Sony NW-ZX700 experience: more portable “small black brick”, engineering-level evolution of portable alcohol sound

"Music is endless" is the title chosen by Apple when it announced its farewell to the iPod production line on its official website. In 2022, 21 years after the birth of the iPod, Apple announced that it would discontinue the iPod product line.

Sony, which also pours music into the core of the enterprise, has launched the Walkman brand long before the iPod, and has expanded and updated its product line along the way, which continues to this day.

Compared with the past Walkman that needs to import music and then play it, today’s Walkman devices are more inclined to connect to the Internet to obtain audio sources for listening. Especially in recent years, streaming music service platforms have strengthened the distribution of high-quality and even lossless audio sources. More and more music lovers are beginning to like streaming digital music.

Therefore, the Walkman of the new era has begun to embrace digital streaming media, and at the same time continues the demand for high-quality sound under the new wave, allowing the pure music player to continue to glow with its unique charm.

Although the players of the Sony Walkman Alcohol series are relatively slow to update, after CES 2023, Sony still updated two Walkman players positioned as entry-level and advanced. Among them is the NW-ZX700 series, which is regarded as a "little black brick".

The series also has two models, ZX706 (5499 yuan) with 32GB ROM and ZX707 (5999 yuan) with 64GB ROM.

After a long period of experience, I feel that the ZX700 series is closer to WM1AM2 from the inside to the outside. It's both restrained and delivers a great sound that can go anywhere.

The appearance inherits the exquisiteness of black bricks, and also has a light and portable body

In terms of appearance, the ZX700 series has undergone major changes compared with the previous generation (ZX500 series), changing from a sleek and gentle design to a square style that is closer to gold and black bricks.

If I want to sum up my first impression of it in one sentence, then what I want to say is: ZX700 really looks like the NW-WM1AM2 with the title of "black brick", but ZX700 is more like a mini model, or press Sony's customary definition should be called Compact. So it is appropriate to call the ZX700 a "little black brick".

In fact, the Sony team itself admitted that the appearance of the ZX700 series is actually a continuation of the design language of the new gold and black bricks, advocating simplicity and purity.

Their purpose of doing this is also obvious, that is, to let people recognize the pursuit of high sound quality of the ZX700 series from the appearance.

It can be seen that the top of the fuselage of the ZX700 is still symmetrically divided into 3.5mm headphone jack and 4.4mm balance port, but the golden embellishment is no longer limited to the position of the headphone jack on the top, but further extends to the middle frame on both sides of the fuselage .

This means that people can not only see this touch of gold from the top of the fuselage, but also can see it from the metal middle frame on both sides of the fuselage when the fuselage is placed flat, making the visual perception more three-dimensional.

This is also the place where the whole machine can best highlight the ZX700 series' pursuit of high sound quality. The iconic "BALANCED" balance port is also engraved on the side.

It is worth noting that, in order to achieve a better texture, this L-shaped aluminum alloy component is not directly bent, but a more expensive CNC milling method is used to achieve the flatness of one-piece molding. And on the side and the top, two different surface treatments, sandblasting and rotary cutting, are used respectively, reflecting the ingenuity of the details.

The pursuit of perfection is also very similar to black bricks. Similarly, the ZX700 chassis is milled from a whole piece of aluminum, and the position for fixing and supporting the circuit board is reserved inside. At the same time, it also achieves the balance of light weight.

The one-piece fuselage brings a very flat touch texture. Compared with the straight-edge and right-angle treatment on the top, the bottom is transformed into a rounded curved angle considering the need for grip. The middle frame is also surrounded by a raised straight edge, which not only softens the feel, but also further strengthens the rigidity of the fuselage and brings a thinner and lighter feel.

The back of the fuselage has a slightly curved raised position like the black brick, the main purpose is to leave more space for internal components and reduce the heavy feeling, which should be very familiar to old ZX1 users .

ZX700 placed a row of familiar physical buttons on the right side of the fuselage, including the sliding HOLD key, the layout of these control buttons has not changed.

The left side of the fuselage is relatively simple, with only one microSD card slot equipped with a dust plug.

A USB-C interface and a lanyard hole are placed on the flat bottom of the fuselage.

