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Sony Android Handhelds Music Technology

Sony Thinks You'll Pay $1200 For a Digital Walkman 391

An anonymous reader writes: The Walkman is one of the most recognizable pieces of technology from the 1980s. Unfortunately for Sony, it didn't survive the switch to digital, and they discontinued it in 2010. Last year, they quietly reintroduced the Walkman brand as a "high-resolution audio player," supporting lossless codecs and better audio-related hardware. At $300, it seemed a bit pricey. But now, at the Consumer Electronics Show, Sony has loudly introduced its high-end digital Walkman, and somehow decided to price it at an astronomical $1,200.

What will all that money get you? 128GB of onboard storage and a microSD slot to go with it. There's a large touchscreen, and the device runs Android — but it uses version 4.2 Jelly Bean, which came out in 2012. It also supports Bluetooth and NFC. Sony claims the device has 33 hours of battery life when playing FLAC files, and 60 hours when playing MP3s. They appear to be targeting audiophiles — their press release includes phrasing about how pedestrian MP3 encoding will "compromise the purity of the original signal."
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Sony Thinks You'll Pay $1200 For a Digital Walkman

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  • Ha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enry ( 630 ) <enry@waygFORTRANa.net minus language> on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:17AM (#48744523) Journal

    Maybe they should talk to their friends in Sony Music about the Loudness War [wikipedia.org] first before going on about music purity.

    • Re:Ha (Score:5, Interesting)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@worl d 3 . net> on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:23AM (#48744567) Homepage

      That's the genius of Hi-Res Audio, the same company can both create the problem and sell you the solution.

      Sony Music releases extremely loud, clipped and generally crap sounding CDs. Then they release a Hi-Res version that also happens to be properly mixed, but you need an expensive player to listen to it.

      Their plan is working. In Japan Hi-Res Audio is a big deal at the moment, but many people don't realise that it is more to do with the recordings being properly mixed and not insanely loud than it is the higher sample rate and bit depth.

  • This highlights the one and only problem with Sony: It is always too expensive.

    • by txoof ( 553270 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:31AM (#48744619) Homepage

      This highlights the one and only problem with Sony: It is always too expensive.

      I think the product longevity issue that Sony has *might* be a slightly bigger problem. I don't have any real data other than my personal experience, but I have owned a slew of Sony products and with the exception of our two Sony CRT TVs growing up, they have all shat them selves within 18 months. The two TVs we had when I was growing up lasted for over 8 years each. I think the second one needed to have a transformer replaced at some point, but that was about $20 in the early 90's.

      Other than those two products, my personal experience has been awful. I don't think I ever had a sony walkman that lasted more than 6 months due to stupid things like belt clips that were TOTALLY inadequate for doing anything other than standing still. My Sony amplifier shat itself the same month the warranty ran out. The display crapped out and was eventually repaired by re-soldering and bending the PCBs. My Sony car stereo crapped it's display about a year after I bought it. No amount of blowing, hitting, or poking around inside could fix it. The digitizer in m Sony Clie (late Palm Pilot clone) shat its self a few weeks after the rotary encoder at the base of the display filled with pocket lint and stopped working. After the Clie disaster, I have refused to buy a Sony electronic device. I'm not going to get burned again.

      • I hate their products since they tend to not do what I want. For example, I have a Sony DVD player (last Sony product I will ever buy) that will not allow me to eject the disk after powering it on until it has finished reading and loading the disk that is already in there. So I have to sit there for a minute waiting just to get the damn drawer to open.
      • And of course don't forget the unskippable warnings and menu animations. That isn't unique to Sony though.
      • by JRV31 ( 2962911 )
        I am also a one time Sony customer, I quit buying Sony when they put viruses on CDs. Citation: http://www.zdnet.com/article/s... [zdnet.com]!
    • by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:52AM (#48744727) Homepage

      That's far from the one and only problem with Sony.

      They're assholes. They're anti-consumer. They're constantly trying to achieve vendor lock in. They treat the security of their consumers data as an afterthought.

      Sony is a malicious entity, and has been for the last 20 years.

      From what they do as part of the *AA mafia, to rootkits, to pretty much every damned thing Sony does ... they do not deserve your money or your respect.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MitchDev ( 2526834 )

      I thought that was Apple's problem...

  • by popo ( 107611 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:18AM (#48744537) Homepage

    Audiophile equipment often costs in the tens of thousands of dollars -- and there will always be a market for it.

