Sony NW-WM1Z/WM1A DAPs

Discussion in 'IEMs and Portable Gear' started by mrweirdude, Sep 1, 2016.

  1. Mimouille

    Mimouille Facebook Friend

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    Still not in the headphone path. I have a pair as backup but really stick to IEMs.

    I might get a better USB DAC at some point but I guess the main issue is source. I might get an ADi RME DAC or a Hugo, but only if the Hugo 2 is at lower price. I really disliked Hugo but liked Mojo.

    Most likely I will take a Qobuz subscription as it allow you to buy high res at low price AND stream in high rez.
     
  2. EagleWings

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    Broadway does not have SE inputs. So Hugo 2 is out of the question. And even otherwise I wouldn’t recommend it, as it would be on the brighter side. RME DAC is a good option. I think the Broadway and RME have a similar footprint. Also, as you are located in China, see if you could get in touch with Matrix audio to borrow their Sabre X Pro DAC for an audition.
     
  3. Mimouille

    Mimouille Facebook Friend

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    The Broadway is just a loaner. I am not keeping it. It sounds great honestly but : 1) it is huge. 2) it is too powerful 3) I find it hard to juggle with grounding / buzz issues when plugging the Broadway and using the WM1Z as USB DAC
    Why would bright not be good? Is this Matrix DAC supposedly good?
     
  4. EagleWings

    EagleWings Friend

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    - I thought you were interested in the RME/Hugo 2 to use as a DAC to feed the Broadway. That’s the reason I suggested the Matrix DAC. But it looks like you are looking for a good sounding All-In-One (AIO) solution in a small form factor.

    - The problem with most AIO on the market is, if the unit is from an amp manufacturer, then the DAC section is usually meh. Or if it is from a DAC manufacturer, the amp or analog stage is usually meh. That maybe an over generalisation, but that’s been my experience.

    - I remember you telling on Nic’s thread that you want the device to be forgiving. Well, Hugo 2 is bright and unforgiving.
     
  5. Mimouille

    Mimouille Facebook Friend

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    Well things evolved. At first I thought SE6 was too unforgiving but I guess I got used to it :)
     
  6. Mimouille

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    I had a talk with the guys at Essence who have a hdmi 2.0 DAC. I wonder if that would be a good alternative to USB. But they tell me USB 2.0 and 3.0 are still better options than optical and coaxial as date transmission is faster?
     
  7. EagleWings

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    Is Essence like an audio store or a gear manufacturer? I tried a google search and couldn't find any info.

    I2S is an audio transfer protocol that could be implemented using different connectors. Some DAC manufacturers use HDMI, some use mini-HDMI and some use 4xRCA cables. It really depends on the manufacturer. I have heard from friends I2S is pretty good. meaning, definitely better than USB. But the problem would be, to feed a DAC via I2S, your PC should be capable of doing I2S output. If you are using a desktop, there are sound cards that can do I2S out. But with a laptop, you probably need to go for a USB to I2S converter as I haven't come across any laptop with built in I2S output.

    Sounds like these guys are Hi-Res and DSD junkies. SPDIF (optical and Toslink) can't do very high sample rates. So people who go for very high sample rate Hi-Res and DSD files prefer USB or I2S. For Spotify or Qobuz, Toslink and Coaxial are more than savvy to handle the data stream.

    I guess you are trying to build a proper setup as you are planning on moving to Qobuz soon. Here are your options:

    Option1: Simple Setup using USB
    PC >>USB>> DAC

    Option 2: Digital-to-Digital Converter
    PC >>USB>> DDC >>Coaxial/Toslink/AES/I2S>> DAC

    Option 3: Music Streamer
    Music Streamer >>Coaxial/Toslink/AES/I2S>> DAC
    (In this setup, you could use your PC or Smartphone to control the Music Streamer)

    I honestly think, even for Qobuz streaming, going for complicated setups would be an overkill. USB will keep you life simple.
     
