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My dad showed me the beauty of audio. He curated my music collection since the 1990s, starting with a Gin Blossoms tape. Now you can't find me without earbuds in or a speaker on.
Training at Crutchfield has taught me about great sound and the products that make it possible. I've also enjoyed exploring and writing about tech news, pro audio, TV and video.
I have an undergraduate degree from the VCUarts Cinema program, where I studied the great directors, frame by frame. This taught me the importance of perfect picture and gave me an attention to artistic detail that I'm proud to put into practice.
Here at Crutchfield, I have access to the best products the A/V world has to offer. I'm eager to share my experiences and to explore how electronic equipment influences the lives of others.
Completed specialized in-house training on home audio, TV/video, headphones and pro audio
I also talk about why you should consider buying a high-res player. And I offer a few suggestions on what speakers and headphones to pair with each player.
o find out which high-res music players deserved to make Crutchfield’s list of best picks, I spent some quality time with several popular models. I listened to the same songs in a compressed and uncompressed format. The file formats I had were AIFF, FLAC, and DSD, although these players support more.
I listened through two different headphones: My Sony WH-1000XM3 Bluetooth headphones and a pair of AudioQuest Nighthawk Carbons, an accurate semi-open headphone.
I took the three final players on a road trip to New England to see how they handled in the real world.
The best high-res audio players for 2019
Sony Walkman NW-A45 — the best high-res player for beginners
The Sony Walkman NW-A45 is a great introduction to high-res audio. It is a pure music player that will sound better than your phone, without breaking the bank.
Even at an entry-level price, it’s easy to hear the difference a high-res player and high-res tracks can make. Compared to MP3s, the high-res tracks have a deeper, more natural soundscape. Cymbals have a little extra zing.
The Walkman advertises a Digital Sound Enhancement Engine HX (DSEE HX), which upscales compressed songs. Because of this, I also compared how MP3s sounded on my phone versus their performance on the NW-A45.
I noticed improvements in the high end of the MP3s when listening to post-hardcore bands like Balance and Composure that utilize overlaying, distorted guitars. Through the NW-A45, they sounded purposeful and accurate. The same songs on my smartphone had a mess of indistinguishable treble at the high end.
Of all the DAPs I tried out, The Sony Walkman was the perfect size. It fits in your pocket, but the screen is still roomy enough to navigate easily.
I am a sucker for dedicated buttons. They’re quicker and more gratifying to me than touch-screen buttons. The modernized tape-deck-style rewind, play, forward and volume buttons on the side were a nice touch.
One of my favorite features was the VPT (simulated surround sound). You can choose between studio, club, concert hall, and matrix.
I tend to like a little more reverb than is included in the mix, so I spent a lot of listening time in concert hall mode. I was impressed that it was able to enrich the sound without muddying it in any way.
You can also use the Walkman as a personal USB DAC (digital audio converter). I plugged it into my laptop while working at a coffee shop. It noticeably outperformed my brand new laptop’s sound card. Which made me a little upset, to be honest, but I guess it means I need to pick up a Walkman (or another external USB DAC).
Plays MP3, FLAC, Apple Lossless, AAC, APE, WAV, and WMA audio files (up to 24-bit/192kHz)
Direct Stream Digital (DSD) files (.dff and .dsf formats up to 11.2MHz resolution)
S-Master® HX amplification offers accurate, detailed playback of high-resolution music files
DSEE HX and ClearAudio+ sound modes for enhancing compressed music
Rechargeable battery provides up to 45 hours of playback
Bluetooth-compatible with LDAC enhanced wireless music streaming
Suggested pairing: Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones.
The Walkman has Sony's LDAC Bluetooth capability. This audio codec transmits 3x the amount of data as standard Bluetooth. The technology is only compatible with a few headphones, including my beloved Sony WH-1000XM3’s. It noticeably improved the wireless performance of my headphones.