Sony NW-WM1Z/WM1A DAPs

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by mrweirdude, Sep 1, 2016.

  1. YMO

    YMO Friend

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    Thanks for the link so I can correct myself. I guess it is going to be one of those things that I need to demo/try out. Not liking the lack of 4.4mm and borderline Android with the Open APK stuff.
     
  2. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    If you have Solaris you may look at this comment from Ken Ball : https://www.head-fi.org/threads/campfire-solaris.891180/page-346.
    Full quote to avoid Head-fi click:
    "When we were at the Munich High End show a few weeks ago I got to demo the AK Kann Cube. Using my Solaris it was the best I have heard, It really took the Solaris to the next level and I have been using every day. The amp in the Cube is a beast and it really made the Solaris sing. Also I found the UI to be unmatched. It a big DAP but its all business and to me I want the best sound possible in a device I can bring with me, this fit the bill. I immediately ordered 3 for my shop and begged my friends at AK to let me borrow the demo unit until my order showed up. In addition I tried with with Tidal and, dang it sounded amazing as well.

    Heads up the AK Kann Cube is an amazing match with the Solaris. I do not sell AK anymore so I have no skin in the DAP market but I do want to promote players that we think are going to work best with our IEMs and this one is highly recommended."

    That's not to say that Kan Cube is in any way "better", I do not really believe in better at this price range unless something is really screwed up. But from this comment, and my experience with Vegas, I think that Kann Cube power may be a factor with at least some of the CA IEMs.
     
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    Last edited: Feb 8, 2020
  3. fastfwd

    fastfwd Friend

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    The 4.4mm TRRRS has a ground connection; are you saying that DAP headphone outputs leave that connection open?
     
  4. Rockwell

    Rockwell Friend

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    I remember that comment from KB...I briefly entertained getting the Cube but it's really too big to be properly portable-- it's more of a transportable desktop rig. That and I'm pretty much committed to 4.4 terminations on my cables at this point.
     
  5. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    That is worth checking for a specific DAP, and it may also may depend on how your pantacon adapter to the amplifier balanced input is wired. What I am saying I would not assume anything.
     
  6. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    One would hope that the ground is always connected on the Pentacon. It’s what makes possible balanced-SE adapters in the first place!

    Also, devices with TRRS balanced outputs (2.5 or 3.5mm) usually come with a SE TRS jack as well. You can easily build a cable using both to connect to balanced pre-amps.
     
  7. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    For headphones you can make balanced to SE adapters for headphones using just four connections. Balanced line out connections are entirely different matter.
     
  8. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    What do you mean? If you use all 4 wires in your headphone you’ll run balanced.
     
  9. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    Balanced headphone connection, yes. Not balanced line out. There is a difference.
     
  10. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    I still don’t know what you’re trying to say?
    You can make a balanced “line out” out of a 4-pin TRRS balances headphone output, if you steal the ground from the SE headphone output as well.
    For headphones you don’t need ground .
     
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  11. aisnikkor

    aisnikkor Rando

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    I’ve been going through a number of upgrades to my gear recently and wanted to post some impressions of Sony WM-1A vs ZX2 and WM-1A vs WM-1Z. I know this is kind of late to the party as these products have been around for years at this point, but I was frustrated in not finding more info in this area when wanting to upgrade recently, hence the reason for my (long) post. In addition to Sony DAP’s, I’ve also been upgrading on the IEM side from Andromedas to Solaris to Solaris SE, but I will post those comments elsewhere, other than the short summary below.

    All DAP comparisons were done using the same set of headphones, Solaris for the transition from ZX2 to WM-1A and Solaris SE for the WM-1A to WM-1Z. In terms of quantifying the changes, from largest improvement in SQ to smallest:

    1. Andromeda (green V2) to Solaris (original gold) – Improvements were more balanced frequency response, much better air and depth in soundstage presentation (almost like going from 2D to 3D soundstage), and bass control, extension and presence. Large improvement in SQ.

    2. ZX2 to WM1A – Better bass control and detail, blacker background, more depth in soundstage presentation, and more refined detail retrieval. Not as much as #1, but still a significant improvement.

    3. WM-1A to WM-1Z – improvements in how the overall music is presented, more body/dimension to individual instruments and vocals. A subtle, but definite improvement – took a while to understand and define the change, but I really like it.

    4. Solaris to Solaris SE – slightly more forward midrange which gives better vocals and instrument presence. Very slight improvements to top/bottom end, maybe? This upgrade was less of an improvement than a preference – but a clear preference for me for the SE. Any improvement here would be for very small differences in SQ.

