Sony is selling a $3,600 Walkman because nobody wants its phones

Sony built the gold-plated NW-WM1ZM2 to offer the best portable audio quality out there. But it’ll cost you.

Sony's NW-WM1ZM2

If you’re looking for a top-of-the-line music listening experience on the go, Sony has got you covered with its new gold-plated Walkman. The Walkman is indeed very much alive as Sony just announced its blinged-out NW-WM1ZM2 and its more affordable counterpart, the NW-WM1AM2.

Sony said that its NW-WM1ZM2 sets the new bar in audio quality with its “sublime, nuanced sound,” and that the NW-WM1AM2 has a “richer, smoother and more expansive sound field compared to its predecessor.” Both of these are actually the second generation of Sony’s high-end WM products.

But all that comes at a steep price. So far, Sony is only releasing the latest music players in certain Asia Pacific markets starting April 2022. We’re not sure when, or if, they’re playing a global release, but for now the NW-WM1ZM2 will cost AU $4,999, or nearly $3,600. The less expensive NW-WM1AM2 will cost AU $1,899, or around $1,300, since it’s made with an aluminum alloy frame instead.

The five-inch displays have a customizable home screen.Sony

As someone who has yet to experience proper audio quality beyond my iPhone and some knockoff AirPods, even $1,300 seems like a lot to pay for a portable music player, no matter how premium the experience is. But, it’s pretty obvious that Sony didn’t design this for the average consumer. This is Sony’s overture to all the audiophiles out there who are looking for a portable option that doesn’t compromise on audio quality. Plus, they will probably sound incredible with Sony’s WF-1000XM4 earbuds.

Chunky design — Judging from the images, Sony seemed more focused on designing a quality device that can fit all the premium components, rather than deliver something with a slim form factor. The new Walkmans are definitely a little chunky, especially compared to most smartphones these days, but they’re still very much portable. It’s also been almost six years since the previous generation of these WM Walkmans, so Sony has added a bunch of new features.

Sony built the new Walkmans with several components designed to enhance your listening experience.Sony

Both the NW-WM1ZM2 and the NW-WM1AM2 now feature a larger five-inch HD touchscreen with a home display that can be customized. The updated Walkmans also have Wi-Fi capabilities, so you get the option of streaming or downloading music directly onto the device. But, you still get the more traditional option of connecting the Walkman to your PC to import tracks from your personal collection through the devices’ USB-C ports.

Build differences — The main differences between the NW-WM1ZM2 and the NW-WM1AM2 are the gold-plated design and the Kimber Kable that transmits high-quality audio signals better. The gold-plated copper chassis isn’t new since we saw it with the predecessor to the NW-WM1Z but it’s worth mentioning again since it’s supposed to make for better audio quality where you can hear “each instrument as if it were performing live,” according to Sony.

Sony's NW-WM1ZM2 has brought back the gold-plated chassis design.Sony

The NW-WM1ZM2 also has double the internal memory of the NW-WM1AM2, with 256GB versus 128GB, but they both have a microSD card slot to expand the devices’ music libraries. Sony also upgraded the battery life, as they both have up to 40 hours of non-stop playback on 96kHz FLAC high-resolution audio, compared to the 30 hours of the previous models.

For the audio nerds curious about the components, Sony built the new Walkmans with S-Master HX digital amp technology, upgraded fine-tuned capacitors, and a dual clock and fine sound register. Sony also used a reflow solder that contains gold, which makes for overall improved sound localization and wider sound space.

For those who want audio quality on the go.Sony

These Walkmans are clearly designed for audiophiles looking to bring high-fidelity listening on the go, but I’m wondering if anyone would spend thousands of dollars on a portable option after dropping a few thousand dollars on their at-home listening setups.