Disclaimer: I purchased the Sony WM1A for myself couple of months ago. The price of it varies from country to country, but the official price on release was $1200 USD. I think it has dropped down a little lately, to around 1000.
Design & Ergonomics, User Interface, Sound Settings and WM1Z Comparison sections are the same from WM1Z review with few small changes.
This review took quite a while and I know people have been waiting for it. Unfortunately what happened was I broke the screen of my WM1A somehow. I’ve sent the unit for a screen replacement and it finally has returned in my hands recently.
How I met with the Sony WM1A? Here’s the story from WM1Z Review:
“When the new Signature Series from Sony was revealed, my attention was on the new Sony WM1A. It looked like an obvious replacement to my lovely ZX2, but on the other hand the engineers went with a “pure” approach with these new models, not including Wi-Fi and Android. So streaming was gone and that gave me a little hesitancy about getting one.
I’m not a streaming freak, I have a big music archive to listen to, just as any audiophile I guess. So I just waited for the unit to arrive in my country, to give it a chance. I searched many Sony stores but only one of them had a demo unit to try. But it was a little far from my location. Still, I wasn’t going to pass on the chance to try it. After an almost 1 hour drive, I arrived to the store.
And boom. WM1A was clearly a step up from the ZX2 in my eyes, and that with just a short listening time. Within 10 minutes I figured out it was better and then I spent the remaining 30 minutes just listening for pure enjoyment.”
As I’ve posted on its Picture Sunday, Sony has made quite an evolution with the new WM1 line of Walkmans (sound-wise). This is clearly a reform, since they changed the whole philosophy of their design. In the WM1Z review I mentioned the process of developing these new models in detail. I tried to provide an insight of what Sony engineers intended to do. So for those matters, I strongly recommend you to read that article since Sony put so much effort in R&D. I think there’s no need to bring up the same information again, so I’ll go straight to the point.
WHAT’s THE DIFFERENCE?
While I won’t give the same details about the development here, I of course should mention the differences between Sony WM1A & Z. The most obvious difference of course is that; 1Z has a gold plated copper monoblock chassis, whilst 1A has a full aluminum body. But there are more and invisible differences under the hood too. The 1Z is wired with 4-wire braided cable which engineered with Kimber Kable, compared to standard OFC cable in 1A.
While the WM1Z has “Fine Sound Registers”, the WM1A has “MELF Registers”. This is about distributing the power into the circuitry and to the signal path with a good consistency. As far as we can guess 1Z has a better overall electronics performance in terms of that. So of course all those technical differences have an effect on sound between those two, and I myself can confirm that by my listening sessions.
Apart from the sound performance, the storage on the 1A is 128 GB versus 256 on the 1Z and both have Micro SD slots as well. And, the WM1Z weighs a whopping 455g, while the Sony WM1A comes in at 267g, making it more comfortable to use on the go.
DESIGN & ERGONOMICS
Sony knows how to create a good consumer product. As usual, the device has a distinctive look which stands out from other brands. Imagine erasing the Sony and Walkman logos, and I’m sure you would still identify it as a Sony. They always have their own design choices when developing a product and you can see this trait in almost every Sony creation.
So if we speak about the convenience and shape of the device, I can say it’s really well thought of. Side buttons still continue to serve the user well, just like they were with the ZX2. You can feel the buttons because they’re different from each other. Also, the play/pause and volume up buttons have a small dot, so that’s another detail for user for identification. These small details are important for the ease of use.
The device feels great, sits comfortably in one hand and it’s very easy to use. (Much more portable and easier to carry around than 1Z because it’s 1,7 times lighter) It’s shorter than the ZX2 too, so operating it is a little bit better on the screen. However the device is thicker but I can’t say it has a big negative effect on usage. In conclusion, the ergonomics are very good. I expected no less from Sony though.
I always liked the UI of Sony’s software in Walkman devices. So again, the general software experience of Sony WM1A is flawless and smooth. But be aware that you need to update your device to the 1.20 version. The original software version was a little laggy, especially for what scrolling was concerned. Thankfully Sony sorted it out with a quick update.
The ZX2 had the Android OS, but the music player UI was great in itself and it’s not very different with the WM1A as the UI feels reminiscent to the ZX2’s music player app. From the very first minute, it was very easy for me to operate the device. When on the playing screen, you can swipe in 4 different directions for easy operation and to reach everything you need. I also like the Spectrum Analyzer and Analog Level Meter screens. Overall I haven’t encountered any lag whatsoever.
There’s no need to go into the tiniest bit of detail as the software has everything you need and expect from a premium player. This is a fully reliable device regarding the software and the experience is very complete and user friendly. There’s also a Media Go software for PC that you can extract from the player’s onboard memory (Sony just released another application called “Music Center” but pulled it back soon after). This app is for organizing your database, changing your songs’ info and album art.