Recently I have been trying out the new Sony WM1A Walkman. I first bought a Sony HD Walkman a few years ago after being seriously impressed by the sound which was vastly better than the iPod and other audio devices I have tried to date. The Sony WM1A Walkman is Sony’s really high-end audio device and it’s been useful taking it out for a test drive.
Like the original ZX1 unit, the new Sony WM1A Walkman plays FLAC files, but it also plays native DSD files. DSD is a very high-resolution audio format, higher than CD quality and in some cases higher quality than other HD download formats like FLAC-HD and ALAC-HD. DSD stands for Direct Stream Digital, which is a method of converting analogue sound to the digital domain.
I admit to being a massive audio enthusiast and over the years have explored many sound formats including SACD, Japanese SACD (these are pretty rare and all the actual discs are emerald greed with amazing packaging) DVA and high-resolution FLAC downloads from HD tracks. When I first started looking at high-resolution formats, I was amazed at how much more you can hear. It’s like watching high definition as opposed to standard definition. One you literally see the difference you never look back.
The Sony WM1A Walkman is the best sounding playback unit I have heard to date, quite extraordinary. A great listening reference is Bob Dylan’s “Oh Mercy” which has terrific production by Daniel Lanois. I have this album in CD format, FLAC 24bit high resolution and now as a DSD file. The DSD is the best sounding of the three and is quite extraordinary sonically, a real testament to how it was recorded. Of course, such playback devices reveal everything in the mix and everything is then highlighted in spades. Many live concerts from Bruce Springsteen’s main site are available in DSD and it’s like being at the actual event, the sound is so good.