Apple’s iPod may be officially dead and gone now that the company has discontinued the last device to bear that name, but Sony’s Walkman brand is apparently alive and well. The company has released two new Walkman models: The $1,400 NW-WM1AM2 and its gold-colored sibling, the $3,700 NW-WMZM2, both of which are updates to its original Signature Series Walkman models, geared toward the hi-res audiophile market.
The first versions of these Walkman models debuted in 2016 for $1,200 and $3,200, respectively. So how is Sony justifying the extra cash you’ll need for the new models? There are a number of updates for those with a taste for fine portable audio.
The new units now run Android 11, making them compatible with all of the latest streaming music services, like Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal, Qobuz, and Deezer, which are the primary services to offer better-than-CD-quality options. You’ll also get access to apps for Spotify, YouTube Music, and Pandora if lossy music is OK with you. This should make the players much more upgradeable over time — the first generation used a proprietary OS from Sony.
Speaking of lossy music, the new Walkman models have Sony’s DSEE Ultimate technology, the latest and greatest version of its upscaling algorithm. In addition to performing its usual magic on compressed music, it’s now optimized for boosting CD-quality lossless tracks to an even higher-res sound.
All of the usual lossy and hi-res formats are included, like DSD, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, MP3, WMA, AAC, HE-AAC, and there’s support for MQA, out of the box. The previous models also let you hear the high-quality format favored by Tidal for its Masters collection of music, but it required a software update.
Sony has also added a feature it calls Vinyl Processor, which it claims will “give the warmth and character of vinyl back to your digital tracks,” by reproducing the low-frequency resonance, tone-arm resistance, and surface noise of turntable-based media.
Unfortunately, your wireless options are fewer now. Sony has dropped support for Qualcomm’s aptX HD as its high-quality Bluetooth option. But since Sony has been dropping support for aptX on its most recent wireless headphones and earbuds, it’s not surprising to see it go away on the Walkman, too.
Visually, Sony has upgraded the screen. It’s now in HD resolution (1,280 x 720), which should make it easier on the eyes as you navigate its various functions. The screen is also larger, at five diagonal inches, versus the four-inch size of the first-gen players.
Battery life has been improved, with up to 40 hours of wireless playback — up from 30 hours. For the true audiophile specification nerds out there, be prepared for an improved analog block and digital block power system that Sony says was inspired by its flagship media player, the DMP-Z1.
Shockingly, onboard storage is not one of the areas that Sony has improved. The WM1AM2 stays at 128GB and the WMZM2 remains at 256GB — the same numbers as in 2016. As before, you can expand that storage with the help of microSD cards.
Both players are available starting June 13 from Sony.com and Sony’s authorized resellers.