In the spirit of full-disclosure, I received review products from Sony Electronics, however, no payment was given or expected. All opinions given here are fully my own.
When was the last time you listened to music on something other than your phone or computer? If you’re like me, you probably can’t remember, and Sony is working hard to change that with their ever-evolving technology. They’ve created two new Hi-Res devices, and audiophiles everywhere need to take heed.
But first, what exactly is Hi-Res audio? The term High-Resolution in relation to music simply means the music possesses a higher volume of more musical information than that of a standard CD. What many people don’t realize is that most music is originally recorded at a quality level much higher than what you hear on the actual CD, and Sony is making it easier to hear that quality come to fruition with the NWZ-A17 Hi-Res Walkman and the MDR-1A Headphones.
At first glance, the Walkman possesses a beautiful spun brushed aluminum finish, and its craftsmanship is unprecedented. The Walkman boasts a 2.2-inch color display with backlit white LED, a MicroSD memory card slot, a 3.5mm headphone jack, USB data port, hold button and volume buttons. It’s extremely lightweight (2.4oz) and comfortable to hold in the palm of your hand. But don’t let its size fool you, because what it lacks in size it makes up for in sound.
The NWZ-A17 is compatible with a variety of lossless and lossy digital audio formats, ranging from MP3s to Hi-Res files that are above CD quality up to 24bit, 192kHz. Perhaps most notably, however, is the introduction of S-Master HX. S-Master HX was uniquely developed to reduce distortion and noise at wider frequency ranges, resulting in sound that’s much more detailed, delicate and dynamic. S-master reduces the possibility of noise to an absolute minimum.
Another notable feature is the seemingly never-ending battery lifespan, thanks in part to the highly energy efficient s-master amp. The Walkman NWZ-A17 offers up to 50 hours of MP3 playback and 30 hours of hi-resolution audio playback on a single charge. To compare, the iPod Nano gives just 30 hours of regular MP3 playback.
With 64GB of built-in memory (56.8GB of which is free to use) and a microSD memory card slot, there’s always room to grow, which is especially important for people like me who are constantly adding to their music library.
In addition, the A17 is Bluetooth compatible. But while you can listen to music from it wirelessly, I would highly recommend pairing the powerful device with its equally powerful and perfect companion: the Sony MDR-1A headphones.
I never really realized the importance of a good pair of headphones until earlier this year when I invested in my first pair of high-end headphones (AKA, non-earbuds). As a music editor, it’s pretty essential that I have comfortable pair of headphones that don’t lack in sound quality, and I thought I had found my perfect match when I purchased the Sony Extra Bass Bluetooth Headset. Before I bought those, I compared them to Beats, Bose, Skullcandy and a plethora of others in the store. I also did a fair amount of research before finally deciding on the Sony’s. I thought they were perfect! Nothing could be improved! This was the best it was going to get! That is, until, the MDR-1A’s came along.
The Sony MDR-1A’s offer an incredible listening experience. When comparing them to the Extra Bass Bluetooth headphones, the sound quality is almost unparalleled. The MDR-1A’s offer a crisper, cleaner, louder and all-around better sound. And lest we forget how comfortable they are. They are, hands down, the most comfortable pair of headphones I’ve ever worn, even more comfortable than the cushy Sony Extra Bass’s. Comfort is a huge priority for me in headphones as I wear them for six or more hours a day, and the MDR-1A’s definitely lack nothing in the comfort department.
The MDR-1A’s and the Walkman A17 are a match made in heaven. The difference in sound when using the headphones with a computer or smartphone is incomparable, and you will notice a difference right away when switching between listening platforms.
After weeks of testing out with the Walkman and comparing it to my regular form of listening (on my iPhone or computer), I’ve got to hand it to the Walkman. As someone who has always been an iPod person, I thought it would be nearly impossible to convince me that anything better existed for my personal musical needs, but the Walkman definitely exceeded my expectations.
Coming in at a cool $299.99, the Walkman definitely isn’t something everyone absolutely needs to have. It’s a luxury device. If you aren’t a stickler for quality and are OK with your average smartphone-quality sound, this wouldn’t be the right investment for you. However, if you’re an audiophile who listens to music for hours each day (like me), the Walkman is definitely a good investment to make. So, in the end, it’s not a must-have for everyone, but it could be for some depending on preference.
The MDR-1A headphones are a totally different story, however. While they are also $299.99, I can say with confidence that it’ll be hard for me to go back to anything less than these. They offer spectacular sound quality (especially when paired with the Walkman) and are incredibly comfortable to wear for hours on end. If you’re looking for headphones to wear during your city commute, while at work or at home, I would recommend these over every other I’ve tried in its price range.