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Sony releases new NW-A100 Walkman

Sony NW-A105 walkman
Sony has announced the A100 Walkman at IFA 2019. The new model is powered by Android 9.0, features WiFi, NFC, NC, and a USB type-C port. The model is expected to go on sale in November 2019 in Europe, starting at €350/£320 for the NW-A105 and €440/£400 for the NW-A100TPS.

Pre-order is up on Amazon.de, release date December 1st.

       

Press Release

NW-A105 Walkman is compatible with high-resolution audio, DSD (11.2MHz/ PCM conversion) and PCM (384kHz/32bit) supported by S-Master HX. DSEE HX upscales your existing music to near high-resolution quality and works even when you’re streaming music. In addition, NW-A105 Walkman supports high-resolution audio wireless by LDAC, which now suits both wireless and wired connection in high-resolution quality.
Sony NW-A105 walkman


The build is precision-engineered for superior sound including a rigid aluminium milled frame and high quality audio parts including solders, film condensers and fine sound resistor also found on the ZX series and NW-WM1Z. In the NW-A105 Walkman these features are packed into a handy sized compact body, so there’s no more picking between sound quality and style.

Supported by Android] with Wi-Fi, the NW-A105 Walkman grants you access to millions of songs at your fingertips. Stream the latest songs from your preferred provider to experience up and coming artists in their full glory. Plus, you can also access download services directly from the NW-A105 Walkman to store your favourite tracks on your device, perfect for journeys where there is no Wi-Fi connection.

End of Release

I will put up a separate post for the NW-A100TPS model and will only focus on the normal A-Series here.

Design

Sony NW-A105 walkman

The A100 design is a nice update on the familiar design from the A30, A40 and A50 but only shares the rigid aluminium milled frame with the A50. The physical controls remain on the side like on the A55, but adopt a similar design like the ZX300 model. Dimensions are about the same as the A55, with the weight now 4g more. The screen is now a 3.6in LCD (non-touch) with HD resolution, up from a 800x480 3.1in LCD.
Sony NW-A105 walkman side controls

In addition, the top and bottom of the new A100 is now slightly rounded and not flat to provide a more comfortable feel in the hand. The bottom now features the microSD slot, USB type-C port and headphone jack. This change from the WM-port to USB port is not a first, the NW-ZE380 also had a standard mini USB port and lacked the WM-port.

Unfortunately the specifications do not mention which version the USB port is, so it might still be stuck at USB 2.0 like the previous model. Colour options include, black, red, orange, ash green and blue for the A100 and the A100TPS model (more on this later) will only come in black.
Sony NW-A105 walkman bottom


Features

There have been many new additions and some subtractions from the feature list. The biggest change is the addition of WiFi which will allow streaming and downloading music from online music services. Bluetooth is now 5.0 up from 4.2 but unlike the A55, there is no mention of receiver mode, so perhaps it was dropped (Philweb confirms it was dropped since due to the Wifi function). NFC has been moved from the centre of the rear to the lower half of the Walkman.

Another feature missing in the specifications is USB DAC mode, which again was present on the A55. Not sure why this was dropped, perhaps it was a feature not used by many users. Who knows, maybe the feature can be added back in via a firmware update.





Battery life has dropped significantly from the A55 (rated of up to 45 hours for MP3), now stands at up to 26 hours for MP3. I wondering why the drop, the battery recharge is now 5.5 hours, up from 4 hours, which might indicate a larger battery capacity or perhaps a slower recharge. One guess is the Android OS, it consumes more battery power than Sony's own OS and second, the larger HD resolution LCD also uses more power than the previous LCD. Of course there might be other factors, like the addition of film capacitors and other components for improved sound quality which might affect battery life.

S-Master HX, DSD, DSEE HX and Vinyl Processor remain on the A100, so there is no difference here. The S-Master HX can actually be seen on the board from photos on the product page.

Sony NW-A105 walkman

The right side the NW-ZX500 S-Master (labelled in the press photos), and the photo on the left shows a similar chip on the NW-A100. The chip is the 3778-838-B18Z on the A100 and  3778-826-B11Z on the ZX500. Oddly enough a similar chip is present on the WF-1000XM3 as seen the teardown post. Personally I am curious what BT chip and SoC the new A100 uses, will it be the same Mediatek as before or something else?

Sony NW-A105 walkman
Like its bigger brother the ZX500, the new A100 also features film capacitors, (see right) which were not present on the A55, judging from the internal photos from the FCC. Granted the resolution is not the best but you can just make out the film capacitors are not there. Unlike the ZX500, the A100 lacks any CAPs.. If anyone has any high resolution photos of a NW-A55 teardown, please leave a comment below.

One neat and nostalgic feature is the cassette UI. The UI does appear to be screensaver based. The writing on the tape will reflect the artist and song title, along with the quality and type of file being played. This is a fantastic little feature, a gimmick sure, but a welcome one that really connects the original Walkman to the new NW-A100. The best part is when a song is playing or when skipping forwards/backwards, the tape reels also move in accordance. While I doubt Sony will release more UIs with different tapes, perhaps the user community will be able to make some, like TDK or Maxell.

Sony NW-A105 walkman cassette UI



 Photo courtesy of eftm.com



Codecs and High Resolution support

Support is the same as before, including LDAC and aptX HD, the only difference is the battery life is slightly reduced for all codecs. One can check the various codecs supported here. The frequency and output is identical to the A55, 20-40,000 Hz and 35mW+35mW respectively. While the specs are the same to the A55, the additions to the board like Film capacitors, should provide a better sound quality than the A55.

Versions, NC headphones, and Availability

As mentioned in my earlier post, there will be 3 versions, A105 (16GB), A100TPS (16GB) and A106HN (32GB). So far it looks like Europe will only get the A105 model and A100TPS, where as some Asian countries will have in addition the 32GB model. The headphone model is the IER-NW510N, which appears to be an upgrade to the IER-500N from the A55. 

According to Philweb, the driver for the new NC headphones is 6mm, down from 9mm on the older model but maintains the same sound quality as the older model. Will be interesting to see if this olds true. While the NW-A105 has NC built in, it will not ship with the headphones, so perhaps they might be sold separately.

Release date for the new A-Series is November 2018 for Europe, unknown for North America, and January 2020 for Australia. Hopefully North American availability will be announced shortly. Pricing will be expensive, NW-A105 will be €350/£320, the A100TPS will cost  €440/£400. I will have a separate post up for the TPS model shortly.

Edit, seems like a NW-A107 model also exists, I am guessing 64GB model, via Bluetooth certification. In addition the BT cert confirms that the BT chip is from Qualcomm.

I will update this post if I found anything else interesting. If users from around the world wish to post availability dates and prices for their own regions in the comments, please do so.

So there we have it, the new A-Series, something I will be definitely consider to replace my A17, but until it is announced for North America, I might have to import one, preferably the A100TPS model, really want to get my hands on that. Leave your thoughts and comments about the new A-Series.

Update: The new A-Series will launch in Japan on November 2nd. There will be 4 models offered, the NW-A105, NW-A105HN, NW-A106 and NW-A107. All the information can be found in the press release.

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