Reading the Sony press release about its support for MQA with the NW-ZX500 and NW-A100 series high-resolution audio players was like taking a strange trip down memory lane. I was nine years-old (apparently) when the first Walkman was introduced; more than 385 million were sold from 1979-2009 making it one of the most successful consumer products ever made. Those of us who grew up with a journalist in the family, fondly remember the Sony Pressman which was the inspiration for the Walkman – it wasn’t as cool and who would admit to owning such a poorly named device.
Sony had a rough few years where it struggled to introduce consumer audio products worth a damn; much to the delight of some struggling company in Cupertino that managed to become a global corporate juggernaut with some crazy idea about selling people music downloads, and wireless devices tied to that store and its closed ecosystem. Timing is everything in life.
Fast forward to 2019 and Sony has recovered nicely with some of the best televisions in the world, world-class headphones, and a growing list of Walkmans…I mean high-resolution audio players.
DAPs (Digital Audio Players) have had a pretty good run over the past ten years; brands such aa Astell & Kern, FiiO, iBasso, HiFiMan, Questyle, Pioneer, and Sony have carved out a niche for themselves supported mostly by the Head-Fi crowd who could never stomach the idea of using their smartphone with expensive IEMs and full-sized planar-magnetic headphones.
Modern headphones are a demanding lot. They crave power and a level of playback resolution that most smartphones are not capable of delivering. While Apple still struggles to produce a smartphone worth a damn when it comes to audio playback unless its tethered to something like an AudioQuest DragonFly USB DAC, LG has figured out how to produce a much better sounding device that even supports technology like MQA encoding.
While I’m not convinced that the DAP is here to stay in the long-term; nobody really wants to carry two devices aside from all of their other junk, there is a certain degree of irony that as Sony celebrates the 40thanniversary of the device that started it all, the company (that would be Apple) that eventually capitalized the most from it – can’t figure out how to make a high-resolution audio player worth a damn.
If you need a DAP, the Sony NW-ZX500 and NW-A100 with MQA are very fine players indeed.
Now only if they could introduce a sport version with waterproof yellow case.
For more information: Sony Walkman High-Resolution Audio Players
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