The jury is still out on whether high res audio is going to be the IMAX of the audio world, especially when it comes at such a steep price. The new Sony NWZ-ZX2 Walkman, which costs around £900, doesn't really change that this is still something for serious audiophiles with deep pockets.
It's a chunky thing as well and far from as sleek as something like an iPod Touch. It's 18.5mm thick and is about the size of a couple of Xperia Z3 phones and a little more stacked on top of each other. It's heavy as well weighing in at 235g and it's going to accommodate most of your free trouser pocket space.
The design from the front kind of reminds me of the black Nokia Lumia 900 phones from a few year ago with rounded edges and a matte black finish on the sides. At the back is a more textured, leatherette that aids gripping the device
All the playback buttons are down one side with the 3.5mm gold plated headphone jack down the bottom with the micro SD card charging port on the opposite side letting you expand storage beyond the already built-in 128GB storage. There's a 4-inch FWVGA 480x854 resolution display so it's far away from the Full HD displays on high end smartphones. Whether the kind of people who would own this care about that, I'm not entirely convinced.
The ZX2 runs on Android 4.4.2 KitKat and is a more pared down version of the operating system almost like stock Android. There's less of the bloatware you find running on Sony's smartphones. You'll find some audio-centric software features present on like ClearAudio+ and Clear Bass to help clean up more compressed audio formats.
There's some changes to the user interface to make it more music-friendly like a shortcut to the music player on the home screen but other than that, it's a standard Android experience.
That also means you can download apps from the Google Play store including streaming music services, which means you can play Candy Crush on it, but more importantly gives you access to high resolution audio streaming services like Tidal. There's plenty of connectivity too with Bluetooth, Wi-Fi on board and micro USB charging to deliver 60 hours (MP3 playback) or 30 hours (high res audio playback) of battery life.
At the heart of the ZX2 is Sony-s S-Master HX digital amplifier, which contributes to giving the Walkman the look of a portable DAC but crucially allows it so support high-res audio formats like Apple Lossless and aiff.
As a Walkman, the NWZ-ZX2 is not at all sleek or portable as your typical pocket-friendly player but it's sound quality that matters here and it does sound fantastic. Listening back to pre-loaded tracks from Daft Punk, Kate Bush and Michael Jackson, the extra detail and stability at higher volumes really shines through. If Sony made it cheaper, I think it could be a real winner but I don't think there's any chance of that happening in the very near future.