FLAC To The Future
Sony Walkman NWZ-A17 Hi Res Digital Music Player
The handheld music market has shifted dramatically in the past decade. While Sony’s name was once synonymous with high-quality audio wares, the desire for a standalone Walkman faded fast once it became clear that phones could suffice for the vast majority of consumers. Indeed, many smartphones pack impressive innards that are capable of emitting great sound — but purists won’t have any of it. In a bid to corner what’s left of the audiophile market, Sony has beaten Pono to the punch (and under-priced companies like Astell&Kern) with its Walkman NWZ-A17.
It’s hardly the first high-resolution audio player, but for those who insist on toting around 64GB worth of their own music in FLAC, HE-AAC, WMA, ALAC, AIFF, and a smattering of other lossless formats, the NWZ-A17’s the best balance of price and equipment. You can’t transfer new jams to the device without a cable, but you can stream it to Bluetooth- and NFC-capable headphones and speakers. And, if the built-in memory runs out, there’s a microSD slot that’ll hold another 128GB.
You’ll get 30 solid hours of hi res playback (50 normal MP3) from a single charge, and considering that Sony’s engineers borrowed a thing or two from their ES home audio receiver lineup, your ears won’t have any issues finding clarity. The 2.25-inch QVGA display could use a few extra pixels, and the user interface could definitely use a splash of modernness. That said, the $300 price point is attractive considering the highly niche feature set, and it’s honestly tough to say how much longer products such as these will be considered valuable enough to manufacture.
Internal Storage: 64GB
Audio Formats Supported: WAV, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC
Battery Life: 30 hours hi-res playback