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M.Yurizaki

Sony Walkman NW-A45 Review: When PMPs still matter in someone's world

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Posted (edited) · Original PosterOP

Specs/Features:

  • $220 USD market price
  • Touch screen with physical buttons on the side
  • It comes in several colors (Most places I saw that sold this had it in dark gray, gray, and "midnight blue")
  • 16GB of internal storage. Can expand this using an microSD card up to 200GB. Which probably means it can take the 400GB cards that were recently released.
  • Supports the popular formats (MP3, MP4 HE-AAC, FLAC), and DSD audio if you use that.
  • Supports Bluetooth and NFC
  • Can be used as a standalone USB DAC
  • Website: https://sony.com/electronics/walkman/nw-a40-series

Pros:

  • It's purely a music player. So there's no extra features to clutter it up.
  • Expandable storage!
  • No need for extra software to sync your music library
  • It's not too big. If you're used to carrying around an iPod Classic, this'll fit right in
  • Screen is sharp and clear
  • Touch screen works well
  • Simple to navigate to where and what you want
  • Home screen is customizable

Cons:

  • 16GB of internal storage is inexcusable these days at this price point. Apple offers 32GB on the $200 iPod Touch.
  • Cable is proprietary. Seriously Sony, start using micro or Type-C USB like everyone else. :T
  • UI is 30 FPS, so it can feel jerky.
  • Some UI elements are open to mis-hitting.
  • Bluetooth reconnecting is odd and inconsistent. But this may be mostly due to what the Walkman is connecting to.
  • Current playback is not in some "Now playing" queue that you can add on to it to create playlists on the fly.
  • SenseMe and on-device Playlist editing features seem to only be available for internally stored media

Recommendation: Yes! If you're looking for a standalone MP3 player has some quality to it but don't want to spend a fortune on higher end players, the Sony Walkman NW-A45 is a great option.

 

-------

Would you believe there's someone who's still making an MP3 player that isn't one of the many $30 iPod knockoffs that feels cheap or a $1000 Android-based device that seemingly runs on audiophile snake oil? And that someone isn't Apple? That's where Sony came in, having rebranded the Walkman into a portable music player lineup ranging from the budget friendly (if $50 is budget friendly) all the way up to the boutique where you can spend $1000, if you really want to.

 

What I picked up recently was the Walkman model NW-A45. I'd argue that if we were to put this in between the cheap PMP players you can find all over Amazon and the "audiophile grade" ones from brands like Astell & Kern, Cowon (okay, they make a high-end PMP), and Fiio, I'd say this is in the midrange. In that it supports a lot of the high-end features in software, but maybe not all the high end features in hardware. Not to say it sound "meh", but you're not going to find things like line-level out, a volume knob (I'm presuming analog volume control), or other buzzwords that I don't care for.

 

And if you haven't noticed by my choice of words, I'm not what you'd call an audiophile. Most of the equipment I have would fit in the midrange section if I were to compare it against price alone. So I'm not going to spend my time talking about the Walkman's quality. After all, quality is dependent on a ton of factors like how my ears are feeling that day, what headphones I'm using, what kind of environment I'm in, etc. I didn't pick the Walkman up for sitting down in a meditation room so I can listen to my collection of music (most of which is either at least 192 kpbs CBR to VBR MP3 or "higher quality" AAC). This is my everyday "I need something to listen to on the go, be it in the car, at work, at the gym, or anywhere not at my desk."  I just wanted something that was better quality than... well this:

71R07UTle5L._SL1500_.jpg

 

So what can I talk about? How about the Walkman itself? Its features? The UI? The "objective" stuff? :D

 

Packaging

DSC00939.thumb.JPG.d5031c1a3945570a417713ff97ac875b.JPG

The packaging is fairly sparse. Open up the box to find the Walkman, then underneath a sleeve is the cable and some documentation.

 

And if you need a disclaimer, the SD card was a separate purchase.

