Sony Walkman NW-ZX100 128GB

General Information

3rd Generation of Sony's High-end ZX series, sucessor of ZX1

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Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Stellar audio Quality, Battery Life of 60h with FLAC, supports 200GB microSD
Cons: Questionable build quality, creaky buttons, scratch-prone LCD cover made of plastic
A little about me
I'm an audiophile but not the Graphs and number ones, more of a music lover type of audiophile who seeks the best true sound quality. My Genre of choice is Classical music from renaissance to Classism and abit of nationalism like Grieg, Dvorak.
Unboxing & accessories
The box is simple cardboard box, removing the cardboard you get a nice jewel case like box screaming luxury, the walkman is greeting you as soon as you open the box. the included accessories are the USB Cable for data trabsfer, a plastic bumper for portable amplifier (to level the walkman body flat), user manuals (there is another model Called NW-ZX100HN which includes NC earbuds).

Build Quality
The build quality it self is quite nice, made of a block of aluminum and machined via CNC machine, feel pretty heavy compared to other DAPs i've owned in the past (145g), it includes a square D-PAD, two buttons on top of the D-PAD back/Home and PwrOff/Options, the D-Pad has  a Play/pause button in the center, in the right side there is a Hold slider switch feeling pretty easy to operate with your thumb, two large volume + and volume - buttons and the SD card slot (microSD) stitting flush and well seal.
But the buttons feel creaky (options anfd home) the D-pad plate slides up and down and the screen is cheap plastic pronet to scratch with almost a feather, mine got a scratch after two weeks of use, so beware and get your screen protector, The WM-PORT feel sturdy and nice firmly placed, same for the HP jack


Usability of the User interface
The UI of this walkman is very easy to use as it is the traditional embedded-OS "walkman OS" used since 2007 on "budget" walkmen, but this model departs from the traditional grid-based layout (as it removed all Photo, video and including FM Radio), instead it presents in a row of circular tiles. The rest is the usual "old-school" menu and list based system. go to now playing and you have the music screen wtih big font, nice big album art. Press back once and you go back to the song list, press back again and you go to either Album, Artist, year etc selection, press back once more and you go back to category nav. from Now playing you can left the Back/HOME button pressed for a while and it will take you to the home row.
The Option with a quick press in now playing you have access to common music settings such as DSEE, EQ, DSD playback settings etc, long-press that button and your device will go to stand-by mode (turns off completely after 24h of inactivity). The HOLD switch disables all input including volume buttons.
on now playing pressing the play button once toggles between play and pause, long press adds the currently playing song to a bookmark list (OTG playlist), pressing quickly < and > fastfowards and rewinds to the next/previos song long press these and you will be able to seek in the song. press the UP And DOWN arrows and you enter the "album scroll" (sony coverFlow implementation)


Sound Quality
My two listening devices
 are the MDR-1R cans and the sony XBA-A3 IEMs one is id-cenetered and the A3 is slightly v-shaped
The overall presentation of the music independant of headphones is very airy, very natural, organic sound i've ever heard from any DAP, even from Fiio x3 I and even from own sony's budget NWZ-A17, the sound is distortion free, soundstage is Big, bigegr than the one of A17 walkman. The player is super detailed compared to fiio and A17 and position of instruments is very presice.
Soundstage: Depends of the recording it gives you a nice sense of spaciousness for big-room music like cathedral, concert halls, even studio recorded music can sound a bit with reverb and nice deccay. you get the proper room widht and depth.
Instrument separation: I find this to be the most accurate represnetation of any DAP i've heard, each instrument/voice/organ pipe mixture is well separated form the rest, each instrument has it's own timbre (voice) easyli distinguished. you get proper separation for m each instrument group or soloits in case of chamber music /sinfonia concertante. an Oboe sounds like an oboe, a french horn like a horn and so on.
Bass: The bass on this player is very controlled, tight, it rumbles when needed f.e organ pipes is a good example of subbass or even my  few records which feature a Lautenwerck (lute-harpsichord) a harpsichord with gut strings instead of metal strings, thus the deep visceral bass of the lower register sets, this player manages to do this very well even on the bass-weak MDR-1R, it shines with the XBA-A3. tot he point i get tickles on mye ar canals
Mids: those are a bit more forward than the A17 giving a proper sense of clarity and spaciousness, it gives the voices of the instruments that are not bass, like violins, violas, etc, very well and lushy mids. it complements the bassy nature of XBA-A3 leveling them very well it gives me the impression of quasi-neutral IEMs. French horns sound authoritative, violas and violins sound very nice, esp violins with gut strings very screechy, Harpsichords don't fatigue either despite the player reveal all the mechanism cues up to the harmonics of the plectra post-pluck phase.
Highs: Very airy highs, very well rpesented those give the airiness of the rest that is vital to the music without those cues it would be so boring... reverbs, mechanics of certain instruments, piccolos sound a bit shouty but manageable, the "harmonic warble distortion" present on the A17 series is gone, no more warble during comple choir/organ music, detectable with reverb-prone rooms. all is crystal lear. In renaissance style music the choirs extend very high up tot he "air" giving a nice proper deccay time. Some details seem too much like violins screeching detectable for a trained ear like when the bow hits the strings in the fine tuners area you geta high-pitched harminuc screech almost unpercetible.
Overall clarity of this walkman is very good, distortion free, very nice at dynamics of the orchestral pieces, proper time of deccay and recerv duration, organic sounding. Partd eu the inclusion of a 44.1KHz clock oscillator and a 48KHz clock oscillator.
The various sounds enhancements technologies like DSEE, CLearAudio+ Surrond(VTP) and some EQ settings cna sound artifical, so i never or rarely use them
With hi.res audio (24/48 ~192Khz flac) tho i don't have any DSD to test it. shines even more, all the talk above was with standard 16/44.1Khz FLAC files, hi-res sound as realistic as if you were with the artist / ensemble in a VIP invitation in the scene.
Battery life quote as above with 16/44.1Khz mostly gives me a full week of play (using it arround 5 to 12 hrs aday, averaging 8 to 10) so arround like 56-61hours.
+ Stellar sound quality
+ superrb clarity in the sound, very organic and natural
+ stellar battery life with FLAC (16/44.1KHz)
+ Easy to use interface
+ 200GB microSD support!
- Questionale build quality arround button mechanism and plastic LCD Cover, expected glass!!
- A *bit* LOW Power output at 15mW per channel
- Lack of a basic screen protector by Sony (my fiio x3 had 3 in the box) abd overall lack of accessories
- Does not do DSD Native (converst to 176.4KHZ PCM)
+/- USB Transfer speed still stuck in the USB 2.0 8 to 12 MB/s too slow for my modern sony VAIO with USB 3.0, using the SD with the SD adapter in the USB 3.0 Slot
Nice Review!
Very good review


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