Australian Hi-Fi

Budget Walkman alive and well


It’s been quite some time since the industry saw a hi-res music player from as big a brand as Sony cost so little, to the point where I wondered whether the final nail had been hammered into the co£n of the budget music player market. So imagine my surprise when news of the $499 Sony NW-A306 landed in my inbox.

At first glance, the NW-A306 looks like a stripped-down version of the company’s higher-end NW-WM1ZM2 and NW-WM1AM2 players. It features a rectangula­r, milled aluminium design with rounded sides, large physical buttons and a 3.6-inch touchscree­n. The only significan­t aesthetic di•erence seems to be that it has lost the large semi-circular protrusion­s on the other models' tops. It’s further good news when you look down the spec sheet to see features normally only seen on much more expensive portables.

With Sony’s S-Master HX digital amplifier onboard, circuitry that uses a reflow solder containing gold, and native DSD support, the NW-A306 will, Sony says, o•er significan­tly better — less distorted and less noisy — audio than flagship phones.

In addition to the typical 3.5mm jack is Bluetooth for listening wirelessly through headphones, with improved DSEE Ultimate upscaling processing onboard for those who do want to cut the cord. Sony claims it has improved its algorithms to let the player o•er more sonic subtleties and dynamic range when playing CD-quality 16-bit/44kHz tracks, too.

The player runs the Android 12 operating system, with Wi-Fi support accommodat­ing the playback of music from (subscribed-to) music streaming services.

The good news continues with battery life, with the NW-A306 claiming to o•er up to 36 hours of (CD-quality) 44.1kHz FLAC playback and up to 32 hours of (hi-res) 96kHz FLAC playback — more than enough to get you through a long-haul flight. Charging is via USB-C.

Doesn’t that all sound marvellous? There is, however, a catch: the NW-A306 only features 32GB of storage — and only 18GB of this is listed as being “usable”, which could be an issue for people who have large hi-res music libraries downloaded locally. That said, given the player’s price and the world's increasing reliance on streaming, this may not be a dealbreake­r for all.

For more informatio­n, contact Sony Australia on 1300 137 669 or visit

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