 

The Walkman itself

The NW-A45 is a touch screen PMP, so navigating and poking around options is done primarily through that. On the right side there are buttons for Power, a volume rocker, previous track/rewind | play/pause | next track/fast forward, and a hold switch. The left side as a microSD card slot. The bottom side of the unit has a headphone jack, Sony's proprietary connector (ugh!), and a lanyard hook. The actual case of the unit itself feels like it's made of plastic, but it could be anodized aluminum. Either way, I'm not going to test this :P

 

The touchscreen isn't superb like an iPhone or a flagship Android, but it's responsive enough. What may get people is the 30 FPS UI, so while you can scroll fast through menus, it feels jerky. But the quality of the screen is great. It's definitely an IPS screen with a resolution of I believe 800x450. With the resolution and physical size, the display is barely out of "Retina" territory, but everything still looks sharp.

Spoiler

 

DSC00966.thumb.JPG.bc188734c10abe09f74ed617e2d22a8a.JPGDSC00964.thumb.JPG.3f228c19d122ee3233d59d23cb5a3e72.JPGDSC00967.thumb.JPG.a646e68fd24eefabb5e913fb71ee2fba.JPGDSC00963.thumb.JPG.d51037babb3c34bb8e13b4ce4c53018a.JPG

 

What about it's size? The screen is about 3" and kind of thick for its size, but not that bad. It kind of reminds me of my Motorola Droid in size, but the Droid was actually bigger. Here it is next to my LG G6 and the Walkman NWZ-A17, the PMP I'm replacing.

Spoiler

DSC00968.thumb.JPG.a7f89aa9cc8253af44a27ea64c7dc00e.JPGDSC00969.JPG.0daa26a4ca02ca095bf7df9e068362ec.JPG

 

Features

The one thing I like about the NW-A45 is that Sony looked at what they're making and went "Who buys these play videos or view pictures? This isn't going to access YouTube and Instagram" and made it simply a music player. So in addition to supporting a wide variety of formats, including FLAC and DSD for you audiophiles, it has a radio tuner (I don't know why PMPs still put this in), a "Language Study" mode, and a DAC mode. Since the first two is probably of little interest to anyone, let's talk about DAC mode. When you plug the Walkman into a device capable of outputting over USB, the Walkman acts like a DAC. And it looks something like this:

 

DSC00961.thumb.JPG.56546915a9ca89ff470fe2152597a3ca.JPG

 

While I had it working the first time, I think Windows thought it found better drivers that don't really work, so now it doesn't work when I plug it into my computer. But I'm not really going to pursue this, I have a USB DAC already.

 

Anyway, here are the features that pertain music playback and libraries:

  • Library management can be done using music player software. However, the Walkman shows up as a USB drive, so you can drag and drop your music.
  • Your music library is sorted by artist, genre, playlists, and user-set bookmarks.
  • Some internal file management (i.e., deleting stuff)
  • You can edit playlists, but I think this only works if you're using the internal storage, not the microSD Card. The playlists I imported were not editable.
  • On the main music player:
    • Shows album art, title, artist, and album.
    • Playback buttons like Shuffle Toggle, Previous Track/Rewind, Play/Pause, Skip Track/Fast Forward, and Repeat toggle
  • An equalizer with some presets plus two custom ones
  • Various "enhancements", like upscaling CD quality to 24-bit 192Khz, loudness normalization, some "DC Phase linearizer", and a listening environment simulator. Or if you want the Walkman to do everything for you, there's a toggle to switch on "Clear Audio+".
  • Stop playing at the last song in the current selection of music or go to the next selection. So if you play an album, this will either stop once all the songs are played, or go to the next album on the list. Ditto with other categories like Artist, Genre, or Playlist.
  • Bluetooth or NFC wireless audio. The Bluetooth part supports aptX, SBC, and LDAC. I've had some issues with the Bluetooth in that while it can auto-reconnect to devices, it seems to be hit and miss. Sometimes it won't do it, other times I feel like I have to go to the Bluetooth menu. However, in the Walkman's defense, the device I connect it to the most (my car), has weird quirks too.

UI and Navigating

The UI has two constant areas and a third one that is usually up, but can disappear depending on where you are. The first is the status bar on top which shows whether it's playing something or not, the current volume level, icons if Bluetooth or NFC are on, and the battery. The second are the soft nav buttons. These are go back, go to the main player screen, go to the top menu, and settings. The third part that can disappear is showing what's playing now with playback controls.