Compared with the ZX500 series, the ZX700 series has further increased the size of the body and screen, and the size of the capacitive touch screen on the front has also increased to 5 inches, which is on par with the black brick. Product engineers finally realized that the Android system has to run more smoothly on a large screen.

Although the size has been increased, the ZX700 still maintains a light body that can be controlled with one hand. The weight of 227g and the thickness of 16.9mm allow it to maintain the portability of the series. Compared with the flagship black and gold bricks, the ZX700 will be more Suitable for the name Walkman, I also prefer to put the ZX700 in my pocket and carry it out.

As far as the appearance is concerned, the ZX700 not only inherits the lightness and portability, but also obtains the exquisiteness of the black gold brick.

Create flagship-like high-end sound with the stacking materials of flagship hardware

The appearance of the ZX700 is very similar to a "little black brick", but its interior is also very close to the "black brick".

As a model developed in parallel, the NW-ZX700 uses the "gold-containing lead-free solder" newly developed for the flagship models NW-WM1ZM2 and NW-WM1AM2 released last spring, and an 8mm large solder with the same specifications as the "black brick". Solid polymer capacitors , and the latest generation of polymer capacitors FT CAP3.

In addition, there are LC filters with 8mm coil inductance , dual low-phase noise crystal oscillators (compatible with 100MHz) and other hardware updates, aiming to improve sound resolution and restore sound transparency.

Since the materials used are similar, the production process of ZX700 can also be compared with "black bricks". For example, lead-free solder is used to solder the S-Master HX chip; gold-containing lead-free solder is used for headphone output and other parts that can be manually soldered and reflowed weld. The purpose is to lower the circuit impedance for smooth signal flow.

Similarly, the ZX700 also achieves circuit optimization for the pursuit of high sound quality. The circuit design directly separates the audio module and the digital module, and uses a high-precision oxygen-free copper shield processed by CNC to cover the digital module. , to shield the noise that may occur from SoC and flash memory particles, so that the sound output is cleaner.

To put it simply, ZX700 can enjoy the new technology used in the new black bricks. The upgrade direction of ZX700 is highly consistent with the black and gold bricks, but there will be a slight difference in the number of stacked components, which is also the positioning a distinction.

▲ In order to insert this high-capacity solid polymer capacitor, the back of the fuselage had to adopt a slightly raised design

The software update is relatively routine against the background of luxurious hardware. This time, the ZX700 supports DSEE Ultimate and DSD mastering engine technology.

We are already familiar with DSEE Ultimate. The system can use AI algorithms to upgrade ordinary sound sources to higher quality, and use algorithms to enrich high-frequency musical instruments and female voices to restore more sound details.

The DSD mastering engine can convert PCM files to 11.2MHz DSD, and it is the first time that Sony ZX series is equipped with this technology. Sony has added a set of self-developed algorithms here, and the conversion process will be completed by the FPGA circuit. With the cooperation of the two, the gain of audio information can be realized.

In terms of earphone matching, I use Sony IER-M9 earphones to connect to the 4.4 balanced port. Although at first I thought that the ZX series corresponds to the IER-M7, but after connecting the M9, I found that the ZX700 can also drive more It is a higher-level in-ear flagship headset, but my volume needs to be turned up to 90, so it can't be said to be easy to handle, but its sound output is also stable enough.

Since the hardware specifications of the ZX700 are similar to the black brick, its sound orientation is also very similar to the black brick. The overall sound is obviously "high-end". It also provides sound details that have never been seen in the previous ZX series. , especially after turning on the DSD master tape reproduction, the texture of the sound is infinitely close to black bricks.

Even for tracks with complex instruments, the ZX700 can handle them very well. The better separation presents a comfortable sense of space, the thickness of the sound is interpreted freely, and its sense of depth not only comes from the The relationship has a width of up and down.

After listening to a higher-spec audio source, it can be found that the brightness of the music details of the ZX700 has been significantly modified compared with the previous generation body, and it is also cleaner. The so-called "high-end" sound means that it can bring a comfortable and durable listening experience.

If you turn on the "Direct Direct Source" function, then all the sound dyeing will stop. It outputs the original sound of the sound source, which can partially restore the environment like a monitor. I know that some music practitioners like this function of Sony very much. .

