Sony intros NWZ-ZX2 with ‘premium’ feel/pricing at CES 2015


CES_2015NW = New Walkman. Sony’s NWZ-ZX1 was a big hit on DAR in 2014, not least because it was one of the very few digital audio players to run native Android, allowing for direct access to the Google Play Store and its associated apps. Listeners don’t have to wait for Sony’s software developers to code a custom Tidal or Spotify app to get up and running with cloud streaming.

The NWZ-ZX1 also plays hi-res audio but even with Redbook source material  it couldn’t quite match the sound quality of rivals like the Astell&Kern AK120 II or, especially, the PonoPlayer.

Odd then that the NWZ-ZX1 didn’t officially make it to US markets. It was sold on but Sony USA weren’t the suppliers; they chose to focus on the cheaper, non-cloud-connected NWZ-A17 (US$299). I snagged an NWZ-ZX1 down under for AU$699 last September.


Pitting the NWZ-ZX1 paper-wise against the NWZ-ZX2 successor being unveiled by Sony USA in the Venetian Hotel at CES 2015, it now looks like even more of a bargain. Why? The NWZ-ZX2 Walkman will sell Stateside for a heavy US$1199.

What do you get for your extra five hundred clams? In short, not huge amount. Sony have dispensed with the shiny finish of the NWZ-ZX1 and wrapped its successor with Batman-black aluminium. Power, playback and volume control buttons remain located along the right-hand edge of the NWZ-ZX2 but you’ll notice that both edges are now nicely curved.

The NW-ZX2 also feels quite a bit heavier in the hand than the NWZ-ZX1. It looks like Sony has beefed up the battery supply – they’re promising a whopping 60 hours between charges. That’s quite a leap from the typical 6-8 hours that I currently see from the NWZ-ZX1.

The new Walkman also addresses the biggest complaint leveled at the NWZ-ZX1: a lack of expandable storage. If the internal 128Gb is insufficient for you needs a microSD card slot now features on the bottom of the NWZ-ZX2.

Sony’s broader PR machine could be heard loading the conversation with talk of “premium listening experience” and “as the artist intended” but Sony USA representative Daniel Vincent was a little hazy on the specifics of what had and hadn’t been improved inside the new model; the focus in their demo space was very much on the NWZ-ZX2’s Bluetooth streaming quality.


If you use Bluetooth headphones you might appreciate Sony’s new LDAC codec that promises “3x the bandwidth of standard Bluetooth”. Nothing to see here for listeners who don’t think Bluetooth cuts it sound wise or prefer to direct-wire their cans.

My advice? If you’re happy with your NWZ-ZX1 Walkman, stick with it. There appears to be few compelling reasons to upgrade to the new kid on the block. Moreover, the NWZ-ZX2’s pricing sees it scream past the Astell&Kern AK100 II (US$899). Perhaps that’s Sony’s intent: to tackle the South Korean DAP conversation leader head on? Success here will largely depend on how much buyers associate a higher price with a better product.

Unless the Tokyo engineers have somehow ramped up the sound quality of the NWZ-ZX2 over and above its forerunner, the Astell&Kern unit will still win out.

So – if you really want a cloud-connected DAP, search out the NWZ-ZX1 whilst stocks last – if only because its bang-for-buck is plainly higher than the newer NWZ-ZX2. If your priority is for the most refined sonic presentation, Neil Young’s PonoPlayer and the AK100 II are still the players to beat.

Further information: Sony USA

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Written by John H. Darko

John lives in the NOW + HERE = NOWHERE. He derives an income from the ad revenues of DAR. John is also an occasional staff writer for Stereophile, 6moons and TONEAudio.

Twitter: DarkoAudio
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  1. hi
    do you know which NW supports gapless? I received the NWZ-A15 for Xmas but was disappointed that it doesn’t do gapless.


  2. From the preview pics I saw some weeks ago, I thought the finish was a plastic/polycarb of some sort, so was pretty disappointed once I got word of the price of this.

    Sony still seems to have a leg-up on other DAPs in the connectivity department, to my eyes. My problem with the ZX1 was mainly the sometimes janky Android interface (especially with a substantial music library stored) and the noise floor with my particular CIEMs.

  3. This player was one of the features on a BBC program in the UK titled ‘Click’. In it they mainly focused on the players ability to play high resolution files but was questioning the need for this based on the law of diminishing returns. The program’s was mainly about the whole high resolution thing being somewhat a waste of time. It demonstrated this by using a TV screen split into three with various pixel loss quoting the picture in the middle was representative of standard CD quality and the one to the left high res……..very scientific but the general public will take this as gospel. I have to say It won’t do the likes of Pono, HDTraks any favours at all and was very poor reporting. Sony must be furious!

    • But to challenge the benefits of hi-res audio is healthy, particularly when you consider that 1) a LOT of noise is being made about HRA presently and yet 2) a half-decent setup is required to properly hear the benefit of a higher sample rate and bit depth. Unfortunately, 99% of the world don’t have such a setup – for them, CD quality is more than sufficient and HRA is a waste of time/cash.