Sony Intros Noise-Canceling Walkmans

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Sony Electronics today announced its new NW-S700F Walkman players, which integrate noise-canceling technology so music fans can have a high-quality listening experience in noisy environments like streets, busses, and trains without pummeling their eardrums.

“While Sony has offered noise canceling headphones, this is the first time that we’ve integrated the technology into the player itself,” said Koba Kobayashi, Sony Electronics’ general manager for personal audio, in a release. “We’ve created an entirely new category and are confident that even audiophiles will be pleased with this Walkman digital music player.”

The built-in noise canceling technology uses a microphone to detect environmental noise, then uses waveform interference to cancel out external frequencies in the 100Hz to 1KHz range—which is a band where a lot of music information typically resides, but also where most noise from cars, planes, trains, and streets hits. Like noise-canceling headphones from Sony (and other makers) the microphone the new Walkmans use to cancel outside sound is in the headphones, which means users will be locked into the Walkman’s earbuds to get the noise-canceling benefits. Sony emphasizes noise-canceling technology has to be experienced to be understood, and plans to offer demonstrations in stores across Japan (and in Sony Style stores) after October 12.

Otherwise, the new Walkman players are shaped like elongated teardrops, are available in a variety of fashionable colors including purple, pink, blue, white, black, and aqua, depending on model and capacity. The Walkmans sport a built-in FM tuner, three-line OLED display which supports cover art, and boast battery life of up to 50 hours of music playback on a single charge. In terms of tunes, the players support MP3, WAV, non-DRM AAC and WMA, and Sony’s ATRAC and ATRAC Lossless, which means these players can be used with music purchased from iTunes and other online music services—except Sony Connect, which offers music to Windows users in Sony’s ATRAC format.

Several models will be available: The NW-S703F will have a 1 GB capacity, be available in violet and pink, and be priced at $169. The NW705F will sport 2 GB, come in black, and carry a price of $199. Reports on a 4 GB model vary; Sony is showing it and news outlets report a possible price around $240, but Sony doesn’t mention it in their release or their product pages: it may be available in Japan only, at least initially. Sony will also sell NW-S600 series Walkmans in 1 abd 2 GB capacities for $126 and $167, although they will lack the FM tuner and noise canceling features.

To make matters more interesting, while unveiling the new S700 Walkmans, Sony Senior VP Hiroshi Yoshioka told a news conference in Tokyo that Sony is working on a Walkman product which “handles images,” but refused to go into more detail. A video-capable Walkman would put Sony into competition with Apple’s iPod as well as Microsoft’s Zune player, both of which offer video playback capability.

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