Are you the sort of music listener who’ll happily pay more for a set of earphones than you would on a nice computer? If so, Sony has the MP3 players for you. The company has released two ultra-high-end Walkman MP3 players aimed squarely at audiophiles. The headliner, the $3,700 NW-WM1ZM2 (pictured at left), mates an S-Master HX digital amp with “fine-tuned” capacitors, thick Kimber Kable (to link the amp to the headphone jack) and a 99.99 percent pure gold-plated, oxygen-free copper chassis — all of which supposedly contribute to “clear, expansive” output. Even the reflow soldering includes gold that purportedly boosts sound localization and widens the sound stage.
You can also expect more practical improvements from the Android-based player, including a larger five-inch (and finally 720p) display, a larger power supply and an improved upscaling algorithm for CD-quality (16-bit, 44/48kHz) audio. You’ll get 256GB of expandable storage for your tunes, WiFi streaming, a USB-C port and 40 hours of battery life when playing 96kHz FLAC audio. The ZM2 supports up to 32-bit, 384kHz audio in formats like MQA and WAV, so you’re more likely to be limited by your source material than your hardware.
Don’t worry if that feels excessive, as there’s also a lower-cost model… relatively speaking. The $1,400 NW-WM1AM2 (shown at right) offers much of the core functionality of the ZM2, but in an aluminum alloy body with ‘just’ a low-resistance oxygen-free copper cable. You’ll also have to make do with 128GB of expandable space.
Both Walkman models are available now. As with many devices aimed at audiophiles, there’s a question of whether or not the exotic components and materials will be noticeable in your listening experience. Moreover, you’re limited by the lowest common denominator in your setup. Even if you listen to songs that can take advantage of the design (Apple Music’s 24-bit, 192kHz hi-res lossless suddenly seems modest), you’ll have to find headphones or speakers that are up to the job. Both players are mainly aimed at wealthy music fans determined to maximize audio fidelity, even if they might not hear the difference.
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