This is my first review. I spent quite a few hours browsing different models of DAP, and I hope you'll find the answer right here. If not, feel free to drop me a message.
Case / built
Sony built this DAP with nice ingredients: not luxury but not cheap either. It feels the right weight. It has a good finish.
The edges and the back are slightly different red ($200 remember that).
The micro SD hatch is protected by a plastic/rubber lid. Large fingers like mines can still insert/remove the card without difficulty.
The physical buttons on the right are made of plastic and the play/pause button is marked with a tactile dot, so you can feel it even in your pocket.
The jack output at the bottom is at the right place, like the iPhone 6S.
The coating is really good, slightly less gliding than the Apple Gorilla glass! It does not scratch easily.
The pixel density is pretty good, texts appear sharp and contrasted, blacks are deep.
I had no difficulty to read it outside at bright light. I wish Sony would have implement a light sensor to automatically adjust brighness, although thinking about it, you need to pay for it and this extra consume some power of its own.
Sony did a good job at lesser is better.
The main screen works like a star: slide up, down, right left and you'll have immediate access to different screens to navigate through your music collection and options.
A long list of albums doesn't slow down the scrolling although there is always a few milliseconds of lag, not a big deal.
Since almost forever I take good care of the tags in the audio file, this DAP had zero problem to recognize them.
The only option I change Artist List Display to Album Artist instead of Artist, works better with compilation.
In the setting screen, I love the counter of total hours of playback, this is really fun
Sony brags its own way with digital signal processing option, DSEE HX and such but not much about home made DAC.
They are the master of the balance between energy consumption and quality, nothing to say about this, all DAP on the market are really struggling to feed power to the 3rd party DAC they use.
Well done Sony!
It is a nice step up from my iPhone 6S: more clarity, sharper and definitely not as round/smooth as the Cowon Plenue D I returned a couple of month ago.
I'm using Earsonics SM3 v2 IEM, I don't feel the need set the volume over 60-70/120 when I use public transportation.
Features I would like to see
Sony I beg you, please embrace USB-C instead of your proprietary connector
An app on my phone to remote control the DAP
Percentage of battery life not just full, medium 1 / 2, low
Other DAPs I considered
Plenue D: excellent battery life but much too round/warm sound for me
DX200: ruled out for battery life to short
FiiO X5 3rd gen: read a mixed bag of feedbacks, and again poor battery life
Sony ZX2: huge price gap compare to this one
AK70: battery life way too short!
Pioneer XDP 300R / Onkyo X1-A: an android OS with lots of CPU power and a large screen was tempting, but I already have an iPhone
Pros: Improved Power Output, Excellent Battery Life, 200gb+ mSD card slot, LDAC support
Cons: no auto-connect to paired BT devices, No AptX (but does have LDAC)
Want something a bit better sounding than your cell phone, with the ability to carry your whole lossless music collection? Enter, Sony Walkman NW-A35. This new release from Sony features five Panasonic POSCAP capacitors that are supposed to strengthen the power output from the previous generation. Speaking of power output, this player features the new Sony S-Master HX amp, which is also present within their more premium flagship players.
My first exposure to the A35 was at 2017’s CanJam in NYC. They had the A35 paired up with their MDR-1000x noise canceling headphones. The LDAC performance as a noticeable step up from standard Bluetooth and the MDR-1000x perform well above any NC headphones I had ever heard previously. Being a New Yorker that commutes on the audibly brash public transit daily, I was interested. A few months by and now I find myself with both.
External Design and UI:
Sony has once again utilized its “Loop Surface” external design language, as this player looks like a micro version of one of their flagship smartphones. I’m glad to see that they are now offering different colors, the red one I have is particularly striking against the black screen.
The player’s physical button layout is both logical and precise. The play and volume up buttons have some ribbing, so you can easily control the player without looking at it. Sony also included a hold button, which certainly helps defend against accidental screen clicks.
When I first got the player, I was a bit disappointed with the firmware. Scrolling was sluggish, and sometimes buttons had some delay. Now, on version 1.20, most of that is gone. The player is just as smooth as my previous AK player and has a pretty decent layout. You have a back, currently playing, library, and settings button sitting below the screen viewing area. Most people should be able to use it upon first use without issue.
The player has a standard 3.5mm jack that puts out 35mW per channel @ 16Ω and also features NFC pairing, and SBC Bluetooth with LDAC support. I bought this player for the LDAC support, as my phone only has SBC Bluetooth, NOT a modern, high res audio codec like AptX or LDAC. Pairing the player with my MDR-1000x was easy as cake thanks to the NFC. All I have to do is tap the player to my left ear cup to pair. Once connected, I rarely experience any quality loss of interference. The radio they put in here seems to be a good one, much unlike my Google Pixel, which cuts out with any sudden movement. One thing my Pixel does do better, though, is remember the devices I connect to. With the Pixel, I turn on the headphones and they auto connect. With the Sony player, you have to re-connect from the menu each time, or use NFC (but many devices don't have that feature)
This player does not color the sound. If you are looking for such, move along. What the NW-A35 does give you is proper amplification for nearly any IEM to keep things transparent and presented how the headphone/IEM is tuned. Compared to my Google Pixel, soundstage is wider and the beefed up power output is noticeable.
Sony has something unique to this player. As competition seems to be trying to make DAPs more like smartphones, Sony still thinks a music player should remain dedicated to the one task – which I appreciate. With such a great physical design, excellent playback ability, 30+ hour battery life, and wireless LDAC, I couldn’t recommend this player more!