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Willy (tested with Thieaudio Monarch mk2 and Hifiman Arya)
The WM1ZM2 has an charming tonality—warm, rich, analog, slightly more to the dark side, very musical and comfortable for long time listening. It sounds like an upgrade of 1st gen with much better clarity & larger sound stage.
The Sony WM1AM2 sounds more different with the previous gen. The new version overall is clearer and more transparent. The tuning is closer to the ZX507.
Cayin N8II has the best details among all. Vocal is more forward but the sound stage is very lively and 3D. Treble is brighter than the Sony and SP2000T. Personally prefer the tube setting, harmonics and resonance sounds more natural. Solid state setting is with better details but also sounds more digital.
Using the Thieaudio Monarch mk2 IEM on the WM1ZM2, details are less resolving but this combination sounds very analogue. On the N8ii wise, the Monarch mk2 sounds clearer and more detailed, and overall SP2000T has the nicest vocals by comparison, which is sweet and airy. WM1ZM2 is a very good choice for someone that can’t take too much treble and prefers a full body & analogue sound.
A&K SP2000T has the widest soundstage among the players. Its solid state setting sounds a little bit too bright to me, however it has some of the best details. Shanling M9 has good details, big sound and being the most affordable TOTL dap player, but the tonality is less charming to me.
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Prefers WM1Am2 tuning compared to the WM1Zm2. Overall both models have much better technicalities compared to the previous gen with more texture and control.
The WM1Zm2 does sound better than WM1Am2. It has a more intimate soundstage.
Cayin N8ii Class AB mode has slightly more airy sounding and better details than 1Z and 1A, but it could sound more artificial at times.
The SP2000T's tube setting doesn't sound as clear, as sometimes the body might sound too mellow.
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Not as warm sounding as the OG gold brick, which needed an update badly to compete. The updates on the WM1ZM2 by Sony allows it to stand with current TOTL DAP from other brands.
Noteworthy is the bass having a high degree of control, I enjoy how the slam comes in and slowly decays off (still not DMP-Z1 level of control but getting there sometimes)
Like the Gen1, driving power is still not as strong (1ZM2 & 1AM2 being lowest of the bunch) even on high gain, but at least the Legendary Battery life is still remaining.
(tested 29+ hours with Walkman Music Player / 9+ hours streaming 3rd party apps)
My favourite all rounder of the bunch, does everything like the WM1ZM2 except the overall technicalities and sonic performance being a slight step down from WM1ZM2. A leap from the WM1A with faster paced sound, uplift on trebles which I appreciate greatly but feels slightly more brittle at the end compared to WM1ZM2.
Astell&Kern SP2000T (tube mode)
Smoother treble and more natural sound when compared to the SP2000, I don't consider it a step down from the SP2000 model. Easiest of the lot to pair with most earphones, in particular I really like how the vocals are presented on the SP2000T (probably favourite from this list)
Cayin N8ii (tube mode)
High volume output and driving power. Extremely detailed and energetic sound and by far the biggest QoL improvement that Cayin can do, overhauling the operating system, replacing it with Android OS + Snapdragon SoC, lagless operation, snappy response.
Finally the N8 model that everyone deserves.
Good imaging, feels like having the smoothest (a bit rolled) treble presentation of the bunch, powerful bass with big slam and extended rumble.
Gigantic screen with lagless, smooth Android OS implementation, the experience could've been 100% but unfortunately marred by the Apple style notch cut out up top.
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Hai Wei (Tested with Hifiman Arya)
Both Sony models do not have enough power to drive Arya, but the tuning suits the Hifiman Arya well. They sounds very close between the 2 except the vocals; the WM1Zm2 sounds smoother and more natural and has a bit more micro details. WM1Am2 sounds more laidback, with a bit more sustain. The 1Am2 has more bass slam, but the 1Zm2 sounds richer and more analog.
First impression on Shanling M9 is not bad; quite powerful and impactful. After long listening sessions, M9 sounds solid, but it is not the most resolving one.
Cayin N8ii has spacious soundstage and good separation, sounds a bit thin when pairing with Arya. The SP2000T sounds great and sweet, especially with vocals.
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Kah Hon (Tested with Sony IER-Z1R, IER-M9, Thieaudio Monarch Mk2, Sony MDR-Z1R)
Sony players overall have a noticeable sonic upgrade/step up compared with previous generation, the overall house tuning remains the same; warm with very good details and black background. When testing with the IER-Z1R, the Sony WM1ZM2 seems to pair better compared to the WM1AM2, with more treble sparkle and slightly better separation which compliments the iem tuning nicely.
Compared to the Cayin N8ii, on first impression, the N8ii stands out more on intial listening; sounding more dynamic, warm and slightly deeper bass response. However after some time, the WM1ZM2 sound signature is more palatable and less fatiguing.
The SP2000T has the cleanest and most neutral tuning; while the tube and hybrid function does add a bit more warmth, it's still more clinical sounding compared to the Sony's DAPs.
The Shanling M9 sounds very flat and clean. Personally find the M9 the most uncolored/neutral sounding among all the lineup. The Sony models strike a good balance with being clean sounding, but have enough saturation and dynamics to sounds fun and enjoyable.