I know what you’re thinking; why is BGR India reviewing a personal media player in 2017? Phones are perfectly good portable music players, so why does anyone even need to buy one of these anymore? It’s still a niche space, but the personal media player market has been infused with new life thanks to the focus on high-resolution audio. And if getting good sound is important to you, a high-resolution audio player is a great investment.
While other brands such as Fiio and Astell & Kern have dominated the space of late, Sony has maintained a regular and strong presence in the segment. The latest high-resolution audio player from Sony is the Walkman NW-A35, which is priced at Rs 15,990. Today, format support is everything in the high-resolution audio segment and people are willing to spend money on good equipment, so the Sony Walkman NW-A35 might be an attractive choice. Find out everything you need to know about it in our review.
Sony Walkman NW-A35 Design
What certainly works in favor of the Sony Walkman NW-A35 is its design. The device has a 3.1-inch color screen and is built well, with a great color finish and a compact size that makes it very easy to store and put in your pocket when in use. The distinct Walkman logo is present in the bottom right corner and at the back, reminding you that the Walkman NW-A35 is a direct descendant of Sony’s heritage and experience in making personal audio players.
The buttons are all on the right, along with the hold switch which locks the buttons for when you might have it in your pocket. The bottom has the main connectivity port, which is a proprietary one so you will need the included cable for charging and data transfers. Make sure you never misplace this cable, as the Walkman NW-A35 can’t charge using ordinary charging cables due to the lack of a micro-USB port. The 3.5mm jack for headphone connectivity is also at the bottom.
The audio player runs a fairly basic interface that is based around offering a visual experience to your music. There’s also Bluetooth, NFC and support for digital noise-cancellation control through the player itself when used with the Sony EX750NA headphones. High-resolution audio formats are of course supported, including the popular FLAC and WAV formats, as well as newer high-resolution formats such as DSD, PCM and Apple Lossless Audio. Of course, popular compressed formats such as MP3 and WMA are also supported. The Sony Walkman NW-A35 also supports microSD cards for storage expansion, apart from having a basic 16GB of internal storage, which is good enough to start with.
Sony Walkman NW-A35 Performance
When it comes to performance, a lot of credit goes to the headphones you use. The best audio player used with poor headphones will produce poor sound, while even an average audio player is enough when used with good headphones. Therefore, the job of an audio player as far as performance is concerned is fairly simple, and decided by the quality of its digital-analog converter.
While Sony hasn’t specified what the DAC is, it’s a fairly standard one that will match most top-end smartphones for sound. This isn’t to say it’s bad; in fact, it’s a very good DAC for most purposes. We used the player with Sony’s EX750NA headphones primarily, but also tried some other headsets including the Sony MDR-100ABN paired over Bluetooth.
Listening to ordinary compressed formats didn’t really showcase anything above average, and sound quality was on par with what I would expect from a good smartphone such as my OnePlus 3. However, switching to high-resolution audio makes a huge difference to the way the Walkman NW-A35 sounds. There’s a significant improvement in the responses, particularly when you’re listening to a good DSD format track. I listened to Touched By Tango Anxiety by Astor Piazzolla, and was particularly impressed with the sense of depth, width of the soundstage and openness. However, it did lack the pure attack and quality of timbre that I’ve heard from high-end options such as the Astell & Kern AK300 and AK Jr.
While the Sony Walkman NW-A35 may not significantly outperform the sound of a good smartphone, it’s worth it only for its wide format support that includes DSD and Apple Lossless Audio. These formats sound fantastic on the Sony, and at Rs 15,990, you’re assured of great sound provided you’re also using a good pair of headphones. The price certainly isn’t affordable, but it’s a good point to enter the world of high-resolution audio.