very strange things / Sound and acoustics

very strange things / Sound and acoustics


In 2019, Sony celebrated the fortieth anniversary of one of its main devices – one of those that created the glory of the great Japanese company. Walkman player. It was in memory of him that the NWZ-A100 was released – on the one hand, another brand MP3 player (Sony never abandoned this direction), on the other hand, a tribute to the cassette player. The characteristic “brick” design, the wallpaper with a cassette on all advertising banners, the corresponding surroundings (for example, it is claimed that lead-free soldering using gold was used to connect the circuit board to the battery) and the pump with which it was presented was unexpected for this class of devices. Well, we almost do not write on the pages of 3DNews about modern players – and the Sony NWZ-A105 just turns out to be an excellent occasion to talk about this endangered class as a whole on the example of its specific representative.

⇡ # Specifications of Sony NWZ-105

Sony NWZ-A105
Display 3.6 inches, IPS, 1280 × 720 pixels, 406 ppi; capacitive multitouch
CPU The model is not specified: 4 × Cortex A53, 1.8 GHz; Vivante GC7000NanoUltra
RAM 2 GB
Flash memory 16 GB
Connectors USB Type-C 3.5mm Mini Jack
Memory card slot there is
Wireless Modules Wi-Fi 802.11 a / b / g / n / ac; Bluetooth 5.0 Nfc
Frequency supported 20-40 000 Hz
Maximum power 35 mW + 35 mW
Supported Formats MP3, WMA, FLAC, AAC, HE-AAC, AIFF, DSD, PCM. APE, MQA
Battery 4.9 Wh (1285 mAh, 3.8 V)
The size 98.9 × 55.9 × 11 mm
Weight 103 g
operating system Android 9.0 Pie
Price 22 990 rubles

Sony NWZ-A105 – information about the filling according to the application CPU-Z

⇡ #Design and construction

In terms of design, the Sony NWZ-A105 is a reference to the very first cassette Walkman TPS-L2, which was super popular 40 years ago, and now, in the era of rampant nostalgia for the 80s, experiencing a new wave of popularity – albeit simply as a symbol.

Sony Walkman TPS-L2

However, in order to understand the sending, you need to read about it, and, preferably, enable in the settings a special screen saver mode in the form of a playable audio cassette, which is turned off by default. If you don’t know about the sending, then it looks like a typical audiophile player, as you expect it to be today: with a metal, not plastic, like Togo Walkman, housing, with a set of small round keys and understandable ergonomics. Unless the shape and thickness of the box hint at a relationship with the cassette. In the blue version, the Walkman NWZ-A105 can somehow awaken nostalgia, but certainly not in black, as in our case. And he is found in red and ash-green cases.

In any case, the entire front panel will be black – it is entirely, minus the rather large frames, occupied by the screen. The frames are even too large – still 2020 is in the yard. Moreover, there is no front camera, and it’s difficult to come up with any kind of rationale for such a hefty border around a 3.6-inch screen. But the logic of design Sony NWZ-A105 is definitely smartphone.

Only a few details indicate belonging to another type of device: a solid set of hardware keys on the right side (power on, volume, playback control, lock switch), an eye for the wrist strap on the bottom and a microSD memory card slot on the surface. Looking ahead, I will say that it is irreplaceable.

The edges and back are made of aluminum, rough to the touch. The player is completely non-slip – and it’s nice to mess with it: either because of the fatigue caused by the same smartphones from the face, or because of the combination of relatively small dimensions and noticeable mass – 103 grams. The device is well balanced, the buttons are pleasant to press, the build quality is excellent.

⇡ #Iron and software

But once Sony Walkman NWZ-A105 is turned on for the first time, you immediately catch a feeling of deja vu – nostalgia is nostalgia, and basic Android operations are scheduled. The player has the most common Android 9.0 with a set of special software and Google Play in addition. You can install at least Instagram, at least Call of Duty Mobile, only the first is not needed here (not even a camera), and the second will not work.

An application store can be useful only for those who want to entertain themselves with simple games, well, or for those who want to install a third-party program for playing audio. You can also download some customization of the shell.

But this is all from the evil one. In my opinion, pre-installed software for the full functioning of the player is enough. It uses a functional and convenient player application that correctly displays tags, can load covers – well, it completely exhausts the need for such programs. The player supports, in fact, all common audio formats today, including PCM (for DSD), of course, FLAC and HQ AAC.

