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Lifewire / Erika Rawes
Durable and timeless design
Supports multiple formats
Clear and responsive touch display
Doesn’t include headphones
The Sony NW-A45 is an ideal Walkman for purists, or for those who own a library of music files.
The Sony NW-A45 Walkman serves as a dedicated music player for your hi-res music files. While many people are perfectly happy using basic music streaming services on their smartphones, the NW-A45 is for those who have an offline music collection, or for those who want better sound resolution. With support for multiple formats, plentiful storage, and upscaling for lower-quality formats, devices like the Sony NW-A45 are attractive for audio enthusiasts. I tested the Sony NW-A45 for a week to see if its combination of design, sound quality, and features add up to a worthwhile investment.
The Sony Walkman NWA45 measures 3.8 inches tall and 2.2 inches wide, and the front is mostly screen. A thin bezel surrounds the 3.1-inch LCD touchscreen, and the Sony name is inconspicuously printed directly above the 800x480 resolution screen. The music player isn’t much bigger than a credit card, but it’s larger than a lot of other music players I’ve encountered.
The NWA45 is small enough to fit in your pocket, and it has a switch on the side where you can enable and disable the touchscreen so you don’t accidentally pocket-press buttons. I would have preferred to have the headphone jack on top of the player, to avoid cord tangling when I placed the NWA45 in my pocket, but it's unfortunately tucked into the bottom side.
A variety of color options are available, like slate grey, midnight blue, and gold. The chassis is aluminum, while the rear panel is made of ABS, but the body has a matte finish that feels rough to the touch. The matte finish does help prevent drops, however, as it doesn’t slip out of your hand as easily.
The NWA45 has a responsive touch screen, but its interface didn’t feel natural. I went looking for the main home button, but there’s a toolbox in the bottom corner where you access the settings and many of the primary functions. It wasn’t until I used the NWA45 a few times that I was able to easily navigate the interface.
The NWA45 supports lossless and compressed audio formats, including AAC, APE, ALAC, HE-AAC, DSD to PCM, FLAC, MP3, and WMA. For lossy formats like MP3, the Sony NWA45 has upscaling, which ups the quality closer to hi-res. You can hear a definite difference when you use the upscaling feature. I downloaded an old Red Hot Chili Peppers MP3 album, and the upscaling feature made the vocals and electric guitar sound much clearer.
You can use the Walkman as a USB DAC, so you can transfer songs and have the NWA45 process them. The Walkman’s S-Master HX amplifier, S-Master HX chip, and well-built circuit board promote efficient sound processing and stellar sound quality.
Until you hear quality hi-res audio, you don’t know what you’re missing. It’s kind of like if you only watched standard definition TV, you wouldn’t know what you were missing with higher quality video formats like 4K. You can hear every instrument, every lyric, every drum beat, but none of the tones are overpowering.
Until you hear quality hi-res audio, you don’t know what you’re missing.
The Sony NWA45 doesn’t have Wi-Fi, so you won’t find streaming apps. It doesn’t try to overextend itself with too many extra features. The focus is on sound and sound alone. This is not the best music player for someone who wants something they can clip to their clothing and workout, or someone who wants a starter device for their child. The NWA45 is for audio enthusiasts and those who want to store a library of owned music.
You can store a large amount of content, as the player supports microSD cards up to 2 TB. The slot is well-protected with a cover, so it’ll remain free of dust and debris.
The NWA45 has Bluetooth with NFC. If you’re using wireless headphones, the NWA45 supports aptX, but Sony’s codec LDAC has a high bitrate of up to 990 kbps (compared to 352 kbps for aptX). This means faster data transmission and cleaner, more accurate sound.
The NWA45 is for audio enthusiasts and those who want to store a library of owned music.
The battery takes around four hours to charge, and the specifications indicate a battery life of up to 45 hours. When I tested the battery life, it lasted for approximately 48 hours of on and off use (alternating between periods of continuous playback and standby time).
The Sony NWA45 Walkman retails for $220, which is on the higher end for the dedicated MP3 player market. You can pick up budget players that support hi-res for less than 50 bucks, but the Walkman's features and hardware help justify its higher price point.
The Astell & Kern AK Jr (view on Amazon) is another DAP with hi-res audio. The Astell & Kern has an interesting design that’s more of an acquired taste than the Walkman, but it does sport an aluminum body with a glass back. The Sony NWA45 has a few benefits over the AK Jr, like superior resolution and upscaling for lossy files. It’s really a matter of your personal preference, as you can also find the Astell & Kern AK Jr for around $220.
A modern Walkman that sounds outstanding.
With hi-res audio and upscaling for lower quality music files, the Sony NWA45 simply makes music files sound better.