    Regarding your title: SONY clearly does not think *you* will pay $1200 for this device. But they know that *someone* will. This isn't a mass market device. It's a very niche product, well-targeted at its niche.

    More importantly: It's great for publicity. After all, it's already being discussed on Slashdot.

    • i'm wondering, can there be anything in there that justifies this cost?
      most of the hardware isn't stellar (the software is android, probably not the fastest chip, some decent batteries and screen on it, some audiodecoding software that is probably already available for all android devices)
      So all that is left is the hardware for actually creating the audio signal, which should be worth a lot in this thing, is there really hardware that is so suberb in quality that it's worth this price?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:32AM (#48744625)

        No, there is no hardware that is so superb, but there are people who think there is. We call them audiophiles.

      • by laird ( 2705 ) <lairdp&gmail,com> on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:48AM (#48744707) Journal

        I'd hope that you do in fact get higher quality DAC hardware, connectors, etc., so the actual sound quality is better. But the price is also "inflated" by the product being a niche, audiophile product. That is, if they're targeting a smaller market, they have to cover development costs, marketing, profit, etc., on a much smaller number of unit sales. For example, if they had a $1m marketing budget, and sell 10,000 units, that's $100/unit just for marketing. The same marketing budget for a product that sells 1m units would only be $1/unit. Now do the same math for covering the cost of everything about the product (R&D, running a manufacturing line, support team, etc.). It's the same reason that, back in the day, a "workstation" cost 5x as much as a "desktop computer" - there were some functional differences (unix, etc.), but most of the price difference was just due to the niche market having smaller volumes, so less "economy of scale". Heck, look at sports cars - they don't really cost 20x as much to make as a regular car, it's that they're covering the costs on a tiny fraction of the sales volume.

        This is why, in every market, the best "price/performance" is for the most popular models. When you go up from more you're always paying disproportionately more for better than average.

        I used to think this was insane - why doesn't everyone buy the best price/performance? Then I realized - if you're rich, and you need one of something (car, audio system, watch, etc.) and you can pay a lot more for it to be better than average. As an extreme example, a $24m watch (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/12/business/24-million-gold-watch-sothebys-record-patek-philippe/) doesn't keep time better than the $10 watch, but it's literally one of a kind, an insanely cool piece of engineering that packs astounding functionality into a mechanical watch. But price/performance is near-zero - a $10 plastic watch tells better time, and your smartphone has more functionality.

        So Sony's aiming for the "willing to pay more for better than average" crowd.

      • by pla ( 258480 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @10:11AM (#48744813) Journal
        i'm wondering, can there be anything in there that justifies this cost?

        Low-oxygen solder. To reduce bit-slew, of course.
      • by RevWaldo ( 1186281 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @10:30AM (#48744935)
        I had a great player geared for audiophiles, but it cost $1500 and the battery life was terrible.

        And the vacuum tubes kept setting my messenger bag on fire.

        .
      • i'm wondering, can there be anything in there that justifies this cost? most of the hardware isn't stellar (the software is android, probably not the fastest chip, some decent batteries and screen on it, some audiodecoding software that is probably already available for all android devices) So all that is left is the hardware for actually creating the audio signal, which should be worth a lot in this thing, is there really hardware that is so suberb in quality that it's worth this price?

        Once you hear it, you will realize it's far superior to any other listening experience. Of course, you might not be a prosumer audiphile with the refinement and experience required to properly enjoy it. Maybe you can just stick with your beats by dr dre and ipod shuffle like the rest of the plebes.

        run along now. my highly acute audio perception wants to enjoy the miracle of hi-res audio as it was meant to be heard, devoid of the racket of the unwashed masses.

      • i'm wondering, can there be anything in there that justifies this cost?

        The assembly line moves arythmically to prevent resonance from causing distortion-generation biases in crystal formation during solder solidification. Also, a currency filter allows only electrons which meet strict quantum mechanical specifications into the battery, thus preventing playback artifacts due to variations in elementary charge. Finally, every unit is manufactured with enough employee oppression to make even the most satanic

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The Pono player is the same thing, allegedly, and costs only 1/3 as much.

      http://ponomusic.force.com/

    • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:30AM (#48744615)

      You will get good equipment if you pay tens of thousands of dollars for audiophile equipment. But there is also a lot of air in that price.

      Pro shops like Thomann [thomann.de] demonstrate that you can buy real HiFi gear for very reasonable prices.

