Sony Walkman, a name synonymous with portable music, has been a cornerstone of the audio industry for more than four decades. With a range of Digital Audio Players (DAPs) catering to various tastes and budgets, Sony is a preferred choice for music enthusiasts worldwide.
In this article, we’ll examine the details of the three prominent Sony Walkman models: the NW-WM1AM2, the NW-ZX707, and the NW-A306, exploring their features, design, sound quality, and overall performance.
Sony does offer one more Walkman option, the NW-WM1ZM2. We’re leaving it out of this comparison, though, as the target audience for that device is much different than the NW-WM1AM2, the NW-ZX707, and the NW-A306.
The NW-WM1AM2 was the first to be released of the new Sony Walkman series. This model integrates Sony’s best audio technologies into a sophisticated, portable package for the discerning audiophile. It offers an unparalleled sound experience, a plethora of features, and a design that is both functional and aesthetically pleasing.
Check out our full review of the Sony NW-WM1AM2.
The NW-ZX707, another notable offering from Sony, delivers a unique auditory experience characterized by a warm, musical, clear, and lively sound. It renders plenty of detail in tracks while maintaining a smooth soundscape. It’s particularly suitable for genres like classic rock, pop, classical, and jazz/soul.
Check out our full review of the Sony NW-ZX707.
The NW-A306, on the other hand, is a more compact and affordable model. This DAP is designed to fit the brief of a portable music player perfectly, fitting into palms and pockets with ease. Despite its affordability, it retains the high-resolution audio playback and other key features that Sony Walkman is known for.
Check out our full review of the Sony NW-A306.
Design & Build Quality
The Sony NW-WM1AM2’s design reflects its high-end status. The device exudes a sense of elegance with an aluminum alloy frame and a beautiful black finish. The hold switch, power button, volume controls, and playback controls are thoughtfully laid out for maximum usability.
The device is larger and heavier than the NW-ZX707 and the NW-A306. However, the rounded design and balanced weight ensure it remains comfortable and easy to handle.
Sony NW-WM1AM2 features a gold-plated 4.4mm balanced port on the left side and a gold-plated 3.5mm single-ended port on the right side. Sony also thoughtfully includes rubber caps for the jacks to protect them when not in use.
The NW-ZX707, on the other hand, is a slightly more compact model. It is designed to be easy to hold and operate, even with one hand. While cheaper than the NW-WM1AM2, it still feels like a premium device and even features gold-plating around the 4.4mm balanced port and the 3.5mm single-ended port, just as the NW-WM1AM2 does.
Other similarities with the NW-WM1AM2 include an aluminum alloy frame with the same rubberized material on the back of the device, custom made FT CAP3 (high polymer capacitor), and the S-Master HX digital amp.
The Sony NW-ZX707 has the same button layout as on the NW-WM1AM2 except for the “Hold” button, which has been moved to the ride side and the very bottom of the button row.
The NW-A306 is the smallest and lightest of the three Walkmans, making it the most portable. It features a scalloped textured back for a good grip, and it doesn’t feel too expensive or delicate to handle regularly. The 3.6-inch touchscreen that dominates the front is crisp and sharp, displaying album artwork in full color. The simplicity of its design is one of its key strengths.
The NW-A306 has a single 3.5mm jack, and like the NW-ZX707, all buttons reside on the right side of the device. Like the other Walkmans, the NW-A306 is built from an aluminum alloy frame, though the back of the device is purely plastic. The NW-306 also features the same S-Master HX digital amp. While the NW-A306 doesn’t feel like a premium device, it doesn’t feel cheap, either. Sony did a good job finding balance in the design and materials.
Here’s a quick summary of the similarities and differences between all three Sony Walkman DAPs.
- Hi-Res audio, DSD, and MQA support
- USB DAC mode
- S-Master HX digital amp
- Upscaling using DSEE Ultimate
- WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth 5.0
- LDAC and aptX HD support
- Vinyl Processor sound mode
- MicroSD card clot
- 3.5mm audio jack
- Cassette Tape UI
- USB-C port (USB 3.2 Gen1)
- Analog Volume UI
- 128GB internal storage (103GB usable)
- Rated battery life of 40 hours
- 4.4mm balanced connection
- High-gain mode with higher power output for both 4.4mm and 3.5mm connectors
- Android 11
- DSD Remastering sound mode
- 64GB internal storage (47GB usable)
- Rated battery life of 25 hours
- 4.4mm balanced connection
- No high-gain mode
- Android 12
- DSD Remastering sound mode
- 32GB internal storage (18GB usable)
- Rated battery life of 36 hours
- No high-gain mode
- Android 12
- ClearAudio+ sound mode
As stated in our review of the NW-WM1AM2, it delivers a sound experience that lives up to Sony’s reputation for excellence in audio quality. The device’s sound style is distinctively powerful, dynamic, clear, and rich. It showcases excellent sound details and a natural, accurate sound field with a great sense of positioning.
The addition of the high-gain mode means the Sony NW-WM1AM2 can drive most headphones on the market. Even with my Fostex T40RP MK3 magnetic planar headphones, which are notoriously hard to drive, I never felt like the NW-WM1AM2 needed more power.
The high-gain mode does provide a slightly different sound than with high-gain off. The lower end became more prominent, and the soundstage expanded a bit. This never came at the expense of the overall sound signature of the device, though. The music was still clear, detailed, and natural sounding.
The sound of the NW-WM1AM2 sounds premium, at least to me.