 

DSC00978.thumb.JPG.e565cdb84d8d0da5225fd1c6f549fa18.JPG

 

The top menu is clean of any extras and is focused solely on accessing music in different ways. And the best part is that you can customize this. Normally there's a few other options, but this is what I stuck with. You may notice the three circles on top. These are for activating certain features. The left one is the radio, the "Language Study" mode, and the DAC mode.

 

Tapping on one of the categories brings up a list like this:

DSC00973.thumb.JPG.f93abd3b906942e2ffc382a413aec734.JPG

 

There is scrolling acceleration for fast scrolling (so keep scrolling and it'll go fast). And once you start scrolling, a scroll bar will appear on the right. You can drag this around to skip across letters. I found this a miss sometimes as the scroll bar is right on top of the three dots on the right side of every item (this is for more options if you tap it). I would've preferred, in addition to the scroll bar dragging, a button to take me to an alphabet index much like how the Zune HD did fast travel on a list.

 

Once you select a song, it takes you to this screen:

DSC00959.thumb.JPG.103aaf4c933742c89e17fd6e5c5efbb1.JPG

 

Swiping right brings you to the bookmarks selection where you can add favorites to one of ten lists. Strange place to put it I think. Swiping left brings you to the Play queue, which is neat when you want to skip around tracks:

DSC00960.thumb.JPG.e7f24ef14a6c698810e17129729cb1fc.JPG

 

And if you swipe down from the main screen, it takes you to the audio enhancements screen:

DSC00975.thumb.JPG.46bd2a711cf051c3f3eefcc988e09542.JPG

 

The nice thing too is that there's two "Oh crap, take me back" buttons available anywhere. So if you ever get lost, you can press the one for going back to the top menu or the one for the main player screen. Overall the UI is nice and navigating my songs is straight forward. The only thing I wished it had was a search function. But I guess Sony was expecting people to load this up with high quality FLAC files so those people wouldn't be packing as many songs as I did.

 

One of the oddest things I noticed though is that you do set a date and time, but if you notice, there's no clock anywhere on the screen! What gives? According to the settings, all date and time information is used for library management.

 

Comparing this to...

Sony Walkman NWZ-A17

This was my last PMP. I got this to replace my Zune HD since the audio jack went out (plus it was 5 years old). I love the NW-A45 over the NWZ-A17 by far as the A17 has a ton of quirks that I can see turning off people if they've come from something that had a bunch of quality of life features. For example, here are all the flaws of the A17 that don't exist on the A45 and makes the A17 something I don't want to use now

  • Not pausing playback when the headphones are removed. I have no idea how Sony missed this one.
  • Holding Previous/Skip track wouldn't rewind or fast forward respectively. Also I have no idea how Sony missed this one.
  • Bluetooth connections are manually done every time. You can pair devices up and it'll remember it, but when you want to actually use Bluetooth, you have to go to the menu and select which one you want to connect to. The A45 can automatically connect to a Bluetooth device it knows about.
    • Also connecting a Bluetooth device goes back to the Bluetooth menu. It would've been nice for it to go to the playback screen.
  • When the Bluetooth audio device is turned off, the A17 tries to reconnect to it. Since I usually don't reconnect, I have to manually cancel it so it doesn't spend the next 2 minutes trying. Also, it boots itself to the Bluetooth menu rather than go back to the previous screen you were on.
  • No option to stop playback on the last song in the current selection
  • It doesn't show what songs it will play in order, i.e, if you select a playlist and shuffle it, it can only show the playlist in order.
  • If you set the current selection to shuffle and you want to skip around on the playlist, it'll restart the progress.
  • Repeat/Shuffle are buried in a menu
  • The only "Oh crap, take me back" button was holding the "Back" button to go to the home menu. If you went to the main playback screen, it also buried you in three layers of menus depending on how you accessed the music.

Microsoft Zune HD

This was my first higher-end PMP I owned. If my Zune HD went bad now, I wouldn't have missed it as much if I went straight to this than when I went to the Walkman NWZ-A17. But there were some features I enjoyed on the Zune HD that aren't on this Walkman, like enqueuing songs in a temporary playlist or the indexed navigation.

Edited by M.Yurizaki
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Great review! Very in depth and answered a lot of the things I'd always wondered.

