Sony A810 Review

sony a810 main Sony A810 Review

Sony never got too much play on this site since Sony locked all of their MP3 players into their proprietary media player SonicStage. I love their designs, sound quality, and battery life but SonicStage was so unbelievably terrible it kept me from picking up any of their players. Sony finally wised up and joined the rest of the portable music world making their devices MTP, thus being compatible with most media players and music services.

Sony will soon release the A820, an upgraded version with Bluetooth, larger screen, and larger capacities. However, the A810 should not be pushed aside; it is still a very viable MP3 player that will still keep up with anything in its class. It is a great choice for people not needing all the bells and whistles of its newer sibling.

  • Quick Look
  • Size: 1 3/4 x 3 1/2 x 3/8″ (44.5 x 88 x 9.6mm)
  • Screen: 2” 320×240 262k Color
  • Capacities: 2GB ( $120), 4GB ($150), 8GB ($200)
  • Audio Support: MP3, WMA, AAC, PCM
  • Video Support: MPEG 4, M4V
  • Rated Battery: 33 Hours Audio / 8 Hours Video
  • Photo Support: JPG
  • Transfer Protocol: MTP
  • Other Features: Premium Headphones
  • Complete Specs
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Accessories

Inside the box you will find a proprietary USB cable, premium headphones, headphone extension cable, dock insert, software CD, and the player. There are a few official Sony accessories for the A810 including a dock insert, Bluetooth adapter (WLA-NWB1), silicon case, and leather case. There are a few third party cases, silicon, leather and other materials.

Headphones

The included headphones are very impressive for an in the box headphone. You would have to spend better than $100+ on headphones for an improvement. Sony designed and engineered these headphones specifically for this player, some sound settings allow you to specify if you are listening to the headphones with or without the headphone extension. They may be slightly lacking in bass, but they are very clear and well balanced.

The earbuds fit inside your ear and come with small, medium, and large inserts, however they are not very good isolators which is not a bad thing but matter of preference. The cable is a J-style where one wire is longer than the other and without the extension they are about a foot long from the split. Adding the extension will give you another 24”.

Design

The design it typical Sony style and feel; something that has changed very little in the last decade. This is not a bad thing since it is still the same rugged and solid design you would expect to find on Sony’s products. Button tolerances are tight and depress with a precision typic
al of high end electronics.

The player is constructed mostly of a powder coated aluminum which is very resistant to scratching. Laying it on hard surfaces will not scratch the player. The outer rim of the player is a chrome-plastic; the plastic is a very hard plastic and could be mistaken for true chrome. The screen is made of a hard scratch resistant plastic. What is really nice about the screen is that it is slightly inlayed into the face of the player so that it will avoid scratching to the plastic screen if set face down on a hard surface. Overall the A810 is a typically well designed Sony.

Screen

The 2” 320×240 262k color screen is bright, quick, and accurate. Display angles are near perfect 180 degree viewing angles (although the glare off the screen may impede viewing depending on lighting conditions). Video is smooth, fast, and colors are vivid. Screens in general have reached near maturity at this size and resolution. While I have seen better, it is still quality and I am sure you would be happy with it.

Software / Media Transfer

I have always liked their MP3 players but their previous software, SonicStage, made Sony’s MP3 player practically unsuitable. Thankfully they have ditch SS and adopted a standard MTP protocol making it compatible with nearly all media players and music services.

Included on the software disc are Windows Media Player 11, Napster with 15 day trial, and an MP3 conversion utility. The conversion utility is easy but not really needed since most media players including WMP11 will convert to MP3.

Firmware

Sony rarely releases firmware updates so don’t expect to fumble around with messy updates. Why don’t they release new firmware? Well basically because they do it right the first time and release a player that is ready for consumers. Other companies should take note.

User Interface

The S810’s interface is not simple but it is intuitive. It will take you a quick minute to lean the various functions and what all the buttons, but once you are up and running it is a very powerful interface with everything only a few button presses away.

Music navigation is fairly standard Song, Artist, Album, Genre, ect, style hierarchical browsing. But Sony offers a nice little twist with an alphabet index at the top. By pressing to the right you can scroll though the top this index jumping you to the corresponding place in the long list of music. When I say alphabet index, it shows for example “A-D”, “E-H”, ect. The spacing adjusts dynamically for the length of the list.

In addition to the alphabet index at the top of the music navigation, on the home screen there is an “initial search” this shows an entire alphabet for artist, album, and song. You select a letter and it will take you to that part of your library. I am a little confused as to why this exists when it may have been better just to put the entire library at the top of the navigation instead of the index.

Battery

The batter life is rated at a phenomenal 33 hours audio and 8 hours video. The audio did stand up close to the rated coming in at over 28 hours. For video the player consistently played around 6 to 7 hours of video.

