Sony launches pleasantly affordable high-resolution Walkman
There's often quite a price premium for folks who prefer hi-res portable audio over a ubiquitous smartphone and a pair of cheap earphones. Indeed, the company who kicked off personal groove machines has been known to charge a small fortune – which makes the latest Walkman something of a pleasant surprise.
The pocket cassette players and accompanying on-ear headphones that Sony launched in 1979 changed the way we consume music, morphing to MiniDisc and CD formats before going digital 20 years after the launch of the first Walkman. The first of the series to run Android was introduced in 2011.
Though you can grab a Walkman digital music player for under a hundred bucks, a Signature Series premium device will set you back nearly four grand. The new A Series NW-A306 comes in at a fraction of the cost but does sport some of the high-end features of that flagship DAP.
There's the S-Master HX digital amplifier developed for Walkman players, which has been designed for low distortion and noise, rocks native DSD, and employs reflow solder containing gold that's reported to improve sound localization and help deliver a wide soundstage. The A306 can handle 24-bit/96-kHz PCM audio, and is also able to convert PCM to 11.2-MHz DSD for "natural sound and intense detail."
Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE) Ultimate technology upscales digital audio for higher fidelity in Wi-Fi streams or downloads, and can even help improve the listening experience through wireless headphones. Those who prefer higher listening quality are accommodated with a 3.5-mm 4-pole headphone jack for wired ear candy.
Sony has included its immersive 360 Reality Audio technology, Bluetooth comes with support for Sony's high-resolution LDAC codec, as well as aptX HD and MQA, and there's an onboard vinyl processor that can "give the warmth and character of vinyl back to your digital tracks."
Playback can be controlled using physical buttons or the 3.6-inch touch display, where users can take advantage of a cassette tape UI and screensaver for a funky retro vibe. Onboard storage is a disappointing 32 GB, though this can be expanded courtesy of a SD card slot.
The unit's battery is charged over USB-C and is reported good for up to 36 hours when playing 44.1-kHz FLAC files, 32 hours of 96-kHz FLAC or 26 hours when streaming.
The NW-A306 goes on sale this month for US$350.
Product page: Walkman NW-A306