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Sony WM1ZM2: Long live the King? 

External differences

The first of these changes is a larger 5-inch touchscreen, a necessary evil of today’s media-driven smart devices. While impressively sharp and bright, Sony deemed it unnecessary to use a smartphone-like full HD (1080P) screen, opting instead to use a standard HD (720P) resolution screen, presumably for lower power consumption. On its own the screen is fine, and touch sensitivity is excellent, but its resolution limitation is more obvious when compared to any other modern screen, those of competing players included. 

The other notable change is the elongated chassis, necessary to accommodate the larger screen and slightly more sophisticated internals. Like its predecessor, the M2 chassis is made of pure copper and plated with gold alloy, and like its predecessor this makes for a fairly substantial and weighty player. Other than physical size, the M2’s copper purity has increased by 0.03% (99.99% instead of the 99.96% purity of M1), and weight has increased from 455g (M1) to 490g (M2) – due to size, not copper purity.

Other physical changes include a redesigned lock button on the left, redesigned power and playback buttons on the right, and a single USB-C (USB 3.1) port on the bottom of the player replacing the proprietary WM1 port on the M1. Also new is a spring-loaded MicroSD card slot on the left of the M2, replacing the covered slot on the bottom of the M1. 

Headphone outputs are identical on both players, with the same 3.5mm single-ended and 4.4mm balanced ports up top. Like M1, M2 lacks dedicated line-out ports, so if you want to line-out from the Walkman to an amp, you’ll have to double-amp from one of the variable volume headphone ports.  

Finally, the back of the M2 is quite a departure from the M1. Gone is the all pleather back cover on the M1, replaced by a sculpted, partly-covered back panel on the M2 with exposed screws for easier maintenance. The stepped back panel means the player doesn’t sit totally flat, however. 

In hand, both players feel premium and very substantial due to their weight and quality finishes. Attention to detail and tolerances are both exceptional, probably the best I’ve seen on any music player at any price, and that goes for both M1 and M2. 

I do find M1 easier to hold and more ‘portable’, though M2 is slightly slimmer, which makes it more pocketable (if your pants are tight enough to hold up a half-kilo gold brick, that is). I also prefer M1’s power button location, just beneath the larger flayed curves at the top of the player and adjoining the playback buttons, with M2’s power button being oddly located on the shorter outward curve, separate from the playback buttons.   

Internal differences

While M2’s exterior makes for a very different look and feel to its predecessor, internally the changes are arguably more incremental than significant. 

Sony engineers decided to retain the same S-Master HX digital platform for M2 they debuted in M1, upgrading some of the components and power capacitors, but keeping the blueprint almost entirely unchanged. While the changes are unquestionably positive, at least from a hardware quality perspective, keeping the same framework ultimately means the players are more similar than different.

Here’s here’s a summary of what’s new or improved in the M2:

Bigger power supply. The independent power circuits for both the digital and analogue parts of the S-Master HX system have been upgraded.

Bigger battery. There’s a bigger battery inside the new M2, and while M1 battery life was a staggering 30+ hours, M2 tops it at almost 40 hours’ playtime. Note that these figures are only for playback using local files on Sony’s music player. Using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or any third-party application significantly reduces playback time, down to less than half the maximum. Still, Walkman battery life is better than the vast majority of competitors, and M2’s new fast-charge capability means you’ll be juiced up to full in under two hours.

Larger solid high-polymer capacitor. This Sony-developed capacitor theoretically improves power delivery and results in tighter bass and cleaner vocal delivery (we’ll see about that).

FT CAP3 high-polymer capacitors. Developed specifically for Sony, these new capacitors help create a smoother sound and wider soundscape (again, we’ll see).

Milled digital circuit block. A solid milled OFC block covers the digital section to improve noise shielding for a cleaner overall sound. 

Film capacitors and winding inductors. Film capacitors supposedly deliver a more linear frequency response, while the new winding inductors replace the laminated capacitors used in the M1’s power block to further clean up the sound. 

New Kimber Kable. The thickness of the OCC copper Kimber Cable connecting the balanced output port has been upgraded with thicker gauge wire, similar to the gauge used inside the flagship DMP-1Z, so audio transmission should be improved, at least to the balanced output. 

Gold solder. Yes, that’s right. It’s not just the skin that’s gold, the solder used to connect the internal circuits is now laced with gold too. That makes it better, don’t argue. 

There are also some hardware specs that aren’t new, but are nonetheless important to mention. M2 features the same internal flash storage capacity: 256GB. It also features the exact same power output specs: 60mW + 60mW single-ended and 250mW + 250mW balanced output power, both at 32ohm. This makes M2 one of the least powerful DAPs out of its contemporaries (along with M1), so I wouldn’t suggest trying to use it with anything other than IEMs or the most sensitive of low impedance over-ear headphones.

A point to note here is that any M2 sold in the European Union or United Kingdom is volume capped. This means that regardless of the specs on Sony’s websites, output power is significantly reduced, and trying to use these capped versions with anything but sensitive IEMs is not recommended. Also, unlike M1, which could be firmware-modified to remove the volume cap, no such workaround is available for M2 at the time of writing, and unlikely to ever be available given the complexity of modifying the underlying Android software.    

Ultimately, all the changes above are designed to improve the sound in four main areas: bass tightness, frequency extension, noise floor, and stage size. We’ll get to just how well (or not) they do this in the sound impressions section below, but first, let’s see what’s changed in software between old and new. 

Continue to software differences…

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Picture of Guy Lerner

Guy Lerner

An avid photographer and writer 'in real life', Guy's passion for music and technology created the perfect storm for his love of portable audio. When he's not playing with the latest and greatest head-fi gear, he prefers to spend time away from the hobby with his two (almost) grown kids and wife in the breathtaking city of Cape Town, and traveling around his native South Africa.

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