Sony is making the most of music streaming with its latest Walkman, the NW-A306, featuring a new sound engine that can enhance your favorite tracks from your chosen streaming service.
Digital music has made it incredibly convenient to carry your entire audio library with you, and using one of the best music streaming services takes that convenience a step further – now your songs don’t even need to take up virtual space so you can listen to them anywhere you want (provided you have internet access).
However, streaming tracks are both a curse and a blessing for serious audiophiles – compressed music files may lack the dynamic range and acoustic subtleties of the original tracks. The Sony NW-A306 can change that with Edge-AI and DSEE Ultimate (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine), which are designed to upscale compressed digital music files in real time for a much richer and more dynamic playback experience.
These new tools join the Walkman’s existing high-definition features, such as LDAC – which allows anyone using the best wireless headphones to enjoy high-quality sound without wires – and 360 Reality Audio, which allows the player to immerse themselves in a 3D soundscape.
We’ll have to see the Sony NW-A306 in action for ourselves to know how capable it really is. But Sony’s audio expertise has seen its devices pop up – and dominate – several of our buying guides (including our list of the best wireless earbuds), so we expect this new gadget to be no different.
That being said, there are a few potential downsides.
First, there is not much space. The Sony NW-A306 has 32GB of storage, but when you factor in all the software you need to install, you’re only left with around 18GB to play with. This is certainly enough to hold more than a few albums, but those of you with a huge music library may find that you run out of space pretty quickly.
Then there’s the price. The NW-A306 costs £350 / US$499 (about US$425). There’s no word yet on a North American release date or official pricing, but it’s set to launch in the UK and Europe later in January 2023, with a February 2023 release for those living downstairs.
Compared to the best MP3 players around, it’s a very affordable price – the Astell & Kern A&ultima SP2000T, which tops the list in the guide above, costs $2,399 / £1,999 / AU$3,599 – but if you’re content with satisfactory portable phone sound, you may underestimate the entry cost of the NW-A306.
However, if you’re looking for an audio player that’s rated much better than “that’s enough,” the Sony NW-A306 might be the gadget for you.