Sony released the first Walkman in 1979, a cassette-reproducing device, and still produces devices within the “Walkman” brand. They have gone a long way since those days, and Sony is one of the few companies that still believes in portable music-exclusive players.
Are these people hopeless romantics? Not only has Sony unveiled two new Walkman devices, but they are also fully-featured Android devices with a lot going on under the hood, compatible with dedicated PC software. This is in direct contrast to what Apple did when ending the iPod line.
In the case of Sony, two new models are being released, the NW-A300 and NW-ZX700.
NW-A300, the little guy
This device is an upgrade of 2019’s NW-A105, offering a more recent Android version, new processor, and design. It’s very small, measuring only 56.6×98.5×12 mm, which allows you to fit it in any pocket.
Even with its small size, buttons and connectors are very manageable, and the LCD touchscreen offers crystal-clear detail. It has a Qualcomm quad-core processor with 4 GB of RAM, and interestingly, it offers a fully-working Android system. It means that you might be able to use it for more things than just reproducing music.
Regarding music, it offers 32 GB of storage for your music and can handle many different file formats. However, the battery life decreases faster as the music quality increases. For instance, you can get 36 hours of playback with 44.1 kHz FLAC but about 32 hours of 96 kHz FLAC. Still, this is a lot of battery life when comparing it to a regular smartphone.
There’s Wi-Fi 802.11AC, Bluetooth 5, and USB-C 3.2 Gen1, so regarding connectivity, this small device has you covered. Additionally, there’s a MicroSD slot to expand the internal memory.
This device is not available in the USA, and it costs the equivalent of about $430 in Europe.
NW-ZX700, dedicated electronics for audiophiles
If Walkmans are your passion, then you should skip the NW-A300 and go for the similarly ugly-named NW-ZX700. It costs about $800 in Japan and has some interesting features that make it an interesting choice for audiophiles.
First, the processor is a Qualcomm QCS4290 with eight Kryo 260 CPUs and an Adreno 610 GPU. It has 64 GB of storage and a 5-inch display. So far, these are good specs, but most importantly, some exclusive features differentiate (and perhaps, justify) it from any smartphone.
The news here is that the NW-ZX700 has a built-in audio amplifier with large capacitors to offer some analogic features to your digital sound, large coils for balanced outputs, and more analog-electronic circuitry.
Aside from this, it has a Hi-Res S-Master HX digital amplifier which allows 384 kHz and 32-bit playback. Sony claims this amplifier can upscale your music to reach higher digital sample rates, thus improving the quality.
Finally, you can add a Vinyl Processor feature to your listening, which adds noises for more vintage playback.
The NW-ZX700 has a lot of features to justify its existence, something that’s not so easy to gauge for the NW-A300. After all, you can simply use your phone to listen to music. However, you won’t get dedicated audio processors, balanced outputs, and many other features out of your phone.
If you’re a music enthusiast, you should definitely give both a try.