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Sony Introduces Two Affordable Walkmans for Portable Music Listening

Sony has introduced two new Walkmans for 2023 that offer a premium DAP experience at more affordable prices. Let’s take a look at what they offer.

Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 portable DAP Lifestyle

The Apple iPod is dead and its impact sparked a revolution when it comes to how music is consumed. Some will argue that the iPod lowered the bar when it comes to sound quality and that it ushered in an era of low resolution music — we’re looking at you iTunes and Spotify. Portable digital audio players did offer the opportunity to carry an entire music store in our pockets and for that we are truly grateful. But what about the Sony Walkman? It existed long before the iPod and it also sparked the portable audio revolution. The Sony Walkman still exists and the latest versions are rather special.

In 2022, Sony updated their flagship Signature Walkmans which set new benchmarks for portable audio performance — they were just way out of reach for 99% of the population at $1,399 and $3,699 USD. Astell&Kern and FiiO can get away with it because they’re appealing to a very niche market, but convincing mainstream consumers to spend that kind of money on a DAP is a rather steep ask.

Sony Walkman NW-A306 and NW-ZX707 portable DAPs
Sony Walkman NW-A306 (left) and NW-ZX707 (right) portable DAPs

Sony has decided that the market wants more affordable DAPs that borrow heavily from their more expensive siblings and have just unveiled two additional models, the NW-A306 ($349) and NW-ZX707 ($899).

The NW-ZX707 replaces the NW-ZX507 which was already a great portable music player. With a larger 5.0″ (diag.) screen and the promise of sound and battery improvements, the new ZX707 model may be the DAP to beat in the under $1K price bracket.

The major differences between the NW-ZX707 and NW-A306 are screen size, battery life, and the inclusion of a balanced terminal on the ZX707. Interestingly, the lower priced A306 model has nearly 50% longer battery life, claiming 36 hours versus 25.

Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 portable DAP Internals
Sony Walkman NW-ZX707

Although both new Walkmans can decode the same audio formats, including DSD and MQA, the internal components of the ZX707 are built to a higher standard.

The ZX707 inherits technology previously only available in the Signature Walkman. Upgrades include fine-tuned capacitors, a FTCAP3 (high-polymer capacitor) and a large solid high polymer capacitor which offers large capacitance and low resistance. In addition, an OFC (Oxygen-Free Copper) milled block covers the digital block along with a large 8mm coil for balanced output.

NW-ZX707 integrates a DSD (Direct Stream Digital) Remastering Engine where PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) audio is resampled into an 11.2 MHz DSD, offering even more ways to enjoy music.

Sony Walkman NW-A306 portable DAP Lifestyle
Sony Walkman NW-A306

The less expensive NW-A306 raises the bar in the budget DAP (digital audio player) category. Because its 3.6″ (diag.) touch screen display is smaller, it consumes less power which extends battery life. Although it doesn’t have a balanced jack, its stereo mini-jack and wireless connectivity will satisfy the majority of convenient use cases.

Features in Common

Both the NW-ZX707 and NW-A306 feature S-Master HX™ digital amp technology, independently developed for Walkman, that is compatible with the native DSD format. It claims to reduce distortion and noise across a wide range of frequencies, for rich and full-bodied sound.

Just like the latest Signature Walkman model, both models apply a reflow solder containing gold, which proclaims to offer significantly improved sound localization and a wider sound space.

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In addition, both music players’ utilize a dual clock, film capacitor and a fine sound register.

Sony Walkman NW-ZX707 portable DAP front UI volume
Sony Walkman NW-ZX707

Updated DSEE Ultimate

The NW-ZX707 and the NW-A306 both use Edge-AI (Artificial Intelligence), DSEE Ultimate™ (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) which upscales compressed digital music files in real time. The company claims its evolving algorithm delivers even greater benefits for CD-quality (16 bit 44.1/48kHz) lossless codec audio.

With further progress from its predecessor models, consumers can enjoy DSEE Ultimate for upscaling their music, whether it is Wi-Fi streamed or downloaded. Now listeners can also enjoy DSEE Ultimate with wireless headphones.

