Kicking off the listening tests with a touch of Regina Spektor's kooky piano-based pop and the strength's of the NW-E015 were immediately apparent. There's a warmth here and depth and control of bass that just isn't present with most other players. Flicking over to a touch of old-school electronica from Chicane proved the point further, with its deep, synthetic bass notes delivered in convincing fashion, without ever becoming too woolly.
That control helped with traditional pop too, kicking tracks like Bryan Adams' Run to You along with energy, verve and good timing with nothing sacrificed at the top end either. Even classical sounded good: the hugely complex choral sections of Mozart's Requiem sound harsh and are hard to listen to on some players, but that's certainly not the case here.
Don't expect to reach the heights this player is capable of with the supplied earbuds, though. These are okay, but sound hissy during quiet periods and are lacking in the sort of bass response the player deserves. Even a reasonably cheap set of headphones such as Koss' Sportapros will really allow you to make the most of the NW-E015's warmth and thunderous bass.
At the risk of sounding like a stuck record, it's a real shame that Sony insists on undermining what would otherwise be halfway decent or very good music players with sub-standard music management software.
Normally its players' design and usability coupled with great sound quality are enough to just about overcome this handicap. But with the NW-E015 that's simply not the case and despite the fact that it probably offers the best sound quality you're going to get in a £47 player, it's just not quite good enough to warrant anything more than an average score - and with that it slips quietly into almost-but-not-quite mediocrity.