Instant On

One really impressive thing that the A810 does is it instantly turns on and does not suffer from battery drain (at least not noticeably). When I say it’s instant on, it is really instant on. The second you touch the button it is on almost as if it was anticipating your finger touching it- very impressive.

Pictures

The picture viewing function is very standard. Photos are viewed as thumbnails are can be organized with folders. Photos can be oriented horizontally, vertically right, and vertically left. Slide shows can be played with the intervals adjustable. Nothing much to see here… move along.

Audio

Playlists / Playback

I am disappointed that there are not on the go playlists, not even a single quick list. You still can make playlists with any MTP based media player.

The A810 is not suitable for audiobook listeners. Scanning works very slow and it would be painful to scan though an hour long track even ten minutes at that. Also to mention, there are no bookmarks. Update: When paused the A810 will scan though tracks at about 1 min per second making a little more suitable for audiobooks.

On the main screen in the top right there is a shuffle feature that will allow you to do a standard shuffle all and a “Time Machine Shuffle”. This feature is not impressive. You select it and it simply chooses a year and starts playing something from the year it selects. When it’s playing that selection it stops.

EU & Sound Enhancements

The A810 has a solid 5-band EQ along with a “clear bass” enhancement (which is just bass boost). The EQ only goes up to +3 and down to -3 in single integer increments per band. In addition to the EQ the player has a “VST(Surroud)” feature that will allow you to add various sound enhancements including “Studio”, “Live”, “Club”, “Arena”, “Matrix”, and “Karaoke” . They sound unnatural to me, but they are there if that is your thing.

There are a few sound enhancements one similar to BBE or SRS-WOW called DSEE (Sound Enhance). Like similar technologies it will compensate for lossy music. This actually works pretty well and comparable to BBE. There is another sound enhancement called Clear Stereo, this is specifically designed for the supplied headphones. I don’t know the technology behind it, but it noticeably improves the sound stage. What is interesting is that you need to specify if you are using the headphone extension or not.

Sound Quality

I find the sound quality to be exceptionally good; the player is well balanced thought the spectrum and can be compared with the higher end MP3 players. It sound much like the Sony HD5, which was one of my top picks for sound quality. If you want to get picky, I find the bass to be slightly cloudy. Be cautioned, the player is a bit underpowered for beefier headphones.

Video

The 30 frames per second looks very smooth. Sony does not include a conversation utility but that is not a problem since there are dozens of utilities already available to convert. Since the A810 is able to playback H.264 M4V files, any iPod conversion utility will work. Additionally, there are many PSP conversion utilities out there that will convert to for the A810 as well- you just need to set it to the right 320×240 size. On top of all this conversion utility goodness, any readily available video podcast in M4V are ready to play right from download. All in all, there is plenty available content that does not need to be converted and if it does there are plenty of utilities to convert them.

Conclusion

Sony has renewed my faith in their MP3 player line with this player and the main reason is the death of SonicStage and the move towards a standard MTP device. There is a lot of good in the A810 including great sound, tight design, and great battery life. I do however really miss the inclusion of an on the go playlist.

Buy the A810 if you are looking for amazing sound right out of the box, you do not need to upgrade the headphones unless you are a hardcore headphone snob. I do recommend the A810 even as an alternative for someone who does not need all the features (mainly Bluetooth) of the newer A820.

Comparisons

Pros

  • Instant Start Up
  • Great battery life
  • Solid Design
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Great sounding premium headphones
  • Nice User Interface
  • Solid Firmware

Cons

  • No on the go playlists
  • Not audiobook friendly (Slow scan, no bookmarks)
  • Volume Lock – Lacks power for heavy duty headphones

Purchase

You can pick up the A810 and many retail stores or you can find it for the best price and avoid taxes at Amazon. If you are in the UK or EU, AdvancedMP3Players will take care of you.




39 Comments

Alex M on February 22, 2008 4:55 PM

no bookmarking AND slow scanning does it for me :( Damn shame.

lightsout565 on February 22, 2008 10:41 PM

What took you so long. OMG! jk excellent review. I already purchased it and love it. It even took a dip in the toilet and still works. lol.

Tatami on February 23, 2008 5:36 AM

I definitely don’t need all bells and whistles of the newer sibling, but 8GB is still very short!

SwayDizzle on February 23, 2008 5:57 AM

which one do you think is better, iaudio D2 or this one?

selfnoise on February 23, 2008 8:20 AM

I have one of these and it’s a great pure MP3 player, with excellent sound, durability and interface. I do wish that it had some podcast-specific features but oh well.One note: the instant on is actually sort of a sleep feature. If you leave the player off for more than a day it will go to true “off” mode which then takes a second or two to boot up.

keybowvio on February 23, 2008 10:26 AM

Under the “design” section you refer to it as the “S810″I believe that you meant to say “A810″If not, totaly disregard this.Anyway, thanks for the review!