 

Have you ever used an iPod? If so, was there any noticeable quality difference between the Sony and those?

Did you notice any lag? Not so much jerkiness, but slowness to load files, both on the phone and from the microSD card?

Did the player automatically find track info? Or did you have to manually change file names yourself?

 

The Zune HD was a gorgeous device, and frankly, ahead of it's time as far as non-Apple PMP's go. Audio chips aside, it still beats out a lot of the newer stuff as far as features go. I was solidly set on getting one of these as my next music player, but I recently saw the HiBy R3, R6, and Cayin N5ii and I think one of those is going to win it out. I wish Sony would make a model in the $300 to $350 range with an aluminium build, wifi, and a few other niceties. Their players just get such better battery life compared to everything else.


Current PC:

Spoiler

*WORK IN PROGRESS*

 

Mothballed PC:

Spoiler

 

CPU: Intel i5 4690k Cooler: Corsair H100i V2 Motherboard: MSI Z97i AC ITX

RAM: Crucial Ballistix 16GB DDR3 Storage: Kingston Fury 240GB GPU: Asus Strix GTX 970

PSU: Thermaltake TR2 Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX

Monitor: Dell P2214H x2 Mouse: Logitech MX Master Keyboard: G.Skill KM780 Cherry MX Red

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
1 hour ago, dizmo said:

Have you ever used an iPod? If so, was there any noticeable quality difference between the Sony and those?

I haven't used an iPod in any decent capacity. I've avoided iPods because I don't want iTunes on my computer. I'm also having trouble finding out what sort of DAC the Walkman uses. However someone on head-fi.org claims it sounds better than the LG V20 with the Quad-DAC

 

1 hour ago, dizmo said:

Did you notice any lag? Not so much jerkiness, but slowness to load files, both on the phone and from the microSD card?

All of the songs I have are on the microSD, but it's fairly quick bringing up items from the list. The only slowness is it creates a database when you've messed around with the files and it can takes several minutes depending on what you did. (I forgot to mention that)

 

1 hour ago, dizmo said:

Did the player automatically find track info? Or did you have to manually change file names yourself?

The player itself acts like a storage device when you plug it in to a PC and there's no capability to connect to the internet, so it's entirely dependent on your end to update that info.

 

1 hour ago, dizmo said:

The Zune HD was a gorgeous device, and frankly, ahead of it's time as far as non-Apple PMP's go. Audio chips aside, it still beats out a lot of the newer stuff as far as features go. I was solidly set on getting one of these as my next music player, but I recently saw the HiBy R3, R6, and Cayin N5ii and I think one of those is going to win it out. I wish Sony would make a model in the $300 to $350 range with an aluminium build, wifi, and a few other niceties. Their players just get such better battery life compared to everything else.

There does seem to be a serious gap in available stuff at that price. But yeah, I just wanted something that plays music and connects to Bluetooth.

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1 hour ago, M.Yurizaki said:

I haven't used an iPod in any decent capacity. I've avoided iPods because I don't want iTunes on my computer. I'm also having trouble finding out what sort of DAC the Walkman uses. However someone on head-fi.org claims it sounds better than the LG V20 with the Quad-DAC

 

All of the songs I have are on the microSD, but it's fairly quick bringing up items from the list. The only slowness is it creates a database when you've messed around with the files and it can takes several minutes depending on what you did. (I forgot to mention that)

 

The player itself acts like a storage device when you plug it in to a PC and there's no capability to connect to the internet, so it's entirely dependent on your end to update that info.

 

There does seem to be a serious gap in available stuff at that price. But yeah, I just wanted something that plays music and connects to Bluetooth.

Haha, iTunes isn't that bad really. There's the odd frustration where it won't add a song, but that's about it. I imagine the DAC in the V20 isn't the highest level, just something better than most phones.

 

Ah that's good to know. I don't mind waiting for databases to be created as long as it's not a constant thing.

 

Ahhhh yeah I kind of figured that might be the case. That's one of the reasons I like iTunes, there's a lot less micromanagement involved.

 

That's what I was looking for initially too, but I noticed that a lot of companies are coming out with good Wifi speakers now, and they're supposed to be a lot better it terms of sound quality over Bluetooth.