A neighboring application is used to adjust the sound: it contains a detailed equalizer (10 bands) and all kinds of software sound add-ons: DSEE HX (software “think-up” of audio files with digital compression), linear phase correction, dynamic normalizer, ClearAudio +, vinyl processor (yes , the player tries to modulate the effect of the vinyl player). There is also a software amplifier S-Master HX.

Another basic application that you will not find on smartphones is the built-in digital noise reduction system. It performs best with branded headphones that support this system, but it works on its own, albeit not as efficiently as active noise canceling technologies built into the headphones themselves.

As for the hardware, then everything is pretty mysterious. Sony does not disclose either the platform on which the new Walkman is executed, or the DAC model. Instead, an aura of a premium device is created with a story about the effect of an aluminum frame on sound and the use of film capacitors, a special resistor that correctly distributes currents on the surface of the board, and a cleverly optimized circuit of the printed circuit board itself.

I was able to find out only that some noname platform based on four ARM Cortex-A53 with a frequency of 1.8 GHz with a base level video accelerator Vivante GC7000NanoUltra is used here. I ran a few synthetic tests, the results are higher. Install Antutu 3D and 3DMark, by the way, just did not work – the system was not ready for this. Play on something on the player, too, does not work, but it is not necessary. In order for the device to perform its basic functions, the platform complete with 2 GB of RAM is enough. But you will have to endure a slightly twitchy animation and a rather slow launch of applications – as if on an inexpensive smartphone of the year from 2015.

Despite the stated ideal internal structure and special arrangement of the printed circuit board, the player is heating up frantically. When playing music, the case becomes just warm, within tolerable limits, but it’s worth, for example, trying to install the application from Google Play, as the Sony NWZ-A105 aluminum case is getting hot – which affects autonomy, which is not so hot anyway. About this, however, below.

One of the strangest features of the Sony NWZ-A105 may not be so evident when buying, as when you first started the player. Or rather, when trying to load music into it. It has very little space. The claimed 16 GB is more than half occupied by the system, three pre-installed software (which is better not to delete) eats up another three gigabytes – and it turns out that for music you still have 5 GB. It’s also better not to completely kill them, because from time to time the player tries to update the firmware: it asks for 2 GB of free space during installation (version 2.0.0), and after installation it eats up another half gigabyte. The system, by the way, is very indignant if on the drive at the same time everyone has less than those two gigabytes (apparently, waiting for the next update).

That is, buying Sony NWZ-A105, you get a device for which music will need to be stored on a microSD card. Without fail. The manufacturer does not specify what maximum capacity memory cards are supported. In my opinion, the release of the player, that is, the device on which by default we plan to store a lot of information (albeit of the same type – music), actually without a built-in drive – is somewhat a mockery. And it’s completely not clear what made Sony take such a step.

A few words about the screen – it’s small here (3.6 inches), but with a resolution not too bad for such a diagonal (1280 × 720 pixels) – the picture is clear, without pixelation, the brightness is sufficient so that the player can be safely used on a sunny day outside . But due to the small diagonal and not the best calculated font size in the player’s application, the names of many tracks simply do not fit on the screen.

⇡ #Sound quality

Only one thing can redeem the sluggish operation of the operating system and frank parsimony on the built-in memory – a really good sound, which dramatically exceeds what we can get from smartphones.

In addition to the subjective assessment, I used the same methodology as when evaluating the headphones (it was tested in Apple Airpods and Apple Airpods Pro reviews), – FSQ.

The FSQ method in its standard version includes 14 test tracks, with the help of which the following characteristics of the speaker system are evaluated:

  1. stock sound path at an undistorted volume level;
  2. correct phasing of audio equipment;
  3. the presence of extraneous overtones, noise and interference in the sound path;
  4. the ability of the sound path to reproduce the lowest sound frequencies;
  5. uneven frequency response of the sound path;
  6. stereo image linearity across the width of the sound stage;
  7. microdynamics and separation of the sound stage in depth;
  8. the position and focus of the stereo image in horizontal and vertical planes and the naturalness of the transmission of a musical attack;
  9. musical and tonal balance of sounding musical instruments and vocals;
  10. linearity of the sound picture in terms of volume and macrodynamics.

If you want to test your own audio system or headphones, we recommend downloading the FSQ Audio Doc test disk and testing instructions from the MTUSI Acoustic Center page. One of the advantages of this method is clear evaluation criteria that compensate for the subjective nature of testing. In many tests, the expert only needs to answer whether the sounds that should be in it are heard on the recording, or vice versa – those that should not be.

