So, you’ve got a device that looks stunning and has superb usability, but how does it sound? In a word, brilliant! To be fair, the sound quality from Sony devices has always been good, simply because the ATRAC codec is far superior to MP3 – record a CD at 132kbps ATRAC3 and you’ll barely notice the difference from the CD, record at 256kbps ATRAC3 Plus and I defy you to be able to tell the difference from the original disc. Of course you’re not going to record at 256kbps, because the resulting file size is too large, but even 64kbps ATRAC3 Plus sounds easily as good as 128kbps MP3.
But even MP3 content sounds great on the NW-E507. I played back a variety of MP3 files and I have to say that the sound quality from a 192kbps track was very impressive, while even a lowly 128kbps rip sounded good. But there is one caveat to this story – the sound quality from the NW-E507 is awesome, if you’re using good headphones. The bundled ear buds that come in the box sound muted and muffled, while the cable is also a bit too short. But when I plugged in a set of Sennheisers, the difference was astounding. I know that I always say that bundled headphones are weak, but in this case don’t even try them – you need to invest in a decent set of headphones to experience the best from this player.
But there’s another area where the NW-E507 sounds great, and that’s the built-in FM tuner. Now, the TrustedReviews office is notorious for bad reception over the airwaves, and I’ve yet to find a digital music player that can lock onto even a patchy signal while sitting at my desk. However, without even trying the NW-E507 located a station, and proceeded to pump crystal clear sound to my ears. Of course it’s worth remembering that a good set of headphones matters here too, as the headphones and cable act as the antenna for the FM radio – so once again I got far better results from my Sennheiser headphones than from the bundled ear buds.