 


Current PC:

Spoiler

*WORK IN PROGRESS*

 

Mothballed PC:

Spoiler

 

CPU: Intel i5 4690k Cooler: Corsair H100i V2 Motherboard: MSI Z97i AC ITX

RAM: Crucial Ballistix 16GB DDR3 Storage: Kingston Fury 240GB GPU: Asus Strix GTX 970

PSU: Thermaltake TR2 Case: Phanteks Enthoo Evolv ITX

Monitor: Dell P2214H x2 Mouse: Logitech MX Master Keyboard: G.Skill KM780 Cherry MX Red

 

 

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Posted · Original PosterOP

So after spending a few weeks with the device, I thought I'd add some updates:

  • Sony claims the battery life is up to 45 hours playing MP3s and 30 hours with 24-bit/192KHz FLAC. I feel like I hit the 50% battery mark at around 15-20 hours so maybe it's valid. I find myself charging it every 2-3 days of use.
  • The Bluetooth reconnectivity issues I've had were mostly due to the device I was connecting to. When I turned on a Bluetooth headset I previously paired with it, it connected to that within seconds after the headset saying it can be paired.
  • Bluetooth automatically shuts off if the device is sleeping.
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If it's not for serious audiophile listening what makes this different from a phone with a non crap audio system? This seems like just another thing to carry around 


Hit that like button if I helped you :). If you need my attention hit the quote button, or I won't see your reply.

 

-Rig specs in profile.

 

The invention of a better foolproof design is always coupled with the invention of a better fool. I am that fool :P 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
19 hours ago, Froody129 said:

If it's not for serious audiophile listening what makes this different from a phone with a non crap audio system? This seems like just another thing to carry around 

I have my reasons.

 

If anyone thinks they're dumb or wrong, well they're entitled to their opinion as long as I can call their opinions dumb or wrong too.

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1 hour ago, M.Yurizaki said:

I have my reasons.

 

If anyone thinks they're dumb or wrong, well they're entitled to their opinion as long as I can call their opinions dumb or wrong too.

I didn't mean anything by it... I was genuinely wondering why this is better than a phone. I didn't say anything about it being dumb or wrong 


Hit that like button if I helped you :). If you need my attention hit the quote button, or I won't see your reply.

 

-Rig specs in profile.

 

The invention of a better foolproof design is always coupled with the invention of a better fool. I am that fool :P 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
6 hours ago, Froody129 said:

I didn't mean anything by it... I was genuinely wondering why this is better than a phone. I didn't say anything about it being dumb or wrong 

Apologies, but I get a little edgy when I'm walking into territory the audiohpiles have claimed.

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I recently purchased this but have trouble connecting with any bluetooth devices. Do you have any issues with the bluetooth devices connectivity at all? It can detect any which I find to be weird. Did i perhaps receive a faulty one?

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Posted · Original PosterOP
14 hours ago, Anis Eznin said:

I recently purchased this but have trouble connecting with any bluetooth devices. Do you have any issues with the bluetooth devices connectivity at all? It can detect any which I find to be weird. Did i perhaps receive a faulty one?

If the device you're pairing up with needs like a PIN or something, then I found the Walkman may not be able to pair with it. I tried this with a Ford car that had SYNC on it and they wouldn't pair up. I didn't look any further into it though because it was a rental car.

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Can you compare this to nw zx300 ? Iam curios about these two, because many people said they sound same but the only difference in on zx300 balance port.

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On 3/20/2018 at 1:45 PM, M.Yurizaki said:

So after spending a few weeks with the device, I thought I'd add some updates:

  • Sony claims the battery life is up to 45 hours playing MP3s and 30 hours with 24-bit/192KHz FLAC. I feel like I hit the 50% battery mark at around 15-20 hours so maybe it's valid. I find myself charging it every 2-3 days of use.
  • The Bluetooth reconnectivity issues I've had were mostly due to the device I was connecting to. When I turned on a Bluetooth headset I previously paired with it, it connected to that within seconds after the headset saying it can be paired.
  • Bluetooth automatically shuts off if the device is sleeping.

