Review player Sony Walkman NWZ-A105: very strange case

In 2019, Sony celebrated the fortieth anniversary of one of its major devices — those which created the glory of the great Japanese company. Player Walkman. It is in memory of him and released NWZ-A100 – on the one hand, another MP3 player brand (Sony never gave this direction), on the other hand, homage to the heart from the cassette. A characteristic “brick” design emblazoned on all promotional banners Wallpaper with magazine, appropriate surroundings (for example, it is argued that the connection of the PCB with the battery applied to lead-free soldering using gold) and unexpected for this class of devices the pump, which it was submitted. Well, we almost never write on the pages 3DNews about modern players — and the Sony NWZ-A105 is just one good reason to talk about this endangered class as a whole for example, a particular representative.

Features Sony NWZ-105

Sony NWZ-A105
Display 3.6 inches, IPS, 1280 × 720 pixels, 406 ppi capacitive, multi-touch
Processor The model does not specify: 4 × Cortex A53, 1.8 GHz; Vivante GC7000NanoUltra
RAM 2 GB
Flash memory 16 GB
Connectors USB Type-C, mini-Jack 3.5 mm
Slot for memory card There
Wireless modules Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac; Bluetooth 5.0; NFC
Supported frequency 20 to 40,000 Hz
Maximum power 35 mW + 35 mW
Supported formats MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, HE-AAC, AIFF, DSD, PCM. APE, MQA
Battery 4.9 W·h (1285 mAh, 3.8 V)
Size 98,9 × 55,9 × 11 mm
Weight 103 g
Operating system Android 9.0 Pie
Price 22 990 rubles
     

Sony NWZ-A105 – information about stuffing according to CPU-Z

The design and construction

In terms of design the Sony NWZ-A105 — a reference to the very first cassette Walkman TPS-L2, a former blockbuster 40 years ago, and now, in the era of rampant nostalgia for the 80s, is experiencing a new wave of popularity — even just as a symbol.

Sony Walkman TPS-L2

However, to understand the reference, it is necessary to read and, preferably, to activate a special mode the screen saver in the form of playable audio tapes, which is off by default. If, however, about the reference knowledge, that is quite typical audiophile player, what would expect to see today: with metal, not plastic, like the Walkman casing with a set of small round keys and intuitive ergonomics. Except that the shape and thickness of the box hinting at kinship with the cassette. In blue version Walkman NWZ-A105 something can awaken nostalgia, but certainly not in black as in our case. And yet it is found in red and ashy green buildings.

In any case, the whole front panel will be black — it is entirely, minus a rather large part, occupied by the screen. Frame too large — still in 2020 in the yard. Especially since there is no front-facing camera, and come up with some logical justification for such a massive border around the screen diagonal of 3.6 inches hard. But the logic of design of the Sony NWZ-A105 smartphone by far.

To belong to other type of devices only highlight a few details: a solid set of hardware keys on the right side (switch, volume, playback controls, hold switch), the eyelet for the wrist strap on the bottom and brought to the surface a slot for memory cards microSD. I’ll tell you that he is irreplaceable.

 
 

Face and back are made of aluminum, rough to the touch. The player does slip — and generally mess around with it nice: whether because of fatigue, caused by the same persons smartphones, whether due to the combination of relatively small size and significant weight — 103 grams. Camera great balanced, the buttons are nice to press, the build quality is superb.

Hardware and software

But is the Sony Walkman NWZ-A105 for the first time to include, what immediately caught a sense of deja vu — nostalgia nostalgia, and the base operation Android schedule. In the player set to the most common Android 9.0 with special software from Google Play to boot. You can even “Instagram” set, though Call of Duty Mobile, only the first is not needed (even camera), but the second doesn’t work.

   
   

Useful app store are for those who want to entertain themselves with simple games, well, or for those who want to put a third-party program to play audio. You can also download some customization of the shell.

   
   
   

But it’s all from evil. In my opinion, the pre-installed software for proper operation of the player is enough. Here we use functional and user-friendly music player app that correctly displays the tags, it knows how to load cover — well, quite exhausts the need for such programs. The player supports essentially all common today audio formats including PCM (DSD), of course, FLAC and HQ AAC.