  8. Mimouille

    Mimouille Facebook Friend

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    Yep, I think I will stop worrying about USB
     
  9. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    I gotten the WM1A new from TSAV (Thanks @netforce). Long ass post about the unit within a month. Taking my sweet ass time typing up everything.

    I can say it will work for a lot of people, but it comes down to what do you want in a DAP.
     
  10. Sp12er

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    Almost Forgot, but today is 1st of July, isn't it?
    [​IMG]
    Happy 40th Birthday, Walkman.
     
  11. netforce

    netforce MOT: Headphones.com

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  12. bengo

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  13. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Long ass review/impressions post. If you have questions on anything let me know.

    Introduction:

    So, I needed to make space in my bedroom. Long story short: Goodbye my audio rack. I haven’t used it in months, it was just gathering dust. Goodbye Jot, Goodbye Cans, Goodbye Ayre Codex, Goodbye This And That. I’m also 30, and my music habits has changed to IEMs/DAPs. It’s a sign of the times, which it is what it is. Cans will always have major benefits over IEMs, but what’s the point if I would be using it for only two hours a week max. I discovered that I been using IEMs for almost 15+ hours a week. Great for planes, at the office, or if I want to listen in the living room while my GF is sleeping. My apartment is lacking space, I share a 2 bed/2 bath with me, my GF, and another couple in a bid to save money on rent. Fun fact: Jacksonville, FL has one of the fastest growing rents in the country, and I feel the pinch. I don’t have an office, or a music room. I’ll just need to make do.

    So I been in heavy with the CA Andros + ZX2 combo. I think it’s great on my work travels and in the office. However, I wanted another DAP just for house use. Something that will provide better performance in different ways than my ZX2. The ZX2 runs on a very outdated version of Android (Version 4 Jelly Bean), and the hardware on the Android side is very outdated. For example, the current version of Tidal will not work on the ZX2, the last version of the app you can use on the ZX2 is a version from 2018. It runs slow, and at times the app will glitch up, but it’ll work. The music player from Sony still works great, but the more songs you have on your internal storage + Micro SD Card, the slower the database building will take. I also noticed that copying via the WM-PORT Cable is slow, like 4-7 MB per second to the SD Card and 10-12 MB per second to the internal storage. The good news is that the ZX2 does accept 512 GB Micro SD cards just fine.

    I love this Sony sound without the Sony Sound Management crap in the background. Highs aren’t annoying, midrange sounds natural without sounding fake, lows are on the organic side of things without being a bloated mess. Of course, with some IEMS you will hear the hiss if running the Tidal app or Pause/Resume on a track. Doesn’t bother me that much to be honest.

    Because I’m silly, I just want one DAP in my office bag and one for home. That’s where the WM1A comes in! Improvements are there in certain ways that will make people happy, and with a bet that this will be a long-lasting DAP for one thing: NO ANDROID. Great since you can focus on its internal storage or Bluetooth via LDAC for best performance. Is Sony stupid for not using Android on this DAP, no, not even close. With that being said, it isn’t for everyone. It’s for users who 100% know what they want in a DAP. It’s for users who like the Sony type sound from their DAPs, who at times what to use their cans with lower impendence on this, and other flexible options. But what about if you have a ZX2? That will depend on your goals, because if you are a light DAP user, maybe it might be cooler to keep the ZX2. But as I stated before, it’s all about what you want in a DAP. If you really are into Balanced Outputs, then that’s a major plus for the WM1A, since it comes with the 4.4mm balanced output. Woo…….

    Equipment Used: Focal Clear, Campfire Audio Andromeda (Medium Foam), Campfire Audio Solaris (Medium Foam), Fiio FH5, Sony ZX2

    Burn-In Notice: From reading the interwebs, WM1A owners were recommending burning in both the Balanced Output and the Unbalanced Output separately. Sony recommends in the manual plus the internal menu of the WM1A to burn in the caps for 200 hours. With that being said, I burned in both the Balanced and Unbalanced Output 200 hours separately. Stupid, yep, but trying to kill variables. Bite my hairy ass…..

    Firmware: 3.01

    Direct Source Note: I run my WM1A with Direct Source on in the WM1A. No EQs, processing features, none of that. Don’t have time to deal with it and I prefer straight like my whiskey and coffee.


    Unit Build Quality:

    Fun fact: Sony always makes amazing electronics, but it’s for niche markers. When Sony focus on something and put the R&D and $ into it, they can make amazing shit that doesn’t fall apart. I went through plenty of Playstations over the years, it’s consumer junk. I had their last Minidisc model like 10 years ago and that thing was nice with Hi-MD features. I swear it was built like a tank. I wish Sony wasn’t a true consumer electronics company, because they can make some of the best stuff in the market. I have this nice $20 Sony cube clock. It’s very black plastic, and feel like I can break it. Their smartphones are solid, I have the Xperia XZ1 Compact for my smartphone and I like some of the design features of it. Sony have very underrated design choices with regards to their nicer electronics (not the consumer level stuff).

    When I gotten my WM1A from @netforce via TSAV (Thanks Man!), I’m like this is just nice as the ZX2. Doesn’t feel like it was made like junk after holding it. Buttons feels great, it feels good holding in my hands. It reminds me of this old Walkman that I owned before, the uber legendary Walkman WM-D6C Professional Cassette Player. If you ever used one before, you know that’s was the bomb. Sony didn’t go cheap with those; the layout was perfect, and the quality was top tier. Now that was Sony to me: Making amazing stuff that for the most part MAKE SENSE IN ITS LAYOUT.

    WM1A feels uber solid, the weight is there just enough that it isn’t some cheap consumer electronic device. The LCD screen gets the job done, easy to read. I was told that people think this is a heavy DAP. I don’t think this is heavy (but the WM1Z is thou), but it isn’t the most portable DAP out there. I have an office bag which I can use to carry it out, I just put it there if I want to. Maybe I shouldn’t put it in my pocket, it’s too thick. Compared to the ZX2, I found the WM1A to be slightly shorter from top of bottom, but it’s more ticker. Compared to the WM-D6C, WM1A is uber lighter. The headphone jacks to Balanced and Unbalanced are good, but I feel it could be hard to pull the headphone jacks out of both connectors. Just don’t go crazy when you do that. It’s just a high-end device that doesn’t seem that you are getting ripped off. Could survive a few falls, but I got a simple case and a screen protector for it. The button layout on the side is simple and classic Sony Walkman to the core. MicroSD Card slot door works, and so does the WM-PORT connector. Focus on the basics. If you used Sony portable players in the past, you will feel right at home when it is in your hands.

    But I must say this, if you were used to having something like the WM-D6C, then the WM1A is a walk in the park with regards to weight. Plenty of people think the WM1A was too heavy, I thought it was fine.

    On a side note: f**k you Bryan for ruining my WM-D6C by using the wrong power supply, you autist. You also brought a roach infestation in my dorm room; I wish I didn’t save your white ass from scurvy. True story everyone, really.


    Unit User Interface/Hardware:

    The big deal here is Sony is using their own Linux OS for the WM1A, not Android on the ZX2. This has plenty of advantages: no bloat on the software side, and amazing battery life of over 20 hours of mixed use. The focus here is what does it retain to playing music on the WM1A. The UI moves fast, options are easy to understand and read. Updating music databases is leagues faster than the ZX2 and adding music to the WM1A via the WM-PORT (weakest part here) is a lot faster than the ZX2 with USB 2.0 speeds (about 30 MB per second loading songs to both internal and SD card via WM-PORT, but 11 MB per second loading songs into ZX2 internal and 5 MB on average per second loading songs into ZX2 SD Card). Of course, not everyone is going to like the progressive jpeg requirement if you want image art on the WM1A, but honestly it doesn’t bother me since I just play an album and shut off the screen.

