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Sony NW-E013 review: Sony NW-E013 (E Series)

The NW-E013 is the latest addition to Sony's popular E Series and at £59 offers excellent value for money. With a good pair of headphones the sound is superb, and with an impressive battery life of 30 hours your toes will be kept tapping for some time

Nate Lanxon Special to CNET News
4 min read

The E Series is the latest line of Sony's MP3 players. They may look like a glorified USB drive or a trendy girl's lipstick, but the models bearing the E moniker have a three-line colour dot-matrix screen and support for a wide range of audio formats.


Sony NW-E013

The Good

Sound quality; price; features; design; format support; battery life; build quality.

The Bad

SonicStage required; no drag and drop.

The Bottom Line

Sony's 1GB NW-E013, and its sister models the 2GB NW-E015 and 4GB NW-E016, are terrific MP3 players for the price. Battery life is superb and the support for many audio formats gets an enthusiastic thumbs up. We're still forced to use the diabolical SonicStage software, but with great audio quality and the features mentioned above, we're happy to highly recommend these players

We're looking at the NW-E013, but the 2GB NW-E015 and the 4GB NW-E016 models are identical players. The only difference is memory capacity and colour (Sony likes to give every capacity a different name for some reason).

There's a distinct ruggedness to the E013, thanks to its solid build quality. The glossy finish is complimented by attractive silver trimmings and soft-touch buttons. It's one of those players that doesn't feel like it would shatter if accidentally dropped.

The NW-E013 feels rugged and hard-wearing

The left and right navigational buttons are the only controls mounted on the front and feel a little out of place -- at first we didn't even acknowledge they were buttons.

Controls are a little fiddly, but only as a result of being stuck on a player of this size. There's also a cap-covered USB plug -- very handy if you use multiple computers to add music, but Sony still won't allow drag and drop media on to its players, rendering this feature slightly pointless.

It will charge through the USB though, and you'll get three hours' playback from a three-minute charge.

Slim and pocketable: the E013 feels good to hold and won't weigh you down

The three-line colour display is nicely implemented and looks like it floats below the surface of the player's casing. Song and artist info is displayed alongside colour album art, though art is restricted to a space less than 10mm by 10mm.

The main menu uses the whole screen to display five larger option icons. These can be cycled through using the forward and back buttons. There's a slight lag when navigating all menus, but apart from that, navigating the player is intuitive and pleasant.

The inclusion of a colour screen is a nice touch, even if it's not the sharpest display

Sony has done a good job at supporting a broad range of audio formats,  including MP3, unprotected AAC and WMA, ATRAC and WAV.

We're sad not to see support for OGG, but AAC support -- the format used on the iTunes Store -- is superior to MP3 at lower bit rates, meaning more music can be stored on the player and at a higher quality. It also means you can listen to the new DRM-free tracks from iTunes.

There's no FM radio though, or true gapless playback. Fans of live music albums may be disappointed at the split-second gap between tracks.

The E Series has a search feature but it simply allows you to scroll through alphabetical lists of artists, albums, songs, genres or album release dates, much like a traditional browsing system in any other MP3 player. Thankfully, the cursor returns to the top of the list when it reaches the bottom. Those of you with large playlists on players that don't have this simple feature will appreciate how useful this is.

Sound quality on the NW-E013 is excellent, with great reproduction throughout a range of genres, including dance, country, rock and classical.

Streamlined: the 3.5mm headphone socket is fixed on the end of the player

We set some hard-hitting drum and bass from club-favourites Pendulum playing and we were impressed with how full and powerful the track was driven. Similarly, with a folk number from KT Tunstall, melodies were accurate and passionate, and comparable to a popular £300 MP3 player. It's always impressive to hear something so small produce sounds this full and dynamic.

The supplied headphones are sadly nowhere near as impressive as the ones Sony distributes with its NW-A808 -- they're tinny and give a very muddy performance. It's definitely worth investing in a pair of decent headphones.

The 'Clear Stereo' enhancement built into these players is very effective, predominantly enhancing mid-range frequencies.

Various equaliser modes are available, with several presets that will throw your music into an arena, a studio or into a live environment. These can be used alongside the VPT (Virtualphones Technology) functions, which aim to produce a more three-dimensional, natural sound reproduction.

The built-in USB plug allows for quick updating and doesn't need any proprietary cables

Sony has always been strong with the battery performance of its music players. It comes as no surprise, then, that these lipstick-shaped digital players are estimated to have 30 hours of continuous battery life. Our tests clocked 29 hours, which is impressively close to Sony's estimation.

Resuming playback mid-song only works for the song you're currently listening to, so podcast fans and audiobook lovers will have to scan to the point they were up to, irritatingly. There are numerous play modes, and an 'Intelligent Shuffle' option that selects songs based on conditions such as year of release -- the player randomly selects a year and plays all songs from that period.

The NW-E013 is a superb-sounding player pitched at a reasonable price. Its wide range of supported formats and its incredible battery life make this a really convenient option for many lifestyles. The small buttons and tiny screen may render it a little less suitable while out jogging, for example, but its light weight and convenient design make up for this minor downside.

If you're after something a little easier to control while on the jog, maybe consider Apple's iPod Shuffle or Creative's Zen Stone. But in all honesty, aside from its predecessor, the NW-E003, this player is in a league of its own and carries its flag valiantly. Good on you, Sony.

Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield