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Sony Walkman low volume problem
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I recently bought a Sony Walkman NWZ-E454 and I thought the volume level seemed low, which indeed it was compared to an older model I have. This post details my findings, which will hopefully help others with this same problem. If anyone from What Hi*Fi reads this, pershps you could highlight this problem in the magazine.

Checking on the Internet confirmed quite a number of people reporting the same issue. It is due to Sony comlying with some EU directive to limit volume in such devices to protect people's hearing. Whilst that is a noble cause, there is no way to override it, epecially in situations where that might be desirable, such as listening to quiet music in a noisy envionment, using less sensitive headphones, and playing music through the line level input on an amplifier, when it is necessary to turn the vloume control a long way up on the amplifier.

The way in which the limitation is made is via the sound protection system (SPS), which is different from the AVLS which the user CAN control. You can check if SPS is on using 'Test Mode', which needs a specific key sequence to enter (search the Internet for your model and 'test mode'). However, for my model, and I'm sure many other recent ones, it is ABSOLUTELY NOT possible to change the SPS mode setting using the test menu. Reports that people may have done so are probably down to people takng the VIDEO OUT option from the test menu, which the service manual warns against because it can set the destination to Japan, with default language of Japanese, and a strange FM range which is no use in the UK. I know because I did it!

The only way to change the destination, which sets the language, FM range and SPS is to use some sofetware called the 'Destination Setting Tool', which is only nornally available to Sony staff. Fortuanately I found a friendly service centre which emailed me the files (folder NWZE35XE45X_DEST_Setting_EU. I first ran the WMT_CEW (Western Europe) version, which got me back to the original state, but with SPS enabled. I then tried the WMT_CEV (a different part of Europe) file and at last SPS was disabled! I now get the volume I used to have at 30 at 15.

I think this volume problem should be made widely known, so people don't buy units and are then disappointed, and I think Sony should be lobbied to make SPS an option which can be switched off under user control, after a suitable warning has been given.

MajorFubar's picture
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

Unfortunately, even though you've listed some very good reasons why you might want to disable it, I don't *think* Sony are allowed to offer it as an option because, again as far as I'm aware, Nanny EU has governed the maximum output level so we don't damage our ears. Maybe someone with a better understanding than me of EU law can clarify.

Anonymous
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

I think you are probably correct and that it may be part of some commercial agreement so they can sell in Europe.  However, as I understand the situation, Apple and other manufacturers do not impose this limitation, so I don't know why there's a difference.

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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

All Apple portables - including iPhone, IIRC - are also limited under EU law. All portable music devices are/should be if they're going to be legally sold here.

There are ways to get round it, mind you.....

We would suggest using better headphones - specifically noise-isolating/cancelling designs. They mean you can keep the volumes lower, which is better for your ears anyway.

Another option is a portable headphone amplifier - like the litle Fiio boxes - that will boost your performance as well as your volume levels.

 

Group Marketing & PR Manager, Computers Unlimited.

Brands represented include Astell&Kern, Audioengine, B&O Play, Canton, Flexson for SONOS and SONOS

TWITTER: @ClareNewsome

Anonymous
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

Thanks for clarifying the situation with Apple, Clare, and I agree about protecting your ears as much as possible.  However, as you point out, there are reasonably easy ways to change those devices, which is not the case for the Walkman.  That was really what I was asking for.

I do also have noise-cancelling headphones, but they are less sensitive than my buds, and I know from experience that even with n/c switched on, listening eg to quieter classical music on a plane needs the volume turned up.  The output from the limited Walkman is just not enough.

It's true that there are devices like the Fiio, but I don't want to have to carry another (admittedly small) box around, keep it charged up, pay money for it etc, especially just to get back to the situation I would have had if the limit had not been imposed in the first place!

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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

As usual it's a law with good intentions which falls over because it's been poorly thought out.

As I understand it, the law limits the headphone-output on portable devices to a certain level of millivolts (sorry I can't remember what), which some bod has concluded equates to something like 80db when playing a digital file that peaks at 0db. That should be ample loud enough.  But the weakness is that such a simplistic blanket rule fails to recognise firstly that different headphones have different sensitivities and secondly that not all music is mastered with the needles permanently bouncing off the end-stops (rare though that is these days).

The fact that there are legal devices which circumvent the law somewhat makes a mockery of it.

Must say I also fundamentally oppose some Eurocrat dictating how loud my personal players should play. But, hey, since when did we have a say... Beee

Anonymous
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

Quite right Major, very irritating intrusion by our EU cronies. Years ago I had a special headphone box that fed 2 headphone sockets for multi use. This box was fed from the speaker outputs with no attentuation so one can imagine it went fiendishly loud. Next thing EU will do is probably visit concert venuew and ask them to turn the volume down, can just imagine what response that would bring from Status Quo!

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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

The info I have found http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/6240432/EU-calls-for-volume-limit-on-MP3-players.html

says that it is legal to override the limit,as long as the danger is made clear to the user. Unless this info from the Telegraph is wrong (and it can hardly be called a friend of the EU) it seems more of a problem with the way manafacturers have implemented the regulation. I certainly had no problem getting round the restriction my sandisk which was purchased this year.

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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

I too have a Sony Walkman (NWZ-A847) which is quieter than all other Walkmans I've owned over the years. I've been waiting for a way of removing the 'EU volume cap' for a while but in the meantime I bought a FiiO E5 and was mightily impressed. It is a bit of a pain carrying round another 'box' to get the sound I want, but it works and it's cheap enough to buy. Might try and get my hands on the files detailed by the OP and have a go....

 

Anonymous
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

The Major is spot on with his analysis.  If a limiter were based on actual SPL measured in the ears, then it would take account of all variables.  In addition, there have been proposals to base limits on average SPL over a period of time, which would make even more sense and relate more directly to damage caused by continued exposure.

Target - of course be sure to get the files for your specific model.  Try a local service centre.

Anonymous
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

The instructions for setting the destination for the NWZ-E35x (and 45x) can be found on pages 4-5 of the service manual at http://averbouch.biz/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/NWZ-E353.pdf.  It will at least give an idea of how to do it for other models too.

Anonymous
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

The instructions for setting the destination for the NWZ-E35x (and 45x) can be found on pages 4-5 of the service manual at http://averbouch.biz/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/NWZ-E353.pdf.  It will at least give an idea of how to do it for other models too.

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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

I've emailed my friendly (hopefully!) Sony service centre and asked nicely for the 'Destination Setting Tool' for my model. I'll let you know what happens...

TargetDummy's picture
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

Well there's a surprise, my local Sony centre have never heard of the tool. Any suggestions for other ones who might be more willing to help (mine is the one in South Yorkshire). Thanks

Anonymous
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

Try calling them.  I did and gave them the model number and explained I needed the "destination setting tool".  The guy looked it up (he had a slightly different name for it) on the Sony (intranet) system in a few moments, and then emailed it to me.  He also asked if I wanted the instructions, but I already had those (connect your player, run the updating-mtp batch file from an unzipped folder, and enter "y" <return> at the prompt.  Some text will appear on the player's screen to show progress. Good luck!

PLEASE NOTE - VERY IMPORTANT - THE PROCESS RE-FORMATS THE PLAYER'S MEMORY, SO COPY ALL FOLDERS AND FILES TO YOUR PC BEFORE YOU START!!!

Anonymous
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RE: Sony Walkman low volume problem

Hello, now I have same problem with my NWZ-E454... :wall:  and I want you to help me with these "magic files". So if you can - email me them to get pleasure for listening FM-radio...  :help: 

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