    The side buttons like the ZX2 to me feels natural. It doesn’t feel stupid like my old Fiio X5 3rd Gen DAP. Some might say they prefer the smaller buttons of the ZX2, but I can dig the WM1A layout. It just doesn’t look stupid to me, and the UI is excellent.

    Since Sony is using their own OS and not Android, no Tidal/Qobuz/Youtube, etc. on the WM1A (however, you can stream to the WM1A using these sources from another device). In my experience using Android does waste more battery power than a company using their own OS. The ZX2 while it is an Android device, it can play Tidal and Qobuz on the same device. However, the ZX2 is running on an older version of Android (Version 4 Jelly Bean), and the current Tidal and Qobuz apps don’t work on it any more. The last version of Tidal that will work on the ZX2 was from 2018. I’m just using the ZX2 as an internal DAP, sounds great to me.

    However, the current FW of the WM1A does allow you to play music from the following three ways:

    · Internal Storage and SD Card

    · Bluetooth from a Bluetooth device with various codec support up to LDAC.

    · USB Audio

    I do believe with a special WM-PORT Cable, you can make the WM1A a digital USB transport to any DAC that will play nice with it. I didn’t test out this part since I don’t have a need for it.

    Getting this out of the way, the WM1A sounds best if you are playing songs from the Internal Storage and SD Card. However, the second-best way to play songs into the WM1A is actually via Bluetooth in my experience. Even on SBC Bluetooth it didn’t sound bad at all! LDAC from my smartphone running Tidal Masters to the WM1A was quite nice. I could live with LDAC for a while until the Bluetooth tech improves to be fully lossless. Also when running Bluetooh you can control Pause, Skip to Next Track/ Back Track the Bluetooth device you are using (you don’t have to use your phone or tablet or whatever to do these features). Damn, LDAC is nice. Using the WM1A as a DAC was disappointing in my experience. A second delay (which means Youtube will suck on it) and a lackluster sound when using it as an USB DAC was disappointing. It was missing the lushness that I was getting running songs from Internal Storage and Bluetooth. Avoid using it as an USB DAC unless Sony improves the drivers on it.

    And now we get to the 3.5mm Unbalanced Connection and the 4.4mm Balanced Connection part. Both parts need to be burn-in separately in order for them to sound great. Yes, the Unbalanced Connection is not bad at all on the WM1A if you just BURN IT IN! However, the 4.mm Balanced Connection is where Sony put more effort in. Doesn’t matter what I threw at it, there’s a noticeable improvement when running stuff in 4.4mm. When I had my Focal Clear, the WM1A was able to run it balanced at High Gain at 100/120 volume steps. I wish the WM1A can provide more drive to the Clear, but that was just a preference. I’m guess lower ohm cans the WM1A will drive them fine, but it will all depend if the WM1A will be a match for your cans. IEMs can slightly hiss depending on what are you using. My Andros and Solaris does lightly hiss but at much lower levels than the ZX2. Both with both IEMs, you can tell that Balanced is better than Unbalanced. The Fiios I could tell less, but then again, my Fiios are the basic IEMs that I use outside. I want to stress that Unbalanced is not bad if you have tons of IEMs and you don’t feel like cable swapping. Damn, the Solaris sounds good here Balanced.


    Sound:

    This section will be a lot shorter than the other ones, because I believe I can discuss it in using less words. And two this is a DAP that you can EQ the sound to the way you want it. But it comes down to this: Highs that are relaxed major focus on the midrange being wonderful to listen to, and an organic low-end that doesn’t sound artificial.

    I always use 11 Tracks Of Whack by Walter Becker to test if the highs just bugs the hell out of me. This album uses an digital drum machine that sounds so digital that makes my head hurts. It plays wonderful on the WM1A, the highs sound like butter, smoothing it out. Of course, this will not be everyone’s favorite thing. But I love it, makes digital sounds very enjoyable to listen to. I noticed on David Chesky - Club De Sol that there was some higher frequencies detail that was hard to tell at times due to the smoothness of the highs. While I still think this is enjoyable for me, it may not be for you. Those who want a V-Sound should either try another IEM/Headphone, or EQ the hell out of it. I don’t like EQing as I said earlier in this review, so your mileage may vary.

