Throughout the history of the Sony Walkman, certain models have stood apart from the colour popping plastic mass market units. The WM-20 of 1983, for example, which was exactly the same dimensions as a cassette case (and which came in a beautiful gold finish). Audio quality was also prized. The WM-D6C Professional Walkman was introduced in 1984 – a good example will set you back many times the original purchase price of $250 – and was still in production when the Japanese electronics giant launched its first all-digital player, the Network Walkman, in 1999.
The digital Walkman range might have been first, but Sony didn't get the prize. The iPod arrived in 2001 and mp3s were suddenly mainstream; as long as you were using Apple. Although the NW models have been continually refined over the past 23 years, they've always been considered somewhat niche. Since 2014, all Walkman models have been ‘high-resolution’ players, capable of supporting formats like 24-bit FLAC as well as the ubiquitous mp3. The company has now introduced two new premium music players, the NW-WM1ZM2 and NW-WM1AM2.
The eagle-eyed will have noticed there’s a distinct difference between the two. The WM1ZM2 Walkman Signature Series takes the audiophile community’s obsession with gold to the next level. While the AM2 makes do with a regular issue black case, the ZM2 has a chassis made from oxygen-free copper and then gold-plated. The company claims the purity and strength of this material gives you ‘bass notes [that] are clear and powerful’ and an ‘atmosphere [that] is more expansive.’ If you believe you’re capable of gleaning such subtle sonic distinctions, then go for it. It looks beautiful, nevertheless.
The flagship model has a few distinct tech advantages as well, including better quality components, like the thick American-made Kimber Kable internal connector from the amp to the headphone jack. Yes, expensive speaker cabling is often the most divisive field of hi-fidelity wizardry, but Sony claims that the couple of centimetres of this high-spec wiring is another boost to the signal quality. There’s also 256GB of onboard storage, as opposed to 128GB in the AM2, although both models have a microSD slot to boost that capacity even further.
Aside from the aesthetic considerations, these new Walkmen promise to deliver High-Resolution audio with hitherto unheard levels of sophistication, with processing that smooths out the almost imperceptible artefacts of compression. There’s even a ‘Vinyl Processor’ that evokes a record’s ‘warmth and character.’ The rest of the spec is suitably high-tech – a 5” touch screen, Android support, WiFi connectivity, and the handy twin headphone ports on the top of the unit. Finally, the case is beautifully sculpted, with circular physical control buttons, and construction and finish are top notch, giving this precious pair the tactile, detail-obsessive feel of the best audio equipment.
The Sony Walkman NW-WM1AM2 is priced at £1,300, and the NW-WM1ZM2 costs £3,350. Read more at Sony.co.uk (opens in new tab).
This article is part of The T3 Edit, a collaboration between T3 and Wallpaper* which explores the very best blends of design, craft, and technology. Wallpaper* magazine is the world’s leading authority on contemporary design and The T3 Edit is your essential guide to what’s new and what’s next.