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Sony WM1ZM2: Long live the King? 

Sound impressions

Whether you need Android or not, care about UX or not, or give two hoots about copper purity, premium music players ultimately earn their keep on sound quality.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that M2 has big shoes to fill in this regard, at least to justify the cost over the original M1. Experienced DAP users know that at this level, differences between flagship players are often ‘tuning’ differences, and that difference in technical performance are rarely ‘night and day’. 

Since DAPs don’t have a ‘sound’ of their own, but rather create differences in sound based on the IEMs you connect to them, raw performance doesn’t always mean you’ll prefer the ‘higher-performing’ DAP, but rather the one you like most with your IEMs. All that said, I tried to keep the playing field as level as possible, using Sony’s IER-Z1R to test both DAPs, with a selection of test tracks I feel best suit Z1R’s tonality. Comparing the two was also made much easier by not having to volume match the players, given their output power is identical. 

Note: I disabled all DSP for these tests and used Direct Sound output only.


While you could argue that M2 retains the DNA of the ‘Sony Sound’, that sound has arguably evolved since 2016. You won’t find too much ‘digititus’ here; Sony’s has always been about a smooth delivery of a lively sound in a spacious stage. But the evolution of its sound is evident when compared directly to M1.

For starters, all that marketing speak about tighter, more controlled bass is true. I hear M2’s bass as punchier and tauter, with slightly better texture and detail, but it doesn’t sound quite as big or warm as M1. I wouldn’t describe M1 as bloomy, but it definitely has a slower, more organic feel to it than the faster bass on M2. 

I also hear M2 as extending slightly better into the sub-bass, with more perceivable rumble, but I’m probably splitting hairs here to be honest. Neither DAP has an overdone bass elevation, and if anything, I’d call both of them conservative for my preferences. 

The midrange presentation is more similar than different to my ear between the two players. Again, M2 is tighter, but its notes are conversely not quite as full or bodied. M2 reveals more details in midrange vocals and instruments, but that’s also a factor of its lower overall noise floor. I also find M2 vocals have a more delicate feel to them, slightly more ethereal sounding than M1, and that’s likely because its treble emphasis is shifted further up the FR than M1’s, resulting in lighter-sounding overtones. 

Speaking of treble, M2 has a clean, clear and well extended treble response. As mentioned above, I hear M2’s treble emphasis to centre more on mid-to-upper treble, giving the overall signature more air and presenting instruments and vocals with more space between them. Treble, like mids and bass, is also more detailed than M1, but as with everything else, there’s not a gulf of difference between the two. 

Overall, I’d says M2 sounds brighter, tonally, than M1, even though it’s not a ‘bright’ DAP per se. Both DAPs are on the warmer side of neutral, though I wouldn’t call either overly warm, and M1 is relatively warmer than M2 by comparison. M2 is definitely smoother, and sounds more ‘refined’, whereas M1 is livelier, more bombastic, with more contrast.


With a blacker background that helps with better instrument and vocal separation and sharper imaging, and a small bump in resolution too, M2 is technically a better performer than M1. It also has a wider stage, although I wouldn’t call it bigger, because M1 matches it for height and possibly pips it for depth. 

Reading through the list of ‘improvements’ based on the new hardware components in the M2, it seems Sony went all out to improve technical performance. There’s only so much you can push a DAP technically using essentially the same components though, so when I say improvements, just don’t expect M2 to blow you away when you compare it to M1. 

That said, there’s no question that M2 is the ‘cleaner’ of the two DAPs, and in the high-end portable hi-fi world, that alone is worth its weight in gold. It also sounds faster, and maybe slightly more dynamic, but depending on your music preferences, faster is not always better, so keep that in mind when choosing between the two.   

Continue to closing thoughts…



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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