Plop on February 23, 2008 11:57 AM

The same mistake in the ‘User Interface’and the ‘EU & Sound Enhancements’ sections.

Sebastien on February 23, 2008 12:57 PM

I bought the sony s610 and I love it! One thing I noticed, though, and thought was an issue, was the scanning speed (or the fast forward?) It’s one thing that was mentioned in this review. I find that if you want to fast forward really “faster” you can’t. Is this something that can be fixed with a firware upgrade?

chris120783 on February 23, 2008 1:12 PM

Also, where’s the talk of radio and voice recording or lack thereof?Also, thanks for hopping on this as fast as you did! The Chris is pleased! :)

SwayDizzle on February 23, 2008 1:43 PM

if you want to fastforward faster, you’ll have to pause first and then fastforward to fastforward it faster(?) xD

Sebastien on February 23, 2008 2:24 PM

Thanks SwayDizzle!I tried it and it works! :)

Kjetil H. on February 23, 2008 8:05 PM

“You would have to spend better than $100+ on headphones for an improvement.”If true, that is nothing short of amazing. :-)

Kevin on February 24, 2008 1:25 AM

Apparently there aren’t any recording options for this. It seems awesome so far and that shouldn’t change my opinion seeing as how I don’t use it more than 3 times a year, but… it’s the small things that count.

Dave on February 24, 2008 9:50 AM

I have one and like it. The You Tube video sucks. Not a very good video review. Should have been talking about the features and not just have us watch you click around.

Mark on February 24, 2008 5:07 PM

Can anybody confirm that this player is able to handle wma lossless? Thanks

Marie on February 24, 2008 6:08 PM

I’ve had the A818 for a couple of months now and I’m very pleased with it. I listen to a lot of audiobooks and some of the files are over an hour long, so I’ve found an excellent free program called “AudioCutter” and this can split your files tracks down to 1-60mins, whichever suits you. I split my down to 5mins, and it works perfectly for me.As for the bookmarking, I emailed Sony about this, and I receieved a very “nice reply” stating that they were looking into this for the next firmware update, who knows if they will, but if they do then this player is perfect.

E0157H7 on February 25, 2008 9:36 AM

Too bad for Sony (and maybe me) that I just recently upgraded to a post-holiday returnfest Zen. I have always loved the construction quality and component standard of Sony audio products, but have been turned off by their awful software decisions. I haven’t owned a Sony PMP since my MiniDisc player many moons ago when OpenMG Jukebox (the predecessor to SS) made me want to bang my head against my desk.

Zizone on February 25, 2008 1:18 PM

You can pause then scan through the video or the song, which is very quick.

milkfat on February 25, 2008 3:43 PM

As other people have said: fast scan can be enabled by pausing audio playback prior to scanning. Also, scanning can be started from the end of a track by scanning backward from the beginning of the next track. I might as well mention that videos can be scanned very quickly by tapping forward or backward up to 3 times in succession.

sigsegv0x0b on February 25, 2008 8:15 PM

An interesting statement with the cloudy bass. What headphones did you use with it? I would say this player has about the most clear bass of any on the market. However some headphones do not mix well with it. For example the Atrios that are so liked on this site are decidedly a poor choice with this player because it does not suffer the bass roll off typical of all wolfson players (iPods, D2) so headphones with a large bass hump will become rather muddy sounding with this device. On the other hand something reference-quality like ER4 or Shure E4c will sound excellent with superb bass definition. On party headphones like the Atrios you might want to dial the bass via EQ.

EnzoTen (Grahm) on March 1, 2008 10:01 AM

I definitely agree with you on the Atrios, i have found they dont always produce the most accurate bass response… but, I also tested with the HD650 and found the same almost veiled bass. To me the bass sounds processed or artificial.

SwayDizzle on March 1, 2008 2:20 PM

hey enzo awesome review, which mp3 do you use? and which one d oyou think is better of these three: clix2, iaudio d2 or this sony?

sigsegv on March 2, 2008 2:50 AM

I would say that asking the Sony A810 to drive HD650 is a little unfair. They’re 300ohm. And these push pull type amps aren’t very friendly with high impedance headphones. For HD650 an ipod or a cowon d2 would be a better choice.The best choice for the Sony would be something around ~12-80ohm and preferably with fairly flat frequency response.Then again I find I enjoy the sound of it with bass heavy Super FI 5 Pro with a little EQ. +1 @ 6 and -2 at 0.4.I think you guys need to expand your choice of headphones you test with that are different from each other. Throw in something like Shure E4c or Etymotic ER4p or ER6 into the mix for a more neutral not extremely hard to drive headphone. Cause right now it seems that there are 2 extremes. The ‘party’ but easy to drive Atrios that agree well bass roll off players and very hard to drive HD650.Well whatever you like that is neutral and is below 80 ohms should do.

