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Sony NWZ-A15: Modern Day Walkman that Makes Sense

What’s the point of having a dedicated music player?

The rise and popularity of smartphones in the last decade has almost put dedicated music players completely out of business. The convenience of having all the functions you would need in multiple gadgets in just one was very appealing, compelling, and efficient. This is even evident with the business of Apple as there is much less focus on their iPod line-up these days. Heck, we can’t even remember the last keynote that featured an iPod prominently.

When gadgets try to do everything, they end up usually doing everything in a mediocre way. That’s actually very true for smartphones, especially when it comes to the sound quality department. You lose out on better sound because the built-in amplifiers and sound cards of smartphones have been greatly compromised to lower cost and reduce the physical footprint on the internal hardware. This is why there are now external portable amplifier products that really make a difference in sound quality.

The quality becomes doubly questionable when you start streaming it via apps like Spotify. You already have an inferior audio player (your smartphone) and now you stream low resolution audio via the Internet. On top of that you’re probably using Apple’s crappy earphones. Believe us when we say that you’re missing out on a lot of things. You’re actually not hearing the songs the way your favorite artist envisioned them to be.

Enter the Sony NWZ-A15

Amazingly good and easy-to-use portable music player
Amazingly good and easy-to-use portable music player

To people who passionately love music to a fault, a dedicated music player is a must. This is where the Sony NWZ-A15 comes in. Players like these can play high resolution audio files (AAC FLAC, etc) while having superior digital to analogue converters (it’s what translates the digital info to actual sound). Over-all result? You get to really hear the finer details of your favorite songs. It’s music-tripping on a whole new level.

In terms of sound quality, the NWZ-A15 delivers great pace and rhythm. You can really get fantastic inner definition and details especially if paired with a good quality headphone. Over-all sound you get is more towards neutral and clear tones as well.

When it comes to power output, the NWZ-A15 has no problems with IEMs or easy-to-drive headphones. While it can still power the more hard-to-drive cans, it doesn’t do it effectively. You’ll need to pair it with an external amplifier if you want it to shine. This is actually okay by us considering the price tag of the Sony NWZ-A15.

Elegantly Built and Easy to Use

Two thumbs up when it comes to hardware design and build
Two thumbs up when it comes to hardware design and build

Sony put a lot of effort into refining the hardware design of the NWZ-A15. Unlike your usual portable audiophile gear that look like bricks of metal strapped together by tape, this one is smaller than most smartphones at just 44 x 109 x 9mm. It’s really easy to slip in and out of your pocket and your bag (leaves a very small footprint). It’s also very light at 66g. You’ll probably forget that it’s in your pocket if you don’t deliberately look for it.

The premium feel carries on to the steel casing with the LED display. The body itself is superb with the physical buttons at the front being very responsive and easy to use. The downside here though is the display. Resolution isn’t that high so don’t expect album art to come out stunning.

Combination of physical buttons and the software design makes it a pleasure to use
Combination of physical buttons and the software design makes it a pleasure to use

User experience on the software side is intuitive and easy to figure out. You don’t need a manual to figure this one out. Just connect it to your computer, transfer your songs, and then turn on the player. It will then build the library and it’s easy to navigate via artists, albums, songs, etc.

Great audio output. Premium and slim casing. Superb user interface. Oh and the battery life of this bad boy easily reaches up to 30-40 hours. Wapak!

All the Bells and Whistles

MicroSD!
MicroSD!

Sony made an effort to keep this device for the modern-day music lover. It has bluetooth connectivity for those who prefer to listen to their songs without wires (which means it’s great for exercise as well as you can use it for running or while in the gym). They also added in NFC so that it’s easier to pair with the myriad of Bluetooth devices that you would want it to talk to.

When it comes to storage, the Sony NWZ-A15 just has 16GB of it. To remedy that you can easily slip in a microSD card so that you have more storage space. This is critical because if you decide to go for FLAC audio files, the sizes per file will easily skyrocket.

Perhaps our major concern with it right now is that they use a proprietary cable for charging and data transfer. It’s not your usual micro USB that you use with smartphones and tablets. Best to not lose the wire or you’ll need to buy a new one from Sony (we haven’t checked the price yet).

Verdict: Solid Buy for Music Lovers

Priced competitively at Php8,990, the Sony NWZ-A15 is a great buy for passionate music lovers. It’s also good for the more hardcore audiophiles but they’ll probably spend more on additional stuff like an external amplifier since they’ll be using more power-hungry and demanding headphones. For the average non-techie, the bottom line is that you will end up getting a much better music tripping experience than you would get with your smartphone.

We highly recommend this product but since to hear is to believe, we suggest you guys go to a Sony concept store (they have several already in malls) and give this a listen. Compare it closely with the sound quality that you get with your smartphone. We’re confident that this will deliver! πŸ™‚

The Sony NWZ-A15 is now available at various Sony stores and distributors with an SRP of Php8,990.

Carlo Ople

Carlo is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of Unbox.ph. During daytime he’s the Managing Director and Partner of a Digital Marketing Agency in the Philippines and by nighttime he’s living out his passion as a gadget enthusiast and story teller through Unbox.