When it comes to battery life, do you have any of the sound settings on? I'm only getting around 25 hours in total, but I do have ClearAudio+ on, so that might impact the battery life somewhat. I also have Battery Care enabled, but I feel like ClearAudio+ might be affecting the battery life more 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
On 4/27/2018 at 3:39 PM, Harv said:

Can you compare this to nw zx300 ? Iam curios about these two, because many people said they sound same but the only difference in on zx300 balance port.

I'm not the person to ask when it comes to comparing sound quality. Mostly because I think it's a purely subjective thing and it depends even more on what I'm doing or how I'm feeling at the time.

 

1 hour ago, Leetransform25 said:

When it comes to battery life, do you have any of the sound settings on? I'm only getting around 25 hours in total, but I do have ClearAudio+ on, so that might impact the battery life somewhat. I also have Battery Care enabled, but I feel like ClearAudio+ might be affecting the battery life more 

I don't have any of those on because I was suspecting the same thing. I do have the EQ in use though, but I don't think that should do much.

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On 3/9/2018 at 1:25 PM, M.Yurizaki said:

Specs/Features:

  • $220 USD market price
  • Touch screen with physical buttons on the side
  • It comes in several colors (Most places I saw that sold this had it in dark gray, gray, and "midnight blue")
  • 16GB of internal storage. Can expand this using an microSD card up to 200GB. Which probably means it can take the 400GB cards that were recently released.
  • Supports the popular formats (MP3, MP4 HE-AAC, FLAC), and DSD audio if you use that.
  • Supports Bluetooth and NFC
  • Can be used as a standalone USB DAC
  • Website: https://sony.com/electronics/walkman/nw-a40-series

Pros:

  • It's purely a music player. So there's no extra features to clutter it up.
  • Expandable storage!
  • No need for extra software to sync your music library
  • It's not too big. If you're used to carrying around an iPod Classic, this'll fit right in
  • Screen is sharp and clear
  • Touch screen works well
  • Simple to navigate to where and what you want
  • Home screen is customizable

Cons:

  • 16GB of internal storage is inexcusable these days at this price point. Apple offers 32GB on the $200 iPod Touch.
  • Cable is proprietary. Seriously Sony, start using micro or Type-C USB like everyone else. :T
  • UI is 30 FPS, so it can feel jerky.
  • Some UI elements are open to mis-hitting.
  • Bluetooth reconnecting is odd and inconsistent. But this may be mostly due to what the Walkman is connecting to.
  • Current playback is not in some "Now playing" queue that you can add on to it to create playlists on the fly.
  • SenseMe and on-device Playlist editing features seem to only be available for internally stored media

Recommendation: Yes! If you're looking for a standalone MP3 player has some quality to it but don't want to spend a fortune on higher end players, the Sony Walkman NW-A45 is a great option.

 

-------

Would you believe there's someone who's still making an MP3 player that isn't one of the many $30 iPod knockoffs that feels cheap or a $1000 Android-based device that seemingly runs on audiophile snake oil? And that someone isn't Apple? That's where Sony came in, having rebranded the Walkman into a portable music player lineup ranging from the budget friendly (if $50 is budget friendly) all the way up to the boutique where you can spend $1000, if you really want to.

 

What I picked up recently was the Walkman model NW-A45. I'd argue that if we were to put this in between the cheap PMP players you can find all over Amazon and the "audiophile grade" ones from brands like Astell & Kern, Cowon (okay, they make a high-end PMP), and Fiio, I'd say this is in the midrange. In that it supports a lot of the high-end features in software, but maybe not all the high end features in hardware. Not to say it sound "meh", but you're not going to find things like line-level out, a volume knob (I'm presuming analog volume control), or other buzzwords that I don't care for.

 

And if you haven't noticed by my choice of words, I'm not what you'd call an audiophile. Most of the equipment I have would fit in the midrange section if I were to compare it against price alone. So I'm not going to spend my time talking about the Walkman's quality. After all, quality is dependent on a ton of factors like how my ears are feeling that day, what headphones I'm using, what kind of environment I'm in, etc. I didn't pick the Walkman up for sitting down in a meditation room so I can listen to my collection of music (most of which is either at least 192 kpbs CBR to VBR MP3 or "higher quality" AAC). This is my everyday "I need something to listen to on the go, be it in the car, at work, at the gym, or anywhere not at my desk."  I just wanted something that was better quality than... well this:

71R07UTle5L._SL1500_.jpg

 

So what can I talk about? How about the Walkman itself? Its features? The UI? The "objective" stuff? :D

 

Packaging

DSC00939.thumb.JPG.d5031c1a3945570a417713ff97ac875b.JPG

The packaging is fairly sparse. Open up the box to find the Walkman, then underneath a sleeve is the cable and some documentation.

