Which company produced the best MP3 player in the 80s and 90s? Sony dominated the portable media player market during that time. Then Apple came along and released the iPod. Ever since Sony has been scrapping to keep pace and finally, after many years of denial, started building iPod compatible stereos, docks and bedside alarm clocks. So does the Sony’s NWZ-W252 Walkman even warrant a look? Or, you might want to take a look at our review of Samsung’s tiny MP3 player: YP-F2 for another tiny MP3 option. You might find the best MP3 player.
Fortunately, the day after I ran my iPod Shuffle through the washing machine, the NWZ-W252 showed up at my door. So there couldn’t have been a better time to review the MP3 player. The first thing I noticed about the Sony NWZ-W252 is that there are no cords to manage. I ride a bike and always listen to my Shuffle or my iPhone while commuting to and fro. More often than not the cords get tangled in my helmet, which may seem like a petty concern, but when it happens time after time I assure you it is not. Everything needed to listen to the NWZ-W252 is contained directly in the headphones themselves, which includes all the necessary controls as well as a USB port for transferring and charging the device.
Use a Mac and iTunes? No problem. The NWZ-W252 is completely compatible. The included software doesn’t support Mac OS X, but fortunately you can just drag and drop tracks directly from iTunes to the player (it holds roughly 1.68GB of music), which mounts as a flash drive on your desktop. That’s it. There is nothing more to do or any drivers to install. Sony tossed in some additional software to facilitate transfers, but it’s PC compatible only, so I couldn’t review that.
Related: iPod nano review
A 3 minute charge can provide the NWZ-W252 with up to 90 minutes of playback time. However, a 1.5 hour charge, a complete charge, can provide up to 11 hours. I used my NWZ-W252 10 times for an hour at a time until I had to recharge the player. This is on spec with Sony’s website. When the battery begins to die the LED light changes from green to orange to red and the headphones emit a beeping noise.
The NWZ-W252 weighs 1.6oz (43 grams). While significantly heavier than most headphones, they’re surprising comfortable and remained in my ears through most activies, though this didn’t include running since I loathe that activity. Sony has engineered the NWZ-W252 to with stand moisture, which means you can sweat all you want and they’ll keep pumping out tunes.
Since the NWZ-W252 lacks a display, Sony has built a proprietary music scanning system called Zappin. When engaged – you press and hold the play/pause button for a second or two – a voice says “Zappin in”. It chooses a small snippet from each track and plays it. Once you’ve found a song of interest you simply hit the play/pause button to deactivate the option, which is followed by the same voice stating “Zappin Out”. It’s all rather cheesy, but hey, it works.
Related: Sony NWZ W263 walkman review
You can opt to listen to all your music or shuffle from song-to-song. During my experience both options produced a shuffle play, which leads me to believe that the NWZ-W252 plays music by the order in which it is added, not by artist. I didn’t like this since logic says that ‘all play’ should group or play by band, which in turn allows you to find tracks by a particular artist more easily.
The sound quality of the NWZ-W252 is well on par with most of today’s top headphones and MP3 players. Personally, it thought it lacked bass, while Jeff felt as though it sufficed in the lower frequency department. Bass on ear bud headphones can be very subjective as each person’s ear canals are shaped differently and thus provide a different level of bass response. Sony provides up to 3 ear bud attachments to help quell this problem. To much dismay the NWZ-W252 lacks an EQ function so there was no help there.
The only drawback of the of the NWZ-W252 is the way it looks when worn. Which I should note is a completely subjective statement. It can be best described as wearing a bluetooth headset on each ear. Yeah, it looks that bad. But than again the NWZ-W252 is intended for working out, so really this is a some what moot point.
So despite Sony struggling to find their niche in the portable media player market, the NWZ-W252 receives high marks for a solid sound performance, a decent battery life and easy operation. While it won’t supersede my iPhone for day-to-day casual listening, it’s a exceptional device and should be considered well before Apple’s latest iPod Shuffle.
A variety of sellers on Amazon sell it for about $60.