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Sony’s Upcoming NW-ZX507 Walkman: Multi-source music with high quality sound

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

The NW-ZX500 Walkman builds on the success of the previous ZX300. The new model brings, WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, a new design and Android 9.0 to the table. All of this sounds great but how does it compare to the ZX300? Read on to find out.

So before I begin, I originally thought that any special 40th anniversary model would naturally be a high end model like the ZX-Series but that is not how things turned out, instead Sony opted for the less expensive A-Series for their Anniversary model, the A100TPS. But even that model at 440 Euros is no bargain but that is a discussion for another time.

Disclaimer: Long read, so buckle in.

          

Design

The design is an evolution of the ZX300. The most obvious change is the curved bottom versus the flat design of the ZX300. This change should make the player more comfortable to hold. Just like with the new A-Series, gone is the proprietary WM-port, and replaced with a standard USB type-C on the left side. The micro-SD expansion slot remains in the same place, along with identical internal memory, 64GB. The NFC is on the back as previously. With the change to Android OS, the LCD has been upgraded to a 1280 x 720 3.6in touchscreen. Dimensions are almost identical but the weight has increased 7g to 164g.

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

The aluminum milled frame remains like on the ZX300, even the photo on the product page is identical to the ZX300 (see below) but they are not the same of course. The hardware buttons are on the right side as with the ZX300, with a similar round design. And on top we have the 4.4 φ Balanced output and 3.5mm jack.

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman


Sony does provide the actual frame photos for the ZX500, in both black and silver.
Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

The new design looks great and it almost makes me want to get it but not sure I could afford it. Colour options seem to be region specific again, with Europe receiving the black version, where as in Asia according to the press release, it will be available in either black or silver again. Likewise the press release states it will be sold in select Asian countries, so I am guessing if the ZX300 was not available in your country, the ZX500 will not be either. As for North America and Japan, if the player is released there (should be the ZX500 passed through the FCC), then North America should only have black and Japan would receive black and silver like the ZX300.

Features

The big and exciting change is the return to the Android OS. This switch from Sony's own OS should add some great features, like the ability to stream music from various online services like Spotify or Google Play. It is unknown if any streaming apps will be pre-loaded or users will have to download them individually from the Play Store. Not sure if all Android apps will be supported, it all depends how powerful the SoC is and how much RAM is installed. From my understanding the OS has been modified a bit, especially when it comes to volume control. Phileweb has an explanation on how this works:

For music playback, the volume is the final volume is determined by multiplying the media volume and master volume. The volume adjustment range of a general Android smartphone is several steps, but this time it is now possible to adjust the volume in 120 fine steps.

In order to play with the highest sound quality, Sony explains, “It is better to maximize the media volume and adjust the volume with the master volume.” W. Music app always bypasses media volume at maximum.

I tried to clean up the translation from how I understood it, so hopefully I interpreted it correctly. Once reviews appear, the way the volume works should become clear. Although if someone wishes to translate the actual text from the Phileweb article more acurately, please post it below in the comments.

I believe two features from the ZX300 have been removed, the first the Bluetooth receiver mode, and second the USB DAC. The reason for the first is supposedly because WiFi was added, as for the USB DAC, I know Android 9.0 supports USB DAC, so I doubt the change to Android was the cause. The same occurred in the new A100. If anyone has any idea why USB DAC could have been removed, please post it in the comments.

Sony NW-ZX500 S-Master HXThe rest of the features appear to be identical to the ZX300, DSD, DSEE HX and S-Master HX (see left) are all present still. Codec wise, both aptX and LDAC are supported.

Cassette Tape UI

Like the new A-Series, the ZX also features the cassette tape UI. I cannot find any actual photos of the ZX500 with the new UI but it should look like the UI on the A-Series seen here. The tapes in the UI change in appearance depending on what type and quality of file is being played.