    I lived with Andromedas and the ZX2 for about a 6 month timeframe (2019 to early 2020), but I had been interested all along in the Solaris based on its reviews. I really enjoyed the Andro/ZX2 combo though, and in particular the sound of the Sony player. After upgrading the IEM’s to Solaris, I started looking at WM-1A as an upgrade to ZX2, primarily for less hiss, and faster startup time of the player. I thought I had read somewhere that WM-1A does not rebuild the library each time you start it up, so that was a potential improvement I was excited about, that turned out to be incorrect :-(. I was not expecting such a large sound quality improvement from the jump to WM-1A though.

    Notes from the ZX2 to WM-1A (FW 3.01) upgrade:

    1. WM-1A was more responsive overall – screens just felt more fluid on the WM-1A than ZX2. Even though its been around for about 4 years at this point, WM-1A still feels like a responsive device on par with current phones I have, where ZX-2 feels dated.

    2. WM-1A screen looks much nicer than ZX2. They are the same size and pixel resolution, but different technologies. Also, removing all the extra stuff that needs to be shown for Android on the ZX2 is a plus for the WM-1A. Screen resolution on either is good for their purpose.

    3. Both are very well built, but I like the form factor of the WM series better. I think it’s because I have larger size hands. ZX2 was harder for me to hold and operate the controls one handed.

    For sound comparisons between the ZX2 and WM-1A, I used a TRRS balanced cable with the original gold Solaris. WM-1A was on the SE input (I did not have a 4.4mm balanced cable yet, and switching cables would take too long anyway). Even on the SE input, WM-1A was clearly better in a number of areas:

    4. Noise on WM-1A was lower, less hiss. On well recorded DSD stuff, background was almost black – if there was hiss on the WM-1A it was very, very slight. Sounds appear to originate out of nothing on the WM-1A, never quite had that experience on the ZX2 because of hiss. In addition if there is hiss present in the recording, you hear it with either player, but it was not an issue in use for me, even with the ZX2. Its lower noise floor also helps the WM-1A with slightly better detail retrieval than ZX2.

    5. Dynamic range on the WM-1A is noticeably better than ZX2. Dynamics on drums or large orchestra crescendos are more effortless sounding on the WM-1A. ZX2 sounds a little compressed in comparison.

    6. Depth and dimensionality of soundstage is significantly better with WM-1A. ZX-2 presents a clear, sharply focused picture of what you are listening to, but with much less depth and dimensionality than WM-1A. Imaging on the ZX2 and Andromeda was one of the things I admired most about that combo, but I never realized how much I was missing.

    7. Bass is tighter and more controlled on the WM-1A, but still hits hard and goes deep. There is a little more perceived bass on the ZX2, but it is not as controlled, sounds a bit flabby in comparison to the WM-1A. This is another area that I had no complaints about on the ZX2, until I heard the WM-1A.

    I was liking where all this was going, so why not take it to the end of the road? Another month passed, and I obtained a balanced 4.4mm ALO Super Litz cable (same as stock), sold my Solaris for Solaris SE, and eventually got a WM-1Z. The last two upgrades (Solaris to SE and 1A to 1Z) were much more of the ‘diminishing returns’ variety, but both were still improvements to my ears.

    The WM-1Z was purchased from someone in Europe as an EU model with volume cap. I changed the region to “J” for the Japanese version to get rid of the volume cap. Firmware on the WM-1Z is 3.02, the 1A was still on 3.01. I’m not about to start trying to hear differences between firmware versions – this would drive me insane. I am happy with how things are sounding, and with the improvements I am getting already with hardware changes, I don’t need to chase those remaining minute (if any) differences in SQ. Both players were used in the direct sound mode (no EQ or DSP stuff going on), balanced output in high gain, identical volume settings.

    Notes on the WM-1A to WM-1Z comparisons:

    1. Initial listening left very little difference between these players, until I started to hear specific differences in certain areas and then focused in on these. I was very much enjoying the WM-1A prior to getting the 1Z, it is still a great DAP. In many recordings it’s hard to tell the difference between these players at all.

    2. One area that I did not get the expected differences, was in overall frequency response. 1A is supposed to be brighter, 1Z darker; 1A more clinical bass, 1Z fatter stronger bass. I did not really see these differences between the players – they were more alike than different here. 1A bass was as solid and controlled as 1Z, treble on both players was quite enjoyable. Having said that, the perceived differences due to different soundstage and imaging characteristics (as described below) in these frequency areas may be how these differences appear on these players for my hearing?

    3. The first area I noticed differences between the players was in the cohesiveness of the presentation of the whole of a particular recording. With choral music (Los Angeles Master Chorale, Lauridsen’s 'Lux Aeterna' CD, multiple tracks), I was noticing that the WM-1A presented a crystal clear image of the sopranos/altos on one side of the stage and the tenors/basses on the other side of the stage, and while each part was sharply defined and layered, they did not blend together in the same way for the overall sound – it was kind of disjointed in comparison the 1Z. WM-1A sounded kind of etched or over-sharpened, where 1Z was a smoothly blended whole. Maybe this accounts for the difference in treble response as noted above? Treble was still excellent on both players, just a different presentation.