    • by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:40AM (#48744663)

      For the "audiophile" market, it's all about marketing. There are companies out there that are quite successful at selling multi-thousand dollar speaker cables to the gullible with deep pockets. It doesn't have to actually "sound better". I doubt they expect to move these in high volume, but there are certainly a number of folks that will buy it as a prop and show that they really care about their music. :)

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:48AM (#48744705)

      After all, it's already being discussed on Slashdot.

      Yes, the standards to show up here are quite high.

    • by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:50AM (#48744713) Homepage
      Provided they don't screw it up with DRM, I think they could sell quite a few of them. I had a NetMD player when mp3 players were first starting to get really popular. That thing was awesome in that you could spend $5 and get a rewritable disc that would store 1-4 CDs (depending on compression rate). At the time, 64 MB SD cards were over $100. So being able to bring 100+ songs with you was kind of a non-option with MP3 players. There were some hard drive based players, but they were much more expensive.

      The big downfall of the Minidisc player was that it came with ridiculously bad software that limited the number of copies of a particular song you could write to Minidisc, and you had to check-in/check-out songs to make sure you didn't run out of licenses. The software was also really slow and would crash all the time too. They had a great technology that was miles ahead of the competition in portable audio but they screwed it up by messing up the software in the name of DRM. They would have lost out to flash based MP3 players eventually, but the Minidisc could have ruled the market for 5-10 years had they not screwed up the implementation.
      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        love minidisc, fucking hate the lock-in. I don't use Sonicstage because of the lock-in and the fact that it crashes like Richard Hammond on roofies. Analogue hole all the way here, but I do sometimes miss the insane speed of USB. Which basically means I use MD for live recording and streaming transfer to my editing suite.

        • I use MD for live recording and streaming transfer to my editing suite.

          So are you getting a minuscule recording period due to lack of compression, or is ATRAC shitting all over your recordings? Either way, how do you justify not using a more reliable media which supports non-streaming transfers?

          • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

            being as each session rarely goes more than an hour, I use SP mode and carry half a dozen spare discs. I have plenty of discs, yet each is infinitely re-recordable (not had one fail yet after twenty years). And who the fuck uses compression on session recording masters??

    • I don't think even 'audiophiles' that think they can tell the difference between 128kbs and 320kbs MP3s on their PC speaker are that stupid ... their are already phones with 'premium' sound that do everything this does.

      Hell, it probably runs android too, meaning its EXACTLY like the premium phones ... except without the phone part.

      Oh and they can't subsidize it on your phone contract either.

      • Just to be clear incase it was missed, yes, I'm aware it runs android, thats meant to be (poor) sarcasm.

      • by ihtoit ( 3393327 )

        my laptop has JBL speakers in it. Funnily enough, the drivers look pretty identical to the ones out of my Dell laptop. Sound about the same as well (ie shit). I thought JBL speakers were supposed to be good?

    • by jaymz666 ( 34050 )

      The zx1 seems better and a lot cheaper, and has been on the market how long?

    • there is zero market for this.

      I just tested a friend's android samsung g5 with usb/audio dongle out and flac players. it truly did play back 24bit 96k audio that I gave him as a flac file. just get an OTG cable and a usb/uadio (uac1 prefer but maybe someday they'll all support uac 'event' style protocol) and a good flac player app.

      no reason to carry a music player anymore if you have a phone. and more phones are starting to support usb OTG and that opens up the usb/audio dongle market to them..

      sony can't

      • by rsmoody ( 791160 )

        Oh, there is market for this. I personally have a iBasso DX90. If you think this is expensive, look up the AK 240 by a now rebranded iRiver.

        I have never used my smart phone as a media player, I just don't want to. There is not enough storage and I strangely want to make sure my phone has enough power to make phone calls and playing music will impact this. To each their own here.

        If I had the extra funds, I would have an AK 120II in a heartbeat, I just cannot justify $1200. It's on par with this offering, wif

    • If it had a cassette tape SD carousel where you can load multiple SD cards in and swap them in out with "fast forward" and "reverse".

  • by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:20AM (#48744541) Homepage

    They have defective bullshit detectors, it''ll sell.

  • ...but there are a lot of stupid-ass rich people who will buy it.

  • Nostalgia + Audiophiles = sales.
    Both of those groups are notorious for a) having lots of $, and b) spending it stupidly.

