So what do you get for your 150, well not that much TBH but what you do get is enough to get you started on the road to HRA heaven and a way of listening to your collection on the move for a relatively budget price compared to what is out there, it is not an NWZ-ZX1 that is for sure but it does offer a very high quality build for your hard earned money and you get Bluetooth and a screen which is 2.2in 320x240 pixels and it only functions as a display as it does not offer touch screen on this model, instead you have a diamond shaped button which can be used for direction and navigating through the menus and then the play and pause button is centered directly in the middle which makes it a nice and simple unit to operate.
On the right side of the Walkman is the volume button and also a hold button which is handy to lock the player if it is placed in your pocket and you do not want anything knocking the buttons and skipping tracks or turning the unit off by mistake, at the bottom is 3.5mm headphone jack point and its proprietary USB socket, also on the front you have the Power button and Back button which is handy for getting out of the menu's quickly, and that is about it for features.Design
I think the design of the unit is very beautiful for such a small device and for the money it also does look good and feels solid enough to take a bit of a thrashing now and then when you are out running or just walking about with it in your back or front pocket, although a small case would also be a good call if you do not want it to get scratched especially the screen.Sony claims it to be the smallest and lightest HRA Player on the market and at just 66g and 109x43.6x8.8mm I think they are probably right, which makes it such an easy unit to hide away when on the move.Operation
When first turning it on it boots up in about a second which is super quick so no spinning logo waiting time, just dive straight in and you are faced with a selection of icons and the most important one to worry about is going to be the music icon as that will be what most people have bought this player for, then you are given a choice of selecting how you want to look at your music, Genre, Album, Folder, etc... so it is very easy to navigate and play and the quick guide is really just common sense with this player, but it does come with all the software loaded already on the Walkman and when plugged in to your laptop or PC you will see it all in there relative Folders.The main software that is needed to transfer all your music to and from the player is called Media Go and is quite straight forward and is a drag and drop affair which does not take long but you will find that the 16gib that the NWZ-A15 has built in quickly goes down and this is where you will need the use of the microSD Card which can be anything but I have just ordered a 64gig one to hold most of my collection which should hold most of my music and can be used obviously on different players so it is a must purchase really.File compatibility includes MP3,WAV, AIFF, WMA, AAC, HE-AAC, FLAC and ALAC but unfortunately this player will not be able to handle the DSD or DXD formats which its bigger brothers are capable of, but it is no big deal as for the money you are getting quite a lot for the money any way IMO.Performance
I am using my BOSE Q25 Headphones with the Sony NWZ-A15 and they seem to be a perfect partnership as the balance of sound that I get is just superb and they give a very airy and bigger image of what is going on sonically in the headphones, I will say I am only testing out High Resolution Audio with this player as I have an iPhone if I want to listen to mp3, but why would you when you can have the sonic brilliance which is HRA.The tonal balance across the frequency range seems to be very even with no frequency more prominent than others but at the same time the player is not thin sounding either, it just has an accurate portrayal of the sound that you are hearing, instruments are well separated and timing seems to be good but I would say not as good some of the higher end players, but saying that it is still very good and enjoyable and only a minor niggle when you consider the price.
Coming on to the dynamics of the player, when you consider the players size it is really quite an achievement to make something so small sound so good, and yes dynamics could be better but you have one of the smallest players on the market and it powers my BOSE headphones with ease, and also my Sennheiser Momentum Headphones although I am not using them for this review, but it does not struggle with either set and the dynamics seem very good for such a small device.Playing Amber Rubarth "Sessions from the 17th Ward" is quite a powerful album and also very well recorded and shines on HRA with some really great dynamics, the Track Tundra being one of them really does show what this little player is capable of when given the right material to play.Another great recording is Natalie Merchant's Album of the same name Natalie Merchant which has some great track with real pace and rhythm that the NWZ-A15 does well to keep up with, track Giving Up Everything is just one example and it really does get your toes tapping to the music, which is what this is all about, who would of thought Walkmans would become so much fun and I also think it is going to be a big revival in how music is played with a lot more people moving over to HRA.Verdict
So if you are looking at getting into HRA for the first time but do not want to spend a fortune then this player is an absolute bargain as it sounds superb for the money, but if you are looking for the ultimate in SQ then this is not it but at this price you don't expect it to be either but what it does do it does well. Sony will probably sell a bucket load of these players as who the hell wants mp3 when you can listen to audio as it should be in glorious HRA!!! Hope you enjoyed reading and look out for more reviews as I am looking at doing more of these players but at different price points.