Of course, the ZX700 cannot directly challenge the black brick whose price is nearly doubled, but considering its portability and especially its weight, I would prefer to use the ZX700 for a long time.

As for the 3.5mm headphone jack, I use my personal favorite Meizu Live headphones, which are four-unit moving iron headphones that are easy to drive, so I can turn down the volume of the ZX700. The overall feeling will be warmer, and the fashion orientation will be more obvious.

It may be limited by the size and hardware configuration. The power of the balanced port of the ZX700 is only 230mW*2, so it is still difficult to use it to push some high-impedance headphones. However, it is recommended to use an amp for high-impedance headphones. But for the headphones in my hand, the thrust of the ZX700 has exceeded expectations.

Thanks to the openness of the Android 12 system, I can happily use Apple Music in the ZX700. When the lossless specification is turned on, I can clearly feel that the amount of audio information has increased. So I think that you can use better wired headphones to listen to higher-standard streaming music, which is also an advantage of the Android flagship player.

On the other hand, in order to solve the SRC problem of the Android system, Sony engineers said in the interview that ZX700 added two 44.1kHz clocks derived from CDs in addition to 48kHz, so that any audio source can be used (in the Walkman app) as a Full clock to play.

A more interesting but less used function for me is the "vinyl record processor". Sony's engineers rely on their experience to combine the three highly recognizable acoustic phenomena in vinyl record players through tuning The way to restore, respectively is the tone arm resonance, voice print noise, record resonance. I lent the ZX700 to a colleague who often listens to vinyl records. After the audition, his feedback was "it has an internal taste".

And one of the functions I use more may be the USB-DAC. I will habitually connect it to my Mac when I return to the office recently. In addition to obtaining a higher-quality listening experience, it can also supplement the ZX700 in time. electricity. Unplug the belt when you get off work and take it on the road. The ZX700 is naturally fully charged and comfortable.

Walkman UI that embraces streaming media has both inheritance and breakthrough

Compared with the 3.6-inch screen of the previous generation, the ZX700 is equipped with a 5-inch glossy screen. At the same time, thanks to the enhancement of the core configuration, we can experience a smoother operation interaction on this "big screen".

The brightness and 720P resolution of this 5-inch TFT screen can basically meet my daily needs. Although the brightness needs to be adjusted manually, the look and feel of the screen is still satisfactory to me.

Perhaps for a smartphone, 5 inches should be classified as a "small screen" size, but for a music player, 5 inches is the size of a large screen. The palm is square, just able to be controlled with one hand, the information visible on a single page becomes more abundant, and the stroke of finger sliding is also just right.

Android 12, which embraces the streaming media era, still retains the old-school habit of sitting on the sofa and listening to music.

Sony designed a UI/UX called W.Music for Android Walkman, and followed the design logic of "Sofa Logic" (sofa logic), allowing users to intuitively do what they want while listening to music matter. Therefore, Sony put "Now Playing" in the middle, and then listed various functions around it, up, down, left, and right.

This is based on imitating the user sitting on the sofa and listening to the music in the room, and the functions of the four directions also imitate the functional layout in the room.

For example, if I swipe up, the "library" displayed is the picture of reaching out to the CD rack above the sofa and taking out the disc I want to play. The "playlist" on the left side of the playback screen is the back cover of the jacket, where I can see a list of upcoming tracks and choose from. On the right, I can reach for my favorite songs and albums from the stack of CDs on the side table. And under my feet, that is, after sliding from bottom to top, I can imagine that there is a set of audio equipment here, and the equipment that can adjust various sounds is piled up together. This is my "sound quality setting".

This kind of interaction method will become familiar after a simple experience. It retains the old-fashioned taste and taste, and also conforms to people's intuitive cognition. Curry roams wildly.

It is worth mentioning that this set of UI is also used in WM1ZM2 and WM1AM2.

However, I also found an interesting small change in the playback interface of the ZX700. Swipe left or right near the play button, and now you can perform the previous/next operation of the song.