Next, we will sequentially list the results of listening to FSQ test recordings on AirPods. Each test will be accompanied by a brief description from the instructions for the “FSQ Audio Doc.” As headphones, I used the model Sony WH-1000XM3 with a wired connection. As a smartphone for comparison, the inexpensive Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S as an example of a current device with a mini-jack (its review is being prepared, will be released a bit later). I did not want to use an adapter for such a test.

Track Number Test description Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S Sony NWZ-A105
1 Undistorted volume reserve

Magic Pump, “Open The Door” RDM, CD RDM 801201, “Our in the City”.

The undistorted volume level is determined by the first track of the test disc. A musical fragment sounds on it, where the vocals and bass parts are additionally compressed. The volume level is increased from zero to the beginning of the overload, when the bass and vocals clearly begin to listen to non-linear distortion, perceived by ear as wheezing.

Both devices didn’t have any problems with actually passing this test – there were no wheezing at maximum volume, but this, of course, depends on the headphones that calmly pass the test. But the volume level varies greatly – according to the sensations, the Sony NWZ-A105 is able to give out one and a half times more powerful signal.
2-4 Sound path phasing between channels

Voice of the speaker in phase / out of phase, midrange (300-3000 Hz), treble (5,000-22,500 Hz), bass (10-50 Hz).

A speaker’s voice is recorded on the track with the words: “Mid frequencies. Phase”. These words should be heard from the center of the soundstage. Then the announcer says: “Mid frequencies. Out of phase. ” In this case, the narration text should be reproduced with a lower volume level and (or) defocused for the listener and (or) shifted to one side or another from the center. Similarly, phasing is checked in the HF band and in the LF band.

There was no problem with this test either on the smartphone or on the player – phasing is expressed exactly on the entire frequency spectrum.
5-6 The presence of interference, rattles, extraneous overtones and noise in the sound path

Sliding tone, left / right channel (20-15 000 Hz).

A tonal (sinusoidal) signal whose frequency smoothly changes from the lowest to the highest frequencies. Separately, first for the left and then the right channels.

The Redmi Note 9S channel did not give out rattles or interference, but the sound began and cut off on the smartphone much earlier – the range of frequencies supported by the channel is lower. The test passed without any problems, revealed a wide dynamic range.
7 A set of frequencies for checking the LF path

The phonogram, first for the left and then for the right channel, contains a record of a number of fixed sound frequencies of the low frequency range. First, the speaker announces that the reference frequency is 60 Hz. Then the announcer announces: “20 Hz”, “25 Hz”, “30 Hz” and so on. The first pure low-frequency tone (without distortion and turbulent sipes), which coincides in volume with the reference one, determines the lower working frequency of the sound path. In the ideal case, the volume of the remaining tones up to 150 Hz should be the same

Rustles and a light midrange sip were present on the entire frequency spectrum on both devices, which most likely characterizes either the signal itself or the headphones. The smartphone channel showed normal uniformity up to 125 Hz, after which the volume jumps sharply. In the player, I did not notice problems with uniformity, the sound is relatively even on the entire frequency spectrum – roughly speaking, the hum at 20 Hz and the tone at 150 Hz are equally equally audible.
8 Frequency response in the mid-range

The phonogram is a high-quality stereo recording of the applause of a large number of spectators in the hall. Clapping in a fairly echoing room is equivalent to a diffuse field uniformly distributed over the spectrum – noise. However, against the background of this monotonous noise, the human ear manages to distinguish the very beginning of pops (bursts). On the sound path with a linear frequency response, you really hear applause, but if it is uneven (“fence”), they become like the sound of heavy rain

Both devices coped with this test at the same level – the sound, which at first you take rather for the sound of rain, is gradually recognized as applause and this feeling does not leave until the very end. The channel does not affect the sound of the headphones.
9 The linearity of the stereo image in the width of the sound stage

Moving Drum, IASCA Competition CD.

The phonogram contains seven beats of the drum, smoothly moving from left to right across the entire width of the stereo image. The strokes are precisely localized in the direction, and their movement in space is linear, that is, the angles between the strokes are the same.