 

And if you need a disclaimer, the SD card was a separate purchase.

 

The Walkman itself

The NW-A45 is a touch screen PMP, so navigating and poking around options is done primarily through that. On the right side there are buttons for Power, a volume rocker, previous track/rewind | play/pause | next track/fast forward, and a hold switch. The left side as a microSD card slot. The bottom side of the unit has a headphone jack, Sony's proprietary connector (ugh!), and a lanyard hook. The actual case of the unit itself feels like it's made of plastic, but it could be anodized aluminum. Either way, I'm not going to test this :P

 

The touchscreen isn't superb like an iPhone or a flagship Android, but it's responsive enough. What may get people is the 30 FPS UI, so while you can scroll fast through menus, it feels jerky. But the quality of the screen is great. It's definitely an IPS screen with a resolution of I believe 800x450. With the resolution and physical size, the display is barely out of "Retina" territory, but everything still looks sharp.

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What about it's size? The screen is about 3" and kind of thick for its size, but not that bad. It kind of reminds me of my Motorola Droid in size, but the Droid was actually bigger. Here it is next to my LG G6 and the Walkman NWZ-A17, the PMP I'm replacing.

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Features

The one thing I like about the NW-A45 is that Sony looked at what they're making and went "Who buys these play videos or view pictures? This isn't going to access YouTube and Instagram" and made it simply a music player. So in addition to supporting a wide variety of formats, including FLAC and DSD for you audiophiles, it has a radio tuner (I don't know why PMPs still put this in), a "Language Study" mode, and a DAC mode. Since the first two is probably of little interest to anyone, let's talk about DAC mode. When you plug the Walkman into a device capable of outputting over USB, the Walkman acts like a DAC. And it looks something like this:

 

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While I had it working the first time, I think Windows thought it found better drivers that don't really work, so now it doesn't work when I plug it into my computer. But I'm not really going to pursue this, I have a USB DAC already.

 

Anyway, here are the features that pertain music playback and libraries:

  • Library management can be done using music player software. However, the Walkman shows up as a USB drive, so you can drag and drop your music.
  • Your music library is sorted by artist, genre, playlists, and user-set bookmarks.
  • Some internal file management (i.e., deleting stuff)
  • You can edit playlists, but I think this only works if you're using the internal storage, not the microSD Card. The playlists I imported were not editable.
  • On the main music player:
    • Shows album art, title, artist, and album.
    • Playback buttons like Shuffle Toggle, Previous Track/Rewind, Play/Pause, Skip Track/Fast Forward, and Repeat toggle
  • An equalizer with some presets plus two custom ones
  • Various "enhancements", like upscaling CD quality to 24-bit 192Khz, loudness normalization, some "DC Phase linearizer", and a listening environment simulator. Or if you want the Walkman to do everything for you, there's a toggle to switch on "Clear Audio+".
  • Stop playing at the last song in the current selection of music or go to the next selection. So if you play an album, this will either stop once all the songs are played, or go to the next album on the list. Ditto with other categories like Artist, Genre, or Playlist.
  • Bluetooth or NFC wireless audio. The Bluetooth part supports aptX, SBC, and LDAC. I've had some issues with the Bluetooth in that while it can auto-reconnect to devices, it seems to be hit and miss. Sometimes it won't do it, other times I feel like I have to go to the Bluetooth menu. However, in the Walkman's defense, the device I connect it to the most (my car), has weird quirks too.

UI and Navigating

The UI has two constant areas and a third one that is usually up, but can disappear depending on where you are. The first is the status bar on top which shows whether it's playing something or not, the current volume level, icons if Bluetooth or NFC are on, and the battery. The second are the soft nav buttons. These are go back, go to the main player screen, go to the top menu, and settings. The third part that can disappear is showing what's playing now with playback controls.

