Apr 07, 2015
[REVIEW] Sony A17 Hi-Res Walkman + MDR-1A Hi-Res Stereo Headphones

In today’s digital age, we have access to higher sound quality than ever before, and yet, with the introduction of the MP3, most people have unknowingly sacrificed audio quality in favour of portability.

The newest entry into Sony’s famed Walkman series is the A17 Hi-Res Walkman, which, when coupled with their MDR-1A Premium Hi-Res Stereo Headphones, promises to enhance your listening experience with quality that greatly surpasses that of MP3s. Are these two products an audiophiles dream? Are they worth their respective price tags? Read our review below to find out.

Appearance/Interface:

A17 Hi-Res Walkman
Weighing in at approximately 2.4 oz, the Sony A17 Hi-Res Walkman is over two-and-a-half times lighter than the iPhone 6 and two times lighter than the iPod classic. That being said, although the Walkman is lightweight and easy to carry around, Apple definitely makes the sexier product–the Walkman’s plastic back and micro SDXC slot feel cheap and flimsy, and a case/screen protector is highly recommended. Coming from an Apple product, I was a originally a bit hesitant that the Walkman did not have a touch screen, but I quickly learned to not miss it at all. The device’s large screen, high resolution, and easy-to-use controls make accessing playlists, music, videos, and settings easy, and the interface is very user friendly. Media Go, the program that comes with the device is great for ripping music in the format that you would like. Transferring music from iTunes is also streamlined–simply drag and drop the songs you want.

MDR-1A Hi-Res Stereo Headphones
The headphones are lightweight yet solid, and elegant-looking without being flashy or gimmicky. They feel comfortable and firm on the ears, and the weight distribution makes for an enjoyable listening experience, even with extended use. One nitpick is the stock cable–it is too short for anything other than use with a portable device.

Sound Quality:

A17 Hi-Res Walkman
Sound quality is the reason for picking up this product, and the Sony Walkman delivers. Although there is a debate about whether or not humans can actually hear the difference between high quality audio and typical MP3s, as a longtime user of Apple products I immediately noticed a step up in audio quality, especially when listening to electronic dance music. The sound quality is excellent, and the A17 Hi-Res Walkman offers power and range without sign of stress. At up to six times the resolution when compared to a regular CD, the difference between FLAC, AC, WAV and typical MP3 files is clear. The device also offers the ability to manually adjust EQ sliders, as opposed to using presets.

MDR-1A Hi-Res Stereo Headphones
The sound quality is solid. The bass is impressive without being overpowering or obscuring the mid or high frequencies. The bass also doesn’t come across as “too warm,” a problem that other over-ear headphones have. Even at the highest volumes, the sound remains crisp, clear and without sibilance, although there is sound leak at high volumes. I also tried a phone and Skype test with the headphones, and the in-line mic is fine.

Memory/Battery:

A17 Hi-Res Walkman
Although the 64 GB hard drive may sound like enough space, lossless files are huge and it is simply too little memory–at 24 bit and 192khz a regular audio CD will run well over 1 GB. The Walkman does have a microSD slot and Sonys offer a 128 GB memory card, so the device can store nearly 200 GB. The battery life is fantastic, as the device offers up to 50 hours of MP3 playback and 30 hours of Hi-Res playback.

Cost:

Both products cost $299.99 plus tax, which is fine for the Walkman, but the headphones are definitely on the expensive side of the spectrum.

Pros & Cons

A17 Hi-Res Walkman
+ lightweight and compact
+ “drag-and-drop” software makes transferring music simple
+ easy-to-use controls
+ adjustable EQ sliders
+ excellent sound quality
+ supports wide range of formats, including FLAC, AAC, ALAC, WMA, MP3
+ long battery life
+ Bluetooth works well
– plastic back of Walkman looks and feels a little cheap
– micro SDXC slot is flimsy
– device feels breakable–should have come with a case/screen protector
– manually scrolling through long list of artists/songs can be annoying
– 64 GB internal storage is too small, although Sony offers a 128 GB memory card

MDR-1A Hi-Res Stereo Headphones
+ comfortable
+ lightweight
+ well put-together
+ sound is crisp, clear
+ bass is impressive w/o affecting mid or high freq.
– stock cable is short
– sound leak at higher volumes
– expensive

Final Word:
Audiophiles and music listeners looking to make the jump to a high-quality audio player will both the happy with the Sony A17 Hi-Res Walkman and the A17 Hi-Res Stereo Headphones. The Walkman is easy to use and offers a long battery life, the headphones are comfortable and elegant, and both products feature excellent sound quality. Recommended.

Disclosure:
In the spirit of full-disclosure, I received review products from Sony Electronics, however, no payment was given or expected. All opinions given here are fully my own.

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