Sony Walkman NW-A1000

The best MP3 player from the big S yet - but is it an iPod killer?

Sony has also included what it calls Intelligent Shuffle. This is, in effect, random play with knobs on. You can choose to shuffle by year of release (the Time Machine Shuffle) and by your most-played 100 tracks (the My Favorite Shuffle), as well as the standard Shuffle All option.

Sony Walkman NW-A1000

Of course, Sony's main strength has long been sound quality an in this respect the new Walkman doesn't disappoint. This Walkman is comfortably the best portable MP3 player I've clapped ears on. Bass is weighty without being overbearing or boomy, mids are clear as spring water, and highs are pin-prick sharp. Antony and the Johnsons' atmospheric piano and vocals driven music was rendered with poise and real depth. Meanwhile, brash pop worked just as well and a blast of Hard-Fi really had me tapping my feet.

We were a little surprised to discover that we couldn't turn it up loud enough to make our eardrums bleed, which could be a problem for those with higher impedance headphones or anyone using open-backed cans in noisy environments. On quieter recordings it occasionally left us fumbling for extra volume that just wasn't there. Fortunately, a quick search on the web revealed that the volume limitation is down to an EU restriction and can be removed with a simple engineering-mode hack.

Even the supplied earbuds are decent, which is more than I can say for most phones that come with MP3 devices. As usual, you'll benefit from a few extra quid spent on a decent pair, of course. We gave the Walkman a run for its money with a pair of Koss Sportapros and Shure's in-ear E2Cs and were rewarded with far greater depth of sound and detail.

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