Sony NW-A45 high-resolution audio player

Posted on Mar 24, 2019

We are cheated and deadened by the compressed audio we are subjected to during most of our time in the world.

The Sony NW-A45 got here Friday, the first new Walkman for me in about 17 years. This thing is gorgeous, and having the ability to play practically any lossless format is really nice. The UI is easy to figure out, and per a recommendation on Amazon, I ordered it with an IVSO screen protector, which makes it easier to swipe around on the screen, and I don’t worry about scratching it with my meaty paws. I dumped 45 GB of FLAC/ALAC files on it (pretty much all my lossless tracks) and barely made a dent in the 256 GB SD card. I’m gonna need to rip more CDs before I can listen to anything new, but I have plenty to play with for now. Also, it is tiny. I think it’s smaller than my last iPod touch and makes my iPhone 8 feel giant by comparison.

We listened in the car through the stereo’s aux in. Fleet Foxes at 96kHz/24-bit sounded great! Besides the car, I’ve been using Sony MDR-7506 headphones. I’m still playing with the EQ curve to try to undo the clinical sound they bring to everything, but I’m getting close. I don’t know yet whether the amp in the NW-A45 has enough oomph for these headphones. I listen to music pretty quietly most of the time, but I could also easily see getting one of those add-on DAC/amps to pair with it, although those look kind of ridiculous. I’ll probably get over that at some point. For now, there’s so much detail that I had forgotten just envelops lossless audio, 44,100 times a second (or more when you get into hi-res stuff).

I tested the AirPods with it and the experience and sound sucked. Anyway, it seems wrong to have all this lossless beauty and waste it by compressing anything. Turned Bluetooth back off and will stick with wired earphones.

I do see the symptom various reviewers reported where album art isn’t shown for some CDs. I took a fresh pass at the FLAC tags and art with MusicBrainz Picard and xACT. A couple of the albums still didn’t display cover art until I found fresh JPGs and associated them in Picard. I figured it out, but I don’t know how normal people would deal with this.

The included USB cable connects to a proprietary Sony WM-PORT, um, port. Not the best, but those cables aren’t expensive if this one breaks or gets lost.

The only real problem is that now I can hear a ton of problems with the way various CDs were mastered, and I never had enough resolution (or listened with headphones enough) to hear it before.

It’s unexpectedly nice to play music and never, ever worry that the thing I’m playing it on will buzz with a push notification, or that a phone call will interrupt everything and scare the hell out of me.