   

To adjust the sound the neighboring application: it contains detailed equalizer (10 bands) and various software add-ons audio: DSEE HX (software “documania” audio files from digital compression), linear phase correction, dynamic Normalizer, ClearAudio+, vinyl processor (Yes, the player tries to modulate the effect of the vinyl player). There are software amplifier S-Master HX.

 

Another basic app that will not meet on smartphones — built-in digital noise reduction. It is best manifests itself with branded headphones that support this system, but it works by itself, albeit not as effectively as the technology of active noise canceling built into the headphones themselves.

As for the hardware, it is all quite mysterious. Sony does not disclose neither the platform on which is executed a new Walkman, or the model of the DAC. Instead, it creates an aura of a premium device with a story about the impact of the aluminum frame on the sound and the use of film capacitors, special resistor, which correctly distributes the currents on the surface of the Board, and cleverly optimized the diagram of the printed circuit Board.

 

I found out only that there is some kind of noname-this platform is based on four ARM Cortex-A53 with a frequency of 1.8 GHz with graphics accelerator Vivante basic level GC7000NanoUltra. I’ve run a few synthetic tests results above. Install Antutu and 3DMark 3D, by the way, just a failed system this was not ready. To play on the player also does not work, but it is not necessary. In order for the device to fulfill their basic functions, platforms, complete with 2 GB of RAM enough. But will have to wait a little twitchy animation and the rather slow launch of applications, like low-cost smartphone commercials of the year 2015.

Despite the stated ideal internal structure and the specific layout of the printed circuit Board, the player violently heated. When playing music housing just becomes warm, within tolerant, but is, for example, to try to install an app from Google Play like aluminum case Sony NWZ-A105 is heated — which impacts in particular on autonomy, which is not so hot. About it, however, below.

One of the strangest features of Sony NWZ-A105 may not be evident when purchasing, like when you first start the player. Or rather, when you try to download it a music. There is very little space. The stated 16 GB more than half is system, still biting every three gigabytes of pre-installed software (which it is better not to remove) — and it turns out that for music you will have commercials 5 GB. They also better not to score, because from time to time the player is trying to upgrade the firmware: it requests 2 GB of free space during installation (version 2.0.0), and after installation eats up additional half a Gigabyte. System, by the way, is very indignant, if on the drive during all of this remains less than the two Gigabyte (apparently, waiting for the next update).

That is, buying the Sony NWZ-A105, you get the device, the music for which will have to be stored on the microSD card. Mandatory. What is the maximum capacity memory card supported, the manufacturer does not specify. In my opinion, the release of the player, that is the device that by default, we plan to store a lot of information (albeit the same type of music), with virtually no internal storage in some way a mockery. And it is not clear what forced Sony to take this step.

A few words about the screen: it’s rather small (3.6 inches), but not bad for such a diagonal resolution (1280 × 720 pixels) — the picture is clear, no pixelation, brightness enough, so that player could easily use Sunny day on the street. But because of the small diagonal and not in the best way calculated the size of the fonts in the app player the names of many of the tracks just don’t fit on the screen.

The sound quality

To atone for a sluggish operating system and outright greed on the built-in memory can only be one thing — a really good sound that is dramatically superior to what we can get from smartphones.

In addition to subjective assessment, I used the same technique as in the valuation of the headphones (it has been tested in reviews Apple Airpods and Apple Airpods Pro) – FSQ.

The FSQ method in its standard version includes 14 test tracks, which are assessed the following characteristics of the acoustic system:

  • stock sound tract undistorted volume level;
  • the correct phasing of the audio equipment;
  • the presence of resonances, noise and interference in audio path;
  • the ability of the audio section to reproduce the lowest sound frequencies;
  • the flatness of the sound path;
  • the linearity of the stereo image width of the sound scene;
  • micro-dynamics and separation of soundstage depth;
  • the position and focus of the stereo image in the horizontal and vertical planes, and the naturalness of the transmission of musical attack;
  • musical and timbral balance of the sound of musical instruments and vocals;
  • the linearity of sound in terms of volume and macrodynamics.
  • Wishing to test their own audio system or headphones suggest to download a test disk “Autodoctor FSQ” and test instructions from the page of the Acoustic center of MTUCI. One of the advantages of this method is that a clear evaluation criteria, which compensate for subjective testing. In many tests, the expert only need to answer if he can hear on the recording the sounds that it should be, or Vice versa — those that should not be.