The scene is displayed very accurately, there are no problems with recognizing the position of the “drummer”, but the depth and effect of the sound propagation on the Xiaomi Redmi Note 9S are noticeably more “shrunken”. And the scene, and the accuracy of the sound do not raise the slightest question.
10 Microdynamics and sound stage depth

Alex Rostotsky Trio, “Intro”, POPE Musik PM1014-2, “Boiled Borsht”

A phonogram is a small piece of music with two instruments – double bass and drum kit. Both musicians are at the back of the stage.

An unacceptable depth of sound stage is considered if the musicians are visually in the foreground. With unsatisfactory microdynamics, quiet beats on drums and cymbals are not heard, and playing the bow on the double bass is poorly distinguishable. Microdynamics can be considered satisfactory if the drums, cymbals and double bass are audible, but in the sound of the double bass you can’t hear the musician’s fingers tapping the fingerboard and (or) when playing the double bass player with a bow, you clearly do not hear the “stubborn” bow movement along the strings. And microdynamics will be good if the fingers of the double bass player are heard clearly and clearly. The sound path has excellent microdynamics if a very quiet rustle is heard when the drummer accidentally touches his plate with his elbow and immediately clamps it with his hand.

Probably the most significant test of the whole set – the smartphone’s path falls under the “unsatisfactory microdynamics” characteristic, small details like finger touches of a double bass player are almost indistinguishable. The player in this test just demonstrates excellent microdynamics – even the slightest nuances of an etude are heard.
eleven Naturalness in the sound transmission of a musical attack, position and focusing of the sound stage in width and height


Ron Tutt, “Improvisation”, Sheffild Lab CD-14/20

The phonogram shows a fragment of a drum solo. An unacceptable attack transmission is considered if the sound of the drums is dull, there is no elasticity and “meatiness” in it. Unacceptable – if the sound of the drums is dynamic enough, but has an element of “cardboard” in the beat. Unacceptable or unacceptable is considered if the sound stage is already the space between the sound sources. Unacceptable or unacceptable if the cymbals and hi-hat are at the same height or the difference is negligible

Redmi Note 9S is able to provide a good positioning of the instruments, and even the difference in the height of the plates and hi-hats, but the marked feeling of “cardboard” remains. В Sony NWZ-A105 и атака ощущается отлично, и с позиционированием проблем нет.
12 Тембральный and музыкальный баланс звучания

Mighty Sam McClain, “Give It Up To Love”, Audioquest, XRCD, “Got To Have Your Love”

Фонограмма представляет собой фрагмент джазовой пьесы с мужским вокалом. Неприемлемым или малоприемлемым с точки зрения тембрального баланса считается, если какой-либо из инструментов звучит ненатурально и (или) если тембр вокала имеет резкий или неприятный характер. Неприемлемым или малоприемлемым считается, если вокал или какой-либо из музыкальных инструментов явно выделяется по уровню громкости — выдвинут вперед или отодвинут назад

В этом тесте канал смартфона не продемонстрировал явного провала, но заметен акцент на средние частоты с урезанными нижними, отчего страдает детализация звука. Плеер демонстрирует хорошую частоту звука с равномерным частотным распределением и без перепадов громкости.
thirteen Линейность звукового тракта по уровню громкости, его макродинамика и способность к передаче полифонического звукового образа

A. Schnitke, “Childhood”, Gorenstein/R.S.O., POPE Musik, PM 1007-2 1996, “Gogol Suite”

Фонограмма содержит высококачественную запись симфонического оркестра, выполненную в помещении Большого зала Московской консерватории. Фрагмент состоит из четырёх основных частей, отличающихся друг от друга уровнем громкости и динамикой.

Неприемлемым или малоприемлемым считается, если струнное пиццикато в первой части совсем неразборчиво или звучит слишком тихо, вяло и невнятно по сравнению со следующей, более громкой частью. Неприемлемым или малоприемлемым считается, если в третьей части (после вступления группы виолончелей и контрабасов) не чувствуется заметный скачок громкости и далее, в финальной, ещё один скачок. Неприемлемым или малоприемлемым можно считать, когда в третьей и четвёртой частях фонограммы явно слышны нелинейные искажения или же искажений нет, но оркестр явно не дотягивает по громкости до forte fortissimo. Неприемлемо, если оркестр уже в третьей части начинает звучать общей «кашей», отдельные группы музыкальных инструментов слабо различимы или совсем неразличимы

С отрывком из академической сюиты смартфон и плеер справились одинаково хорошо — и нарастание громкости выдержано четко, и различимость отдельных инструментов на уровне. Но у Sony NWZ-A105 отмечаем уже ранее замеченный более высокий уровень мощности, отчего переход к forte fortissimo гораздо более заметен.
14 Дополнительная дорожка для оценки качества звучания самых низких звуковых частот

Guiseppe Verdi, “La Donna E Mobile”, Telarc CD-80447

Фонограмма содержит девятисекундный отрывок звучания симфонического оркестра, в составе которого есть большой (турецкий) барабан с очень низким регистром. Его можно услышать только при наличии высококачественного сабвуфера, натурально воспроизводящего частоты 20–25 Гц

С этим тестом смартфон и плеер справились одинаково неплохо.