    Midrange to me is what Sony got right here. It’s very similar to the ZX2. It isn’t the most detailed midrange on a DAP, maybe the Sabre DAPs can do a better job with it, but it is quite enjoyable. Steely Dan – Aja sounds great on the WM1A since the recording was great to begin with. Male Vocals from Donald Fagen has some heft with the female background vocals sounding great. Yes, perhaps I can use another hardware to pull even more details from that album, but it is just how presents it makes me not care for the extra details. It’s like a whiskey that does down to you smooth. Depending on your IEM/Can, there’s real soundstage here! It’s on the warm side to me, but slightly warmer like the ZX2 with the SoundProcessing turned off. If you want a slightly touch of warmth, the WM1A will do just fine. If you want warm poo, get something else. I think this is why I slightly prefer the Andros on the ZX2 than on the WM1A. It isn’t a big difference between the two, it comes down to preference. The slight extra warmness to me on the ZX2 makes the Andros sound slightly more richer.

    Bass depending on the IEM/Cans can be lacking with bass heft or has plenty. Bass response from the Solaris on Weather Report (1982) brings out the drum impact and Jaco’s playing at time. Same album on the Focus Clear I thought it was lacking. Rap/HipHop does sound good with Dr. Dre – The Chronic providing clean bass response on my IEMs. With that being said, the WM1A with no EQing will give you bass that doesn’t found fake. I can see why some people who like Hip-Hop would not want to use the WM1A, unless you want to get a V-Sound IEM or EQ the hell out of it. I prefer my clean Bass sound that doesn’t sound fake, so I’m happy here.

    Final:

    I don’t miss my main rig that much anymore. The WM1A does a great job for my needs being my main setup with using the Solaris. Main desktop rigs will always have benefits over DAPs/IEMs, but I’m happy with the combo. I’m using the WM1A at home, while the ZX2 is my traveling DAP. Between the ZX2/WM1A there isn’t too much if a major difference sound signature wise, it is more comes down to what you want to use the hardware for. ZX2 nowadays is great just as an Internal Storage DAP only, while the WM1A will have the better battery life, and it offers Bluetooth and USB Audio if you care about it. Not everyone wants to use two devices (one to stream LDAC for example to the WM1A) for their audio setup, they want everything in one package. If that’s the case, don’t get the WM1A. With that being said, the WM1A will have a long life since I don’t think portable DAPs tech will change too much. Most of what people listen to is still 16/44, and this does play up to DSD128 I believe nativity. Not having Android on it free it from having outdated hardware on the software side in a few years (my ZX2 does run slightly slow and its database building is leagues slower than the WM1A due to using Android 4.0). Yes, Andros sounds slightly better on the ZX2 with the SoundProcessing stuff off, but it isn’t a big deal. If you love the Sony sound and want a no BS DAP without the flaws of Android, this one should be on the top of your list.

    So long term the WM1A isn’t going anywhere, what else to improve on it besides Android/APK support? You decide what’s important to you in a DAP before you think about the WM1A.
     
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2019
  14. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    As a FYI FW 3.02 just came out, the only upgrade is better track changing performance on Bluetooth. Nothing else changed.

    So On my review post above I was harsh on USB DAC performance for Windows. So I was messing around with my Android phone using UAPP being the transport, and feeding it to the WM1A. SO MUCH BETTER than using windows. UAPP as a transport works like a charm. Too bad the UAPP Setting for Enable USB DAC Buttons doesn't work on the WM1A (can't play/stop/change tracks on the WM1A itself unlike using it in Bluetooth).
     
