Friday, March 12, 2010

Review of Sony X-Series Walkman (Jan 2010)

The model I have: Sony MWZ-X1061 (32GB). This is the best personal music player (PMP) I ever have, and I have a lot of them ever since the very first Sony Walkman 20+ years ago. I also owned (still have many of them) iPod, iPhone, Creative, Memorex, Samsung, RCA, AIWA, Panasonic, Emerson, Disney, and many others PMP over the years. None even comes close to the sound I get from this player. The last PMP sound I really liked was a Sony MiniDisk player I bought 12 years ago and I still listen to it on my trips. I guess I can finally retire it now. I also own 3 other Sony MP3 players for the past 10 years, they were OK. They sound better than the iPods, but awkward to use. However, the S-Master Digital Amplifier in this latest Walkman just blows them away, too.

I was attending the CES in Las Vegas, so I got the opportunity to check out most of the latest PMPs from many of the PMP makers. I used my own ear buds so I can hear the differences between PMPs. I also have an iPhone with me all the time so I can have a reference on the sound quality. Most of the PMPs, including the Zoom (HD), iPod, Samsung M1 (the new P3), all sound good, but flat. If I boost the bass, they become muddy. If I boost the treble, they sounded cold and pinging. Sony is in the back of the huge hall, so I got to it last. However, once I started to listen to it, the music just came out alive. More I played with it, more I liked it. I returned to the show the next day and tried all the PMPs again and came to the same conclusion. If you like your music, there is no better sounding PMP than this Sony X-series Walkman right now. I ordered one once I got home the very same day.

Now I have played with it for three days now, I loved it even more. Here are some quick points on my experience with this player:

1. Content Transfer: It is extremely easy to load music and video into this player. I just dragged my MP3 and other format songs into the player’s MUSIC folder and it is ready to go. It supports up to 8th level of folders, so I can just dragged the whole folder full of songs into it and minutes later, it is ready. If I don’t want certain songs, I just delete them as files in the folder. All are done in the Windows Explorer. No more SonicStage or iTune.

2. You can do the same thing with the video files, the player’s Content Transfer will even convert many of the videos into the correct format (using the computing power of the PC’s CPU).

3. You can make playlists on the Windows Media Player then load into the player. No playlist on the fly.

4. The S-Master Digital Amplifier is the major difference in this player. Even with the factory default settings, the music sound clear, full, and warm. Then there are 3 digital sound technologies that really make the music comes alive.

a. Clear Bass: 3 level of digital bass boost. This is definitely my favorite feature. I can boost the bass and it stays tight and clean. It does not make the mid and high muddy. I have a couple Bose and Shure headphones / earbuds that I stopped using them because I did not like the weaker bass response. Now I just give the music a boost of clear bass and the headphones are great again. I can turn the clear bass down if I feel too much of it on certain songs or using certain headphones / earbuds.

b. Digital Sound Enhancement Engine (DSEE): This technology restores the highs lost due to the sound compression on most digital music formats (ex: MP3, WMA). Now the music sound clear and warm, not thin and pinggy.

c. Clear Stereo: This makes separation of left and right sound even more clear. I really enjoy it when I hear a concert music and clearly hear the left side of the stadium and the crowd in the right side, too.

d. There also are various digital sound processing that make the music sound more “spacey”, like in a studio, concert hall, Disco, or Karaoke room. I usually don’t use them, but they are fun to try out. They can make cheap and small earbuds sound a lot better.

e. You can see a web demo of these features at the SonyStyle Asia site: . Why it is not on the SonyStyle US site is beyond me.

5. Digital Noise Cancelling. Do not throw the included earbuds away. They may not compare to the expensive models that cost in the hundreds, but they are good enough for music on the move. I just played around with all the digital sound settings and found a setting that makes them sound almost as good as the expensive ones. They also have mics on them that are required for the Digital Noise Cancelling. When I turn this feature on, the background noise just subsided and bring bright clear music right to you, does not matter where you are. I was in a DMV yesterday to do paperwork, and I was so happy that I can enjoy my music without turning up the volume. A tranquil personal enjoyment space in a sea of long line madness. The waiting time passed by so quickly and pleasantly is worth the price itself. Suggestion: use your expensive headphones in your home or office where it is quiet, but use the provided Digital NC earbuds when you are on the move and in a crowd. You will really appreciate it. You can see a web demo of these features at the SonyStyle Asia site: . Why it is not on the SonyStyle US site is beyond me.

6. You can also use the X-Series as a standalone Digital Noise Cancelling headphone with the included cable adapter. It works great. Consider a standalone Digital Noise Cancelling headphone will run for $300 to $400 itself, making this Sony X WM an even greater value.

7. The touch screen is easy to use. I figured how to use it in minutes without ever reading the manual. It is fun to use it, too. Sometimes it can get sensitive as I accidentally brush it with my hands or fingers during play back. That’s when the big “hold” switch on the back of the player is pretty useful.

8. I am using this mainly as a portable music player. It does have other features that may be important to others: A beautiful OLED screen, video play back (I loaded several Music Videos), photo viewing, “WiFi” for Web browsing, Podcast, or YouTube (I still use my iPhone for these), Slacker Radio, and FM radio. I am not reviewing these features as this review is already too long.

9. Using this player compare to other PMPs I have is like listening to a live concert compares to just CDs. The Sony X-Series Walkman is small, light, beautiful, and solid quality. With the great sound and Digital NC, there is no Apple, Microsoft, or other products that even come close.

You can read this review on the link:


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Let's get the Blogging started

I look forward to share my experiences with the Asian consumer markets and the American consumer markets and the key differences with all of you in the coming days.