Battery Life

Stereo Mini-jack Balanced Standard-jack
ZX500 ZX300 ZX500 ZX300
MP3 (128 kbps) 20 hrs 30 hrs 19 hrs 25 hrs
AAC (256 kbps) 20 hrs 27 hrs 19 hrs 23 hrs
FLAC (192 kHz/24 bit) 16 hrs 23 hrs 15 hrs 20 hrs
DSD (2.8224 MHz/1 bit) 10 hrs 19 hrs 9 hrs 13 hrs

The battery life has decreased just like in the new A-Series, likely due to the larger and higher resolution LCD and Android OS. There is no mention of battery life while streaming, but I am guessing it will be much less considering WiFi is being used as well. A full recharge takes 6.5 hours, 1 hour more than the ZX300.

Diving under the Skin

There are also quite a few differences under the skin when comparing the ZX300 to the ZX500. so time to dig in.

Sony NW-ZX300
NW-ZX300
Sony NW-ZX500
NW-ZX500

Above are the boards from the ZX300 and ZX500 and there are quite a few differences. Unfortunately most of the major chips are not labelled but I will try to compare what I can. Near the bottom by the 4 CAPS, we have the S-Master HX chip which I posted above earlier. The chip can be seen here in better detail from Sony. One change is the wireless chip. With the addition of WiFi, Sony moved to a Murata Wireless chip, Type 1PJ. I wrote about the chip in a separate blog post here. I am not entirely sure what wireless chip the ZX300 uses but in the Bluetooth certification, it is listed with the rest of the other Walkmans (A30, A40, A50 and DMP-Z1). I believe the NW-A30 on the FCC has the MT6625LN for its Bluetooth chip, so I assume the same chip is used in the rest of Walkmans from that list.





But in the ZX300 FCC listing, the BT module is listed as BNSY25. The module is located near the bottom of the board behind a shield. The radio report for the BNSY25 mentions a MT8591 chip. This chip seems to be a controller IC, so not Bluetooth I guess. Both chips, MT6625 and MT8591 are listed together in a Bluetooth Certification, so perhaps the chips complement one another with regard to some special wireless functions. I am not sure if the chip under the shield is the MT6625 or something else.

Flipping the boards over, reveals the rest of the chips.

Sony NW-ZX300 PCB
NW-ZX300 - FCC
Sony NW-ZX300 PCB
Source: https://www.fujiya-avic.jp/blog/?p=35148
The second photo shows a lot more detail, especially the writing on the chips. Some things that I could identify.

1. Nanya - NT6TL128M32BQ-G0 - Low power DDR2 DRAM 4GB
2. SK Hynix - H26M51002HPR - NAND eMMC (the link is the closet I could find)

In the FCC filing, the ZX300 uses different suppliers for the chips, for example the LPDDR2 DRAM is from Elpida, and the NAND flash is also from a different company but I am not able to make out what it says on the chip.
Sony NW-ZX500 PCB
NW-ZX500
Now to the ZX500, unfortunately nothing is labelled here again, but we can compare the chips to the ZX300 to guess what they could be. Starting off with in the top right corner we have what could be the main SoC. The new A-Series also has the same chip but this is only a theory for now. Moving clockwise, the long chip seems to be the same one as in the new A-Series, but I am not sure what it is, but this chip was not found in the older A-Series models or the ZX300. If anyone has any ideas or clues what it could be, please leave a comment below.

Next up is a lighter large square chip and a second darker large but slightly smaller square chip. I am guessing we are looking at the DRAM and NAND flash, with the lighter one the DRAM and the darker one the NAND flash when comparing them to the ZX300 chips. Looking at the far left of the board, it appears those are the wireless antennas. This makes sense since on the other side just above the antennas is the Murata wireless chip, the 1PJ.

While comparing the 2 boards, I noticed a chip which I have seen on a few other Walkmans before, the D2249. The chip is present on the A30 and A40 and I have located it on the ZX300 as well. The photo below (source), shows the D2249 NFC chip. The writing on it is quite small but enlarging the image does show the number a bit better.