Comparison

NW-ZX707NW-A306
MSRP$899$349
Operating SystemAndroid 12Android 12
Display Size5.0-inch (12.7 cm)3.6-inch (9.1 cm)
Internal Storage64GB32GB
External StoragemicroSDmicroSD
Display Resolution1280 x 7201280 x 720
Dimensions (W x H x D)Approx. 72.5 mm x 132.3 mm x 16.9 mm Approx. 2.86 inchs x 5.21 inchs x 0.67 inchsApprox. 56.5 mm x 98.4 mm x 11.8 mm Approx. 2.23 inchs x 3.88 inchs x 0.47 inchs
Weight8.01 oz (227 g)3.99 Oz (113 g)
Touch PanelSupportedSupported
USB DAC ModeYesYes
Headphone Out (Stereo mini-jack)Yes, 20-40,000 HzYes, 20-40,000 Hz
Maximum Power Output (JEITA 16Ω/mW)0.4-1.1mW (32Ω)0.4-1.1mW (32Ω)
Headphone Out (Balanced standard-jack)Yes, 20-40,000 Hz
Maximum Power Output (JEITA 16Ω/mW)0.4-1.1mW (32Ω)

Pricing and Availability

Related reading: Sony Signature Walkman WM1ZM2 and WM1AM2 High-end DAPs Arrive in U.S. (June 2022)

22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Jim

    February 10, 2023 at 9:04 pm

    In what world are these affordable att?

    • Ian White

      February 11, 2023 at 1:12 am

      Jim,

      In the context of those who buy DAPs, they are affordable. Check out the prices of the top Astell&Kern, Cayin, and FiiO players. The entry-level Sony is quite affordable within the category.

      People who spend thousands of dollars on headphones, also look for DAPs in this price range.

      Best,

      Ian White

  2. Dan Rowe Sr

    February 11, 2023 at 4:28 pm

    Ummm they more expensive then a PS4 in 2023? No thanks!

    • Ian White

      February 11, 2023 at 5:49 pm

      Dan,

      Very true but the entry-level model is actually rather affordable in the DAP category. I’m not sure how one can compare a PS4 to a portable digital audio player but ok.

      Best,

      Ian White

    • Daniel

      February 12, 2023 at 10:59 am

      While it’s nice to see sony trying to widen their price range, I feel like these budget offerings just pale in comparison especially to chinese brands like Fiio, Hiby, and Shanling. While NW-A306 could be argued as a decent competitor, the ZX707 just falls way short to the competition at the price, based on the specs. At $900 it’s just way too overpriced.

  3. Guy Lacommé

    February 12, 2023 at 12:08 pm

    32Gb storage only? That’s showstopper for me, and hardly any better than the ipods 1sr generation…. Such a shame for what looks otherwise like a great DAP!

    • Ian White

      February 13, 2023 at 2:42 pm

      Guy,

      The 3rd generation iPod had that much. I do think Sony has a few things to fix with these starting with MQA, but I do agree that the storage capacity needs to be higher.

      Ian

      • Erik Batalia

        February 16, 2023 at 8:25 am

        I didn’t read or see anything if either of these had extendable storage options.

        • Brian Mitchell

          February 16, 2023 at 5:07 pm

          Both Walkmans have a microSD card slot. According to Sony, it’s recommended to format (erase) the SD cards from within the Walkman before using them. Comparison chart updated.

  4. Deneb

    February 12, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    MQA on board?
    No cigar, thanks
    Huge showstopper
    Maybe next time

  5. Asa

    February 13, 2023 at 5:16 pm

    The name, “Walkman” elicits old memories. Funny, I was just looking through a few boxes over the weekend and found my old Sony Walkman that still works. I kept it because it was one with an AM/FM tuner for use in emergencies. I also have another box with two Zunes and an iRiver MP3 player that could play about any codec during its time. I never did own an iPod.

