There's more than one way to make a wireless MP3 player, and building it directly into a set of headphones may seem like the easy way out, but it gets the job done. Sony elected to take this route with its new W-Series Walkman, a 2GB MP3 player that's built into a set of impressively small earbud-style headphones and sports a palatable price tag of just $69.
We've got to give props to Sony for the design of the W-Series Walkman, which is available in a choice of two colors (black or pink). Two rectangular audio modules--measuring roughly 2 inches long by 0.8 inch wide and 0.4 inch deep--attach to one another via a flexible, twisting neckband. It's the smallest all-in-one MP3 player/headphone we've ever seen, and it's impressively lightweight, as well (1.3 ounces).
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. Still, comfort is somewhat of a concern--the fact that the earbuds are integrated will no doubt cause issues for some, despite Sony's inclusion of three sizes of silicone eartips.
As might be expected, the W-Series Walkman's interface is rather nontraditional. Naturally, there's no screen--it would be a bit 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 W-Series Walkman is predictably light on extras, but Sony does integrate a few unique and useful features. The first is something called Zappin, which lets you browse through tracks by ear by playing a snippet of the chorus of each song.
The package includes a sticky-bottomed stand/docking station for charging the device and transferring songs (done via standard Mini-USB). Each earpiece is magnetized and when you stick them together, the player automatically powers down.
The W-Series has no screen nor many features to speak of, but it does use an innovative technology called Zappin that allows you to listen to snippets of the chorus of each track in order to audibly find the song you want.