The E585 Itself
Firstly, the E585 is a great piece of kit and after reviewing it, is one media player I’d look at myself if I was in the market. The tactile nature of the E585 is certainly a plus for me versus the common touch screen approach to devices such as smartphones and iPods. Having a dedicated music device with easy to follow and intuitive menus followed by solid physical feedback feels almost like being spoilt.
Volume is good, too. I tried the E585 with three different sets of ear/headphones including Sony’s own XBA-H3’s and my day-to-day Grado SR80i headphones. All three sets sounded great with me never having to go past 15 on the volume meter, 30 is the highest.
Actual sound quality from the E585 sounded great also. With all EQ stuff turned off, the bass was nice and punchy, high and mids were all defined and I have no reason to feel it’s producing a less than acceptable sound, if not a solid one for its size. I tried both FLAC and MP3 files and the E585 handled both with ease.
Sony quote the E585 of having 77 hours of music playback with MP3 files at a lowly 128kbit/s. I kept a FLAC rip of Arctic Monkey’s ‘AM’ on loop for 24 hours and the battery meter, as far as I could tell, was around the 50% mark so I can’t see Sony’s claims being unreasonable and this is huge capacity, really.
ClearAudio+ and noise cancelling
Taking ClearAudio+ for a spin first and the sound produced by the E585 seems to be a lot more centred where the soundstage is concerned. Sony’s aim with CA+ was to reduce the effect of stereo separation but with CA+ enabled it isn’t reduced, it’s all but gone. With stereo separation taking a hit, the effect isn’t necessarily in a bad way, and instead the stream produced is like that of a centre channel. In CA+ mode bass sounds more pronounced without becoming over-bearing and vocals definitely appear to take centre stage. Tracks that do have specific channel mixing do suffer, though, as far as their artistic direction is concerned however the CA+ algorithm may be preferential to you, for the most part I’d argue it is an improvement.
Arguably the most distinctive feature of the E585 was the noise-cancelling capability of the device and the included headphones. I tried the headphones on whilst out in Manchester city centre and also in the house with the computer’s fans purposefully set to loud and any sound cancelling that was going on wasn’t readily apparent over the cancelling in-ear earphones happen to do anyway. I tried the different settings in the E585’s options (bus/train and office) but neither seemed suited for the environment or made any difference to the passive isolation from the earphones themselves.