Review- Sony Walkman E-Series and Active Speaker System

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Review- Sony NWZ-E464 Walkman and RDP-NWT16 Active Speaker System- What a mouthful! I think this really is just called the Sony E-class Walkman. Marketed as the budget/economical class digital audio player, the e-class never got my attention. I wasn’t interested in the entry level DAPs because they were generally unremarkable. I think I have owned maybe three entry level Sony audio players and have never been impressed, as I have with their flagship devices. However, given that not everyone cares about flagship devices, or necessarily feels inclined to pay the price differential, I thought a review of this device would be useful. I originally found it in a pile of discount devices at a Staples clearance section and scored the entire piece of kit for the price of a low end pair of headphones. Out of curiosity more so than anything, I quite liked the teal coloration. The following is my IRL (in real life) review of the e-class Walkman.

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Design– So you can see that the Walkman is quite tailor made to work with the speaker system. I quite like this. Its a nice accessory that works for a lot of people that want to listen to speakers but don’t want to blow their budget on a separate set of speakers. The whole device has a nice fun flair to it and is quite appealing for the crowd it is likely targeting- teenagers with little cash but needs for style and choice. I find the white and teal quite appealing. There is a two layer style on the Walkman, with a clear plastic coat on top of the spotted teal pattern underneath. Generally, I find that this device does not look like a budget device at all. There is a relatively large screen size on the device (considering its mostly for music, a larger size isn’t really needed) and the buttons are huge and easy to operate. The screen is a crappy TN panel likely and has low resolution and terrible viewing angles. Not surprising for a budget device and it doesn’t take away from the device that badly. Honestly I think the Walkman just looks great. What I like about Sony is that their design team really spends time on all their devices, regardless of price. You are getting that Sony design even if you are paying entry level prices. You won’t see this with many other manufacturers.

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Ease of Use– So the great thing is that Sony has spent some extra time to think of little features like the little kick stand on the back of the speaker system so that overall usage is great. Its like a little audio system you can carry anywhere. Its pretty intuitive- plop the Walkman into the stand and then press play. There’s only volume control on the speakers- no power or anything else. This is good for the target audience that doesn’t care about anything other than making it work. The Walkman itself is quite simple- its a grid based interface that is quite responsive and doesn’t show any slow down. I find navigating it quite easy, despite lacking a touch screen as most people are accustomed to using now. I do not like using Sony’s software to manage the music on here, and subsequently I don’t understand how to properly sync playlists. You can drag and drop onto this device so I guess it has that going for it. I can’t imagine too many kids being excited to learn how to sync music onto this. I suppose that’s the issue with anything non-Apple- there isn’t a big second alternative music management software that a large portion of consumers commonly uses. So you can’t really design a device to work coherently with one piece of software. I would give that a meh rating, but at least it has drag and drop and no more conversion to DRM files like past Sony audio devices.

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Connectivity- You can see the propriety Walkman WM port on the speaker. Ew. While I recognize that Sony has already invested into the WM port for some time, I really don’t think the user database is that big that they must continue to use it. I really wish they would just switch to micro USB just like all their XPERIA devices. It would make charging and data sync so much easier. I wouldn’t have to keep looking for a WM cable. At least I haven’t seen Sony switch WM cable designs (making a custom propriety cable like on the NW-A3000- come on Sony!) lately. So you need that cable for charge/sync. There is just one other I/O port, the 3.5mm jack and that’s it. No wi-fi or Bluetooth, which is expected at this price. That’s fine.

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Build quality– this device stinks of entry level Sony. So that’s not that bad necessarily, since entry level Sony tends to be a step above entry level from other brands. However, its a clear step down from my other Sony devices- the plastic creaks and bends. Its an all plastic design. However, given how light it is, I don’t see it breaking on drops- just getting dinged up really. And it scratches easily- that plastic isn’t some high grade stuff- its soft plastic that won’t survive your car keys in your pocket. The speaker is actually quite good though- its metal grills and hard plastic are surprisingly nice for a budget device.

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Battery life– its fine- you could probably get a few days worth of listening casually. It helps that there is no wireless components draining its battery. It can stay in stand by for quite some time. Volume control and hold button on the right. Nothing on the left side.

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Sound Quality– So the almighty important part of any audio review- what does it sound like? A big meh from me. After being accustomed to high end SQ, this sounds really muddy to my ears. Any headphone I put in it is sold short of quality. Its muddy overall and lacks details. However, kids aren’t going to care about this in general, and I don’t think it would be a problem for non-audiophiles. I certainly wouldn’t use it regularly. I’m not actually sure when I would use it. I think it sounds worse than non-aptX Bluetooth steaming. Bottom of the device showing the audio jack. The speakers on the other hand are quite nice- not a lot of low end, but the details are there for a low power device. I could listen to this in the kitchen while I cut veggies I guess. Its not that loud but it wouldn’t be bad for an office cubicle to listen to. Did you see that I didn’t even bother to talk about the included ear buds? At least they are Walkman branded – I just found them really really meh. I guess that’s the overall sound conclusion- meh. DSC02911

Conclusion- I don’t really know why I have this device to be honest. It looks cool so I guess it has that going for it. I’m just not the right target demographic for this device. If I switched the user to somebody else who wasn’t riding on audio quality so much, I think this is a great device. Good design that doesn’t speak entry level at all, a nice set of speakers to match it and a low price overall that makes it quite accessible. Its a nice simple package that has a lot to offer for the price. I would buy it for sure if I was in the target audience. Well I still bought it and I wasn’t part of the target audience. It will look nice as a collector piece.

TLDR- pros- nice design, speakers alright/cons- audio quality pretty meh, build quality is creaky and entry level. 

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