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Old 03-25-2010, 10:52 AM
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Default SQ Review - Sony A845



I will update this thread as time permits and will approach it on a SQ basis only. NOTE: my definition of SQ isn't 'oh gawd, that's so clear', and for many reasons; SQ is a measure of how well a device can reproduce sound, not how it can make it sound a certain way.

The A845 has a cool EQ, but it invites a lot of compression which is unfortunate. I'll show that later. First and foremost though, the same great warm, fun Sony sound is present and in full bloom. It is the same mid-oriented, bottom heavy sound which has been in full effect since about 5 years ago from the Japanese giant.

As part of it, hiss is heavy and in your face. I use sensitive earphones such as the FitEars Private 333, Earsonics SM3, Victor FX500, and even the stock earphones and all hiss - a lot. I consider this a big problem with sound, especially as players from Apple, Cowon, Microsoft and others don't hiss nearly as much. Is it too much to ask Sony, a company known far and wide for sound products, for a clear signal? The hiss permeates everything, like a think blanket on music or under music: nothing is 100% clear.

This is the same with every single Sony I've owned except for the S636 which for some reason was about as noisy as the Sansa Fuze V2 (so only a little more than I like).

The other annoying thing is: this badboy has a clicking artefact in the background which echoes at regular intervals ALL THE TIME. It is quiet though and if you are not bothered by Sony hiss (how in the name of God is that possible), then you may not find it a big (or even small problem).

I am coming from a long line of Sony portables and a borrowed X and have to say that Sony's newest S-Master units have a soft, nice sound, but are disappointing. In particular, they don't seem to be able to drive low Ω earphones very well at all. My Fuze V2 is a champion (but I hate it) and my iPod touch 2G is far clearer and full at both extremes than either Sony (X or A).

The A845 drops bass and treble with low Ω earphones and does a really, really bad job with balanced armature earphones. It does make for a smooth, fatigue-free listen, but it is hardly great. The reason the X and new A with S-Master may be 'so clear' sounding is that driving earphones, they tend to (the A more so than the X) drop bass and treble in relation to the midrange. That means the majority of instruments and vocals are pushed into the ear with greater force. It isn't clearer in any real definition, just... whatever.

The soundstage is well-placed but not really spaced much. That is fine as that is really just preference, but again, I don't find the Sony really reproducing what I hear in even Apple's newest lineup.

I'll update this review as time goes on. For now, I've taken unloaded A845 RMAA tests for now and though my loaded tests are up, one suite failed and I have to re-test and upload. My internet is as slow as balls right now, so I'll update RMAA again later with tests of the A845 driving load, amp, and from its LOD-amp.

My iem reference amp for now is the iBasso T3D which is fully resolved if a little hissy. However, it is better than the Sony.

A proviso: I like Sony and will always buy their products, but recent episodes have shown me that they are losing their edge and the A845 is perfect evidence of that fact. I listen to this every day as I like it, but when I really want the best SQ, I turn to an amped Fuze or iPod touch.
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  #2  
Old 03-25-2010, 11:02 AM
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How well does it work with non-IEM's, that aren't so sensitive? I understand that you mostly listen to IEM's,(correct me if I am wrong) but for someone that doesn't, could this player sound great?
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Old 03-25-2010, 11:05 AM
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shigzeo nice review, certainly appreciate the honesty
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Old 03-25-2010, 11:13 AM
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I'll try this with headphones soon. I have v-Jays and Ultrasone Zinos. It sound quite good with my DT880 600Ω, but it should as those (really they are) are so easy to drive.

Thanks for the kind words. I am sad that it is this way, but after spending day in and out with it - and me being so very specific about performance - I am unimpressed.
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Old 03-25-2010, 12:05 PM
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I'm kinda disappointed after hearing this review. I was looking forward to this player ever since they announced it. I guess I'll just go with the Cowon J3 as my next player.
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Old 03-25-2010, 12:52 PM
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I'm very interested in seeing the line out results, shigzeo. With the great pictures you made it would seem a pico slim would fit the 840 quite nicely.

In your forum you said would slowly go back for an ipod touch. That's pretty much the opposite of me. Absolutely hated some of the stuff on it. But based on SQ, I wouldn't be able to give a good opinion on that.
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Old 03-25-2010, 08:54 PM
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I have quite strict guidelines for SQ; they aren't words like 'golly' and 'cool', but generally are backed by performance. The reasons are clear: a player which can perform pretty much neutrally sounds good in every genre.

