The Sony Walkman isn’t making a comeback—it’s been here for more than 35 years. Back in 2007, the company released a line to try to compete with Apple’s (AAPL) iPod, and we all know how that turned out. Last fall, Sony made a fairly quiet move into the world of high-resolution digital media with the NWZ-A17SLV, a $300 Walkman that promises to play files at near-studio quality, analog-like sound rather than the tinny, compressed noise of MP3s or AACs, the default format for iTunes.
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And while that announcement didn’t make much of a ripple among listeners content with their current devices, Sony made a splash at CES 2015 with the unveiling of a new luxury Walkman that’s geared towards audiophiles who are fine parting with $1119.99. According to a press release, the high-res NW-ZX2 features a touch screen, 128GB of storage plus the option to add an SD card for up to 256GB, up to 60 hours of playback (33 hours if you’re listening solely to lossless-audio files like FLAC), Bluetooth connectivity, an Android OS, and the ability to get apps from the Google Play (GOOG) store. There are plenty of other specs but the basic gist is that the new Walkman’s upgraded amplifier and wiring mean less signal disruption between the file and your ears to preserve as much of the original recording’s sound data as possible.
If releasing a $1,120 Walkman seems like a crazy move on Sony’s part, it very well might be, but the company is only one of many betting on consumers getting into the portable audiophile game. There’s the Astell&Kern line of players, which retail for up to $2,500, and the $399 Pono, via classic rocker Neil Young. He launched his device and music store last year via Kickstarter, raising over $6.2 million from backers. The player will be widely available this February, while the Pono store is already open, charging in the neighborhood of $18-20 for most albums. All of the LPs were digitally converted from the original studio master tapes so listeners hear the album as close to the artist’s original intent as possible.
As of now, Sony has yet to announce the exact release date for the new Walkman. In the meantime, if spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on a new gadget that’ll almost certainly make you re-buy your favorite albums turns you off, you can always purchase a classic Walkman and some cassettes. Like vinyl’s resurgence over the past decade, that format is seeing new life among trendy music fans.