Sony NW-ZX300 PCB

The NFC chip is nicely identified in the A40 FCC filing, the CXD2249GG. A photo closeup below from the A30 filing.

Sony D2249
 And here is the actual chip in a board (source: Engadget JP).

Sony NW-A30 PCB
NW-A30: Click on the photo for a larger size
Sony NW-A50 PCB

The NW-A50 FCC filing does provide the location of NFC chip and a small picture of it but the quality is too low to actually read the text on the chip (top left corner of above photo). But Sony's site does provide a zoomed in photo of the PCB. The chip is in the same location as the FCC photo, so it look like this might again be the D2249 as in the A30/A40.

Trying to compare it to the ZX500 board, I cannot find anything exactly the same but have identified 2 possible chips that could be the NFC chip.

Sony NW-ZX500 PCB
NW-ZX500 PCB
The Wifi/BT chip is on the left, the light beige one identified as the 1PJ from Murata. The 2 candidates for the NFC chip are 1 and 2. Number 1 in the photo is a NXP chip, and NXP does make NFC chips. The older ZX100 used a NXP chip, according to the FCC filing, it was the N5441A2ET/C30702S3 (link to PDF). The second chip (2) is the other candidate and part of it connects to one of the antennas at the bottom. But in the previous ZX300, the NFC coil seems to be connected to the board in the middle via a flat flex cable, so the NFC chip does not have to be near the antenna.

Ok that is all for now. I might make a post in the future with various teardowns from Sony and the chips which can be identified and those still unknown. If anyone has any high resolution teardown photos they took or links to such photos, please link them in the comments below. Thanks. If I find anything else, I will update the post.

Update: the ZX500 will launch in Japan on November 2, read the full press release here.

              

Press Release

  • Enjoy Hi-Res sound with advanced audio technology
  • Experience multi-source music including your favourite streaming services in high quality
  • Premium design for luxurious listening
Sony today announces its new Walkman, NW-ZX507, enabling you to experience multi-source music with Androi and Wi-Fi. Simply access songs in-device via your favourite streaming and download services, without compromising on high quality sound.

Tuneful technology

Experience high quality audio on the NW-ZX507 thanks to Φ4.4mm balanced connection along with DSD Native (11.2MHz) and 384kHz/32bit PCM playback supported by S-master HX. You can immerse yourself in Hi-Res Audio. There is also DSEE HX support which upscales your existing music to near high-resolution quality. The DSEE HX processor even works while you’re streaming music]. Additionally, the NW-ZX507 supports Hi-Res Audio Wireless by LDAC so now you can enjoy Hi-Res with your favourite listening style.

Supreme audio is achieved with ease on the NW-ZX507 thanks to its premium build. The chassis consists of an aluminium milled frame and copper milled block to achieve clear and powerful sound, while the newly developed FTCAP (high polymer capacitor) and Electric Double-Layer capacitor work together to ensure bold bass levels. Audio parts, including an excellent solder and fine sound resistor enable clear vocals and sound, enhancing every detail of your favourite songs.

Expand your music collection

With Android and Wi-Fi, you can access millions of songs with ease to stream or download with your favourite apps right on your Walkman, or you can connect to your PC to access your music collection. Listening to your favourite songs has never been easier.

Luxury listening

With a 3.6 inch HD screen complete with touch panel, you can listen in style. There is also a convenient USB Type-C port and micro SD card slot along with physical side keys for ease of use. Available in black, the NW-ZX507 gives you authentic sound with a compact, sleek body. Plus, with a battery life of up to 20 hours, you can listen to album after album without worry.

Compatible with the Sony Original Music Player App, customise your sound for your best listening experience yet.

The NW-ZX507 model (64GB) will be priced at approximately €830/£750 and available from November 2019.



Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

Sony NW-XZ500 walkman

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