Sure, but does it have Dolby Noise Reduction?

Gail got a new Walkman last weekend. She wants to do some more walking once the weather gets nicer, so she wanted a new MP3 player. We did some looking around and she decided on the Sony one. Note that the price on the Sony page is $119, but we found it at Future Shop for $79. Gail’s main criteria were that it be small, have a display screen that showed you the song and artist name, and have the ability to use playlists. The playlist idea is so that she can set up a “warmup” playlist, consisting of songs of an appropriate speed for warming up, and then once she’s warmed up and wants to pick up the pace, she can switch to another playlist consisting of faster songs.

The Walkman came with a CD of software, which I presumed was Sony’s equivalent of iTunes. I installed it and it let me browse through the iTunes directory and select directories and files to copy to the Walkman. The docs say that non-MP3 files need to be converted to MP3 format first, but that their software will do that. Well, it seemed to want to convert MP3 files as well (to what, I don’t know), and took forever to do the conversion and copy the files to the device. Then I read in some other part of the docs that you can use Windows Media Player (MP) to create playlists and transfer songs and such instead of the Sony software, so I gave that a try. Holy crap, what a difference. MP is miles faster (in terms of overall application performance), didn’t do any MP3-to-MP3 “conversion”, and lets you create playlists, which the Sony software doesn’t do. Copying the files to the device was also very fast. MP doesn’t handle podcasts (I don’t think), but the Sony software does, so if you want to listen to podcasts, you might have to use the Sony software. But unless you need it, I wouldn’t bother with the Sony software. It did say that it needs MP version 11, but that comes on the CD as well, so if you are not already running MP version 11, you’ll need to upgrade. Vista comes with 11 so I didn’t have to do anything.

As for the actual device itself, well, it ain’t no iPod. While looking around at the store, Gail played with an iPod for a minute or two and said simply “Apple really does it right, don’t they?” Yes, they do, but the iPods were double the price of the Walkman. Gail also liked the look of the Zune, but apparently Microsoft won’t allow the store to use a display model, and we didn’t want to buy it without giving it a try first, so the Zune was quickly dropped. Anyway, I’m very used to my iPod, so it took me a minute to realize that you have to actually press buttons rather than just drag your finger around. But I got used to it pretty quickly, and didn’t have to keep looking down at the buttons to figure out what to do. They say that a good interface is one that “disappears” while you’re using it, so this would have to qualify. The menus and such are similar to the iPod, so you can choose what to listen to based on artist, album, song, and genre (I think), or you can play from a playlist. It seems to have shuffle capability as well.

Now, we haven’t really used the Walkman yet, just played with it a bit and started to get things configured, so time will tell. Maybe after using it for a week, Gail will hate it and we’ll take it back. Or she’ll love it and wonder how she ever lived without it (like I do with my iPod), but more likely, it’ll just be fine. Gail’s not one to fall in love with technology (unlike her husband and his goddamned beloved iPod), so as long as it does the job that it’s supposed to do, everything will be peachy.

Aside: The image above is one that I found online with a google search, but I chose it because it happens to be the same model as the second Walkman I had in high school. That model was very cool because it had MEGA BASS. It also had Auto Reverse, which was also a very cool feature, but not as cool as MEGA BASS because the first Walkman I had also had auto reverse. MEGA BASS was new. Oddly, my boss has a cassette Walkman in his office, which is the same model as my first Walkman. He does have an iPod which he uses when walking to and from work, so I have no idea what he uses the cassette player for.


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