Sony challenges Neil Young’s Pono with a high-res Walkman, headphones (Video added)

Sony has unveiled some of its shiny new toys for the big IFA electronics show in Berlin, and the theme of the day is the return of the Walkman — with a few new twists. The Walkman NWZ-A17 tops the new line as Sony’s latest high-res audio player, joined by a new “wearable Walkman,” in the guise of a new waterproof Bluetooth headset, along with “hi-res” headphones, and three other Bluetooth headsets to help underline its renewed focus on taking music on the go.

Updated on 9-04-2014 by Caleb Denison: We’ve aded a hands-on video of the Walkman in action.

Related: Neil Young’s PonoPlayer exceeds $1 million on Kickstarter in first day

High resolution

Walkman NWZ-A17 ($300)

Calling its new creation the “smallest and lightest hi-res audio digital music player,” the $300 A17 is poised to be a direct competitor to Neil Young’s PonoPlayer — if the PonoPlayer ever makes it to market. This extremely affordable new player is loaded with features that put it in serious contention in the hi-res arena.

Key options for the A17 include 64GB of internal storage, with an extended Micro SD and SDX slot supporting cards with “64GB or greater,” a battery with a whopping 30 hours of hi-res playback (or 50 hours of MP3 playback), a rigid aluminum die-cast chassis, FM radio, and high quality internal components like Sony’s S-Master HX digital amplifier.

File compatibility includes MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, AIFF, WAV and ALAC, with support for up to 192 kHz/24 bit resolution. And finally, the player also offers Bluetooth streaming with aptX for up to CD-quality resolution. The A17 hi-res portable player is slated to hit stores in late September.

MDR-1A High-Res Headphones ($300)

To pair with its new A17 hi-res player, Sony has a brand new pair of headphones designed to accentuate those hi-res files in all their glory. The headphones have a massive frequency response of up to 100kHz — five times what the human ear can hear. They achieve that lofty height with a pair of 40mm drivers with aluminum coated Liquid Crystal Polymer diaphragms for extra rigidity to offer a balanced sound across genres.

Other top-notch features include a four-wire Oxygen-Free Cable (OFC) for excellent signal transmission, a folding design to wrap around for a better seal, and ergonomic over-ear pads. Accessories with the headphones include dual removable cables, one with an inline remote and mic piece, and a carrying case. The headphones will be available in silver and black in late September.

Bluetooth audio

Walkman NWZ-WS613 waterproof headset ($160)

The second Walkman on Sony’s list today is more of a wearable than a portable player. This updated version to Sony’s IPX4-rated water-resistant Bluetooth headset is designed as a wireless companion to your workout — rain or shine. Key features for the device include the ability to load MP3s directly onto the headset (though storage capacity was not disclosed) as well as listening from your mobile device via Bluetooth and Sony’s SongPal app.

Control for the device can be handled through what Sony calls its “ring-type remote commander” which allows users to control playback and field phone calls. Users can also get any app notifications while listening to music thanks to the headset’s Soundmix function. And the headset includes aptX for CD quality sound from compatible devices. Unfortunately, Sony is coy with the details on this device, as battery run-time is also undisclosed. The WS613 is slated for release in mid-October.

MDR-XB950BT ($200)

Built for bass, these Bluetooth headphones bring the boom thanks to 40mm drivers souped up with an Electro Bass Booster, for “club-like” levels of sound. In short, these are everything we try to stay away from in today’s market — but if you like a huge punch of power, they may be right up your alley. The headphones connect via Bluetooth and pair with NFC if you’ve got it. They offer up to 20 hours of playback time, and will be available in mid-September.

MDR-AS800BT ($150)

The splash-proof AS800BT are another pair of wireless headphones built for your daily workout routine in any weather. The headphones are designed to be worn conventionally, or flipped over with the wires over your ear for a tighter fit, and offer one-button control to keep you hands free as long as possible. The AS800BT will be in stores in mid-September as well.

MDR-ZX550BN ($130)

Finally, the ZX550BN offer a touch of noise-cancellation to go with their wireless convenience, promising to reduce up to 90 percent of ambient noise for up to 25 hours of playtime per charge, though we’ll believe that 90 percent number when we hear it.

That’s it for Sony’s latest in portable music. Stay with us as we explore the gear hands on this week during IFA, as well as our forthcoming reviews.

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