With the legendary Walkman, Sony made music ubiquitous back then. Now the group has announced two new models. Cassette fans will be disappointed.

It was the ultimate sign of coolness: anyone who strolled through the city with headphones on in the 1980s didn’t just have their own soundtrack on their ears. Owning a Walkman was still a statement back then. Now the manufacturer Sony has relaunched the iconic portable music player – in two new versions.

The bad news for fans of cassettes and lo-fi right away: Unlike the legendary namesakes, the Sony Walkman NW-A306 and the premium model NW-ZX700, which is only available in Japan, do not rely on cassettes. Instead, they are basically MP3 players with the Android 12 operating system. However, they are pretty good ones.

Who needs a Walkman anymore?

This also explains the legitimate question as to who Sony would like to sell an additional device specialized in playing music in the age of the ubiquitous smartphone. The two new Walkman models not only offer the option of being able to operate them in your trouser pocket thanks to the numerous buttons. Thanks to various functions, they are clearly aimed at demanding music listeners and hi-fi fans.

They often feel unsatisfied with classic MP3 players. The simple reason: Because the music is compressed in MP3 files, the sound quality always suffers. But things are different. Formats such as FLAC or Apple Lossless promise music enjoyment without loss. Under the Highres Audio label, quality is even promised that is higher than that of CDs.

The new Walkman also promise such high quality. Sony advertises the devices with its Hi-Res Audio seal. Compressed songs are extrapolated using artificial intelligence and the sound is improved. Of course, lossless formats are also supported. The music can be stored directly on the device, if you want you can also expand the memory with an SD card. But streaming users can also enjoy the two Walkmans – albeit with a clear limitation. The devices can only connect to the Internet via WiFi, there is no mobile phone connection. Supported streaming services include Spotify, Deezer, and Tidal, among others. Great: With the latter, the available master recordings are also supported in studio quality.

Big differences in features and prices

How good it sounds then also differs between the two devices. With an RRP of 399 euros, the Walkman NW-A306, which is not very cheap, is aimed primarily at consumers. The display is rather small at 3.6 inches, and the included memory is also rather small at 32 GB. Sony specifies the runtime as up to 36 hours for Flac data, but it should decrease when streamed. Headphones are connected either via a classic jack connection or via a particularly fast Bluetooth connection.

The noble model Walkman NW-ZX700 has more to offer. The 5-inch display is significantly larger, as is the 64 GB memory. Even more important is the additional audio equipment. With the S-Master HX, the ZX700 comes with a special chip that serves as a digital amplifier. And so the digital recordings should sound even better on analogue output devices. This is particularly exciting because of another feature: in addition to the 3.5 mm jack socket, there is another 4.4 mm jack to be able to connect high-end audio equipment. This also makes the device interesting for professionals and hi-fi fanatics. The disadvantages: The device is unexpectedly thick at 1.7 centimeters, but it only has a runtime of up to 23 hours. Last but not least, there is the price: the device, which has only been available in Japan so far, costs a whopping 104,500 yen, which corresponds to around 750 euros.

But that still doesn’t make it the most expensive Walkman: Sony had already presented a new edition in gold with the NW-WM1Z in 2017 – for an incredible 3300 euros ().