EnzoTen (Grahm) on March 2, 2008 1:57 PM

The Sansa Clip drives the HD650s quite well. The A810 is underpowered compared to what else is out there. I found the D2 to distort the HD560 easily at louder volumes.I did just order some Shure SE530s for the testing lineup. =)

David R on March 3, 2008 6:01 PM

Re the scan speed issue, I didn’t like this either, then found that when you pause the playback scanning is significantly faster.

Zoodar on March 5, 2008 8:36 PM

I don’t get why Sony makes DAPs when SonyEricsson has such a huge success with their Walkman phones. To me it feels like an internal fight. If Sony want the consumers to buy their DAPs they have to be atleast twice as good and worth the price if they are going to buy them, since with a Walkman phone you get a phone, a camera and a DAP. I’m clueless… O_o

andy on March 6, 2008 8:27 AM

can anybody tell me if the new range of these sony mp3 players have a line-out function like the older nw-hd models.cheers,

Zu on March 31, 2008 12:17 PM

Does anyone know if this will sync with Rhapsody?

Tootles on May 5, 2008 8:33 PM

Zoodar,I guess because the following people still exist:a. Those not wanting a Walkman phone (or all-in-one phones in general).b. Those already have a phone and now want a separate DAP.Thanks for the review btw, very helpful stuff :D

fred on May 23, 2008 6:46 AM

did you test the h264 video encoding? i remember on the 615 i couldn’t get it to accept any of the encodes i did using handbrake/xilisoft video converter and some other encoders. i’m pretty sure i had the right settings. i could only get it to accept mpeg4 videos..which looked very good. but i was kind of sad i didn’t get any h264 working. not sure if there would be a difference in battery life of course. and that would be pretty hard to test.

Charles.. on May 28, 2008 2:04 AM

How do you transfer videos !!?

Remaille585 on June 5, 2008 4:03 PM

I was hesitating very hard with the A820, until the last second in the shop, but I took the 810. And I don’t regret at all, in fact the 820 had not much more features : same video resolution. The sound is excellent, the design is superb, and even for watching videos, in spite of the tiny screen, it’s not unpleasant at all….It’s only 4 days since I bought it, and when I went back to my iPod mini, It suddenly appeared me huge and old, and I asked myself: how could I hear that for 4 years !!!

Remaille585 on June 5, 2008 4:04 PM

I was hesitating very hard with the A820, until the last second in the shop, but I took the 810. And I don’t regret at all, in fact the 820 had not much more features : same video resolution. The sound is excellent, the design is superb, and even for watching videos, in spite of the tiny screen, it’s not unpleasant at all….It’s only 4 days since I bought it, and when I went back to my iPod mini, It suddenly appeared me huge and old, and I asked myself: how could I hear that for 4 years !!!

Revy on June 10, 2008 6:39 PM

I am using Winamp to build playlists and I can transfer the mp3 files to the player no problem, but the player doesn’t seem to be able to find the actual “playlist” file.Can anyone help me out? I would be very grateful.

Anthony Sullivan on June 14, 2008 6:59 AM

Harvey Norman did a deal on a A815-paid $97 for it (Sony AU’s list price was $180).It was a sale price-was for the S615, but none was in stock, so the salesperson was able to do the A815 at the same price.

Warisz00r on June 15, 2008 3:37 PM

I still think the player is unable to do gapless playback — The Wall in my A816 have a 1 second gap between songs, while the exact same songs play seamlessly on Winamp.I found out if you play a song selected based on one of the criterion (artist, album et cetera) and then go to Options >> Playback Range >> Selected Range, the player will only play songs constrained to the selected criteria.A little Captain Obvious here, but I think it helps alleviating the lack of OTG playlists.Also, anyone have tried a firmware update yet?Waris out.

AFSlug on September 6, 2008 8:46 PM

Hello, i have a question.What king of USB cable does this use?What if i lose my sync USB cable, can i go to a PC or Cellphone store and easily buy another. Or “sony typical”, the device uses an “unique” type of USB connector only made by them.Thank You

AA on September 13, 2008 7:22 PM

A Sony WM-port cable (WMC-NW10) is used.

Nargaroth on September 17, 2008 4:53 PM

I’ve got this player on 8GB (A818), and i’m a little dissapointed for the lack of sound. The sound is loud but when the song has strong sounds,like percussion on rock, the sound rolls off.I wonder if this issue is on the A820 and A720 too.

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