Dealing with headphone cables can sometimes be a pain, especially when you are using it while active. One solution many have tried is by going wireless Bluetooth but sound quality was always hurt. You also still had to deal with a player and a set of headphones. So why not just put it all in one headphone like package? This is not a new idea, Sony did this back in the day with the yellow Walkman sport FM radio headphones. Remember those goofy looking things?
At any rate, here is a look at the modern take on the headphone/player combination.
- Sony Walkman NWZ-W252
- Weight: 43g / 1.6 oz.
- Battery: (1.5 hrs full chage = 11 hrs playback | 3 Min quick charge = 90 min playback)
- Supported Formats: MP3, WMA, WMA DRM
- Storage: 2 GB (1.68 Actual)
- Colors: Black (NWZ-W252BLK), Metal Gear Solid (NWZ-W252CAMO)
- MSRP: $60
In the Box
The package includes the player, 3 sizes of earphone tips, a storage clip, and a standard mini USB cable. One thing to note with the USB cable is that is that the tip is abnormally long in order to reach the deep USB port on the player. I tried a few other USB cables I had lying around and most didn’t work. This is pretty annoying making standard USB cable virtually proprietary. So keep that in mind and don’t lose the cable that the W250 comes with. On a related now I would have like to see mini-USB used instead since phone manufactures have agreed to use that as a standard and many devices are moving in that direction.
Design & Build
The W250’s build is typical to a midgrade Sony product, sturdy, good materials, nice and clicky button presses. In other words it’s a well-made product priced affordably. The player ear pieces are made entirely of plastic with a rubbery cable connecting the two ear pieces that always snap back to their original shape. An indicator light in the top of the player will show when the player is charging. There is also a LED on the inside indicating when the player is on.
When you are not wearing the player it magnetically clicks the two ear pieces together. What is clever this is that when these two halves connect- sensors turn the player off so you won’t ever have to worry about forgetting to turn the player off and draining the battery. The magnetic connection isn’t terribly strong and will separate (although it won’t turn back on) with a little bit of force. Thought this is where the storage clip comes in handy for when you want to throw it in your back pack or gym bag.
Water Resistant: The player is rated as water resistant. This doesn’t mean that you can go jumping into the pool with it on or even drop it in water, but you done have to worry so much about sweating all over it at the gym.
Making controls for a screenless player is always a tough task and requires some though and ingenuity. Buttons on the bottom consist of a rocker button with a center click and two up and down volume buttons on the right side. On the other side a shuffle/playlist button is on the other side. Sony has managed to put enough function into those 4 buttons to make is very usable as a screenless player.
To turn the player on you press down on the rocker button, this also functions as pause/play while the player is on. When the player starts up you will hear two mellow beeps and then an ominous female voice says “play”. This voice is what will guide and give you feedback for all of the functions. Pressing the rocker forward or back will skip tracks respectively and a long press will skip by folder. The volume buttons are two different sizes, one taller than the other with a bump in order for you to tell the difference between the two.
On the other side of the player the shuffle/playlist button. I really like how they built playlist support onto the player with this button. With a short press on this button will shuffle all the tracks on the
player a long press will toggle between all tracks or just your playlists.
One last function is located on a long press on the pause/play bottom is “ZAPPIN”. Sony calculates the most rhythmic parts of the track and will allow you to preview the best parts of the track by skipping though them. So basically it’s a glorified skip feature. Sometimes Sony overthinks products and features and this is one of them, during my many weeks of use I found no value in this feature. In order to get this feature to work you must use the Sony transfer utility provided with the player.
Software & Transferring Media
The player is MTP based and drag and drop on Windows systems. It can be managed by Windows Media Player or any other MTP based desktop media player. The player includes its own transfer utility residing on the player and can be installed directly from it. The utility is a simple window that you drag your files and folders to showing the remaining space on the player and converting the files if necessary. It also calculates the ZAPPIN points in order to use that feature. This utility might be a useful to some, but for me I would rather just open the player’s music folder and drag and drop.
The player is fairly comfortable but might take some time to get used. They don’t weigh more than the average headset but put pressure on parts of your ear that you might not be used to. At first it felt a bit awkward but after a day or two I became accustom to how they are worn. The good news is that the player will stay steadfast in place during even the most vigorous movements. Not only will they stay on your head they will remain in the proper position in your ears. Running, weightlifting, soccer, and aerobics will get along just fine with these W250s.
One thing I appreciate about these is when you have to listen or talk to someone you can easily take one or both ear piece out and let them rest around your ears. Then they easily pop back into position with little effort. It’s a lot easier than dealing with dangling IEMs or earbuds.
Sony has always been pretty good at including above average headphones with their MP3 players and the W250 is not different. Most discerning users will find the headphones lacking detail all around, but more so in the mid-highs. They also will not be happy that there is no way to tweak the sound, not even a pre-programmed set of EQ settings. However, I believe that the average user and almost everyone this player is targeted at will be pleased with the sound quality.
What I like the most about the W250 is the form factor. It was rather liberating not having to struggle with a long headphone cord connected to a player. It was nice to be able to grab once piece of the audio puzzle and head out the door. Sony did a nice job on the usability of this screenless player with audible feedback, intuitive controls, and support for playlists. Most people will be happy with the sound quality but may be disappointed with the lack of even a preset EQ.
For me the W250 won’t replace a good media player and a nice set up headphones since sound quality is very important to me, but I will be making this a permanent item in my gym bag due to the all in one design. Dealing with a wire connected to a player is a big hassle in the gym and is worth the sacrifice in the high end sound quality I’m used to.
If you like the form factor and lack of dangling wires I do recommend picking one of these up. It’s hard to be for its price and unique functions.