Headphones

Sony Walkman Headphones: NWZ-WH505 & NWZ-WH303

Sony has been aggressive in their product innovation these days. I do not know of any other company that creates diversely refreshing products. From Wi-Fi camera lenses, waterproof smartphones, to smartwatches and microUSB flash drives, Sony now has Walkman headphones with built-in speakers. 2 models are available, and here’s a brief look at their differences.

NWZ-WH505

  • 5-25,000 Hz
  • 40mm diameter drivers
  • 16GB internal memory
  • 313g
  • S$249

NWZ-WH303

  • 30-20,000 Hz
  • 30mm diameter drivers
  • 4GB internal memory
  • 292g
  • S$129

Common Features

These are headphones with built-in digital music player (Walkman). They have 2 separate loudspeakers that play audio when you wear the headphones around your neck. The internal batteries last 20 hours of continuous play, and a 3-min charge gives you 1 hour of play. There are many buttons to operate the Walkman: the Play/Pause and track seek buttons, the Volume button, the Sound Mode button, the Shuffle/Playlist button, the Headphone/Speaker button, and the Power button. When the buttons are pressed, a voice-prompt with a pleasant female voice will be heard to confirm your selection.

You can plug standard 3.5mm cables to play music directly from your favourite music devices, just like normal headphones. In this mode, all the buttons on the headphones do not work. The audio is a direct pass-through from the source. You basically operate the wired headphones in the power-off state.

The headphones connect to the computer via micro USB without much fuss. The computer recognises the device promptly and opens the standard MTP file explorer. Just copy music files to any folder and the Walkman will scan and play it based on folder and file sequence. Only MP3, AAC, WMA, PCM (WAV) files are recognised.

Now let me review each individual models.

NWZ-WH505

I like the audio quality of this headphones. The treble is clear with distinct instrument separation and sound staging, yet does not sound too forceful. The low-mids are slightly heavy but not too unpleasant. Overall, the sound is spacious, not too tight, a comfort to listen to.

When playing tracks from the Walkman, you can adjust the output with 2 sound modes. Sound mode 1 is tweaked for heavy bass, and I find the bass rather muffled, I hear air rather than clear bass notes. Sound mode 2 is tweaked for clearer treble, and is my preferred mode because it adds sparkle to the highs with just enough bass. The WH505 speakers handles treble frequencies well, without sonic distortion. The great thing is that I can toggle the sound modes easily as I listen through my mixed music collection. But only when I am using the Walkman.

For the speaker mode, its acoustic design works best when you wear the headphones around your neck and listen. The treble production is clear with no distortion, but you won’t get any bass. I am surprised at how soft I could go and still get sufficient volume to my ears without disturbing people around me. I enjoy using this mode of listening because it allows me to hang out with people and still enjoy my music without appearing anti-social. Unfortunately, I could not use the speaker mode when wired to my external music player.

You could turn up the volume to use like mini standing speakers, but the volume is not loud enough to make an impact. Not recommended as a replacement for mini boombox.

NWZ-WH303

After experiencing the NWZ-WH505, I proceed to test the NWZ-WH303, and it wasn’t long before I understood the $120+ price difference. The premium metal plates on the driver encasement was replaced with plastic identical to the Sony Bluetooth Headphones BTN200M, which feels hollow and lacks density.

But that is not the worst part. The audio is totally unacceptable to my ears. The treble clarity is completely absent, even the Sound Mode 2 (enhanced treble) does not brighten up much. In fact, I suspect the purpose of the existence of WH303 was to make WH505 look (and sound) good. If you loathe bright sounds and needed boomy bass to save your music soul, then WH303 might suit you fine.

Final Words

I would wish the headphones are more portable. They take up a fair bit of space in my bag. I would prefer the price of HW303 but the sound quality cannot be salvaged for my liking. If you love to enjoy your music wirelessly but cannot accept the sonic limitations of Bluetooth audio, then the HW505 is a good product to own that delivers excellent treble and roomy bass. I can think of a few improvements that Sony could incorporate: a more compact (perhaps foldable) form factor, a wireless pairing with smartphone for track listing and controls. I also hope for a Bluetooth audio version along the lines of BTN200M so that I can blast audio from my smartphone: the idea of wearable personal speakers works awesome for me!

Also available on Amazon.

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