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Sony Walkman NWZ-W202

>> Tuesday, September 15, 2009

If you want a display, a radio, or the ability to use your own earphones, Sony Walkman NWZ-W202 isn't for you, but it's an elegant and inexpensive player that's ideal for the gym crowd. The controls are built into the right ear of this 1.3 ounce earphone pair, which is available in black or pink. The earpieces are roughly 2 inches long, with the actual earphones on the inside sealing your ear canal for a secure fit and solid bass response.

In addition to three sizes of ear tips and a plastic protective case, Sony also includes a stand with a hardwired USB cable for charging the player and transferring music from your computer. Sony Walkman NWZ-W202 attaches via a mini USB connection built into the stand. A magnet on the player's right ear snaps the two earpieces together when the device is not in use, automatically shuttting off the power (a clever touch), and keeps the short but rigid behind the head cable from tangling. One control, a tiny wheel on the right earpiece's bottom panel, handles most of the player's functions.

It controls play, pause, skip (forward and backward), and Zappin, the aforementioned music preview feature all depending on whether you scroll the wheel forward or backward, press it quickly, or hold it down for a second. (These controls are convenient, but you'll probably need to consult the manual at first to get the hang of things.) Next to the wheel, there's a Volume rocker, a Reset pinhole, and the mini USB connector. Inside the earpiece is a switch that toggles Shuffle unless you want the device to play your music alphabetically, you should enable it.

You can also activate a volume limiting function by holding down both the wheel and the Volume Up button for five seconds. File support on Sony Walkman NWZ-W202 is modest but includes the essentials : MP3, WMA (including DRM files), and unprotected AAC. There's no FM radio, which is a bit of a bummer and since there's no screen, there's no video or photo file support. For a US$70 pair of earphones with a built-in player, Sony Walkman NWZ-W202 delivers nice sounding audio the above average drivers and the earphones' in ear seal produce a deeper low end response than you might expect.

On tracks with heavy bass from hip-hop act Madvillain, the low end was well defined, and the overall output wasn't muddy. On Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, the strings' low end resonance gave the music real presence without overpowering the mid to high frequencies. The earphones also never distorted sound, even at the highest volume level. While it sounds a bit gimmicky, Zappin can be useful. By playing short snippets from the middle of your songs rather than the beginnings, it allows you to recognize your tracks quickly.

When you hold down the wheel for long enough, a female voice says "Zappin in." The song snippets start, and once you hear a tune you'd like to listen to, you can quickly press the wheel to start the song from the beginning. If you're in shuffle mode, a random song will play next otherwise, you'll get the next song from that album or artist, or the first song from the artist who's next in the alphabet. Sony rates Sony Walkman NWZ-W202's battery life at 12 hours, but our tests yielded only 8 hours 43 minutes, which isn't particularly impressive.

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