I've sussed it after 5 years of being a Sony DAP customer and years more as an MD customer: Sony sound fun, but their current crop of DAP's are not treating the original music correctly and that is what I want.

You can have your fun, etc., I want the original wave. Last night with the same SM3 earphones, the iPod touch was more delicate and deep and certainly more eerie than the Sony which is what the music called for. The music was Underworld (a new purchase for me), a band who don't need thickly invasive sound, nor is the music that way to start with. Applying the EQ loses treble dynamics which is a shame as without the EQ, the Sony just doesn't cut it.

I know this isn't the place to say I like the iPod touch, but the truth is that the touch is a much truer sounding player while Sony eschews the music. Sometimes that is okay, but in this instance, with the hiss, the artefacts, the lost dynamics, I feel that I'm going back to kiddy land if I were to say it sounds 'great'. I like it, but it ain't good SQ, it is just fun.
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Old 03-25-2010, 10:44 PM
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Okay, I got the LO results finally: RMAA wasn't registering the sync sound, so I had to re-record each set and then (here's the proviso) amp each by 2,5 decibels. Evidently, the LO is about 3 db quieter than the HPO maxxed, so I redid each test and added the v-Jays.

I will say this: if you like a smooth, warm sound, the A845 may be your cup of tea. But, if you value sound as a reproduction of the actual musical wave, the A845 isn't probably the best option. I will be sellling/trading this unit for a non-Japanese A729 or something (any takers?).
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Old 03-26-2010, 12:27 PM
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That's quite discouraging to hear those results.

I've only heard my jh13 through a different source for a short moment: the sanza fuse. I was more impressed with the jh13 I just recieved to notice any really difference with the 840 since pretty much everything sounded better.

Hopefully I can borrow my friends ipod touch to broaden my view. I know I sold mine because of it's touch screen and accelerometer, but not for it's SQ.

Thanks again for the results, shigzeo.
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Old 03-26-2010, 12:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shigzeo View Post

I will say this: if you like a smooth, warm sound, the A845 may be your cup of tea. But, if you value sound as a reproduction of the actual musical wave, the A845 isn't probably the best option. I will be sellling/trading this unit for a non-Japanese A729 or something (any takers?).
That is a nice clarification you make, shigzeo. Definitely puts your review in perspective that even a Sony lover can make sense of.
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Old 03-26-2010, 06:19 PM
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Good read, i am also disappointed i was hoping the hiss was a thing of the past but i guess they aren't up to the task of improving their players.
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Old 03-26-2010, 11:14 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sefra View Post
That's quite discouraging to hear those results.

I've only heard my jh13 through a different source for a short moment: the sanza fuse. I was more impressed with the jh13 I just recieved to notice any really difference with the 840 since pretty much everything sounded better.

Hopefully I can borrow my friends ipod touch to broaden my view. I know I sold mine because of it's touch screen and accelerometer, but not for it's SQ.

Thanks again for the results, shigzeo.
I also have the JH13Pro and prefer both the touch 2G and the Fuze with them simply because the Sony A845 takes a more serious beating from them than the touch or Fuze. Since they aren't too sensitive, the Sony's hiss is less bothersome, but it still is... bothersome. The Fuze I just cannot get to love though: the interface really drags me down as does the... somewhat grainy overall sound (very fine grain, but enough to make me more often than not reach for the iPod touch 2G).

I realise this review will probably limit my chances of selling the thing here, but if any of you want to you know... buy it and test for yourselves, 200$ including shipping is a great deal!
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Old 03-27-2010, 08:01 PM
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I listened to every Sony walkman made after the 818 (even the X) and I have to say that the S545 is the best sounding of them all. The bass is a touch less than the others (like the s739) but the soundstage is massive (best soundstage of all of them) and it is the clear master. The headphones I've tried with them where HFI-780 (the X barely drove them), se530, ie8, PL30, jvc fx500 (I didn't like these with the X), hippo vb, and sony mdr 7509. I don't hear any hiss at all.
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Old 03-27-2010, 08:10 PM
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H1a8 - if you heard hiss with the HIFI-780, the Sony would be so bad as not to be useable with earphones. Hiss generally (if you don't have the AMP3) correlates with the use of earphones and iems, not full size headphones. Full size might hiss with a mains amp, but if they hiss with anything else, you know that source is so rubbish it ain't worth it.