Субъективные ощущения от звучания также очень хорошие — Sony NWZ-A105 при подключении хороших проводных наушников действительно обеспечивает звуковую картину, заметно отличающуюся в лучшую сторону от той, что мы можем получить от смартфона или со встроенной звуковой карты компьютера: и детализация, и частотная картина соответствуют ожиданиям от специализированного плеера, а запас мощности исчерпывающий. Но как себя ведет канал плеера с низкоомными наушниками, я сказать, к сожалению, не могу. Производитель же эту характеристику не уточняет.

При желании к Sony NWZ-A105 можно подключить и беспроводные наушники: есть Bluetooth с поддержкой протоколов LDAC и aptX HD, а быстро «подружить» наушники и плеер можно благодаря встроенному NFC-модулю. Но такой сценарий использования плеера мне представляется довольно странным — качество звучания в этом режиме уже не отличается от такового на современных смартфонах ни в лучшую, ни в худшую сторону, поскольку звук определяет в основном встроенный ЦАП наушников.

⇡#Автономность

Sony NWZ-A105 получил батарею емкостью 4,9 Вт·ч (1285 мА·ч, 3,8 В). Для плеера с небольшим экраном, который к тому же большую часть времени выключен, кажется, достаточно. Но увы: автономность — еще одно слабое место плеера, который умудряется активно потреблять энергию даже в режиме ожидания, причем с новой прошивкой даже сильнее, хотя от нее я ожидал решения этой проблемы. При обычном варианте использования (прослушивание музыки без активации «кассетного режима» с анимированной заставкой) батареи, по моим ощущениям, хватит на 20-25 часов музыки (но учтите, что в режиме ожидания плеер тоже не теряет время зря и подъедает заряд). Если заставку включить, то можно «высадить» аккумулятор часов за 8. Это, конечно, не дело: от подобных устройств мы ждем куда лучшей автономности. В комплекте идет только кабель питания USB Type-C – USB Type-A. Полностью заряжается от стандартного зарядного устройства плеер примерно за час — причем при воспроизведении музыки он разряжается быстрее, чем заряжается.

⇡#Conclusion

Юбилейный плеер получился у Sony, мягко говоря, спорным. С одной стороны, самое главное у него в полнейшем порядке — по качеству звука он действительно здорово отличается в лучшую сторону от современных смартфонов, не способных, по большей части, обеспечить адекватный уровень звука при воспроизведении с источников высокого разрешения. Sony NWZ-A105 обеспечивает — и делает это с шиком. С другой стороны, он предлагает взамен целую россыпь странных и неожиданных для подобного устройства компромиссов: практически полное отсутствие встроенной памяти, сильно нагревающийся корпус и аккумулятор, который разряжается с неестественной скоростью. Плеер, который создан, чтобы если не вернуть этой категории техники массовый статус, то хотя бы попасть в относительно широкую аудиторию, снова прибивается к аудиофильским берегам, где за качественный звук готовы прощать какие угодно огрехи — тем более что виртуальная кассета так ностальгично крутится, а корпус квадратный, как в 1979-м.

Добавлю, что Sony NWZ-A105 предлагается в двух вариантах — с комплектными внутриканальными наушниками Sony IER-NW510N (26 990 рублей) и без них (22 990 рублей). К нам на тест попала версия без наушников, так что составить свое мнение об их совместной работе (в этом случае становится доступным не только шумоподавление, но и, наоборот, режим усиления окружающего звука) мы не смогли.

Advantages:

  • качество сборки;
  • обилие звуковых настроек и программных фишек;
  • превосходное качество звучания;
  • возможность в плане беспроводного воспроизведения звука;
  • Android.

Disadvantages:

  • очень маленький встроенный накопитель;
  • чрезвычайно слабая автономность;
  • операционная система подтормаживает;
  • корпус сильно греется.

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