  • Sony doesn't think "you" will pay $1200 for an MP3 player. They think that the people who pay hundreds of dollars for Monster cables will pay it, and that there are enough of them out there for the product to be profitable.
  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:24AM (#48744579)
    Sony was hacked. The hackers changed maliciously the selling price. It's actually $12,000.
  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:24AM (#48744581)

    They appear to be targeting audiophiles — their press release includes phrasing about how pedestrian MP3 encoding will "compromise the purity of the original signal.

    Well, does it have proper headphone amplifier? The audio output of typical mobile gadgets is poor for driving good chunky headphones: there is noise, there is not enough energy to deliver good bass, and the sound is just smudgy.

  • by Rik Sweeney ( 471717 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:25AM (#48744583) Homepage

    It does come with a microSD slot!

  • Obvious (Score:5, Funny)

    by jbmartin6 ( 1232050 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:28AM (#48744609)
    This is Sony's revenge. At that price no North Korean can afford it.
  • Ah, Sony... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 50000BTU_barbecue ( 588132 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @09:29AM (#48744613) Homepage Journal

    Guess what the price of the MZ-1 was 22 years ago?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    http://www.minidisc.org/part_S... [minidisc.org]

    Well, it was 1200$ in Canada....

    I was a Sony fanboi back then and having one of the first MZ-1s was like being a space alien. Just ejecting the disc on the Metro (subway) was a reason for complete strangers to ask what it is! Fun times.

    Sony, like me, now appears to be a grumpy middle-aged man with graying hair denying that it's 2015...

  • But does it make phone calls?
  • They also discontinued their $50 MP3 headphones with 2 GB of storage. (2GB is plenty if you're swapping in a fresh podcast once a week, after all.) These were also Walkman branded. You can still get the $99 4GB version, but the design is different and it's not as simple to use. Those $50 headphones had surprisingly good sound, they were water resistant, and they survived years of harsh treatment. Mine only finally kicked the bucket when they got stepped on. I was heartbroken.
  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @10:01AM (#48744763) Homepage
    for sony to slap a little golden sticker on what essentially amounts to a modern mp3 player is a little rambunctious without at least contextualizing its price in terms of features and performance. Rarely does an audiophile acquiesce to the horrorshow pricing offered to their demographic without a full breakout of exactly what and how a device functions. showing it off at CES is fine, but Sony is a little late to this game if they assume 'walkman' nostalgia alone is going to carry this device.

    for much, much less, (on the order of 100 bucks) you can pick up a Cowon media player. the A5 or J3 boasts a WM8960 codec driver and is worlds away better than what you'll find in an ipod or android cellphone, even with your cheapest headphones.
  • I paid $79 for a Motorola Luge Android 4.4 pay as you go smart phone at Best Buy specifically to use as a low cost media player with no phone service. I have it connected via Blue Tooth to my GM Bose "MyLink" Audio System. The audio playback is superb! It sounds as good or better than the other resident audio sources that come with the vehicle (XM, CD, HD Radio). Media Information is displayed via BT to the "MyLink" Console. Limited navigation and media selection can also be performed via BT.

    Seriously,

  • This is not a terrible idea.
    The price is WAY off though.
    It needs to be in the $200 range.
    Include wifi and some way to sync it with your home audio collection automatically.
    The drive size is perfect.
    Give it a display port so I can plug it into a hotel television.
    Make sure I can use streaming services like pandora if wifi is available.

    Yea yea, I know I can use my phone. But my phones full of stuff and hard to deal with in the car. I'd like something I could generally leave in the car that would sync my music

  • Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Shakrai ( 717556 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @10:11AM (#48744817) Journal
    No wireless. Less space than a Nomad. Lame.
  • Why does anyone buy a music player anymore when there are smartphones?

  • Why is FLAC playback so battery-intensive? Is it because its not implemented in hardware while the mp3 playback is?

  • I want one!
    It'll go great with my Beats® headphones.

  • Being Sony you would think they would fuck their own product over by insisting on Memory Stick.

  • by T.E.D. ( 34228 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @11:04AM (#48745201)
    They could have gotten $3000 for it, if they could have found a way to wedge a couple of vacuum tubes into it.
  • Pono Player? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @11:19AM (#48745361)

    Neil Young already has the Pono Player [force.com]. It plays FLAC.

    Cooler name origin, just $400 (BKA one third the price), Kickstarter funded. And helps you keep on rockin' in the free world [youtube.com]

    My cube mate has a $300 bland iPod-ish thing with it's own FLAC capable firmware, and a true hardware amp. Did i mention $300, B.K.A. one fourth the price.