Hiss exists on all sources and if you have a sensitive enough instrument (earphone) and ears, you will hear it. Even the iPod touch 2G hisses, but very little, then comes the Fuze and way down the line is the Sony (after passing Cowon and Creative) and the worst is the AMP3 Pro line.

With headphones, the Sony is pretty okay, but I'd take my A828 (which is more powerful from the HPO and LO) over the A845. Still, headphones tend to be easier to drive than earphones (the vast majority at least) and the differences between sources (unless one is really really bad) eliminated.
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Old 03-27-2010, 09:43 PM
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oops! i thought this thread was about the s545. It's about the a845, something i haven't heard yet. Sorry.
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Old 03-27-2010, 09:50 PM
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Okay, I've updated the thread with LOD VS HPO benchmarks. They are driven by the same iBasso T3 amp as I had to retire the iBasso T3D (otherwise an excellent iem amp which can push volume waaaaay too loud for iems) which wasn't able to push strong enough signal to RMAA which crashed.

Overall, the A845 is less impressive from the LOD than its forebear, the A828: quieter for sure. From the HPO, it drives earphones less well (will show that) while clicking in the background (if you have sensitive ears and earphones) with roll off in both the highs (present on both A828 and A845) and lows.

Again, if anyone wants to take it off my hands, do it. You may enjoy it. I am extremely harsh with DAP's having bought and sold more than 20 simply because they didn't meet my expectations of true performance.

The Sony sound is still present: warm and fuzzy (but that fuzz doesn't need to be there), so if you just love it, go for it. Personally, I like my music to sound closer to the recording and that means: my Fuze (though I hate the bugger) or my iPod touch, or ... the A828.

Last edited by shigzeo; 03-27-2010 at 09:58 PM.
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Old 11-01-2010, 02:35 PM
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i have the now old, sony nwzA729, and i hear absolutely NO hiss what so ever. (at the end or between songs) after reading this review/posts i am glad i just bought another -A729 while i still can. i still want the new "A" series because of its choose your own background, the over all look, and the ultra-slick interface. BUT it is in your pocket most of the time. music matters most. i will probably keep buying the 729 until a better overhaul of the "A" series comes around, and for $200 or less USD.
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Old 12-12-2010, 01:21 AM
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hi, i usually read the forums but never post in them, just wanted to know if anyone knows about the SQ of the a850 models, since they are supposed to be a revamp of the a840 line... but to me they look the same (aesthetically at least), hopefully they aren't the same soundwise, i'm debating between that or a j3
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Old 12-26-2010, 04:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keiiferrer View Post
hi, i usually read the forums but never post in them, just wanted to know if anyone knows about the SQ of the a850 models, since they are supposed to be a revamp of the a840 line... but to me they look the same (aesthetically at least), hopefully they aren't the same soundwise, i'm debating between that or a j3
Personally, I am very happy with SQ of my A846. I listen to metal and rock, and I can say that up till now it is the best player I had own.
If you have any opportunity to test then do so, it is the best way to check if sound of player is good enough for you.
Didn't have Cowon J3, but I had S9. For me it sounded very flat on all phones I used to connect to it, and I have to say that in case of SQ Cowon S9 is a very overrated player. I bought it after reading many great reviews and I was disappointed. Unfortunately I didn't have any chance to test it before buy.
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Old 01-09-2011, 09:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fzero View Post
Personally, I am very happy with SQ of my A846. I listen to metal and rock, and I can say that up till now it is the best player I had own.
If you have any opportunity to test then do so, it is the best way to check if sound of player is good enough for you.
Didn't have Cowon J3, but I had S9. For me it sounded very flat on all phones I used to connect to it, and I have to say that in case of SQ Cowon S9 is a very overrated player. I bought it after reading many great reviews and I was disappointed. Unfortunately I didn't have any chance to test it before buy.
thanks for the answer, i got a j3 and it bricked within a week of normal usage (and i was very carefull with it when loading music and everything...), most likely i'll consider a sony again if i'm allowed to exchange the j3 for something else
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