  15. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Update #3:

    Android with UAPP > WM1A is still very good to borderline excellent. In matter of fact, I discovered that you can stream PCM/DSD nativity via uPnP with UAPP > WM1A. So from my Thinkpad I can stream whatever I want to an Android device. Then from USB to WM-Port, the data will get in the WM1A bit-perfect. I stated back in Aug that Windows USB with the WM1A was hot trash, but for some reason using Android sounded a lot better I guess everything running on batteries or maybe no Windows, I dunno.

    So for the two people who care about this feature, yes, USB DAC will do DSD bit-perfect on an Android device running on UAPP. The catch is when you connect both devices together, you must first play a PCM file for a few seconds. For some reason this will activate the USB DAC feature on UAPP to fully control the DAC that's inside the WM1A. At that point you can play anything you want file wise bit-perfect. However, the USB DAC feature must be turned on in UAPP + all settings must be on bit-perfect in UAPP as well. If not, then WM1A will resample DSD up to 384 PCM. There was improvement running bit-perfect regardless.

    So it is like this, it's a smallish streaming/source/amp for my IEMs and easy to drive cans if you have them. No need for a streaming box if that's your thing. Keep in mind if you want to change tracks or stop/pause you have to use your Android device for that. Even putting on a feature in UAPP to have your USB Buttons work with UAPP, the WM1A buttons will not stop/pause or change tracks.

    Now I do believe this will work as well with the ZX300 as well.
     
  16. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    And their best stuff sounds great as well, at least the way I like it: transparent and clean.
    I owned their HAP-Z1ES, essentially a great DAC with a hard drive, and will always regret selling it. That device remains for me the symbol of the quality of engineering, they build it for one function only and it was the reason why it was so great, and also the reason why it tanked on the market and Sony stopped its production. People,including me, wanted streaming.
    For high end DAP I went with A&K Kann Cube, and with Campfire Vega it is an amazing combo, but I do have second thoughts when I am reading about WM1A.
     
  17. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Well isn't it the Kann Cube more of a neutral sounding DAP with so-so battery life? I stated in the DAP Talk thread, my big issues with Android based DAPs nowadays is the battery life (unless you put a giant battery inside) + using an OS that was designed for a Smartphone, not a music player.

    At least with the WM1A it is using Sony's own OS, and battery life is great on it. Not everyone is going to like the Sony sound signature. People just prefer using Android's DAPs due to APK support. However, I feel the older the Android OS is on a DAP, it is going to lose some features sooner or later due to the SOC is going to have a harder time keeping up with current APKs. At least a custom made OS without Android can last for a long time IMO.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2020
  18. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    Ka
    Kann Cube is indeed neutral sounding, and battery life greatly depends on the amplifier gain and the type of headphones it needs to drive. But Kiann Cube can drive 600 Ohm AKG K240 DF or big planars as good as any similarly priced desktop system.
    The only thing left of Android on the A&K Android is Open App Service, means they do run selected, vetted by A&K applications. OS base does not matter, what matters is that a DAP does not use Android resampling and none of the A&K DAPs does it. When you listen to SP2000 you need to make a huge mental effort to remember that there are traces of Android code under the hood.
     
  19. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Very fair what you are saying. I'm more curious on how A&K does their "vetting" on the APK apps? While I never heard of the SP2000, I honestly think the device is bling bling overpriced. So my biggest issue with the Kann is you have to use their 5-pin XLR for their best input. I'm like do we need another weird balanced input? I think the 4.4mm is a good balance between something that's too small like the 2.5mm and something that's too large like the 4-pin XLR.

    One thing that I respect Sony in general is their design. It's borderline fool proof, and no volume wheels that could fall off or stop working in time.
     
  20. wormcycle

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    There is big misunderstanding about 5 pin XLR. This is balanced line out. Unlike SE output, you cannot feed a balanced amp from a DAP balanced headphhone output, 2.5 or 4.4. It is missing a ground connection.
    Here is better explanation https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...hannel-advice-thread.3191/page-29#post-276111
    But SP2000 is definitely overpriced.
     

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