 

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The top menu is clean of any extras and is focused solely on accessing music in different ways. And the best part is that you can customize this. Normally there's a few other options, but this is what I stuck with. You may notice the three circles on top. These are for activating certain features. The left one is the radio, the "Language Study" mode, and the DAC mode.

 

Tapping on one of the categories brings up a list like this:

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There is scrolling acceleration for fast scrolling (so keep scrolling and it'll go fast). And once you start scrolling, a scroll bar will appear on the right. You can drag this around to skip across letters. I found this a miss sometimes as the scroll bar is right on top of the three dots on the right side of every item (this is for more options if you tap it). I would've preferred, in addition to the scroll bar dragging, a button to take me to an alphabet index much like how the Zune HD did fast travel on a list.

 

Once you select a song, it takes you to this screen:

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Swiping right brings you to the bookmarks selection where you can add favorites to one of ten lists. Strange place to put it I think. Swiping left brings you to the Play queue, which is neat when you want to skip around tracks:

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And if you swipe down from the main screen, it takes you to the audio enhancements screen:

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The nice thing too is that there's two "Oh crap, take me back" buttons available anywhere. So if you ever get lost, you can press the one for going back to the top menu or the one for the main player screen. Overall the UI is nice and navigating my songs is straight forward. The only thing I wished it had was a search function. But I guess Sony was expecting people to load this up with high quality FLAC files so those people wouldn't be packing as many songs as I did.

 

One of the oddest things I noticed though is that you do set a date and time, but if you notice, there's no clock anywhere on the screen! What gives? According to the settings, all date and time information is used for library management.

 

Comparing this to...

Sony Walkman NWZ-A17

This was my last PMP. I got this to replace my Zune HD since the audio jack went out (plus it was 5 years old). I love the NW-A45 over the NWZ-A17 by far as the A17 has a ton of quirks that I can see turning off people if they've come from something that had a bunch of quality of life features. For example, here are all the flaws of the A17 that don't exist on the A45 and makes the A17 something I don't want to use now

  • Not pausing playback when the headphones are removed. I have no idea how Sony missed this one.
  • Holding Previous/Skip track wouldn't rewind or fast forward respectively. Also I have no idea how Sony missed this one.
  • Bluetooth connections are manually done every time. You can pair devices up and it'll remember it, but when you want to actually use Bluetooth, you have to go to the menu and select which one you want to connect to. The A45 can automatically connect to a Bluetooth device it knows about.
    • Also connecting a Bluetooth device goes back to the Bluetooth menu. It would've been nice for it to go to the playback screen.
  • When the Bluetooth audio device is turned off, the A17 tries to reconnect to it. Since I usually don't reconnect, I have to manually cancel it so it doesn't spend the next 2 minutes trying. Also, it boots itself to the Bluetooth menu rather than go back to the previous screen you were on.
  • No option to stop playback on the last song in the current selection
  • It doesn't show what songs it will play in order, i.e, if you select a playlist and shuffle it, it can only show the playlist in order.
  • If you set the current selection to shuffle and you want to skip around on the playlist, it'll restart the progress.
  • Repeat/Shuffle are buried in a menu
  • The only "Oh crap, take me back" button was holding the "Back" button to go to the home menu. If you went to the main playback screen, it also buried you in three layers of menus depending on how you accessed the music.

Microsoft Zune HD

This was my first higher-end PMP I owned. If my Zune HD went bad now, I wouldn't have missed it as much if I went straight to this than when I went to the Walkman NWZ-A17. But there were some features I enjoyed on the Zune HD that aren't on this Walkman, like enqueuing songs in a temporary playlist or the indexed navigation.

 

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Hi! I just bought an NW A45 in moonlit blue. How did you sync all of your music to the player? I've been using windows media player and some of the song info I put in (mainly the artist names ) for some reason isn't syncing. What do I do? 

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Posted · Original PosterOP
Just now, Merlo7 said:

Hi! I just bought an NW A45 in moonlit blue. How did you sync all of your music to the player? I've been using windows media player and some of the song info I put in (mainly the artist names ) for some reason isn't syncing. What do I do? 

I manually put the songs in my player.

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