There are more than one nostalgic details. Sony engineers also brought the tape-type screen saver to the ZX700. The Walkman app will present up to 9 different tape styles according to the quality of the playback audio source. It is consistent with the past Sony CD tape design. It's a pity that the always-on time of the screen can only be set to a maximum of 30 minutes, which is the same as before.

Sony engineers told us that this tape animation was not made by CG, but the real old tape was placed in the first-generation Walkman (TPS-L2), and then recorded in real scene while playing. That's the secret to tape animation being so good, because it's — it's real.

In addition, in the settings of the Walkman app, we can see a "playing time counter" at the bottom of the list, which will display the playing time of the 3.5mm and 4.4mm interfaces respectively. Although this is a player of the new era, it still wants to emphasize the audiophile gameplay of "boiling" good sound quality in the past.

Terai, head of the Sony player UI/UX team, said in a developer interview: "After buying, the opportunity to burn will bring some sense of ritual, but we want people to enjoy it, which will take time. In order for the player to play its original sound quality , it is necessary to energize for a period of time to stabilize the capacitor, and this standard is 200 hours.”

Here, they also revealed a "little easter egg" that will do something interesting when it hits 200 hours of play time.

However, due to the limited experience time, we have not been able to see this 200-hour "easter egg" with our own eyes.

Outside the Walkman app, you can see the complete Android 12 system on the ZX700.

Compared with some players on the market that adopt the "customized" method to carry the Android system, the ZX700 inherits the freedom of the ZX500. We can install the required Android apps as we like according to our own habits. Go embrace all kinds of streaming media services.

In the ZX700's National Bank system, there are very few pre-installed apps. Not only does it not provide a browser, but the input method is only the native English input method. Fortunately, it reserves a Tencent "App Store" application store program, which can be downloaded and installed after connecting to WiFi.

So I installed several commonly used streaming media playback platforms, including Apple Music, Spotify, and Netease Cloud Music, into the ZX700, and even installed some entertainment software, including Weibo, WeChat Reading, Bilibili and Dou sound, they all run smoothly.

In terms of core configuration, the ZX700 series has naturally improved. The processor this time is basically similar to the Snapdragon 665/662, and this processor is especially suitable for the ZX700.

According to Sony, this is a SoC with both low power consumption and high performance. Low power consumption is just what ZX700 needs, which can prolong the battery life of the player. At the same time, compared with similar products, ZX700 maintains a good system fluency.

Compared with the ZX507 and A100 in my hand, the ZX700 has a system fluency comparable to that of mid-range Android smartphones. I can switch freely in multiple streaming apps, and I have never encountered a card so far. Dayton's situation.

On the other hand, battery life performance is the place where the ZX500 series has been criticized. In addition to bringing a SoC with excellent power consumption, Sony has also implemented targeted system tuning, which delays battery and power supply in all aspects. IC power requirements. Referring to the official data, the ZX700 series uses a battery with the same capacity as the previous generation, but the longest battery life can reach 25 hours, and the DSD output with the balanced port can also achieve about 13 hours of battery life, and it supports fast charging function, which can basically meet daily needs.

According to my usage habits, basically it takes 3~4 days to charge once. What makes me even more delighted is that this time the power consumption of the ZX700 in standby is very low, and every time the player is taken out of the pocket, it will have sufficient power. This also confirms that the low-power SoC has indeed effectively improved the battery life of the ZX700.

Little black brick, well-deserved reputation

With the newly designed ZX700 series, it seems that the internal and external changes of this generation can be described as reborn.

After experiencing it, I will recognize it even more. The ZX700 series has indeed obtained the alcohol sound capability from the Sony Walkman Signature Series. It can present the kind of high-end sound I want, which is also the advantage of Sony Alcohol's flagship.

But the biggest significance of the ZX700 series to users is that Sony has finally completed the matter of taking the black brick out of the door, which is very suitable for music lovers who do not want to compromise on sound quality and portability.

Moreover, the power consumption optimization of SoC and battery also provides the basis for the long-term use of the ZX700 series; the newer generation of Android 12 introduces a newly designed Walkman UI/UX, which can actively embrace the streaming media era.

Carrying good sound quality with you at all times should be the consistent charm of Sony Walkman. From this point of view, the ZX700 series has done very well in all aspects.

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