Product Review: Sony Walkman W series. A cord free mp3/headphone combo

klout perk sony walkman mp3

Sony Walkman W Series MP3 Headphone

The Sony Walkman W series is an mp3 player that essentially looks like two blue tooth headsets connected by a cord behind your head. If you’ve even worn headphone that wrap around the back of your head for biking, running, etc. then imagine that is all you are wearing… I mean, imagine that the headphones don’t have a cord, you aren’t carrying an mp3 player, or a phone. The headphones ARE the mp3 player (“the files are IN the computer”).

the music is in the headphones…

If you have read MAKERS by Cory Doctorow (Amazon or Free download from Craphound), then you are familiar with the in-ear mp3 players that he describes in a not too distant future world.  The Sony Walkman W series is the closest thing I’ve seen to these, and to be perfectly honest I am a little surprised that Walkman was the first one to market on these.

Cory Doctorow signing a copy of Makers for me during his “Homeland” tour

That Sony made it happen, I guess isn’t that surprising; but the idea, and the ability, have both been available for at least a couple years. It was just a matter of pioneering the development and production. Ok, maybe first to market is an exaggeration, but at their price point ($69) and the production level they are producing it doesn’t seem horribly comparable to the other in-ear mp3 players out there.

One feature that I think is smart, both in functionality and target audience, is making them water resistant and the upcoming waterproof model. My wife has the lifeproof case for her iPhone, specifically because she wanted to go swimming with it… She hasn’t invested in waterproof headphones yet, but it has saved her at the MGM lazy river in Vegas, and when she listens to audio books while playing Candy Crush in the tub. For people who swim and want to listen to music while they do it, there are a variety of products out there, but it seems like the biggest problem is where to put an mp3 player/phone in a swim suit? Having an all in one unit seems like it would be a necessity for swimmers, but it is also convenient for…. everyone.

The most common feature that I’ve heard people mention online during the review process is that there are no cords.

Whether you are running, biking, swimming, or fighting your way through the cubicle jungle, being cord free is so convenient. It’s liberating really. Music is what fuels me through the day whether I’m working, working out, or whatever. When I’m at my desk I have over-ear headphones plugged into my speakers, and even with an extension I have to take my headphones off before reaching for the far drawers (yes I work in an industry that still uses paper documents). When I worked at GE and I spent most of my days back and forth between the lab and meetings, I would run my headphones through my shirt so that when I took them out of my ears they would hang there (rather than constantly wadding them up and shoving them hastily in my pocket). I was never a huge fan of that because I think that headphones hanging out of my collar looked unprofessional (unless I was wearing a lab coat), but there is more to a good mp3 player than just being cord free.

Uploading is fairly simple, just connect the device and drag-and-drop; or you can install the .exe that is on the headset. The device charges (like most) through the same connection, a common micro usb. I haven’t tried it, but you could probably charge it with an android phone charger. A full charge gives you 8 hours of play time. 3 minutes of charging gives you 60 minutes of play-time. If you run for longer than an hour at a time (active wear seems to be their primary target audience) then you will just have to be patient. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that if you’re willing to spend over an hour putting one foot in front of the other with no particular destination, you’d also be willing to let your headphones charge for another minute or two.

I guess when you win marathons and Olympic races you need an 8 hour battery life

I haven’t tested the 3 minute charge claim yet, but I did test the full charge yesterday, and mine clocked out at 9.5 hours of play time. Granted that was the first charge and perhaps I don’t listen to my music as loudly as you do. I did use pause a lot, so total time on yesterday was closer to 11-12 hours, but it seems as though if you pause them for more than a few seconds they go into a sleep mode.

The play, pause, volume, skip, shuffle, etc. features are all simple and easy to use. There are six buttons, and an on/off switch. Overall the device is simple, without being so minimalist as to require cheat-code like button combinations.

The sound is surprisingly good (considering the price). The best comparison I personally have are the Heavy Medal ($80) or Titan ($50) by Skull Candy. I’ve tried several other brands, but can’t remember the model names, and I have found that per price point Skull Candy is as good or better than everything else I’ve tried. This is of course excluding headphones over $100, and only talking about sound quality. So these headphones are as good as the Titans IMO. They don’t have the range, but the general quality would be indistinguishable to most people. Considering that the entire Sony headset is only $10 more than the Skull Candy headphone this is pretty impressive. They obviously have to have lower quality sound components in order to come in at the same price. I think that the sound quality for this device largely comes from the lack of cord. Anyone who has used a DJ cord knows that the longer the cord the more the sound degrades. This is usually negligible with short distances, but by connecting the headphones directly to the device they eliminate any loss caused by the headphone jack and the cord. This means that down the road a higher quality speaker could seriously increase the sound quality.

