By Brooke Crothers
Sony announced a new Walkman at CES 2015. And get ready for this – it’s priced at $1,119.99.
That will give pause to the vast majority of audiophiles. After all, you could buy almost two dozen iPod Shuffles for the price of the new Walkman NW-ZX2. Or, for the more discriminating listener, even a handful of pricier FiiO X5 players.
So, Sony has some explaining to do. And they tried to do just that at CES.
“Every piece of material and component has been crafted to realize the ultimate Hi-Res Audio experience on the move,” said Mike Fasulo, president of Sony Electronics USA, at CES on Tuesday during the company’s keynote speech.
So, what is Hi-Res Audio, anyway? It refers to a group of very high-quality digital audio formats that try to banish lower-quality CD and MP3 formats to the pedestrian audio player market.
Hi-Res Audio is also a marketing term, which means it will always be a bit fuzzy as to why exactly you would want to part with $1,120 for audio that you could just hear on your iPhone, albeit at lower quality.
But Sony seems ready to defend its pricing scheme.
In a Q&A with a Sony audio expert identified only as “Jeff” at CES, the obvious question was posed: “It looks beautiful but I have to ask, what makes this so premium?”
The Sony expert then launched into a long answer. Here are some of the highlights:
– Quality: “It comes down to quality. Up until now people have been sacrificing quality for convenience,” the expert said.
– Display: It sports a 4-inch Sony Triluminos display.
– Android: It runs Android 4.2 (but that’s hardly a plus, since Android 4.2 was announced way back in 2012).
– Audio engine: It includes Sony’s Digital Sound Enhancement Engine: “It will make everything sound better, even the MP3s,” according to the Sony expert,” he said.
– DSD: It supports Direct Stream Digital-Dff, a professional and uncompressed format that is used in recording and mastering Superior Audio CDs.
– Better bass: The device packs a powerful bass and “improved sense of stereo” due to better audio components, such as an improved power supply and the use of a large capacity Li-ion battery.
– All formats: It supports “any kind of format that you can throw at it,” the expert said.
– Lots of aluminum: The Walkman boasts an aluminum chassis with genuine leather backing.
– And copper and gold: “Copper chassis inside that’s gold-plated for rigidity and reduction of noise…Very high-purity solder goes into it as well,” he said.
– Storage: A 128GB of storage is the standard.
– Wireless: It supports NFC, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi.
If that convinces you the Walkman NW-ZX2 is worth more than $1,100, then it’s coming this spring.