Sony Walkman NW-A306 Lightning Review: Entry-Level Audiophile Player

Sony’s Walkman line has, by some miracle, remained relevant amidst the torrential sea of smartphones and streaming services like Tidal and Apple Music. But while the latter is able to stream songs at Hi-Res audio quality, it’s no secret that to truly enjoy the experience, using a media player with dedicated hardware that boosts and enhances all those songs from your streaming and personal library, you’re going to need something like the NW-A306.

What Is It?

The Walkman NW-A306 is one of Sony’s latest dedicated media player to arrive in the market. While considered an entry-level Walkman, the A306 is built with a solid aluminium milled frame, designed in such a way that it produces a low impedance, as well as satisfying lows.

Because it is built using aluminium, the NW-A306 is also lightweight and doesn’t weigh my pants down. In terms of software, the Walkman runs on Android 12 OS and even supports direct downloading and streaming directly from your favourite streaming services. Oh, and it also supports Bluetooth connectivity, so you don’t necessarily need to use a pair of wired headphones to enjoy your music.

Around the exterior of the NW-A306, the Walkman is fitted with the usual accoutrement of the power and volume buttons, the navigation and play/pause buttons, and a slider that locks all functions when toggled. At the base, you’ve got a 3.5mm headphone jack, the USB-C port for charging and file transfer, and a microSD card slot for storage expansion.

Is It Any Good?

As with all Walkman, the NW-A306 comes equipped with a piece of Sony’s proprietary audio technology. In this case, it plays host to the S-Master HX digital amp that was developed for the Walkman.

Above all else, the NW-A306 carries support for the Qualcomm aptX codecs, including aptX HD. Sure, the latter isn’t aptX Adaptive and while most other media players that support the codec have already move on with Adaptive, it doesn’t mean that the codec performs any worse. Of course, that list also Hi-Res Audio for both wired and wireless connections, along with Sony’s own LDAC codec, for obvious reasons.

While I can say that your audio experience will vary based on the output of your choice, it can also be said that your headphones or earbuds are only as good as their source. For that matter, the NW-A306 also gives you access to Sony-centric features, including ClearAudio+, a Dynamic Normaliser, DC Phase Lineariser, and the DSEE Ultimate that brings a track’s quality as close as it can to the original sound source and eliminates any noise, all through the use of AI. For that matter, the list also includes its 360 Reality Audio feature.

Because of its singular function, the NW-A306 also has an exceptionally longer battery life. On a full charge, the Walkman gives me between 26 hours and 32 hours, and that’s from consistently listening to a mix between 16-bit and 24-bit tracks.

The Bad Stuff. Tell Me.

Overall, the Android experience is slow and sluggish, and not what I would expect from a modern device that launched earlier this year. Even after updating it to the latest version of the Android OS, navigating the player takes what feels like a lifetime – reactions after tapping on a section within an app literally takes anywhere from one to three seconds, and when you want to access another section of said app, you have no choice but to repeat the process.

On another note, having Wi-Fi isn’t necessarily a boon or advantage for the NW-A306. The media player was originally designed for an offline listening experience and still does that beautifully. However, if you’re going to be streaming your music from services like Spotify or Tidal, you are going to need a constant connection to the internet. I know what you’re going to say: yes, you can just download your favourite albums and songs and store them in the player, but unless you’ve got a high-capacity microSD card inside that dedicated slot, you’re going to find the player’s 32GB internal storage fill up very quickly.

The other caveat of the NW-A306? This digital Walkman will set you back a stiff RM1599, which is almost the same price as a pair of WH-1000XM5.

Should I Buy It?

Whether you are a fledgling or a bonafide audiophile, spending the required RM1599 for the Sony Walkman NW-A306 isn’t something I can recommend lightly. To put it simply, this is a premium-grade media player that is designed for the folks that prioritise listening to their tunes in all their lossless audio glory, and if I’m honest, having spent time with this product has left me feeling a little disappointed with what streaming services like Spotify offers in terms of bitrate.

Ultimately, you’re also going to need some pretty high-end headphones, wired or wireless, if you’re going to want to take full advantage of the NW-A306. That alone will certainly drive your costs beyond the RM1599 but then again, if you’re already paying that much for the Walkman, it is safe to assume that you’re also willing to splurge for the rest of the gear.

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