All of the above is my honest opinion and simple facts. I’m not trying to build up the product, because there is nothing in it for me. I got a free headphone/mp3 player that I could afford to purchase (but probably wouldn’t have), and I’m grateful to Sony for the opportunity to review them, but my integrity costs more than that.  Most of the improvements are technological that could be said of any tech device: smaller, longer batter, more storage, etc. etc. but for the price, I think Sony hit a great balance between cost and function. I didn’t find much ‘wrong’ with them, besides the fact that if you don’t know what they are, it kind of looks like I’m wearing two Bluetooth headsets. I don’t own a single Bluetooth headset, and depending on your opinion of them, seeing a guy wearing TWO would either make him x2 busier/cooler, or x2 more of a tool.  I wasn’t the only one to test these (5,000 people claimed the perk), but of all of the tweets I read (most people used the Sony supplied hastag #FitnessWalkman) I only came across one naysayer.

Besides personally finding them uncomfortable, Dr. Poinsett thought they were distracting, and implored us to think of the children. While her point is completely valid; distractedness causes accidents and that teen death isn’t a joking matter. I personally don’t think that tech kills people, stupidity does. If someone gets into a car wreck because they were texting and driving, the phone didn’t cause the accident; It is stupid to text and drive. Whether or not it is stupid to run while you listen to music…. I guess that depends on the person.

To sum up. I love them, I will wear them until they wear out or another gen comes out that is substantially better. At which point I will most likely buy them and dismantle the pair I was given to see if I can somehow “improve” upon them, but as of right now I can’t think of any improvements that I could make.

too good to tinker with (right now)

NASA Asks Universities For Early Stage Innovation Tech Proposals

April 02, 2013

David E. Steitz

Headquarters, Washington

202-358-1730

david.steitz@nasa.gov

RELEASE: 13-095

NASA ASKS UNIVERSITIES FOR EARLY STAGE INNOVATION TECH PROPOSALS

WASHINGTON — NASA is seeking innovative, early-stage space technology proposals from accredited U.S. universities that will enable NASA’s future missions and America’s leadership in space.

Proposals are sought for science instruments, cryogenic propellant storage for long-duration space exploration, optical coatings for astrophysical pursuits, oxygen recovery for life support systems, and to improve our understanding of and protection from near-Earth asteroids.

Each of these space technology areas requires dramatic improvements over existing capabilities. New early stage, or low technology readiness-level, technologies could mature into tools that solve the hard challenges facing NASA’s future scientific and human spaceflight missions. Researchers should propose unique, transformational space technologies that address specific topics found in this solicitation.

“Space technology is the underpinning of all of NASA’s future missions,” said Michael Gazarik, NASA’s associate administrator for the Space Technology Mission Directorate in Washington. “NASA’s collaboration with the National Research Council and the agency’s recent Strategic Space Technology Investment Plan have helped us identify areas where new, cross-cutting space technologies are needed to enable our future missions. Now we’re reaching out to American universities to tap into the nation’s best and brightest minds to help solve these tough technology problems.”

This solicitation requests proposals on five topic areas. The first topic area seeks new instrument technologies for the exploration of planetary bodies within our solar system. Innovative technology advances are needed to support the instruments that scientists will need to better understand the history, climates, evidence of past life and future potential habitability of planets and moons within the solar system.

Spaceflight architectures for future human space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit will require technologies and capabilities not available today, such as long duration storage of cryogenic propellants in a zero gravity environment. Under a second topic area for this solicitation, NASA is particularly interested in proposals regarding how to mature fundamental experimental and computational solutions to address the challenges of cryogenic storage of liquid hydrogen.

Through a third topic area for this solicitation, NASA is seeking advances in optics technologies to enable the challenging science measurements that may contribute to the understanding of the first moments of the universe, the characterization of galaxy evolution over time and the characterization of newly found exoplanets.

As future exploration missions extend beyond low-Earth orbit, vehicles and extraterrestrial surface habitats housing astronauts will need to be highly reliable and self-sufficient; the opportunity for resupply of consumables diminishes the farther from home you go. The fourth topic area of this solicitation seeks novel technologies that will help close the atmosphere revitalization loop aboard spaceships and surface habitats during long duration space missions. New technologies must have the potential to significantly increase the oxygen recovery rate beyond the current state of the art.

Under a final topic area, NASA is seeking proposals for new technologies to better understand and protect our planet from near-Earth asteroids. Early stage technologies that will help with characterizing, understanding, and planning how to mitigate the threat of near-Earth asteroids are of great interest. These efforts are important for the sustainability and future of our home planet.

NASA expects to make approximately 10 awards this fall, based on the merit of proposals received. Each award will be made for one year with an additional year of research possible. The typical annual award value is expected to be approximately $250,000. Second-year funding will be contingent on the availability of appropriated funds and technical progress. Only accredited U.S. universities may submit proposals to this solicitation. Notices of intent are due by April 29 with proposals due May 21.

To view the Early Stage Innovation NASA Research Announcement and information for submitting proposals, visit:

http://go.usa.gov/25De

The solicitation is a part of NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, which is innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in NASA’s future missions. For more information about NASA’s investment in space technology, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacetech