music has much more depth and body than usual.

16GB internal memory with support for much more via microSD card
To get you going, the Sony NWA55L has 16GB of built-in memory. Add an optional microSD card and the storage space increases hugely. A popular and cost effective 128GB card is enough for around 1250 High Resolution Audio files (24bit/96kHz, 4 minutes-long, 90MB). If this isn’t enough, the Sony supports microSD cards right up to a potential 2TB (note, 1TB cards are currently the highest capacity, commercially available).

Listen for longer with this dedicated player
With a battery life of up to 45 hours, the Sony NW-A55L easily outlasts most smartphones. At just 97 x 56 x 11 mm (H x W x D) in size and 99 grammes in weight, it’s also a lot lighter and more compact.

Robust construction – rigid, milled aluminium frame
Featuring a premium, milled aluminium frame, the NW-A55L is a robust portable. The strong frame also provides superior rigidity for reduced distortion. Other high quality construction elements include the circuit board with gold-plated connections for lower resistance and a powerful bass.

Choice of listening modes, including Vinyl Processor
For sound personalisation, the NW-A55L offers a choice of equaliser presets and custom levels. It also features a Vinyl Processor. This creates a warm, characterful sound that’s typical of analogue playback.

Enjoy Hi-Res music at its very best and give your other music sources a boost to boot, with the Sony NW-A55L. 05c73567d686b4a8f861997596c8f89339773ba5_407408_v3.jpg

Latest reviews

Peddler

1000+ Head-Fier
Wonderful little player with some nice features.
Pros: Lovely sound. LDAC Support. Genuinely useful features. Compact Size. Good battery life. Fast NFC pairing.
Cons: Sony specific cable. Not as powerful as some others.
Well made, inexpensive and sounds great.

Well I have to admit that this is the first completely unjustifiable purchase I have made in quite some time. Firstly, I tend to do a lot of my listening with bluetooth headphones which really don’t offer any sound quality differences between different players - assuming they’re using the same codec of course. Secondly, I spend more and more time listening to streamed content (usually Google Play Music) and am pretty much satisfied with its sound quality. Thirdly, I pretty much always carry my phone around with me (kinda like everyone else on the planet) and so always have access to not only my personal music collection on Micro SD card but also the before mentioned streamed content. So why the hell would I want to drop nearly £200 on a dedicated MP3 player which, apart from its small size, brings almost nothing to the table when compared to my smartphone?

Well…..if I’m going to be utterly and completely honest - because I wanted to. Secondly though I recently got sent a pair of Fiio’s rather excellent FD-1 wired IEMs and suddenly became ‘woke’ again to the joys of higher resolution music. My phone is the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 which is not renowned for sound quality through the headphone jack. Strangely I recently changed it from the LG V20 which is the complete opposite - having superb wired headphone output. The truth is that Samsung has much MUCH better bluetooth capabilities and I have an external wired DAC/AMP which I can connect to the phone for that ‘high-res’ experience.

In my defence, there were some other reasonably effective rationalisations that I employed in order to mentally justify the expense. The player has excellent battery life (unlike the NW-A105 which I was very tempted to get), and can act as an external wired DAC and wireless bluetooth ‘amplifier’ - with the ability to control the streamed content with the players own external media controls. This effectively means that I don’t have to worry about not being able to stream Google Play Music from the device directly (no wifi) but rather tether it to my phone’s LDAC bluetooth output and really have the best of both worlds. Excellent battery life in a very small package but also capable of replicating many of the features found in the NW-A105.

So how is the Sony NW-A55? There’s plenty of YouTube videos showing the unit off so there’s not much point in going into too much detail regarding the externals - I really want to focus on the features and sound quality elements.

Useful Features


There were a couple of features I read about on this player which effectively tipped my hand - the external DAC/AMP function and the Bluetooth receiver. I think I will definitely make use of both these features. The bluetooth receiver function works brilliantly with my Galaxy Note 8. It connects using the LDAC codec to the sound quality is excellent. I have the Axium Aqua + bluetooth amp and this sounds better. LDAC really does make a difference.

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The NW-A55 also offers LDAC bluetooth output to compatible headphones - and this sounds really good. My WH1000XM2’s connected using the NFC function seamlessly and the connection was rock solid with much better range than what I get on my phone - and…..I really don't want to say it but they actually sound better as well. There’s significantly more volume available when using bluetooth headphones. Unfortunately the same cannot be said when pairing up Sony’s latest WF1000XM3 bluetooth noise cancelling earbuds as the A55 doesn’t support AAC - only SBC and APtX/APtX HD and LDAC - so the WF’s only connect via SBC. Whilst they don’t sound too bad, they definitely sound better when connected to my phone.

Another really useful feature is the external playback controls. Basically this allows you to operate the device without having to take it out of your pocket. Another useful advantage to these is that you don't have to activate the screen every time you want to switch tracks or increase/decrease the volume - this can really help increase battery life.

It can act as an external DAC/AMP for laptop/desktop computer use. This has effectively given the A55 most of the advantages that the A110 would offer without the disadvantages (crap battery life and limited headphone output). I can use my Galaxy Note 8 to stream from Google Play Music to the A55 via bluetooth using the LDAC codec. Although this may sound like a bit of a faff it’s really not that difficult and only takes a few seconds to set up. The end result definitely sounds better than the headphone output from my phone’s headphone socket. You can’t use bluetooth headphones when doing this - in all fairness you would simply connect your headphones to the phone instead of the player under these circumstances.

Sound Quality


This is always a subjective thing in my opinion - bear in mind that I'm an old dude and my taste in music is somewhat varied. First things first - the volume issue.

My player is (or was) EU volume capped which limited the output. I do like my music fairly loud a lot of the time and I have to say that I really didn't have any problems in getting the volume levels I wanted. Headphones used include the Ultimate Ears Triple Fi 10, Fiio FD1, Sennheiser HD598SR, Sony WH1000XM2, Mavin Air-X and the Sony WF1000XM3's. Even the Sennheiser's got pretty loud - admittedly I could have coped with a little more. However, after un-capping the EU Volume restriction the 598's can be driven uncomfortably loud now. The most impressive results I got were with the IEM's (except the Sony WF's) and the WH1000XM2's. The pairing of this player with the Sony WH's is a match made in heaven. They really open up nicely and wow - they go really REALLY loud! I like the Sony 'house' sound. It's not afraid of showing a little grunt in the low end whilst still being polite and controlled. Whilst the various EQ/Sound Shaping functions are quite impressive, I tend to always listen with all these bells and whistles switched off. I feel this offers more resolution in the mids and highs too. Even when pushed hard, these headphones remain in control and rock out.

Bluetooth range and stability are first rate too. I am able to travel much further away from this little MP3 player than I ever could with my phone. Gardening (with lovely active noise cancelling) is going to be a lot easier without having my bulky phone sticking out of my pocket. I love it!
The more I think about this the more I feel that this is the last of Sony's sensible players. All their players further up in their price range all tend to have some serious shortcomings - typically battery life, limited headphone output and/or excessively bulky/stupidly expensive. Whilst it would have been nice to have Wi-Fi - this would require the Android operating system in order to make the Wi-Fi worthwhile by allowing you to run your own favourite music applications. The end result is appalling battery life. The A55's solution through Bluetooth pairing to your phone is a really nice touch - definitely a smart way of overcoming this limitation.

In case you haven't guessed it by now, I really like this player. It's the best sounding player I've ever heard - here's a list of some of the players I've had in the past:-
  • Sony Discman 555
  • Sony Discman D350
  • Sony Minidisc - MD1, MD900 MD R35
  • Creative Nomad Jukebox 3
  • Apple Ipod 1, 7
  • LG V20
Trust me when I say that the list is embarrassingly incomplete - I've spent bloody thousands of pounds over the years on music playback. Wow - I could have bought a bloody Jag.

This player ticks an impressive amount of boxes - one that's perhaps overlooked by many though is how long this player could theoretically last - the rather excellent battery life means that you don't need to charge it very often which will result in the player lasting a good time longer. To give you an idea of just how impressed I am with it, I'm seriously thinking of buying a very large Micro Sd card and storing all my music on it.

For a player which has a reputation for being low powered, the NW-A55 hasn't had any problem driving all the wired and wireless headphones in my collection. Whilst the Sennheiser HD598SR requires nearly full volume, it still sounds powerful and effortless - and absolute full volume is actually uncomfortably loud. The sound character is detailed and full sounding. I'm reminded of the first time I heard the Etymotics ER4P - the amount of detail and the rock solid imagery was unique. It was easy to choose a specific instrument for example, and follow it throughout a track without even having to concentrate. The NW-A55 definitely has this characteristic. It's a player that's easy to listen to and tends to make the most of any headphone that you connect to it. There is one exception though and that is the Sony WF1000XM3's. These noise cancelling Bluetooth Earbuds support AAC which unfortunately the NW-A55 doesn't which means that the headphones revert to the SBC CODEC. Whilst they still sound pretty good, it's a real shame that they don't work at their best with this player as they would make a great pocket combination. As it is I have paired my rather excellent Lypertek Tevi's to the Sony and, again I have to say it, they sound better than through my phone. So now I have (in my opinion) a really nice ultra-portable (Tevi's), portable (WH1000XM2's) and at-home (Sennheiser HD598SR).

I love this little player. Sony have gone and got so many things right with it. No distractions with other apps, superb connectivity options (we all have Bluetooth enabled smartphones don't we?), really REALLY good sound quality, excellent battery life (which ensures genuine longevity) - the list can go on. I'm so glad I got the A55 instead of the A110.

Update


Thanks to the magic of Mr Walkman - the A55 can be 'flashed' with a kind of firmware update which brings some of the sound character and quality from Sony's top MP3 player (to call it that really doesn't do it justice) - the legendary DMP-Z1. This has elevated the sound quality to another level altogether. Highly recommended.
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bach98
I have only 4000 songs in my sd, but the walkman only díplay 2000

Also, I cant delete the tracks from my a55. Any ideas
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BenGast
@bach98 do you have all your music in the Music folder of the SD? Do you have your songs organised by Artiste/Album?
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BenGast
I have had the player for 2 weeks and I am very happy with it. It is dealing very well with my 450GB lib.

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