Sony ZX300 vs WM1A

From a sound quality perspective what are the differences between these two Sony DAPs?

Is it worth the price difference for the WM1A?

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The WM1A does seem to sound a little better. Resolution is higher, macro dynamics are better, and it maintains the most neutral output (most accurate tonality) between the ZX300 and the WM1Z. So depending on what signature you like, it may be a win or not for you.

If the WM1A was a “100”, then I’d put the ZX300 at “90”. Whether that’s worth $400-$500 is, of course, a personal call, though there are other useful differences to note, beyond sound, however.

For one, the ZX300 can be used as a USB DAC, where the WM1A cannot (at least as of firmware version 2.0). The ZX300 is a bit better ergonomically (size/weight). But then the WM1A has 25% more output power, which might contribute to the better macro dynamics and, depending on your headphones, might be more or less important. And the WM1A has double the on-board storage.


Thanks againTorq for your detailed response. My taste tends toward a warmer more analog sound characteristic. So if the 300 is less neutral and warmer that would be a plus. I know at this level the law of diminishing returns will apply.

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A few months ago you responded to my question about how the Sony ZX300 compared to the Sony WM1a. You said the ZX300 was about 90% of the WM1a. Can You be more specific as to what is missing in that 10%? Is it Soundstage, Bass, Midrange, Treble etc? In a blind test would it be easily recognizable or subtle? Thanks. Any info on what I would be missing would be valuable in my determination as to whether the extra $400 is worthwhile.


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First, see above.

Then, note that the WM1A does now support operation as a USB DAC as long as you’re on firmware 3.x (the latest version is 3.01 I believe).

I am going from memory, but the WM1A has a reference tuning where the ZX300 is a little warmer sounding. Resolution and macro dynamics are superior on the WM1A. I wouldn’t call out any specific bass, midrange or treble differences, beyond the top-end seeming smoother on the WM1A and repeating the statement that I found the ZX300 to be a little warmer overall.

If you were doing the blind test specifically to listen for differences then I would expect you’d find them fairly reliably - at least if you’re reasonably practiced in doing so. Which is not the same thing as just listening to them back to back and having the differences be immediately obvious. Nor does that say anything about which you’ll prefer.

If not listening critically, with good transducers and well-known material, I doubt most people could either tell nor would they care.

There are other factors beyond sound, though … as depending on what you’re driving (and how), the WM1A offers more power. It has more storage, though if you can get all the music you need on a single microSD card then that isn’t much of a factor. But it’s a bigger unit.

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Thanks again Torq. That was helpful. I’m a fairly discerning audiophile who listens predominantly to classical and I have been doing critical listening for many years so from what you have written I believe the differences will be apparent to me. Oh well. It’s just money.

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I recently had both the WM1A and ZX300 here for an audition. I was curious and had to hear for myself as I have read quite a few post from various outlets claiming that the increase in portability of the ZX300 outweighed the sonic shortcomings.

I pretty much agree with @Torq’s assessment, although I didn’t hear the ZX300 as warmer, per se. The ZX300 was certainly a more narrow, less immersive, and has less of the long decay that I think makes these Sony DAPs so luscious.

The ZX300 certainly has the same pedigree in terms of tuning and presentation, but my friends and I could easily hear the difference in blind tests (YMMV as we all have well-trained ears).

For me, I’d put the ZX300 in the same class as an iFi Micro iDSD BL. They are very different, but I think they are certainly in the same class. The WM1A, on the other hand, has actually made me rethink (with much regret) pretty much everything I thought that I wanted in a portable solution.

@Headfun, what decision did you end up making? Did you pull the trigger on the WM1A?

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I’m pretty convinced that I’ll wait until I can get the WM1A. Don’t want to regret not getting it. Hopefully by late summer. Thanks for your insight.