DAP For Sound Quality - Sony S639 or A829 or..?
Nov 17, 2008 at 3:23 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 22

cordova

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Hi all,

I’ve decided that it’s finally time to be dragged kicking and screaming into the year 2001 (
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), and to replace my old Panasonic RQ-SX15 cassette player with a DAP. I'm not interested in games, video playback, etc (only possibly an FM tuner), so my primary concerns are of audio quality, storage capacity, and build quality (and budget
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). I’ve been doing some reading of various reviews, and it seems the Sony players have a reputation for very good sound quality, so I was looking at the Sony NWZS639FB and the Sony NWZA829B.

From what I’ve read, the A829 has better sound quality than the S629 (S639's predecessor) – is that still the case with the S639, and is it because of better headphones being supplied, or does the unit itself produce a cleaner output? There's practically a 50% difference in price between the two, and I'm trying to work out where the difference comes from - it can't all be in bluetooth, can it? Am I right in thinking that the headphones on the A829 shouldn’t "need" replacing, but those on the S639 might? Does anyone have any specs on the headphones that come with either unit? (I'm just curious...) Does either unit suffer from overly prominent bass, as this is something I'm not overly fond of (I don't listen to dance, etc, and prefer a more "faithful" reproduction)? Also, is it possible to “populate” the unit with music using Windows Explorer and drag-and-drop like an external drive, or would I need to use Windows Media Player, or some extra software? Finally, what’s the maximum bit-rate the units support for MP3 files, and is it CBR or VBR (all MP3s would be self-ripped from CDs I own)?

Are there any other players I should look at as well? My requirements would be:
  1. Excellent audio quality
  2. Flash-based, with a capacity of over 15GB (I want to put all my music on it and leave it there)
  3. Does not require any extra software to be installed on my PC to use it
  4. Mains adaptor included or available
  5. Decent build quality
  6. Supports play by album/folder (should be a given, I know)
Budget is in the region of £150-175 all-in (the A829 is £170 with AC adaptor).

Thanks in advance for any help/opinions!
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(and sorry for the mass of questions)

P.S. If it makes a difference (as some things might be bass-heavy, etc), I normally listen to modern jazz (Chick Corea, Esbjorn Svensson), instrumental jazz/rock (Stanley Clarke, Joe Satriani, Andy Timmons), blues (Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton), “classic” or modern rock (Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, 3 Doors Down), and some pop (Matchbox 20, The Corrs, Sheryl Crow) ...
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 3:32 PM Post #2 of 22

walkingman

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AFAIK, the S639 has the best SQ so far of all of Sony's Walkman models. Some are saying it is better than the A810 series, which was already stunning. If you don't need Bluetooth then I see no reason why you should get the A82x series. Either way both players support your requirements and more. Max bitrate is 320kbps.

With your budget you can easily picked up the 16GB version from Amazon UK for £88 and have plenty of spare money to buy a good mid-range IEM.
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 3:42 PM Post #3 of 22

cordova

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Wow, that was a quick reply, Walkingman - faster than a speeding topic reply notification e-mail, actually!
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Quote:

Originally Posted by walkingman /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Max bitrate is 320kbps.


Is that constant- or variable bit rate?

Quote:

Originally Posted by walkingman /img/forum/go_quote.gif
With your budget you can easily picked up the 16GB version from Amazon UK for £88


Yup, Amazon was where I was looking at.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by walkingman /img/forum/go_quote.gif
...plenty of spare money to buy a good mid-range IEM.


Any recommendations? The only decent headphones I have are 30-year old Koss' that weigh about 1kg (but do 10Hz-30KHz...)

I've just thought of another question - is there a mains adaptor for the S639? Sony's site lists the ACNWUM50 for the A829, but nothing for the S639...
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 3:52 PM Post #4 of 22

walkingman

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I believe it is 320 CBR, but I'll check tonight. I love the CX 95: great SQ/value ratio. But I'll leave it to someone else to recommend one that suits your Jazz preference mode.

As for adaptors, I use a Cygnett USB charger from WHSmith (advertised for iPod). It costs around £12 and allows you to charge any devices that is capable of charging via USB. Plenty of similar devices are made by other companies like Belkin and Sony themselves, but I like the Cygnett best for its 1000mAh output.
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 3:54 PM Post #5 of 22

walkingman

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I believe it is 320 CBR, but I'll check tonight. I love the CX 95: great SQ/value ratio. But I'll leave it to someone else to recommend one that suits your Jazz preference mode.

As for adaptors, I use a Cygnett USB (advertised for iPod -but it will work with anything).

GroovePower UK - United Kingdom AC charger for iPod & iPhone

It costs around £12 from WHSmith and allows you to charge any devices that is capable of charging via USB. Plenty of similar devices are made by other companies like Belkin and Sony themselves, but I like the Cygnett best for its 1000mAh output.
 
Nov 17, 2008 at 4:36 PM Post #6 of 22

toughnut

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It's 320, doesnt matter cbr or vbr. The output of S630/S730 are cleaner than previous Walkman.

Regarding the bundled earphone, both are same EX phone. S610 bundled with crappy usd5 earphone though.

Both players support drag and drop. No more stupid software requirement. WMP syncing is supported too. Folder browsing also an option.
 
Nov 18, 2008 at 10:45 AM Post #7 of 22

cordova

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Thanks for the replies, guys.
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I'm finding this a bit of a minefield (many different models & manufacturers, and no-one has truly detailed specs on their site - I'm an engineer by profession, so I like seeing all the technical details
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), and you've been very helpful so far.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by walkingman /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I love the CX 95: great SQ/value ratio. But I'll leave it to someone else to recommend one that suits your Jazz preference mode.