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22 Comments

  1. Lossless music files (Flac, WAV etc) is way Overrated in my book, usually the trade off is not worth it compared to a lame codec -encoded Mp3 or AAC kasi napaka microscopic yung tonal advantage ng Lossless , plus you gotta have a high-end headset to even notice the difference. Lossless is for the elitist snobs who spend a great deal of time stroking their $500 headsets and dissecting the audio quality of what they’re listening to compared to actually enjoying the music itself ….

    Regarding this product, it baffles my on why they didn’t include a ”big-enough” storage space (at least 64GB sana) to justify its Php9k pricetag….Dedicated music player yan tapos pabibilhin ka pa ng MicroSD card susme!

    1. You should try it first to experience it. As a budding audiophile, there really is a difference. It’s all about preferences though. It’s like looking at a 1080p display on the and a 2K display on the phone. It may seem subtle, but there is a difference. also, not all of us listens to dissect audio quality. It is just really more enjoyable to listen to a P15,000 good headset than a P500 one.

      1. I have been encoding Lossless files as a backup for my physical CD’s for over 15 years now…and I have also owned several Audio technica and Sennheiser headsets….I also blind-tested quite a number music lovers (Flac vs Mp3) and at least more than 40 percent of the time them got it wrong

        Really, it’s just a placebo more than anything…The human ear can only ”recognize” certain frequencies, the difference is very negligible to be quite honest, can only be heard mostly on cymbals. hi-hats and strings, but not enough to warrant the 75-80 percent increase in storage requirement….Lossless are only good for archiving and NOTHING ELSE

    2. That’s why our recommendation for people is for them to test it first before making the purchase. Sound quality can be very subjective and touchy especially with a lot of people claiming to be mega experts, hehe.

      For us we notice and hear the difference and it’s a big one. Over-all combination of the file format and DAC of the player combined with a good set of cans.

    3. Agree! 192 kbps mp3 is fine for djs and music lovers. 128 kbps is enough for average listeners. As long as it’s stereo, enjoy!

  2. Oh yeah? Have you tried Viper4Android? That one’s a music lover’s dream that came true! Drives my Audio-Technica M50 and Philips | O’Niell The Drop greatly!

    1. Size is actually good. Not too long. Baka the photos we took don’t do it justice. In terms of sound output we’d go for this over the iPod Nano.

  3. great review as always! glad you didn’t buy into the “oh its just an overpriced music player” mentality

    p.s. carlo you should definitely try viper4android it makes my normally sh*tty sounding nexus 4 sound like gold. no really. just towelroot an old phone and try it.

    1. Thanks! We always try to keep an open mind about gadgets that come our way. I’ll give viper4android a shot this week. Will find an old phone to root, hehe.

  4. So sad. Sir Carlo, I hope you could try sounds produced by myphone a818g, a888, a919i, and vortex once they have been rooted and updated to custom roms. Our pinoy developers found a way to port Dolby digital and Beats Audio sounds into those low end and outdated phones and they produced amazing quality sounds!

    Not even Iphone Ipods and Philips Sound gear could compare to the sounds they produce.

    I specifically mentioned those phones because I tried it and am still using it.

  5. The design is like a mid-2000 music player with bunch of physical buttons around. I think they need to increase the storage capacity of this device for us to keep high-res audio files.

  6. Nothing beats music coming straight from a CD!!! I still use my JVC portable disc player and now plug it to my HT at home. I hear every instrument and all the notes in the recording.

  7. Music is a preference, most people i know think great music is bass heavy loud n shreaking sound. I hate it when i am at an event and the sound system is set up by god knows who.
    Not much of a headphone guy but i listened to flac and lossless and 24bit cd on emma sq competition cars using focal, dls morel drivers and high end signal cables and amps. They are so clean n extremely detailed worth the price u hve it installed for but to be honest i find it boring.
    Kaya its more of what your perception of what is nice music is. I like mine strong and loud but i want the details to be clean n crisp when i go loud too. And yes i still preffer cds to me they just sound more full than whatever mp3, flac u downloaded from the internet

  8. I still have my dedicated Sony Walkman NWZ-E463 MP3 Player which I bought last 2013. I prefer having dedicated player because of the sound quality and the battery lasts for 2 days. While my phone can’t even last for 8 hours. Hahaha.

    I am planning to replace it this year, with this new model.

  9. I just bought this last month. πŸ˜€ it’s a bit pricey honestly pero nung nagamit ko na sulit naman pala. Mas malinaw nga yung music compare sa smartphones. I’m using Iphone and kinompare ko yung tunog. Mas malinaw yung instrument at voice sa sony. Ok din yung feature na bluetooth. You can use it with bluetooth headphones or transfer a song via bluetooth from a smartphone. at Ok dn yung NFC nya. Yung battery tumatagal ng 1 week if puro mp3 songs lang patutugtugin. Makunsumo lang sa battery yung radio nya pero mallinaw naman. So wala naman akong pagsisisi sa pagbili sa kanya. hehe πŸ˜€

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