    Next, we sequentially list the results of the listening test recordings FSQ for Sony Walkman NWZ-A105. Each test will be accompanied by a brief description of the user to the “Autodoctor FSQ”. As a headphone I used Sony model WH-1000XM3 with a wired connection. As a smartphone for comparison, the budget Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S as an example of a pressing device with a mini Jack (his profile is developed, will be released later). The use of an adapter for such a test is not wanted.

    Track number Description of the test Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S Sony NWZ-A105
    1 The margin of undistorted volume

     
    Magic Pump, “Open The Door” RDM CD RDM 801201, “Our Town”.

     
    Undistorted volume level is determined at the first track test disc. It sounds a piece of music where vocals and bass are additionally compressed. The volume level will increase from zero to the onset of congestion, when the bass and vocals is clearly beginning to be tapped harmonic distortion, perceived by the ear as wheezing.
    No problems with the actual passing of this test arose from both devices is wheezing at maximum volume was not, but it depends on the headphones safely withstand the test. But the volume level varies strongly feel Sony NWZ-A105 is capable of producing one and a half times more powerful signal.
    2-4 The phasing of the audio path between channels

     
    The narrator’s voice is in phase/out of phase, midrange (300-3, 000 Hz), HF (5 000-22 500 Hz), LF (10– 50 Hz).

     
    On the track the recorded voice of the announcer saying: “MIDs. Phase”. These words should be heard from the center of the sound stage. Next, the speaker says: “mid-range. Opposite phase”. In this case the narration should be played with less volume and (or) defocused to the listener and (or) offset in either direction from the center. Similarly, check the phasing in the HF band and the LF band.
    With this test there were no problems, no smartphone, no player — phasing expressed accurately across the entire spectrum of frequencies.
    5-6 The presence of noise, rattles, abnormal sounds and noise in the audio path

     
    Sliding tone, left/right channel (20-15, 000 Hz).

     
    Tonal (sinusoidal) signal, whose frequency continuously varies from the lowest to the highest frequencies. Separately, first for left and then right channels.
    No rattles, no interference channel 9S Redmi Note is not issued, but the sound began, and stopped on the smartphone much earlier than the range supported by the channel frequency is below. Test passed without any issues identified a wide dynamic range.
    7 The set of frequencies to test LF path


    Soundtrack, first for left and then for right channel contains a record of the number of fixed sound frequencies bass range. First, the speaker reports that sounds of the reference frequency of 60 Hz. Then the speaker announces: “20 Hz”, “25 Hz”, “30 Hz” and so on. The first low-frequency pure tone (no distortion and turbulent vultures), matching the volume with the reference, and determines the lower operating frequency of the sound path. In the ideal case, the volume of the other tones up to 150 Hz should be the same
    Noises and lightweight mid-range CIP was present across the entire spectrum of frequencies on both devices, which is what most characterizes either the signal itself or headphones. Channel smartphone showed normal uniformity up to 125 Hz, then the volume jumps dramatically. In player the problems with uniformity I have not noticed, the sound is relatively flat across the entire spectrum of frequencies, roughly speaking, equally well and hear the rumble at 20 Hz, and the tone at 150 Hz.
    8 The uneven frequency response in the mid audio frequencies

     
    The soundtrack is a high quality stereo recording of applause from a large number of audience. Clapping in a rather resonant room equivalent uniformly distributed on a spectrum of diffuse field noise. However, against this background, the monotonous noise of the human ear manages to distinguish the beginning of claps (bursts). On the audio path with a linear frequency response do you hear the applause, but uneven (“the fence”), they become similar to the noise of the pouring rain
    With this test both devices handled the same level of sound, which at first rather take the noise of the rain, gradually recognized as the applause, and that feeling never leaves until the very end. The channel has no effect on the sound headphones.
    9 The linearity of the stereo image by the width of the sound stage

     
    Moving drum, IASCA Competition CD.