    I guess one would say, why have one of these in the age of iPhone? For casual listening, I’d be hard-pressed to use/carry yet one more device, but good on Sony for thinking of the niche’s niche…and thanks for posting this…had no idea there’s still a market for these. Btw, you have one of the best upscale audio/video knowledge sites – keep it up!

    • Ian White

      February 13, 2023 at 5:31 pm

      Asa,

      Thank you for that wonderful comment. The group does work really hard to make that happen.

      The DAP vs. Smartphone debate is a very important one. Why own a second digital audio playback device when you can access all of the music streaming platforms on your phone? For a lot of audiophiles, smartphones don’t offer a good enough DAC and certainly not enough power to drive a lot of headphones today. As a result, Dongle DACs have become really popular and we have covered those rather extensively.

      DAPs offer a lot of removable storage and enough power to drive even the most demanding planar headphones in 2023.

      Best,

      Ian White

      • Asa

        February 13, 2023 at 6:21 pm

        Thanks for the additional context with DAPs and power. I use a Helm Bolt DAC with the iPhone and iPad Pro. I know there are more powerful solutions, but it does what I need it to do with Tidal/BD DT-700 headphones for casual music/podcast listening (mostly at night with my better half sleeping while I glow in the dark).

        For me, I’d rather listen to music through high-quality speakers than expensive cans (speakers also being expensive). Maybe it’s the isolation or slight claustrophobia I get…or another type of FOMO with all the noises/interaction around me I may miss.
        Thanks again!

        • Ian White

          February 14, 2023 at 12:26 am

          Asa,

          The Helm Bolt is my drug of choice for over 16 months. I use it with my Meze 99 Classics, Grados, and HiFiMAN Sundara.

          Best,

          Ian White

        • Shawn Hobson

          February 16, 2023 at 11:40 pm

          I was very excited when reading this. I AUTOMATICALLY knew what either my birthday or father’s day had instore for me UNTIL I saw the storage capacity. I know you said there was a micro sd slot but still expected more. I still have a few Ipods and I even have an walkman that belonged to my dad. When using these I was buying higher priced headphones to get acceptable sound so if im getting good sound I’d pay for it. I’d just expect more storage.

  6. Steve Horne

    February 14, 2023 at 2:36 pm

    I’ve yet to see a review of the 2 new Sony DAPs that provides any information whatsoever on the most important component inside a DAP. That would be the DAC. Why is there no mention of this. Is Sony being secretive? Has no one disassembled one to see what is inside?

  7. Allan

    February 15, 2023 at 3:28 pm

    Still out of reach for 99.999% of people!
    In what world are these affordable..
    Plenty of choices out there that sound just as good

    • Ian White

      February 15, 2023 at 4:05 pm

      Allan,

      So are the vast majority of high-end audio components. Nobody is forcing anyone to buy them. That’s why we love competition and the option to try different products that best suit your needs.

      Best,

      Ian White

  8. Pl123

    February 15, 2023 at 4:21 pm

    32 GB is laughable in 2023, this needs to be so much higher to be taken seriously.

    • Ian White

      February 15, 2023 at 4:23 pm

      3rd generation iPod level.

      It needs 256 GB for sure.

      Best,

      Ian White

  9. Ranger Reds

    February 26, 2023 at 12:05 am

    A lot of people criticize the lack of on-board memory in DAPs. I don’t understand this. On-board memory is almost always overpriced and allows for no expansion. Memory cards have dropped in price and usually outlive the player. Secondly, my FiiO takes forever to transfer files when connected to a PC. Removing the card and connecting to the same PC is significantly faster. Buy a new player & your entire library of tunes can be used instantly used in the new one.

  10. W. Jennings

    April 6, 2023 at 9:29 pm

    With the expectation that DAPs today be streaming devices with large high-resolution displays, Android operating systems, extended battery life, and better audio capability than a phone, why is it then a shock that they cost roughly the same thing? The most popular phones of 2023 so far retail for $1099 (Iphone 14 Pro) and $1119 (Samsung S23+) and my bet would be at least one commenter on the $799 price tag likely did so from a phone that cost more than that. People forget that they paid nearly $1500 for a phone because they pay it in $39 a month increments.

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