Though the market is certainly trending towards the convergence of devices, with sales of media players and even tablets being affected by smartphone and phablet adoption, Sony seems to be convinced the market for audiophile-grade players still exists.
The company celebrated the 35th anniversary of the company's iconic Walkman brand earlier this month, a brand that has seen a definite transition in the recent past - with the December introduction of the Sony Walkman NWZ-ZX1 media player with a price tag of $700 (roughly Rs. 42,200).
Releasing the premium Walkman to few other Asian and European countries earlier this year, Sony hasn't yet announced plans to bring the NWZ-ZX1 to other countries - despite enjoying strong sales. As a Wall Street Journal report notes, Sony has released more than 25 types of flac-supported 'high-resolution' audio devices since September, with the company claiming these devices made up 20 percent of all audio sales for the October through March period.
The Sony Walkman NWZ-ZX1 has been hand-carved out of aluminium metal, which may give it a hefty, premium feel, but also makes it weigh 139 grams. It features a 4-inch TFT screen with an FWVGA (480x854 pixels) resolution, and has 128GB of inbuilt storage. Measuring 122.3x59.7x13.5mm, the MP3 player is powered by an integrated battery rated to give 32 hours of continuous playback music and charge within 3 hours.
As for the audiophile features, the Walkman NWZ-ZX1 plays 24-bit 192kHz flac audio, which is considered to be the ultra-high resolution audio format. The Walkman NWZ-ZX1 also features a 5-band equaliser and a dynamic normaliser along with the Clear Bass and Clear Stereo technology.
While the price and target demographic difference between the two products stops us from comparing it apples-to-apples with the Apple iPod touch, the latter is certainly a lighter, slimmer and cheaper device that's aimed at a larger demographic. As noted by PCMag, the Walkman NWZ-ZX1 weighs 37 percent more, is roughly twice as thick, and costs around $500 (roughly Rs. 30,100) more.
Sony's Kenji Nakada, Sound Product Planner at the Japanese electronics giant, explains the motivation behind the product's design however, speaking to the Wall Street Journal."The message for our designers and engineers was: please create a good product without worrying about the cost."
With converged devices certainly making their presence felt in the market with their mass-scale adoption, Sony may be exploring the right avenues by targeting the niche segments. Apart from audiophile segment, the dwindling media player market also sees other niches, such as professional, sports and rugged - all of which with Sony's example show some promise not to die out in the smartphone revolution.