     
    The soundtrack contains seven drum beats, smoothly moving from left to right across the width of the stereo image. Punches accurately localized in the direction of, and moving them linearly in space, i.e. the angles between the bumps are the same.
    The scene is displayed very accurately, problems with the recognition of the provisions of the “drummer” does not occur, but the depth and effect of sound propagation on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S are noticeably more “are clipped”. And the scene, and the accuracy of the sound do not cause any issues.
    10 The micro-dynamics and soundstage depth

     
    Alex Rostotsky Trio, “Intro”, the POPE Musik PM1014-2, “Boiled Borsht”

     
    The soundtrack is a small piece of music with two instruments — bass and drums. Both musicians are in the back of the stage.

     
    Unacceptable depth of sound stage is if the musicians are visually in the foreground. If unsatisfactory micro-dynamics not heard the quiet beats the drums and cymbals, and play bow on the bass are difficult to see. Micro-dynamics can be considered satisfactory if the drums, cymbals, and the bass is audible, but the sound of the double bass can not be heard tapping on the fretboard fingers of the musician and (or) when playing the bass bow you clearly don’t hear a “resting” of the movement of the bow across the strings. And microdrivers would be good if the fingers of the bass player is heard clearly. An excellent micro-dynamics has an audio path, if you hear a very quiet murmur, when the drummer accidentally hurt elbow plate and then squeezes her hand.
    Probably the most significant test of the whole set — trakt smartphone falls under the characteristic of “poor micro-dynamics”, small details like touches of bassist almost indistinguishable. The player in this test just demonstrates excellent micro-dynamics — you can hear even the slightest nuances of the sketch.
    11 Naturalness in the sound transmission musical attack, the position and focusing of sound stage width and height

     
    Ron Tutt, “Improvisation”, Sheffild Lab CD-14/20

     
    The soundtrack presents a fragment of a drum solo. Unacceptable passing attack is if the drums sound dull, it has no elasticity and “meatiness”. Barely acceptable — if the sound of drums dynamically, but has the element of “cardboard” in the zone. Unacceptable or barely acceptable is if the sound stage is already space between sound sources. Unacceptable or barely acceptable, if the cymbals and hi-hat are at the same height or the difference is negligible
    Redmi Note 9S able to provide good positioning of the instruments, and even the difference in the height of the cymbals and hi-hats, but there remains a marked feeling of “cardboard”. To Sony NWZ-A105 and the attack feels good, and positioning is no problem.
    12 Timbre and musical balance of the sound

     
    Mighty Sam McClain, “Give It Up To Love”, Audioquest, XRCD, “Got To Have Your Love”

     
    The soundtrack is a piece of jazz songs with male vocals. Unacceptable or barely acceptable, in terms of timbral balance is if any of the instruments sound unnatural and (or) if the vocal timbre has a sharp or unpleasant in nature. Unacceptable or barely acceptable is if the vocal or some musical instrument stands out for the volume level is pushed forward or pushed back
    In this test, the channel of the smartphone has not demonstrated a clear failure, but noticeable emphasis on the MIDs with truncated bottom, why suffer the sound detail. Player demonstrates good frequency of sound with a uniform frequency distribution, and no volume drops.
    13 The linearity of the audio path at the volume level, its macro-dynamics and the ability to transfer polyphonic sound image

     
    A. Schnitke, “Childhood”, Gorenstein/R. S. O., POPE music PM 1007-2 1996, “Gogol Suite”

     
    The soundtrack contains high quality recording of a Symphony orchestra, performed in the Bolshoi hall of the Moscow Conservatory. The fragment consists of four main parts, which differ from each other with volume levels and dynamics.

