Sony is resurrecting the Walkman brand

The rise of MP3s and music streaming may have decimated the music industry and ushered in an age of highly-compressed audio files, but a new generation of devices are fighting back. Earlier this year 60s rocker Neil Young introduced his own PonoPlayer with a successful Kickstarter campaign, and now Sony is offering its own device under the classic Walkman brand. The Sony Walkman ZX1 plays high-resolution audio files and offers 128GB of storage, a 4-inch 854 x 480 display and 32 hours of battery life. The device isn’t available in the U.S. just yet, but when it does arrive it won’t come cheap. The ZX1 currently costs about $700 (compared to the $400 Pono) and the cost of music for the new Walkman runs about twice as much as you’d pay for the same tracks on iTunes or Amazon.

Thirty five years after its debut, Sony Corp.’s Walkman is enjoying a little comeback. But while the original cassette player of 1979 heralded the age of mass-market, portable music, the new $700 Walkman is aimed at premium buyers, as technological advances help more audio-on-the go users head upscale. The ZX1, as Sony’s gadget is called, is in many ways the antithesis of Apple Inc. ‘s slender iPod, and the Walkman’s own svelte predecessors. It has a heavy, bulky body that houses 128 gigabytes of storage for ultra-high-quality music files. Sony says each ZX1 is manually carved from a block of expensive aluminum, which helps reduce noise. “The message for our designers and engineers was: please create a good product without worrying about the cost,” said Kenji Nakada, Sony’s sound product planner. Unlike many earlier Sony attempts at high-end consumer electronics, the ZX1 is selling well—at least in Japan. The new Walkman quickly sold out after hitting Japanese stores in December. Since February, the product has made its debut in Europe and other parts of Asia, although its launch date in the U.S. hasn’t been set. Despite the success, the ZX1 remains a niche product: Sony declined to give sales figures but analysts estimate only several thousand units have been sold so far in Japan.

By Alfie Joshua

+Alfie Joshua is the editor at Auto in the News. Find him on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

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