If you haven’t noticed, Sony has been incorporating mirror-finishing and subsurface OLED displays into its new series of WALKMAN players for a while now. The display, as you would agree with us, is the attractive (and seductive) factor that has set Sony apart from the rest. The decision was every bit a design oriented one as it was a deliberate marketing strategy to revitalize the popularity of the WALKMAN name - considering how far it had fallen behind competitors by persisting to support only its proprietary ATRAC3 format instead of the more pervasive MP3 format for early WALKMAN players. In the new S700 series WALKMAN player, Sony’s WALKMAN design philosophy is continued but this time round, there is a little “treat” installed for audiophiles and music buffs. If you don’t like to be disturbed while listening to music, the new Sony player could be the device you have been waiting for.
There are three variants in the S700 series, each distinguished by storage capacities of 1GB, 2GB and 4GB. Like the NW-A1000 WALKMAN, the new model is available in several attractive shades but color availability remains region specific. In our hands is the blue S705 2GB edition that features a shiny chrome outline and a color-mirrored surface. Its blend of color and design practically screams out for attention, which is a plus when it comes to drawing the attention of shoppers.
The S705 is slightly bigger than the S203 that we previewed recently. New about the S700 series is a colored OLED display that shows album art, visualization, time and track information. Navigation is done mainly with a knob at the top of the player. At its default stance, the knob serves to navigate tracks but when lifted, controls are instantly switched to navigate through artiste and album. The play/stop and volume buttons are flushed perfectly with the display to give the player a uniformed appearance. A Home and a Back/Display mode button by the side of the S705 provide navigation of the user interface while the back of the player is home to the Hold and Sound/Play Mode buttons.
Enough about the good looks (you get the point), the key selling point of the S700 series is its ambient noise reduction capability. Sony claims up to 75% of ambient noise can be eliminated, which is certainly good news for those who spend long hours commuting on noisy buses and trains daily. Part of what contributes to the bold claim has to do with the bundled headphones, which is a pair of in-ear-canal phones that is more comfortable than cheap earplugs that many manufacturers are still bundling with their audio players, not forgetting it sounds better as well. Like the Sony high-end EX Monitor MDR-EX90LP headphones, the bundled earphones are earbuds that sit within the ear canal when worn, thus isolating sound from external sources. Noise cancelling on the other hand, is achieved by microphones within the earbuds that record ambient frequencies followed by generating opposite frequencies to cancel out what is more affectionately known as ambient noise. The result of noise isolation from the in-ear-canal phones and noise cancelling technology is nothing short of amazing. Unfortunately, the headphones cannot be used with any other MP3 player as it uses a proprietary connection that will only work with the S700 series.
The S705 WALKMAN player is not just an excellent audio player but also one with stunning good looks. Tie a lanyard to it and the S705 will transform into an accessory ready to go with your cool outfit. We can already foresee it will attract the fashion savvy or anyone who owns either the Sony Ericsson Z610i or Z310i handphone.
In terms of performance, well, we have nothing but praises. In fact, the noise cancellation is so good that we strongly discourage its use for people who drive or cycle for obvious safety reasons. The S700 series is available now at a retail prices of US$259, $199.95 and $165.95 for the 4GB, 2GB and 1GB editions respectively.