     
    Unacceptable or barely acceptable is if the string pizzicato in the first part quite inaudible, or sounds too quiet, dull and indistinct compared to the next, more loud part. Unacceptable or barely acceptable is if in the third part (after the entry of the cello and double basses) have not felt a noticeable jump in volume and then, in the final, another leap. Unacceptable or barely acceptable can be considered when in the third and fourth parts of the soundtrack is clearly audible harmonic distortion or no distortion, but the orchestra is clearly not up to the volume to forte fortissimo. Unacceptable, if the orchestra for the third part starts to sound a “total mess”, a separate group of instruments is weak are distinguishable or completely indistinguishable
    An extract from the academic Suite hardware coped equally well and increase in volume designed clearly, and visibility of individual-level instruments. But Sony NWZ-A105 note mentioned a higher power level, making the transition to forte fortissimo much more noticeable.
    14 Additional audio track to evaluate the sound quality of the low sound frequencies

     
    Guiseppe Verdi, “La Donna E Mobile”, Telarc CD 80447

     
    The soundtrack contains an excerpt debatecountry sound of a Symphony orchestra, which is composed of a large (Turkish) drum with a very low register. It can be heard only in the presence of high-quality subwoofer, naturally reproducing frequency of 20-25 Hz
    With this test the hardware coped equally well.

    Subjective sound is also very nice — Sony NWZ-A105 when you connect a good wired headphone really provides sound noticeably different for the better from what we can obtain from a smartphone or built-in sound card of the computer: and detail, and frequency pattern correspond to the expectations from a specialized player, and the stock power exhaustive. But as a leading channel player with low-resistance headphones, I say, sorry, can’t. The manufacturer is this characteristic does not specify.

    If you wish to Sony NWZ-A105 you can connect wireless headphone: Yes Bluetooth-enabled protocols LDAC and HD aptX, and quickly “make friends” headphones and the player thanks to the integrated NFC module. But such a scenario using the player it seems to me rather strange — the sound quality in this mode is not different from that of modern smartphones, either for better or worse, since it mainly determines the built-in DAC headphones.

    Autonomy

    Sony NWZ-A105 got a battery with a capacity of 4.9 W·h (1285 mAh, 3.8 V). For a player with a small screen, which most of the time off seems to be enough. But alas: autonomy is another weak point of the player, who manages to actively consume energy in standby, and with the new firmware even stronger, though from it I expected the solution for this problem. Under normal use (listening to music without activating the “cluster mode” with animated screen saver) battery, I feel that will last for 20-25 hours of music (but note that in standby mode the player also does not lose time in vain and eats extra charge). If the screen saver is enable, you can “drop” the battery in 8 hours. This, of course, is not the case from similar devices we expect a much better autonomy. Comes with only power cable USB Type-C to USB Type-A. Fully charge from a standard charger player about an hour — and when playing music it is discharging faster than charging.

    Conclusion

    Anniversary player got Sony to put it mildly, controversial. On the one hand, the most important thing he was fine — the sound quality of it is really different for the better from today’s smartphones, are not able for the most part to provide adequate sound level when playing back high definition sources. Sony NWZ-A105 provides — and does it in style. On the other hand, it offers instead a wide variety of strange and unexpected for such a device compromise: the almost complete lack of internal memory, hot body and a battery that is discharged at unnatural speed. Player below if you do not return this technique the mass status, at least to get in a relatively wide audience, once again nailed to the shores of the audiophile, where sound quality is willing to forgive all sorts of flaws — especially since virtual tape is so nostalgic spinning, and the case is square, as in 1979.

     

    I will add that the Sony NWZ-A105 is available in two variants — with a set of in-ear headphones Sony IER-NW510N (26 990 rubles) and without (22 990 rubles). To our test got the version without the headphones, so to make up their minds about their joint work (in this case, it becomes available not only noise reduction, but, on the contrary, the mode of amplification of ambient sound) we could not.

    Advantages:

    • build quality;
    • the abundance of the sound settings and software chips;
    • excellent sound quality;
    • the opportunity in terms of the wireless audio playback;
    • Android.

    Disadvantages:

    • very little built-in storage device;
    • extremely weak autonomy;
    • the operating system of retarding;
    • the body is strongly heated.

    Source: 3dnews.ru

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