    Methinks this is a non-starter. They will sell when heavily discounted, much like the HP Tablets finally sold (as Linux devices) when prices came down.

    • Re:Pono Player? (Score:5, Informative)

      by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot.worf@net> on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @01:33PM (#48746785)

      Neil Young already has the Pono Player. It plays FLAC.

      I have one, and its technology sucks balls.

      It's got a great DAC - an ESS SABRE 9016 - that powers many modern A/V receivers. Point there.

      The problem is the amplifiers suck.

      Ayre amps supposedly have no feedback, and that makes it "good". I suppose it is given they sell amps for $20,000 that are handmade in Colorado. However, just because you can hand make something doesn't translate into a mass-manufactured product. First off, the amp in the Pono is fully discrete (transistors, no op-amps). This is fine, if you manage to match all the transistors in each stage properly. Also fine in a $20,000 handmade product where you can go through and characterize every transistor and find matching pairs so they behave identically. But in a mass manufactured product, they probably are grabbing transistors off a reel, which means instant mismatches since they're within their specs, but will deviate due to manufacturing issues.

      So a discrete amp already is at a disadvantage because without taking time to characterize every part, you're going to get an amp that behaves differently between channels and between units.

      Yes, integrated units are better - best are dual units because matching within a die is far better (under 1% difference) that matching between dice (over 10-20%). IC designers know this, and they know that manufacturing can trim the differences down to practically nil within a die (in IC manufacturing, everything is based on ratios - you cannot say you want a 1K resistor because you'll get 1K +/- 30% tolerance. But you can design two transistors that will be well within 1% of each other, even if you need a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio or more - so designers work on ratios rather than absolute values). It's why you have dual DAC and dual op-amp or even more (6 channel DACs are common too) in a single package - the matching between the parts will be remarkably close, brought in closer because they can be laser trimmed during fab.

      The next problem is lack of feedback causing a REALLY HIGH output impedance - about 5 ohms. If you don't know, this causes EQ because headphones with 8 ohm impedance can really vary between 1-12+ ohms over the audio range. This causes EQ (equalization) which means the amplifier actually produces different gains at different frequencies, a la a graphic equalizer. You can use an EQ to reverse this trend (that's what they're actually for - to equalize the response), but that's a bunch of processing. I've seen comments that say you should go for 8 times the output impedance at a minimum - so 40 ohm headphones or higher to minimize the EQ (at 8 times, the variance is around 0.5db).

      Again, Ayre amps may do this because you're going to pair it up with good speakers that already will have higher impedances so you won't notice. But Joe Average will be using jellybean 8/16/32 ohm headphones (most common impedances).

      The problem with Pono is that it hits EVERY audiophile rumor out there. Discrete good, op-amp bad (true back in the 70s with early opamps, but since the 80s we've had great audio op-amps that have excellent transfer characteristics). Feedback is bad (because feeding back a "time delayed" signal just ruins the audio purity - never mind that we're talking nanoseconds here) - even though using it lets you have lower output impedances. And that high output impedance means EQ up the hell.

      And let's not say about the claim from Ayre themselves saying it's 80-90% as good as their $20,000 amp. That's just wrong on so many levels - are you saying that the amp is overpriced? Or to go the extra mile costs an extra $19,600?

      Hell, I'm surprised they stuck with 3.5mm jacks given all the design work - 3.5mm jacks while convenient, do have limitations w.r.t. cross talk and other parameters.

      And the hardware's kinda crappy - underpowered SoC running Android AOSP 2.2. yes, 2.2. it's sluggish all around.

      I've actually never wanted to back out of a kickstarter as much as I have with Pono.

  • by mindmaster064 ( 690036 ) on Tuesday January 06, 2015 @01:39PM (#48746867) Homepage
    If they used pro-audio grade components... A portable device using those isn't available... I prefer listening on my studio monitors to most things because I can actually hear them. The lack of "actuation" in the weaker components is drastic and noticeable. I'd pay for a crystal clear strong headphone amp with a player... I realize these components are pretty cheap on a larger form-factor. But, getting them in a small box would be marvelous -- it hasn't really been done. Most of these devices are consumer rather than prosumer oriented and the quality suffers as a result. I guarantee until you listen to your music through a true amp/studio speaker setup you have no clue what you've been missing from your tunes (like entire parts of them..).

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay

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