    4. Another track that showed this cohesiveness of the 1Z was Paul Simon, ‘The Coast’ from The Rhythm of the Saints CD. This has a rhythm section at the beginning that is made up of a number of different kinds of drums playing together. On the WM-1A, the drums present a fun, driving recording, lots of layers of sound. With the 1Z however, I was not listening to a recording of overlapping layers of drum tracks, but rather listening to a number of different drums in a cohesive 3D soundscape. The WM-1A is enjoyable, the 1Z just sounds more real. With the 1A, it feels like you are listening to a bunch of super-clear, but 2D, images pasted into a whole soundscape, some layers in front of others. Where with the 1Z, it is a smoothly transitioning 3D picture, still sharp and clear, but with perception of the space and air between the individual instruments, and the instruments themselves have more body or roundness. Hope this makes sense.

    5. On the intro to Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, the music on the 1A sounds out in front of you, with the guitar line central and on top of the bass line, both of which sound kind of 2D. With the 1Z, everything is larger, wider, with the bass all around you, and the guitar sitting in the center of a 3D sphere full of bass goodness. Both are toe tapping fun, but the soundstage difference on this one between the players was surprising. The frequency response and impact of the bass was similar between the two players, but the overall perception of the track was anything but similar here.

    6. Piano recordings in particular showed strengths of the 1Z vs the 1A. I have some new appreciation for Reference Recordings ‘Nojima Plays Liszt’ CD after hearing it through the 1Z. The piano notes sound much more lifelike on the 1Z compared to the 1A, with individual notes having body and depth. Also, on strong crescendos with complex chords (lots of piano keys being played loudly at the same time), the 1Z retained these lifelike qualities, where the 1A sounded congested or strained in comparison.

    All of the above differences were not immediately apparent (except maybe the Daft Punk Track) and pretty small in the magnitude of difference between the players. Had I not heard the 1Z, I’d still be pretty happy with what I was getting out of the 1A in my current setup. I will definitely be keeping the 1Z over the 1A though, really liking these small improvements.

    What started for me with the Andromeda and ZX2, and has only gotten better with each of these successive upgrades, was the ability to enjoy a much greater portion of my music collection. I have steered toward acquiring a lot of ‘audiophile’ recordings over the years, so I have no shortage of good stuff to listen to that makes most systems shine. But with these Sony players (and CFA iem’s), I have been going back to a lot of recordings that have been left on the shelf for a good while, and finding new enjoyment with music that sounded pretty poor on previous systems. To me, that is a whole lot of added value to these purchases.

    Sorry for the long post, but hope this helps someone who is in a similar boat and wondering about these upgrades.
     
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  12. Eliasroses

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  13. YMO

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    Still rocking the WM1A/Z? I still have mine but not really using it due to WFH, but I use it here and there.

    Some wise guy from HF did an easy to install custom firmware for WM1A/Z, the ZX300, and even some of the lower end Walkman models.

    https://www.mrwalkman.ml/

    So what this guy does is tune the sound closer to a Sony DMP-Z1. I never heard of the DMP-Z1 so I have no comment if this claim is true or not. Other improvements is better artwork support (which I confirm to be the case, but not perfect still), running DSD natively thru 3.5mm output jack (normal FW only converts DSD > PCM via 3.5mm while reserving the 4.4mm as only format for DSD native).

    To get this part out of the way, the 4.4mm output is still better in technicalities than 3.5mm output, but the difference isn't a giant one. I think most of the time for me the 3.5mm is 90%-92% of the 4.4mm in quality. People are still going to be anal on the 4.4mm and want to use that 100%, but me I just use the WM1A for casual use. Due to my casual usage, 3.5mm is more than enough for me (with minor compression on 3.5mm while 4.4mm it isn't compressed sounding as much). Also, I'm lazy as fuck and I don't want to keep swapping cables from 3.5mm to 4.4mm and back.

    From my time with the custom FW, the sound is less laid back than stock FW, more bass impact (but not overwhelming), a little more forward mids, and slightly more engaging treble. If you found the stock FW Sony sound to be meh (similar to the ZX2 but with the Sony DSP app crap running in the background), give this FW a shot since it's super easy to install. It even allows you to go back to stock FW within a snap.

