Sony’s affordable new Walkman could make your digital music sound better than ever

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Sony is fully embracing music streaming with its latest Walkman, the NW-A306, which features a new sound engine that can enhance your favorite tracks from your streaming service of choice.

Digital music has made carrying your entire audio library around with you wildly convenient, and using one of the best music streaming services takes this convenience one step further – now your tunes don’t even have to take up virtual space for you to be able to listen to them wherever you want (provided you have internet access).

However, streamed songs are as much a curse as they are a blessing for serious audiophiles – the compressed music files can lack the dynamic range and acoustic subtleties of the original tracks. Sony’s NW-A306 might change this, though, thanks to its Edge-AI and DSEE Ultimate (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) features, which are designed to upscale compressed digital music files in real time – providing a much richer and more dynamic experience during playback.

These new tools join the Walkman’s existing hi-res features like LDAC – which allows anyone using a pair of the best wireless headphones to enjoy high-quality audio without wires – and its 360 Reality Audio feature, which allows the player to immerse you with its 3D soundscape.

The Sony NW-A306 audio player

The Sony NW-A306 is a compact audio player that runs on Android 12 (Image credit: Sony)

We’ll have to see how the Sony NW-A306 performs for ourselves to know how capable it really is. But Sony’s audio expertise has seen its devices appear in – and dominate – several of our buying guides (including our best wireless earbuds list), so we’re expecting that this new gadget will be no different.

That being said, there are a couple of potential drawbacks.

For one thing, it’s not got a lot of storage. The Sony NW-A306 has 32GB of storage space, but once you account for all the software you need to have installed you’ll only have around 18GB left to play with. That’s certainly enough to hold more than a few albums, but those of you with a huge music library might find that you run out of space fairly quickly.

Then there’s the price. The NW-A306 will set you back £350, which is around $425 / AU$615 – there’s no word yet on a US or Australian release date or official pricing, but it’s set to launch in the UK and Europe later in January 2023.

Compared to the best MP3 players out there, that’s a super-affordable price – the Astell & Kern A&ultima SP2000T, which occupies the top slot in the guide linked above, is priced at $2,399 / £1,999 / AU$3,599 – but if you’re content with your phone’s passable portable audio experience then you might not appreciate the NW-A306’s cost of entry.

However, if you’re after an audio player that’s much better rated than ‘it’ll do’ then the Sony NW-A306 could be the gadget for you.

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