The NW-ZX707 is a Sony device, meaning it has Sony’s sound signature. That said, the NW-ZX707 tends to go on the warmer side, making music sound more alive. It still presents a smooth balance of detail and clarity, but it makes jazz and soul music a little funner to listen to than the NW-WM1AM2 and NW-A306.
The bass is warm and punchy, while the mid-range offers rich and expressive vocals. I got quite immersed when listening to music that was more upbeat and layered.
Sadly, the downside to the Sony NW-ZX707 is the power output. It could not drive my Fostex T40RP MK3 very well, and my Focal Elegia lost some of its soundstage that I was used to when using it with a desktop DAC/AMP and even with the NW-WM1AM2.
Listening to only the Sony NW-ZX707 for a week, I was able to “forget” what my headphones sounded like and got used to the sound profile of the NW-ZX707. Suppose this was your only music device or only portable music device, and your headphones are relatively easy to drive. In that case, the Sony NW-ZX707 will be very pleasing to listen to.
Clean and balanced is how I would describe the sound of the NW-A306. Don’t expect punchy bass or for the highs to be accented in any way. Both ranges are still very clear and accurate sounding (given the power output of the NW-A306). The mids are where this device will draw you in, giving you an easy and pleasant listening experience. This sound profile makes sense, given that the Sony NW-A306 is being marketed toward the more average music consumer. There is a noticeable lack of soundstage, though.
If you have efficient headphones, such as the Meze 99 Neo that I used, then the NW-A306 will sound perfectly pleasant and do a great job immersing you in music, sounding just natural enough to not be boring or flat. Don’t expect to use headphones that are harder to drive than your average pair, though. The Sony NW-A306 just doesn’t have the power for it.
Sound profile summary
- Powerful, dynamic, but still clear and rich sounding
- Natural and accurate sound details
- Neutral bass, not overly expressive
- Excellent sense of positioning, wide soundstage
- Excels in classical, rock, soul, and jazz
- Clear, warmer sound
- Warm and punchy bass
- Good positioning but a smaller soundstage than the NW-WM1AM2
- Excels in pop, jazz, R&B, classic rock
- Clean and balanced sound
- Clear and accurate bass but lacks intensity
- Pleasant emphasis on the mid-range
- Sound is more on the natural side but still has energy
- Excels in most genres but lacks the power to adequality capture the dynamics of classical music
Performance and Features
On the sound performance side, the NW-WM1AM2 really delivers. There’s the high-gain feature mentioned before, and if you check our review of the Sony NW-WM1AM2, you’ll read about all the hardware features that Sony packed in the device. The Sound Adjustments app gives you many options to manipulate or enhance your audio playback.
On the Android performance side, the Sony NW-WM1AM2 runs Android 11 just fine. It does feel slightly sluggish compared to modern Android smartphones. Still, this device doesn’t need the highest-end internals to deliver a great audio experience to you. Apps such as Apple Music and Qobuz run just fine, and the audio experience from those apps is also great.
Battery life is very good for a portable audio powerhouse. Sony states the battery should last 40 hours. I was able to get 38 hours with a mix of CD quality and Hi-Res FLAC files.
For sound performance, the NW-ZX707 gives you everything you need. In fact, minus the high-gain mode and the slightly different sound profile, it does everything the NW-WM1AM2 does. It has the same features in the Sound Adjustments app and a 4.4mm balanced connection. If you don’t need the extra power for audio output and you don’t care about the specific sound profile, then you won’t be gaining very much by upgrading to the NW-WM1AM2.
Regarding Android performance, the Sony NW-ZX707 is much more responsive than the Sony NW-WM1AM2. Animations are smoother, the device boots up twice as fast, and apps such as Apple Music and Qobuz feel better to use. Also, it’s running Android 12 vs Android 11 (this isn’t as big of a deal as most make it to be, but it’s a positive mark in the NW-ZX707’s favor).
Here is where we get to the sad news. The battery life of the Sony NW-ZX707. Sony rates the battery life as 25 hours. I was able to get 26 hours with the same mix of music as used with the Sony NW-WM1AM2. This sounds like great news, though. It is in the sense that Sony isn’t lying about the battery life, but 26 hours feels like so little for a device this size. You’ll see why when you read the Sony NW-A306 results below.
The sound performance of the NW-A306 is extremely good for the device’s size. No matter what you listen to, the music sounds good, and you’re not compromising very much. As long as you use efficient or easy-to-drive headphones, that is.
While there is the Sound Adjustments app, just as on the NW-WM1AM2 and the NW-ZX707, you don’t get the DSD Remastering feature. Instead, you get ClearAudio+, which is a filter that is supposed to enhance specific frequency ranges of the audio you are listening to. It enhanced the vocals a bit, but otherwise, the music did not sound any better to me.
For Android performance, the experience is overall pretty frustrating:
- The interface is sluggish in most places, and apps lag if there are too many animations.
- The screen on the Sony NW-A306 is so small that it affects the formatting of text in some apps, including the Google Play Store. It also makes touchscreen presses of buttons infuriating at times.
- It takes forever for the device to boot up.
Thankfully, battery life saves the device for me. Sony states the battery life of the NW-A306 is 36 hours. I got 34 hours in my testing, which is still great for a device this size.
When it comes to choosing a Sony Walkman DAP, your choice depends on your preferences and needs. The NW-WM1AM2 is a premium choice for audiophiles seeking the best sound quality, a plethora of features, and excellent battery life. The NW-ZX707 provides a warm, clear sound and great Android performance at the cost of output power and battery life. The NW-A306 offers a compact design and affordable price, making it an excellent choice for those on a budget. Each model has its strengths, and you can’t go wrong with any Sony Walkman in terms of sound quality and audio performance.