The Sony NW-ZX507 is the latest Sony Digital Audio Player in their Walkman line that has spanned 40 years now. Of course, the digital versions are only more fairly recent, but to commemorate this event, Sony released the NW-A100 and NW-A500 series of Walkman with a fun Cassette Tape UI that can be activated while music is playing.
I covered some impressions of the NW-A105 a little while back, and was quite happy with it for the most part. It’s an extremely cute player with a very small handheld size, snappy UI, good battery life (for an Android DAP), and decent sound quality. I decided to give the higher priced NW-ZX507 a shot after and ended up keeping the more expensive model, and here’s why.
First off, the two share a lot of similarities. They have the same SOC, RAM, battery, and pretty much the same software sans a couple DSP tweaks. They also share the same screen size and from what I can tell, the same resolution. The ZX507, however, has a longer and thicker body, to allow for a balanced audio system architecture with the proprietary Sony capacitors and S-Master HX amps. With this, they also added the 4.4mm balanced jack to the top of the player which is quickly becoming a favorite connector of mine.
This change does add a little more size and a little more weight to the overall unit when compared to the A105, however, in the grand scheme of things, it’s still a small DAP and is quite portable and pocketable. In addition, the USB-C charging and data port is now moved to the upper left side of the player, which is quite a unique location for a USB port. It took some getting used to, and I still find it very awkward to use while plugged in. I end up not charging and handling most of the time.
Unlike other DAPs in this segment, this player does not have USB DAC capability which can be a bummer to some people. In good news, I found it’s bluetooth and wifi performance the best of all the DAPs I’ve used, though still not on the level as say my Samsung Galaxy S10e phone.
I found in my “as controlled as I can possible make it” testing, that the player can last 18 hours with FLAC playback using the Walkman audio player, and with the Sony DSP functions turned off and a couple hours of screen time. That’s much more than other DAPs that use Android I have tried in the past. With some streaming via Qobuz or Spotify, the playback time drops a bit. In my normal usage, I can easily get through a work day without worry about battery emptying out, and can predict up to about 12 – 14 hours of mixed offline and streaming playback.
To this note, I do have most things disabled like syncing and do not use the player for social media or gaming. I use it purely as a music player with occasional streaming music and YouTube. Battery tends to drain faster with streaming services and screen-time as expected.
On the note of the screen, it’s quite bright, even on the lowest settings. I don’t ever have a need to go higher than the lowest settings and that does help with the battery life as well. The screen size is 3.6 inches, so it is a little on the small side for when you need to use the keyboard, but for me, personally, I was able to use it just fine and I tend to minimize the need to use keyboard anyway.
The UI itself is pretty much a vanilla Android interface, running Android 9.0. Sony includes the Music Player app, as well as help guides, and an app to tune the DSP functionalities.
Sound DSP Options
These include a 10 band equalizer, their DSEE HX upscaler, their Vinyl Processor, Dynamic Normalizer, and DC Phase Linearizer simulator effects.
In listening, I found the DSEE HX to be really not that useful. It sounded like it just made music sound brighter, which seemed to match measurements I took.
When using the Vinyl Processor, the effect was rather minimal. It added slight warmth and a vinyl sound by oscillating the lower end frequency response by +/- 1-2 dB.
The Dynamic Normalizer essentially reduces dynamics: the loud and quiet range of your music. Enabling this essentially compresses your music, with the benefit of normalizing volume between songs, however it’ll make your music sound rather flat.
The DC Phase Linearizer “makes low-frequency phase characteristics more similar to a tradtional analog amplifier.” When I enabled this using one of the Standard A or Standard B modes, it does present bass a little more lifted and natural sounding. I did also measure this with a FR graph. The High/Low modes actually reduced the sub-bass with a roll-off which I found interesting. There was also slightly different harmonic distortion between the modes and a phase shift.
The Sony ZX507 has a nice musical sound that doesn’t stray too far from neutral, but does have enough flair to it that I enjoy it overall. It does sound like it emphasizes the lower-end to be slightly above neutral, while having just a small amount of reduced treble extension, especially when compared to my previous DAP the iBasso DX160 or something like the Fiio M11, which I found to be very bright.
It’s not as warm-bodied as the Astell & Kern SR15 or even the Hiby R5 however, but if I had to pick a DAP I recently had that shares similar sound, it’d be the Hiby R5 however with better resolution, clarity, extension and just a more natural overall sound.
The DX160 may actually beat out the ZX507 in terms of a neutral presentation, albeit with an aggressive sound, however I find the ZX507 just a little more engaging, with slightly softer presentation, which is more enjoyable over-time, though to be honest, the DX160, in terms of pure sound qualities, is exceptional value for its price, and the ZX507 is double the cost.
I’ve already compared some of the Android-based players I’ve used recently, but I’ll put together a little chart here to compare them for other features as well with lower being better. I subjectively ranked each IEM from 1-8 in each category and did a 2:1 weighted score based on Sound to Usability.
**Lower score is better