There was a time when all anyone could talk about was MP3 players, with Apple's iPod the cream of the crop. Then, they faded into obscurity with the advent of smartphones and music streaming services like Apple Music, only whispered about by none but the most die-hard of portable audiophiles.
All the way through was Sony's trusty Walkman. Still on a relatively-regular release cycle, it's the MP3 player for the modern age, with internet connectivity and some of the best DACs in the business. A new year, a new CES, and a new Walkman is here — and it's rammed with some cool specs.
Portable Audiophile specs in the Sony NW-A306
You might ask why anyone would want an MP3 player when you can just stream all your music from Apple Music or TiDAL on your best iPhone — a reasonable question. The answer lies within the little Sony Walkman NW-A306. While your phone doesn't have much space for quality audio hardware, like a meaty DAC and amp, in a dedicated MP3 there's a little more wiggle room.
Sony has managed to slip both of those in, in the form of the S-Master HX digital amp technology. Sony says this will "reduce distortion and noise across a range of frequencies, for a rich and full-bodied sound". What does this mean? Plugging a set of headphones into this little guy will make your music sound better than you'd find on most smartphones.
There are also those of us that prefer using downloaded tracks rather than streaming, which the little Sony will handle better than any smartphone, too. There's support up to the highest definition FLAC lossless files, as well as onboard DSEE Edge AI audio upscaling for CD-quality tracks.
It'll also play these tracks for longer with some impressive battery life. Sony claims the NW-A306 will last up to 36 hours when listening to standard 44.1kHz Flac files, up to 32 hours when listening to hi-res 96kHz FLAC files, and then up to 26 hours when you use the player to stream over your chosen streaming service.
This is not the MP3 player of yesteryear then. There are modern conveniences like Bluetooth and WiFi music streaming on board, as well as all the great kit that an Audiophile could want in a portable media device.
The Sony NW-306 comes out later this month and will be available for £350/$499 on the Sony website.
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As iMore's Senior Staff writer, Tammy uses her background in audio and Masters in screenwriting to pen engaging product reviews and informative buying guides. The resident audiophile (or audio weirdo), she's got an eye for detail and a love of top-quality sound. Apple is her bread and butter, with attention on HomeKit and Apple iPhone and Mac hardware. You won't find her far away from a keyboard even outside of working at iMore – in her spare time, she spends her free time writing feature-length and TV screenplays. Also known to enjoy driving digital cars around virtual circuits, to varying degrees of success. Just don't ask her about AirPods Max - you probably won't like her answer.