There's more than one way to make a wireless MP3 player, and building it right into a set of water-resistant headphones is an excellent way to do that and ensure that it's ready to hit the gym right out of the box. This is the route Sony took with its original W-Series Walkman back in 2009, and the company is continuing the tradition with the latest iteration of the device. The fitness-friendly player still features an ample 2GB of internal memory, and Sony has knocked $10 off the MSRP, bringing the W-Series down to an even more affordable $59.99. If you're sick of irritating headphone wires during your workouts, this all-in-one device is a fantastic way to nip that problem in the bud--provided you can get a good fit.
We have to give Sony credit for the W-Series Walkman's design, which is now available in a single all-black model. The two rectangular audio modules have been rounded off slightly, which gives the design an updated look. These pieces measure roughly 2 inches long by 0.8 inch wide and 0.4 inch deep and attach to one another via a flexible, twisting neckband. The W-Series continues to be the most compact all-in-one MP3 player/headphone we've ever seen, and at 1.3 ounces, it's impressively lightweight, as well.
Of course, with any such device made specifically for active pursuits, a secure fit is a chief concern. Luckily, the W-Series Walkman is up for the task: we tested the player walking, jogging, and doing jumping jacks and found it quite capable of staying in place during all of these activities, mostly thanks to the neckband's slight inward pressure and ear-looping design. However, its one-size-fits all design does raise some concerns. We found the hard plastic portion of the earbuds didn't fit into our ears that well and tended to put pressure on the cartilage. No doubt, the fact that the earbuds are integrated will cause issues for some users, despite Sony's inclusion of three sizes of silicone eartips.
Naturally, the W-Series Walkman doesn't have a screen--it would be rather difficult to view one on a device that's attached to your ears anyway. Music plays straight through in alphanumeric order by default, or you can activate the shuffle switch on the inside of the right earpiece to randomize playback. The bottom edge of the right module contains the remainder of the controls: two volume buttons and a jog dial. Swiping the dial forward or backward serves to cycle through tracks, and a quick press plays/pauses music. Sony also incorporated a nice feature where when you connect the earpieces via two tiny, integrated magnets, the player automatically shuts off.