Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Tech Review: Sony W-273S Sports Walkman

Swimming is boring.
It really is.

Runners and spinners have the luxury of selecting from a myriad of portable music players, but it's really slim pickings for swimmers.  And although I've loved swimming ever since I was a wee kid, I now get bored after a couple of laps in the pool.  I'm totally convinced it's the the lack of visual and audio stimulation that causes me to, well, not throw in the towel, but to pick one up after maybe 10 minutes of monotonous freestyles, breast strokes, back strokes, and even free form floating.

I mean, swimming is really truly mind-numbingly and tediously dreary stuff.

Until
the day I got myself a Walkman.


So there I was nearly a quarter century after my first (land) Walkman, when I found myself recently at the Best Buy store in Eaton Centre in Toronto.  As I perused aisle after aisle of headphones and MP3 players, there was only one set that I saw that is truly what I'm looking for.

Now, a side note: There are headphones that claim to be waterproof but that just means the copious amount of slick sweat from your runs and Muay Thai bouts won't short circuit your brain.  And it also means that those buds can withstand a good rinsing of said buckets of perspiration.  But they sure as heck don't claim that they can go underwater for an extended period of time, like say, for swimming.

Except for this Sony W-273S Sports Walkman.


So here's my take on it.
The first thing I noticed is that it doesn't operate via Bluetooth (which I had initially, and wrongly, assumed it would.)  The headphones themselves are the MP3 player.  They are attached to a battery charger, which powers up via USB.  That doubles up as the conduit between where the music is stored (in my case, my laptop,) and after dragging the songs and dropping them to the Walkman, I was good to go.  Easy.

All the controls are placed on the left and right headphones - volume control, play, pause, shuffle, forward and backward, and the lock button.  All relatively straightforward and very responsive.  Except for the On/Off button which is a pain in the ass and designed for people with needles for fingers.  Other than that minor annoyance, the Walkman is lightweight, the wire doesn't chafe the back of my head and the buds rest comfortably in my ear canals.

That last bit is important as I'd earlier bought a set of wireless, Bluetooth-enabled (non waterproof) headphones for my running races, and by God, those are as uncomfortable as sitting on a barbed-wire couch upholstered with brillo pads.  Also they kept falling off which, you know, made the whole experience of running and listening to music all about stopping every 10 seconds and ramming the buds back into my ears and therefore missing the songs and getting my pacing off due to constant adjustments.

But I digress.....

So I now go to the most important part of the W Series Walkman - how does it sound?  Well, other than the fact that it will not electrocute me when wet (always a huge plus,) the main benefit of my getting one is to listen to music whilst swimming.  Now I'm not a stereo aficionado, but I don't want to hear some tinny, high-pitched yet garbled sound that makes the singers sound like they are, you know, underwater.  Which is mildly ironic, come to think of it.  Sony provides each Walkman with not one, but FOUR different sets of ear bud sizes so I could pick the one that fits the most snugly.  Which also meant not just finding the most comfortable fit, but they also keep the water out (bonus!,) and I get to hear Barry White croon-growl that I'm his first, his last, his everything in perfect clarity (and really, that's what it's all about, that's the whole enchilada right there.)

I managed to get this little video snippet of me swimming with the Walkman on.  (I would've gotten more footage but the lifeguard freaked out and said the condo's bylaws forbade any video/still photography at the pool area.  He finally relented to the taping of one lap when I pointed out I was after all the only one in the pool and that I'm a full grown ass adult who is giving her consent to be filmed.)  So unfortunately, I don't have any shots of me doing the mermaid thang as the Walkman can actually operate underwater up to two meters in depth.  So this will have to do for now.



Specifications:
- 4GB internal flash storage capacity
- Enables safe submersion in up to 6.6 feet/2 meters of water (do not use in salt water, since it is highly corrosive).
- Supported audio formats include MP3 (32-320 Kbps at 32kHz, 44.1kHz and 48kHz), WMA (32-192 Kbps at 44.1kHz), AAC (16-320 Kbps at 8kHz, 11.025kHz, 12kHz, 16kHz, 22.05kHz, 24kHz, 32kHz, 44.1kHz and 48kHz) and linear PCM (1411 Kbps at 44.1kHz).
- Integrated EX headphones with 13.5mm closed, dynamic dome drivers deliver robust, clear sound with deep, powerful bass response
- High-speed USB 2.0 interface
- Supports iTunes for Mac or Windows, as well as Windows Media Player.
- Built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that delivers up to 8 hours of continuous audio playback on a full charge and up to 1 hour on a quick 3-minute charge. Includes a USB dock for rapid battery power replenishment.
- Comes in four different colours.

Available on BestBuy.com and Amazon.com.

Highly recommended: 4/5 fins.
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