    The IER-M9s are better if running them in high gain output (low gain the volume is too low due). I swear they were made for desk amps and not DAPs (which I stated before they sound great on my two tube amps). The Gaudio Nair benefit with the FW adjustment the best on my end, the custom FW gives the Nair more balls in the blows and treble, but not running too far away from its excellent neutral turning. Drop x JVC HA-FDX1 is more lively on this custom FW than stock, which I also enjoy as well (but I still think the Nair improved the best with the FW adjustment).

    If there's a minor downside, the scrolling is a little choppy at times but other than that it is the same Sony-made UI interface that is rock solid without the downsides of Android (yet Android have the apps we all know and love, which the Sony will never have on their custom DAPs).

    Give it a shot.
     
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    Last edited: Dec 25, 2020
  14. m17xr2b

    m17xr2b Friend

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    I love the red Walkman logo of the custom firmware, it should come standard in red as it reminds me of the old Walkman DAPs and phones.

    The firmware itself didn't float my boat. A staple of sony sound for me is super smooth treble. The custom firmware enhances contrast making sounds pop to the determent of the treble smoothness. It's slightly coarse and sharp and constantly sticking out and drawing attention to it killing enjoyment.
    The plus ROM enhanced the mids in a pleasant way, it does something different than just an EQ and I liked the overall warm effect the WM1Z is known for but has the same treble issue and is a no go.
    Stock High gain changes the sound in a similar fashion losing smoothness and why I never use it. Still, it gave me an idea of how the 1Z sounds and is very similar to other impressions I've read, could be something I'd want but the value proposition is too poor to consider.

    I'm using my own modified headphones and know them well, could be IEMs respond differently and are not as sensitive to these changes so I'd see why it may be preferred to the stock Sony firmware. B+
     
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  15. drgumbybrain

    drgumbybrain Science Nut

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    Greetings friends, hope you are fine. In the past I have noticed that walkman firmware updates were changing the sound of my WM1Z to the brighter side.... but did not believe my perception (placebo), and let it go. But after reading those posts about non official firmware I started to wonder this situation. My firmware (3.02) its causing ear fatigue with Andromeda , I did not have that in the past (1.2 firmware). Can someone explain to a noob as me how in the name of God a firmware change sound?? thank you in advance
     
  16. YMO

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    You can go to the Mr.Walkman site and it explains the process. If you hate the change of the sound from the custom firmware, Mr.Walkman provides easy directions to revert back to stock. https://www.mrwalkman.ml/
     
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  17. drgumbybrain

    drgumbybrain Science Nut

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    Thank you! There is a new firmware called Midnight. I’m really liking it. Just remembers me my first experience with Sony nwwm1z. Placebo effect? Gas leaking in my basement? Dont know... if you guys try this firmware I’ll be glad to read your thoughts .
     
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  18. YMO

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    Maybe on the weekend. I just like what Mr.Walkman is doing with the FWs.
     
  19. YMO

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    Sorry for the delay, finally got my ass to try out the new Mr. Walkman Midnight + Dawn firmware for the WM1A, which is also available on the ZX300 (@Merrick).

    Mr. Walkman custom FW gets better and better. Want a more neutral turning that almost gets rid of the goo ness of the stock Sony WM1A sound, get the Dawn firmware. You want an improvement of the Sony WM1A (warm but a few steps above stock), get the Midnight firmware.

    I can see people using the Midnight FW for BA IEMs which has the infamous BA treble (CA IEMs). DD IEM fans or more neutralish tuning IEMs (even if BA like Gaudio Nair) will prefer the Dawn firmware.

    The boost mode that makes both custom FW perform even better (with a cost of more battery life) is a wonderful touch.

    Still only downside is this is not an Android DAP, but with LDAC from another Device (like my phone running in UAPP in clean Bluetooth mode), it is more than enough.

    These FWs IMO gives new life to the ZX300 and the WM1A/Z. Still sucks you have to use WM-Port for charging and junk, but at least you can get those cables for cheap if you lose them via Amazon. Also it isn't hard to flip the FW if you want to (wanted to only use CA IEMs for example, which I'm banking on Midnight being much better for those).

    For those who are curious, I prefer Dawn for the FW since I use my JVCs more on them. The Gaudio Nair is also nice with this firmware and gives it more balls (Midnight I thought wasn't the best match for the Nair).
     
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    Last edited: Mar 7, 2021
  20. Music_as_medicine

    Music_as_medicine Rando

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    This is great to hear! I am getting a near mint, used WM1Z on Monday and cannot wait. I will be using them with my Denon AH-D9200. Going to start out with Dawn and see how it goes given that the Denon's tend to lean neutral.

    The DAP not being Android was one of the reasons I wanted to get one. I still have PTSD from terminal lag suffered by my android phones in the past. I trust Sony to put together a better UI through Linux, Unfortunately, this comes at the cost of streaming independently of DAP mode.

    How much worse is the battery life with the Mr.Walkman mods?
     

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