The New Sony NWZX2 & PHA-3 – CanJam SoCal 2015

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Sony has a few new products that sit atop the audiophile food chain that were available for preview/review at CanJam this year. Most note-worthy of the bunch was the newest high end digital player to hit the market called the NWZX2, but it also retains the classic Walkman namesake as part of its call sign. Perhaps one of the biggest challengers to the predominate Astell & Kern line of digital players, the new Walkman will retail for $1,299 when it ships in April. Being part of the Sony brand, the new DAP has caught the eye of the mainstream tech press and caused quite a stir for some reviewers.

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The demo unit at the show was part of a fairly tricked out portable rig. The digital line out was connected to the company’s own PHA3 DSD-friendly DAC & Head Amp ($999). The combination made for a nice audiophile sandwich of sorts, both players hold a very refined touch to the hand. If you have any experience with premium Sony products, you know that aesthetically they do hold a bit more of the mass market design “polish” that you expect from a typical costumer electronics brand – no rough edges here.

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The PHA-3 is the new flagship over the old PHA-2 ($599) which is still available for purchase. The PH-3 is packed with digital inputs and even offers iDevice and optical connectivity. Major props for the large rotary volume knob.

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The new DAC/Amp offers both single-ended and balanced output to headphones as well as an SE line out.

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In a solid nod to the core audiophile, Sony even had the whole setup strung together with a batch of cables engineered in part with Kimber Kables. Sony also makes a high end loudspeaker that does the audio show rounds.

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The entire package was topped of with the new headphone flagship called the MRD-Z7 ($699). Launched late last year, Sony’s most expensive headphone utilizes 70mm dynamic drivers and comes standard with a both a SE  and balanced cable, Kimber’s upgrade is an additional cost. I was pleasantly surprised my the cohesive completeness of this package. From head to toe the whole group looked like it fit together well. From a techs and specs perspective the sandwich was pretty fashion forward. DSD is a nice touch and so is the capability to jive with multiple digital platforms as a source.  A quick A/B removing the DAC/Amp revealed a slight bump in the bass response from the demo unit PHA-3, but overall both units felt fairly transparent for a show floor listen and the new player by itself never felt strained under the draw of the headphone. There is some very cool head-fi stuff coming out of the Sony camp these days and I can’t wait to see what’s next on the agenda.

PHA-3 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00OH82RXO/

MRD-7 on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NBMHT7Q/

Kimber Kable Upgrade: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00NW35HYQ/

3 thoughts on “The New Sony NWZX2 & PHA-3 – CanJam SoCal 2015

  • April 11, 2015 at 1:53 pm
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    Everyone wants neutrality…. or that is the popular opinion. It stems from the early days of audio when gross exaggeration’s were the norm in playback. Using digital, in particular older digital recordings, I need a little warmth and sweetness in the middle and top, the Z7 does this. Sony hasn’t made a run at all out “state of the art” since the MDR10 or Qualia days. It’s comforting to see competent entries in digital storage, amplification and headphones from Sony!

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  • September 9, 2015 at 10:36 am
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    It’s just a pity that the NW-ZX2 flagship player doesn’t output DSD to the external DAC whereas the cheaper NW-ZX1 does:-( The player itself is fantastic and I have this setup – but it would be nice of them to update the zx2 firmware to output DSD just like it’s little brother.

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