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 you erase the Sony and Walkman logos, and you still would 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. You don’t have to look at them to identify which button is which. 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 and sits comfortably in one hand and it’s very easy to use. It’s shorter than the ZX2, 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.
However, the combination of mono-block OFC and gold plating results the heaviest DAP I’ve ever used, a total of 455 grams by specs. This is almost half a kilo, so this in no way is an easily portable device. You don’t want to go outside and move around with it stashed in your pocket, unless you want to look like a gangsta-rapper with low-waist trousers. Besides, there’s no point using this DAP outdoors after all. You need to be at home or in a quiet environment to experience the sublime sound of it. Also this isn’t a cheap DAP. I personally wouldn’t go outside and hang around with it on me, as it can get stolen or something like that. It does draw attention.
I’m not saying it’s impossible, you can surely do it but I would prefer a mid-tier DAP to carry around with me. On the other hand it’s a great travel companion, because you carry one of the best portable sounds in the market with you. You need to have a good isolating phone of course, to appreciate the great sound. I had a 5 hours bus-ride with it, paired with Oriolus IEMs and it was a great trip. If you plan on using it while on the go though, I recommend getting a small bag to store the unit in.
There’s a leather flip case included for WM1Z, which has a great finish and quality. There are magnets on top so the cap sits nicely on the screen. Just as the device itself, the design of the case is a great piece of work. But of course there are more cases to choose from other manufacturers.
I always liked the UI of Sony’s software in Walkman devices. So again, the general software experience of WM1Z is flawless and smooth. But be aware that you need to update your device to 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 WM1Z 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. This app is for organizing your database, changing your songs’ info and album art. There’s 256GB memory on board, compared to “only” 128GB on WM1A. This is very good of course since the user of this kind of a player would fill it up with many DSD and Lossless files. You can also mount a Micro SD up to 256GB capacity.
The Sony WM1Z has more professional looking EQ and sound settings in the software, compared to 5 band EQ and Clear Bass feature of the previous flagship ZX2. What you have now is a 10 band EQ with which you can adjust each frequency by 0.5db margins. DSEE HX is again included, but you can choose between Standard, Female – Male Vocal, Percussion and Strings. This is only applied to CD quality or Lossy file types to increase their range and make them close to Hi-Res files. In practice, I didn’t really hear a difference to be honest.
There’s also a DC Phase Linearizer, which aims to give you an analog amplifier type of bass. There are 6 settings to choose from, each affecting the character of the lows. There’s Type A and Type B, and both have 3 settings each; low, standard and high. Low setting gives more subbass emphasis, standard gives a little more kick to both mid and subbass, and high gives more midbass emphasis. The difference between Type A and B is that in Type B positions the bass is a little further back and gives more focus to mids, while Type A bass is more intimate.
Dynamic normalizer is the last feature of the sound settings. This levels the volume between all songs you play.
Ultimately, if you don’t want any of these features and just want to listen to the player’s pure sound, you can switch on the Direct Source feature, which disables all DSP settings with one touch. This is a nice and quick way to compare your DSP settings with the original sound of the DAP, and it also adds a professional touch to the Sony WM1Z. Personally, I almost all the time listened to it with Direct Source on.