After five long years, Sony has finally updated its flagship audiophile-grade digital audio players.
“Five long years, every Friday yes y’all I went straight home, I went straight home with all my pay,” sang Eddie Boyd. He must have been onto something because these players don’t come cheap. But as far as audiophiles are concerned, this is just Tuesday.
The NW-WM1ZM2 and NW-WM1AM2 aren’t the easiest names to guess on Wordle, but these are effectively the mark 2 versions of the original NW-WM1Z and NW-WM1A that debuted in 2016.
Given how much progress digital audio players (DAPs) have made since then, this upgrade is certainly a welcome one.
On the surface at least, they look as if they are essentially the same players as the original, sharing the same design DNA with only subtle visual differences separating them.
The actual upgrades are even subtler, but I guess it’s pretty much the game when trying to claw at fine margins. But the most noticeable difference has to be the fact that these players now operate on the Android 11 platform.
The incorporation of Android meant that there needed to be a slight internal redesign to accommodate additional shielding, which includes a milled oxygen-free copper block the encase the digital section. The upside is that you now have Wi-Fi compatibility, which opens the doors to an even greater number of music sources including Tidal.
Sony has always marched to the beat of its drum. Unlike their peers, the WM1ZM2 and WM1ZM2 do not use familiar, high-end digital to analogue converters from the likes of AKM. Sony developed its own S-Master HX digital amp, which is essentially an integrated solution that eschews the need for a standalone DAC; it’s also a reflection of their streamlined approach.
The flagship WM1ZM2 now has a 99.99% purity (4N) Gold-plated Oxygen-Free Copper (OFC) chassis, which is a step up from the 99.96% grade of the original. According to the engineers, this allows for a stronger digital ground and higher rigidity, translating into clearer, expansive sound. This also adds to the cost, which is why the NW-WM1AM2 exists for those who aren’t keen on spending more than double the price for arguably marginal improvements (don’t tell that to an audiophile). In place of copper, the WM1A uses an aluminium alloy frame, which does a fair enough job.
Other changes include stronger power supply units and upgraded fine-tuned capacitors – various FT CAP3 capacitors (High polymer Capacitor) and a large solid high polymer capacitor that offers large capacitance and low resistance.
You are only as strong as your weakest link, and Sony has put some work into the connections as well. This includes the use of high-quality lead-free solder (which is a pain to work with), reflow solder containing gold (for the first time), low-resistance OFC cables on the WM1AM2 and a thick Kimber Kable on the WM1ZM2.
Sony’s now-ubiquitous DSEE Ultimate is also available here and it supports CD-quality (16 bit 44.1/48kHz) lossless audio as well. But what’s interesting is a new DSD Remastering Engine where PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) audio is resampled into an 11.2 MHz DSD (Direct Stream Digital). This seems like overkill, but think of it as another option for users to experiment with. For the Sony-lorian, this is the way; always has been, always will be. However, you will need to use the default player that Sony provides and from what we understand, there are no plans to make the API available to third party players.
Other updates include:
- balanced connection
- High-Resolution Audio compatibility
- larger 5.0” display (from 4.0") with HD resolution
- battery life now up to 40 hours of 96kHz FLAC audio playback
- USB Type-C port
The NW-WM1ZM2 ($4,999) and NW-WM1AM2 ($1,899) will be available in Singapore from April 2022. Customers who preorder will receive a limited-edition Sony Engineer Memorabilia.
If you’re wondering what difference a high-end DAP makes, you can find out for yourself – demo units will be available at Sony Store Wisma and the following Audio Specialist stores on these dates:
- 9th February onwards – Sony Store Wisma
- 9th to 15th February – Connect IT*
- 16th to 22nd February – V3 Sim Lim Square
- 23rd February to 1st March – TK Photo*
- 2nd to 8th March – Connect IT*
- 9th to 15th March – V3 Sim Lim Square
- 16th to 22nd March – TK Photo*
*Please contact dealer for location of branch to test demo units.