Fresh off a BRI for the Questyle QP1-R and Aune M1S, I was not expecting for another impression/review for yet another DAP as I thought that the next one might be a good idea if I go for a shootout for $200 DAPs (yes, please standby for it, just amassing materials for that) so I thought I might hold off a DAP review in the meantime. Lo and behold, very good friend John Michael Jalata (Bugoy-Fi!) indulged me with yet another DAP BRI, this time with his Sony PCMD100.
So, the Sony PCMD100 has been in the market for sometime now and has been quite an easy target for a lot of personal audio enthusiasts in spite of it’s original use for recording. Enthusiasts figured out that given it’s high quality output, it is a viable option for a DAP and thus PCMD100 has become a staple especially for the experienced ones who would want an excellent balance in their gear.
However, not everything in PCMD100 is fruits and nuts; there are some sacrifices one has to consider when getting one. The PCMD100 is a classic case of toil to get such luscious fruits, so let’s get underway to find out what these are and how it fares with my tests.
This is a huge contraption. I mean, really, it is huge. Dimensions of the PCMD100 is, as indicated in the Sony website, “2 7/8″ x 6 1/8″ x 1 1/4″ (w x h x d) not including projecting parts and controls”. Imagine that, it is easily the size of almost twice of a Cowon Plenue D. It is hefty, and that is not even including any protruding parts such as the mic and the controls. However, it is pretty much understandable as it was designed as a recording tool and not exactly a music player. So an audio enthusiast will have to bear with the size and the weight (13.9 oz. including the batteries). Forget about pocketing the thing; it is virtually impossible to fit this in any pocket (that is a bold claim, but in a conventional discussion, it really is not going to fit most clothing pockets).
In front of the panel you can see quite a number of buttons which pretty much controls not only playback but recording as well. Lodged at the upper half of the front panel is the analog designed display of which should contain pretty much the information you need to see specific to recording functions. Then on top are two mics which, based on my test, is quite pretty receptive enough to do its job (I haven’t had the chance to compare it with other portable recording device, I have no plans on reviewing the recording function anyway).
On the left panel, you can find the headphone output terminal together with the line out terminal. Underneath the HO terminal is the volume control then farther down you can find the terminal for remote. On the right panel, you can find the Hold switch, Power switch, light button for the display, the recording level knob, the Line In terminal and the mic terminal in case you wish to use a separate mic for the purpose. You can also find the SD card slot at the right panel of the device. Beneath the device you can find the battery port which contains a cartridge that houses 4 AA batteries. Guess it will be best to prepare some Eneloops for the PCMD100 or you can always opt for a DC adaptor, but then that takes out the portability of the device.
Overall, the PCMD100 seems quite a durable device. Clunky it may seem, but this device feels quite tough as a rock. It will just really depend on the user if the bulk and the weight is going to be an issue.
What’s so good about the PCMD100 is the dynamics of the sound. True, it is designed to sound like a reference source, of which it did excellently, but what really made it so good is that the sound is so alive, not lacking in any department depending on the quality of the file you are playing and on the output device you are using with it. Let me go through some of my choice tracks (mind, I am using my Bengkel Macro Edimun V3 Rhodium with the sound test).
Elm (Clever Girl, No Drum And Bass In The Jazz Room)
The guitars are properly layered from the very beginning of the track. Strings sounded very crisp, while the bass guitars has its own place in the track and doesn’t overpower the guitar strings. Drums are concise, and I guess PCMD100 will be a great choice for musicians who are trying to emulate a certain track particularly for the drums. The brass is quite tingly but is never harsh, and the overall imaging of the track is quite tremendous using the PCMD100 together with the earbuds.
Over The Rainbow (Jane Monheit, Taking A Chance On Love)
Jane Monheit’s vocals sounded lush at the beginning of the track, with that oh so quiet background making the beauty of her voice emphasized. I particularly like how the silence in the PCMD100 is emulated to that of a balanced set up. Sax sounded airy enough although not to the point of overwhelming.
Iron Man (Ozzy Osbourne, Nativity In Black)
I particularly loved the reverb of the drums at the start of the track, as it actually is more seismic than just being rumbly. Guitars are very raunchy yet remained natural, which I think is one of the inherent qualities of PCMD100. Inspite of the rambunctious instruments in the track, Ozzy’s voice still remained transparent. Bass guitar has quite a good decay, while the extensions on the highs are still smooth.
Having said, the PCMD100 has got to be one of the most natural sounding portable source I have tried, as it keeps on giving without altering the tonality of the tracks at all.
Just a few caveats on the PCMD100, navigating through the folders/tracks/albums may be teeny bit too cumbersome if you have a massive collection of tracks loaded on your SD card. Also, there is a limit on the number of tracks you can store in a folder for it to be read by PCMD100, although in my assumption one won’t really store too many tracks in a folder anyway (I haven’t come across one who likes to). And as mentioned earlier, portability may be a bit challenging for the PCMD100 as it is heavy and huge, which means you automatically have to have a bag to carry it lest you want people to confuse you holding on a Pokedex. Don’t get me wrong though, I liked the industrial design and won’t really be bothered if people are talking behind my back about me possibly being an alien with such a contraption with me.
Other than that, I was happy with my experience using the PCMD100. Yes, it may be clunky, but if you are talking about excellent sound experience, this should be one in your list. I still have the Hifiman HM901S on top of my list, but to be honest this should be the second. I immensely enjoyed how honest the PCMD100 sounded, and how versatile it is in terms of synergy with my IEMs or cans. This device is truly a work of wonder.