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Hands-on: Sony Walkman NW-ZX2

By John Law - on 10 Mar 2015, 6:18pm

Hands-on: Sony’s Walkman NW-ZX2

From L-R: Satoshi Hatano, Managing Director, Sony Malaysia, and Katsumasa Yoshioka, Sony Walkman NW-ZX2's Electrical Design Leader, Visual & Sound Business Group.

It was the music player from Sony that got heads turning during MWC 2015. Its design is something of an asymmetrical oddity, in this age of single slate, symmetrical devices. But the core reason that got people talking about it in hushed whispers? Its price.

For RM4,999, you get a music player that's literally built from scratch. Just look at that matte black casing (below).

At RM4,999, the NW-ZX2 is priced at a premium, and with good reasons. As mentioned, its overall design is something of a breath of fresh air from the rest of the audio players in the market. Instead of metal, the ZX2 is wrapped with a matte black casing that just feels unbelievably amazing to hold in our hands. It’s not just a device that has been pieced together with multiple parts either. The ZX2’s chassis is actually carved out from a single block of aluminum, which Katsumasa Yoshioka, Sony Walkman NW-ZX2's Electrical Design Leader, Visual & Sound Business Group, told us takes their machines approximately 50 minutes just to complete.

Even the buttons on the side are machine cut to look elegant, while still maintaining functionality.

Aluminum isn’t the only element that was used to make the NW-ZX2. Inside the chassis, Sony also inserted a series of gold-plated copper plates in order to reinforce the device. The copper also serves another purpose for the ZX2: to lower the impedance levels on the Walkman. This, coupled with its specially made components, is what gives the ZX2 its distinctive shape.

The chassis of the NW-ZX2 is cut out from one solid block of aluminum, which you can see in the picture on the far left.

These are part of the components that are fitted inside the NW-ZX2's chassis.

This leads us to the audio features on the NW-ZX2. An obvious upgrade from the previous generation NW-ZX1, the NW-ZX2’s premium audio feels like a culmination of all the components. On that note, the NW-ZX2 runs on a stock Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS. Apps can still be downloaded on the device, but we really don’t see the point to it. The NW-ZX2 is by design, and first and foremost, a high-quality audio player, and you should keep it that way. That means that apart from Sony’s Walkman app, you should reserve the device’s massive internal 128GB storage for all the high-quality audio that your ears could ever be bombarded with.

The gold-plated cooper headphone jack that ensures a low impedance, Sony's proprietary 30-pin port, and the welcomed microSD card slot, for if you somehow managed to use up that 128GB of internal storage.

On a side note for storage: Sony’s been generous with the NW-ZX2, having also retained a microSD card slot for expandable storage of an additional 128GB, should you choose to run out, and considering the size of high-quality audio files, we reckon that that will become necessary sooner or later.

Right off the bat, the NW-ZX2 is compatible with the following audio formats:

  • MP3
  • WMA
  • FLAC (192KHz / 24 bit)
  • Linear PCM (192KHz / 24 bit)
  • WAV (192KHz / 24 bit)
  • AAC-LC2
  • He-ACC
  • Apple Lossless (192KHz / 24 bit)
  • AIFF (192KHz / 24 bit)
  • DSD (192KHz / 24 bit)

The NW-ZX2 also bears some of Sony’s proprietary features as well, such S-Master and DSEE HX. S-Master is essentially a built-in digital amp which, as Yoshioka described, cuts distortion and noise, while ensuring that the audio quality remains at its most efficient and best quality throughout. DSEE HX is actually an existing technology that can be found in other Walkman devices, and what it essentially does is upscale the quality of music from lossy audio formats and audio CDs, and bringing them up to near high-resolution quality with ease.

The NW-ZX2 is also capable of wirelessly transmitting music via Bluetooth, but one of the many problems that Bluetooth transmissions have is that the audio quality can get lost. To counter that, Sony installed its LDAC technology into the NW-ZX2, which helps to transmit music at three times the rate than a normal Bluetooth transmission does.

The S-Master built-in amp is also one of the reasons that the entire device costs a pretty penny, but trust us: it’s well worth the asking price. When we tested out the device, we played a couple of our songs there (using the microSD card slot, obviously). We played songs from Diggin' My Potato by Yoko Kanno and the Seatbelts and the Eagles’ Hotel California (which, surprisingly, was one of the pre-loaded songs inside the display units). The high registers were sharp, precise and well-placed, and we could hear each harmonica note and drum beat from Diggin' My Potato, and each strum from the guitars in Hotel California. Don Henley’s voice was grizzled but clear, and the acoustics really sounded rich and warm as well.

Sony’s Walkman NX-ZX2 is available at all Sony outlets stores starting today, and if you’re not deterred by the price point of this incredible music player, we do highly recommend it.

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