Sony's expensive new Walkman takes aim at audiophiles

Sony already has a high-resolution player in its Walkman line but, not wanting to sit out the growing audiophile craze, the company revealed another model here at CES: the Walkman ZX2. Inside the player's aluminum alloy frame, there's an S-Master HX digital amp to keep things sounding clear, and DSEE HX tech that upscales those regular ol' tunes (like those being streamed) for better sound quality. In terms of playback, the ZX2 handles media up to 192kHz/24-bit and MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, AIFF, WAV and ALAC including DSD files. There's 128GB of internal memory that's sure to fill up, but a microSD slot provides extra space. It'll connect to WiFi for streaming and downloads, and the battery is said to last 60 hours on a charge.

The Walkman ZX2 runs the aging Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and while that may seem odd, Sony says the choice to go with that version hinges on its stability. This means that the player can run apps from Google Play, so long as they're compatible with that particular version. It'll do Bluetooth as well, with LDAC tech for enhanced clarity. How does it sound? Well, I had a brief listen with the device paired with Sony's MDR-1A headphones, and I must say, it's quite good. Over $1,000 good? Let's just say you'll need to be dedicated to upgrading your audio setup and have a set of cans good enough to do those files justice.

Of course, high-res audio is making a comeback, thanks to Tidal's streaming service, Neil Young's Pono and others. The cost of a player, headphones and more expensive content will certainly deter many, but audiophiles will certainly have a number of new options with names like Sony jumping in. If you're looking to grab one, the ZX2 will go on sale this spring. While there are reports of $1,120 and $1,200 price tags, a Sony rep told me that a final decision on pricing has yet to be made.