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Review: Sony NW-WM1ZM2

Don't buy the European version

The Sony NW-WM1ZM2 is a fantastic piece of work, but avoid the european version

Karakter
Sony NW-WM1ZM2
forfatter
Published 2022-07-04 - 4:56 pm
Our opinion
Incredible sound, from the deepest bass to the airiest overtones. Fantastic build quality! The Android interface works flawlessly.
In Europe, the maximum sound level is way too low. Forget high-end headphones
Specifications
  • Display: 5″ TFT (1280 x 720)
  • Operating system: Android 11
  • Memory: 256 GB internal storage + microSDXC
  • Supported file formats: WAV, AIFF (inntil 384 kHz), FLAC, ALAC, APE (16-24bit / 8 – 192 kHz), DSD (2,8 – 11,2 MHz), AAC, HE-AAC, MP3, WMA
  • Resolution: 32-bit / 384 kHz PCM, 11,2 MHz DSD256
  • Digital in: USB-C
  • Digital out: no
  • Analog out: 3,5 mm unbalanced. / 4,4 mm balanced.
  • Weight: 490 g
  • Battery life: 18-40 t
  • Color: Gold
  • Web: sony.com

 

In the 80s and early 90s, portable music players meant analogue cassette players you could clip to your belt. All of them were called walkman, although Sony had the original, and also copyrighted the word: Walkman, with a capital W.

Sony Walkman WM SXF33
Most people think of the cassette player WM-SXF33 when they hear the name Walkman.

The Walkman name lives on

Today, cassette players like these are mostly dead and buried (nostalgics can buy them on eBay, and they’re quite cheap.) Regardless, the Walkman name is not dead. It has simply changed format to digital music players (DAP). They’re obviously more compact and portable nowadays, and most of them can be pretty expensive. Like the high-end model we’re reviewing here, NW-WM1ZM2. The name might look more cryptic than it is, the M2 at the end means that is the second generation of this player.

Sony NW WM1ZM2 IER Z1R scaled 1
The Sony NW-WM1ZM2 is twice as expensive as the most expensive iPhone. Photo: Sony

Baffling price point

If I told you that this portable music player costs the same as the most expensive iPhone, you would probably shake your head in disbelief. But it doesn’t. It’s twice as expensive! But there is an explanation: This player is not for everyone. This product is meant for connoisseurs who shun wireless headphones and would rather spend almost their entire worth of savings on insanely expensive high-end headphones, leaving just a small amount left for music players, because they’ll need those as well.

Sony NW WM1ZM frame scaled 1
Chassis in pure copper. Foto: Sony

Pure perfection

The NW-WM1ZM2 has got top-class interior. Truly excellent quality. All circuits are carefully designed and made with top quality components, and you’ll find no coincidences inside. Both the digital and analog audio signal has been taken care of with utmost precision to achieve superior sound quality. The amplifier part is Sony’s own S-Master HX Digital Amp technology. And Sony says select capacitors and lead-free solder are used. The amp section and the headphone outputs are connected with thick Kimber Kable. And there are two headphone outputs: A 3.5 mm unbalanced and a 4.4 mm balanced.

The exterior has also been given great amount attention to details. The chassis itself is made of gold-plated OFC copper with a purity of 99.99 percent. According to Sony, this makes for a more stable construction with higher rigidity.

Sony NW WM1ZM2 beauty scaled 1
Sony NW-WM1ZM2 runs on Android. Foto: Sony

User-friendliness

With its touch screen and Android interface, the Sony NW-WM1ZM2 is as easy to use as any Android phone. You can install apps on it and it does everything an Android phone can do, with the exception of making calls and taking photos. Sony has included its own music player as standard, which is compatible with all downloaded music files.

For both PC and Mac

To import your own music to your phone (almost all file types are supported), use the Music Center application on a Windows PC whilst the player is connected to your computer with a USB cable. Mac users will need to use Content Transfer instead. It’s intuitive and simple, but we would have liked the option to plug the microSD memory card straight into the player.

On the other hand, it’s really easy to use Tidal and other music services that deliver music in CD quality or higher. In fact, that’s what I ended up using the most. Although I do have some favorites that I’ve transferred over and listen to a lot

Sony NW WM1ZM2 outputs GeirNordby scaled 1
Sony NW-WM1ZM2 has both balanced and unbalanced output. Foto: Geir Gråbein Nordby

Bummer

When Sony releases a new top model, you naturally prick up your ears. They have engineers who know their stuff, so expectations are extra high when they come up with something in this price range.

And the sound is really good. Sony sent us the player along with their own closed MDR-Z1R, and the WM1ZM2 does a great job of bringing out the bass in the headphones, whilst opening up the sound more at the top than I’m used to with these earbuds. I actually have them in my own collection, so I know them really well.

And then there’s the Audeze LCD-5 … I don’t think I’ve ever heard a trumpet as lifelike as Till Brönner’s on the Cohen cover of “A Thousand Kisses Deep“? And that at a low volume. I wonder what happens when you turn it up …?

Sony NW WM1ZM2 design side scaled 1
Foto: Sony

As it turns out, it’s not possible. Because even at maximum volume, the sound is so low that it has to be described as below what I would call “comfort level”. It’s so low-key and gentle that I don’t really understand what the point is.

Well, if you have a pair of really good earplugs like the Sennheiser IE 600 or the Beyerdynamic Xelento Remote, you could get a lot of use out of this player. But not with Sony’s own IER-Z1R earplugs; they’re too heavy-duty. So what’s the point?

If you’re investing nearly 4.000 euros in a music player, of course you want to be able to use some serious headphones with it. But you simply can’t

Luckily, there is a solution. Only the european version of the player has a muted sound level. This is in order to comply with european regulations on maximum sound pressure levels.

But Sony seems to have interpreted these rules more strictly than anyone else, because they have the lowest sound level of all DAP manufacturers. On the EU version, Sony has removed the High Gain function, which otherwise solves the problem of heavily driven headphones. If you buy the asian or american model, you won’t run into this issue. But you may have some problems with warranty.

Sony NW WM1ZM2 SPREAD scaled 1
Foto: Sony

Sony NW-WM1ZM2: Conclusion

It’s rather strange that Sony has chosen to give us a perfected music player – or DAP – like the NW-WM1ZM2, when they interpret European sound level regulations so strictly that the player can’t even drive heavy-duty headphones. What’s the point?

Well, it sounds a lot better than any phone does with the same low output level. But when something sounds good, you want to be able to turn it up. And when you can’t, it seems pointless to spend nearly 4.000 euros. After all, you want to power the heavy-duty, ultra high-end headphones you keep in your safe!

The only solution is to buy the player outside of Europe, in order to get it with full output level. The EU version on the other hand, should never have been launched.

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Pieter

My NW-HD5 had the same problem: when going outside, the volume was so low you couldn’t hear the music. Fortunately there was a hack going round on the internet, just pressing some buttons in a specific sequence removed the volume limit. Perhaps the service manual of the NW-WM1ZM2 has some details on a similar hack?

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