“The '80s called, they want their Walkman back,” is no joke. Sony has indeed reintroduced that decade's most ubiquitous portable music player.
As you might imagine, there are some significant differences from the original Walkman, which played cassette tapes through lightweight headphones while clipped to your belt, and the new High Resolution NW-ZX2 Walkman unveiled this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.
The original Walkman was all about freedom and portability. No longer did you have to sit in front of a hi-fi to enjoy music. You could listen to it while you walked, exercised or commuted to work. The sound was pretty good, even if you did have to put up with the background hiss from analog tape.
All about sound
The new Walkman is all about sound. Sony says it has applied unique audio technologies that bring listeners closer to what the original performance sounded like as it was captured.
Along with the new Walkman, Sony rolled out its new MDR-1ABT wireless headphones and the PHA-1A headphone DAC/amplifier, all designed to more exactly replicate an artist's performance.
"We have been focused on developing products that will reproduce the ultimate sound quality from any location," said Mike Woulfe, a senior vice president at Sony. "Sony's new portable audio line-up represents a new music experience for consumers where environmental restrictions no longer exist and they can freely enjoy the best music, regardless of where they are."
Sony's competition in marketing a music player is Apple's iPod and the smartphone you have in your pocket or purse. After all, today's phones play high quality music and hold hundreds of songs. So why buy a device that just plays music?
Appealing to audiophiles
Sony is appealing to audio purists, who not only love music but want the best reproduction of it possible. Its new Walkman has a multitude of controls and connectivity features, as illustrated in this video review by The Verge.
Sony says the Walkman NW-ZX2 can reproduce master quality recordings just as the artists originally intended. The digital amplifier, developed for hi-res audio playback, is designed to reduce distortion and noise while reproducing wide frequency response for a clearer acoustic experience.
When it streams sources that are not hi-res, Sony says the amp “upscales” -- also known as "upsampling" -- the signal to provide a higher quality sound.
The NW- ZX2 supports digital music files up to 192 kHz/24 bit and plays MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, AIFF, WAV and ALAC files. It also comes with 128GB of built-in memory, as well as micro SD card slot, Wi-Fi and a Lithium-ion battery that Sony says provides up to 60 hours of music playback per charge.
When the Sony Walkman was introduced in the U.S. in 1980, it cost around $200. The new Walkman will retail for as much as $1,200 when it goes on sale later this year.