Product Type: Sony MP3 players
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Taking the stick for a walk.
Sony Memory Stick Walkman NW-MS7 64 MB
Member Name: spiffo
Sony Memory Stick Walkman NW-MS7 64 MB
Date: 14/05/01, updated on 14/05/01 (526 review reads)
Advantages: Small and stylish,, Good quality sound, rechargable batteries.
Disadvantages: ATTRAC3 isn't as popular as MP3, Expensive
MP3 is a format that has existed for a few years now. It did not come about, as many people believe, as a way of swapping music on P2P servers, but simply as a way of transferring music as smaller files. It?s only in the last two or three years, as more people have had access to faster internet connection, that it has been used as a way of pirating music.
The explosion of personal MP3 players has been partly due to the rise of Napster and other such file transfer programmes. No matter what manufacturers claim, they all realise that a very large number of their customers aren?t planning to simply copy their own CDs onto their MP3 player like they?re supposed to.
I believe that this view of customers, that they are hackers, criminals and cheapskates, had an impact on the designs of the personal MP3 players we saw on on the high street to begin with. They weren?t as well designed as personal Minidisc or CD players. Furthermore, the very large players weren?t prepared to get involved in a market that they saw as being a bit dodgy.
Sony?s entry into the market changed a lot of this. Though strictly not an MP3 player (I?ll get onto their rival format later), this box is far more stylishly and professionally designed than any of its competitors. The buttons are in exactly the right place, and Sony haven?t been scared to make its operation as similar as possible to its Walkmans and Discmans (Discmen?).
Sony have also had a good look at what people want from an personal MP3 player. This box is small enough to fit in just about any pocket, even the small one at the front of a shirt. This is a huge improvement over clunky CD Discmans that could only fit in the pockets of overcoats, and even then only overcoats with large pockets. It?s also in improvement over any of Sony?s Minidisc Discmans and even over many rival personal MP3 players.
The fact that it uses rechargeable batteries is a nice touch. I can?t count the times I?ve had to
go without music after being unable to find any batteries for my old discman. At this sort of price, buying a set of rechargeable AAs wouldn?t make that much of a difference to the overall cost, but it?s handy that you don?t even need to fiddle around with those.
As I said earlier, this isn?t really an MP3 player as it doesn?t store its music in the MP3 format. It uses Sony?s own ATRAC3 format which, I believe, is the same format used on Minidiscs. The sound quality cam actually be slightly better. If you encode music from a CD onto MP3 with a high bit-rate for use on your computer, then convert that MP to a lower bit-rate for use on your MP3 player (so that you can fit more music on), you?ll sometimes end up with some tiny segments of white noise appearing on the track. ATRAC3 doesn?t seem to suffer from that problem.
There are problems with the format, however. Encoding and transferring your music can take a very long time, far longer than MP3. Also, if you buy a player that plays MP3 files, then you?ve probably already got a lot of these on your hard drive which you can copy straight on, ending the need for any encoding at all.
Moving on, the Sony Memory Stick Walkman is more expensive than most of its rivals. At this price, you would expect more than the standard 64 Mb of memory, but that?s all you get. Sony repeatedly point out that you can buy as many more Sticks as you want, but at £100 each, I can?t see many people jumping at a chance like this.
It?s a shame that Sony didn?t see the need to have 128 Mb either built in to the machine or on the stick that it comes with. Since Sony?s selling point seems to be that it?s a better quality option than it?s competitors, it would have been nice to hold 2 hours of music in high quality mode rather than having to go down to normal quality to hold this much.
Ignoring any encoding errors that appear more frequently with MP3, music encoded at normal quality with ATRAC3 does se
em to sound slightly better than an MP3 encoded at the same bit-rate, but it?s possible that it just sounds better to me because I know before listening that it is slightly better.
The actual playback quality is good, the bass and treble are well defined and the music is sharp. The headphones that Sony bundle of good quality and are also comfortable and light. When you mix this with the fact that the player itself is so light, you can quickly forget that you?re even listening to a music player (well, except for the music, obviously).
At £300, you have to ask yourself whether this player is worth it. You can get other 64 Mb players for about £150 to £200, and they use the more convenient MP3 format. It?s true that this is probably the most stylish and impressive player out there, but there are other players that look almost as good, such as the Rio players.