OK, I just checked out a review of those Sennheisers - they seems quite good - reviewer said they were very balanced.
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I guess I'll have to have a look around (as a note, the jazz I listen to is typically electrified keyboard & guitar, or acoustic piano, brass, & double bass)...

Quote:

Originally Posted by walkingman /img/forum/go_quote.gif
As for adaptors, I use a Cygnett USB (advertised for iPod -but it will work with any
thing).



Thanks, will bear that in mind.
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Looking in the Argos book last night (no, I'm not getting it from there!), the charger I mentioned is listed as working with the S61x, so I'll drop Sony an e-mail about it (I might as well spend the extra £5 if it will work, then Sony can't point the finger of blame at me for anything should anything "go wrong" with the unit at any time [which hopefully won't happen!]
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).

Quote:

Originally Posted by toughnut /img/forum/go_quote.gif
It's 320, doesnt matter cbr or vbr.


Great - didn't know if they were being silly and only supporting CBR, or something like that.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by toughnut /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The output of S630/S730 are cleaner than previous Walkman.


Great! I had initially assumed that the A82x would have been better as it was more money - seems like a good way to save £70, though!
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Quote:

Originally Posted by toughnut /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Regarding the bundled earphone, both are same EX phone.


Good to know, thanks.
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Quote:

Originally Posted by toughnut /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Both players support drag and drop. No more stupid software requirement. WMP syncing is supported too. Folder browsing also an option.


That's great - I don't like loading my PC up with loads of apps, and I was always bemused why they didn't just appear as a standard removable volume, allowing it to be controlled via the OS shell, rather requiring all the faffing around with other apps.
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Dec 10, 2008 at 10:11 PM Post #9 of 22

slimson

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hey im thinking of getting the exact same mp3 player as you!
but with some denon AH-C751 or Sonys MDR-EX700...
anyways just wanted to know have you got it yet and whats it sound like? especialy the included set of earphones. ( i herd they was quite good)
anyways please get back to us realy want to know
cheers
 
Dec 11, 2008 at 9:31 AM Post #12 of 22

cordova

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Hi there, Slimson!

Yes, I did get the S639, along with some Sennheiser IE7's (way over my budget, but they were going cheap!). I haven't posted on it yet, as I only got it last week, and wanted to do some proper "testing" of it before I posted any comments (didn't want to say anything too early, only to reverse my opinion, if that makes sense).

To cut to the short of it, the sound quality is very, very good. I'm using Exact Audio Copy to rip my CDs to FLAC format, and then using Foobar2000 to convert to MP3 using the LAME encoder (set to V0 quality, which works out at about 256KB/sec VBR). I've tried it with Miles Davis, Esbjorn Svensson Trio, Chick Corea, 3 Doors Down, Andy Timmons, Joe Satriani, The Corrs, Texas, Sheryl Crow, Dire Straits, Level 42, Lighthouse Family, Matchbox Twenty, Yes, Stanley Clarke, Manic Street Preachers, and Rainbow, and haven't had any problems. To be honest, I cannot tell the difference between the MP3s being played, and the original CD (I haven't done a direct side-by-side comparison, I just don't notice any deficiencies). I'm using the factory defaults on the player (all the sound optimisations like Clear Stereo, EQ, etc, off). With the stock headphones, there's no line noise, although the IE7's do pick a little up.

The stock headphones are surprisingly good - better than any other headphones I have (with two exceptions). They are very comfortable, although prone to falling out of my ears, they don't provide great noise isolation, and are prone to microphonics (knocking the cable results in sounds in the 'phones). The sound quality is very good - they are nice and clear, and have a nice mellow sound (the bass is a little on the "light" side), which makes them easy to listen to. If I hadn't listened to the IE7's (they arrived first) I probably wouldn't have changed them. The IE7's are just crystal clear, and have a slightly warm, strong-yet-not-over-emphasised bass-line, although they seem to like being use at higher volumes. Whilst they are not as comfortable for me as the Sony's (they're not uncomfortable, but you don't forget they're in your ear, if that makes sense), they do achieve a certain "sound pressure" that you normally only get with full headphones. They sound extremely similar to my "antique" and excellent Koss Pro4AA's. Sound isolation is excellent.

Hope that's helpful.
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P.S. The screen on the Sony player is exposed and a dust magnet, so you will want a case. Sony are annoying in that they put a sticker over the screen (an advert for all the "wonderful" videos supplied), so you don't get the plastic film protector that you normally get with mobile phones, etc, which is annoying. Also, the player is marginally too small for my hands, but hey.
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Dec 11, 2008 at 10:09 AM Post #14 of 22

cordova

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Quote:

Originally Posted by walkingman /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Where did you get the IE7 for "cheap"?


Amazon were doing them for ~£120, and AdvancedMP3Players (via Amazon) for ~£115. The prices have since gone up to ~£130.
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Not exactly "cheap", but significantly less than the £170 list price ...
 
Dec 11, 2008 at 10:33 AM Post #15 of 22

walkingman

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Thanks! The price isn't that bad, though I'll probably wait for the price to settle down since these IEs are pretty new...

The screen is rather tough. Seems to be made of the same material as my Nokia E51 (six months without any protection, not a single scratch on it). I did fashion a screen protector for the S639 out of a spare Axim screen protector I had lying around.
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