CES 2016: Sony’s new Walkman comes in splashy rainbow colors

Sony managed to totally reinvent its Walkman brand at last year’s Consumer Electronics Show with the ZX2, a $1,200 premium music player designed for audiophiles. Walkman is back at this year’s CES, but decidedly less high-end — and a whole lot more colorful. The new Walkman A26 comes in six new colors: grey, blue, red, purple, white, and lime green. And the digital noise-canceling earbuds it comes with match, too.

The device is a follow-up to 2014’s Walkman A17, which brought lossless and high-resolution audio playback to an iPod Touch-like device for $300. The A26 has a near-identical design, relying on physical buttons instead of a touchscreen and running a barebones interface, one that does however support Bluetooth wireless audio streaming and NFC pairing for linking up with home stereo systems. It doesn’t look as if Sony has decided to go with Android, as it did last year when it launched the ZX2.

So you won’t be downloading any apps on this gadget, as the real focus here is on high-res listening. It’s still a bit of a challenge to get your hands on songs in all of the supported formats, like FLAC, AIFF, WAV, ALAC (Apple Lossless), MP3, and AAC. But you can certainly obtain some copies online through various music-sharing communities with questionable legality.

While the A17 came with 64GB of internal storage, the A26 comes with only 32GB and the option to add 128GB more with a microSD card. Battery life stays the same: 30 hours of hi-res playback and 50 hours of standard MP3 playback. Sony isn’t talking price right now for the A26, but we can expect it to be slightly less expensive than its predecessor because of the reduction in storage and potentially lower-cost materials.

The company also announced a new pair of colorful headphones alongside the A26 earbuds, both of which are part of Sony’s grammar-defying h.ear line. The new wireless NC headphones come in hues that match the new Walkman, and they contain digital noise canceling powered by what Sony calls “automatic AI” that analyzes the environmental sound to optimize the cancellation feature. Sony also says the NC line comes equipped with its DSEE technology, which purportedly upscales MP3 files to sound better than CD-quality. But a true audiophile is probably not listening to too many MP3s if they’re pairing these headphones with a high-end music player like the A26.

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