Nostalgia brings along both comfort and yearning. But it’s also a tricky road to go down. There’s always this trepidation about how one would feel now, about things you once saw with rose-tinted glasses!
While unpacking the new Sony Walkman A-306, I couldn’t shake off this exact feeling. I wondered if it’ll bring alive a sense of romantic nostalgia for the ‘90s or whether it would fall short of any modern-day expectations I might have of the device.
Opening the box, I saw a small device, just about 3.6 inches across. Given its tiny form factor, the Walkman A-306 weighs just about 113 grams. The aluminium frame has a matte finish at the rear with pronounced ridges throughout.
All the physical buttons on the device rest on the left bezel. Placed on top is the power button, with the volume buttons just below. There are physical controls for track navigation, too - play/pause, forward, and rewind. A small tactile bump helps identify the volume up and play buttons when I’m not looking at the device. There’s also a Hold button, which, when enabled, disables the other physical buttons. This feels redundant, as all the physical buttons need a firm press to activate. There’s also a microSD card slot and a 3.5 mm jack at the bottom.
Powering up takes some time, and I set it up like an Android phone. The device reminds me of smartphones from about 12-13 years ago that would have displayed this size. I can’t make any calls on the Walkman, of course, but everything else feels like using a decade-old phone.
I paired the device with TWS earbuds, and the acoustic experience was immersive. The Dynamic Normaliser is one of the best- preset equalisers I’ve experienced on a playback device. You can choose to have the ‘Direct Source’ on, which streams the file’s original sound quality directly without applying any sound effects. But the moment I tap it off and switch to the Dynamic Normaliser, the music becomes even deeper and more resonant. The same goes for when I turn on ClearAudio+. Although the tracks I played came through with clarity already, this feature selects the best sound field to deliver each soundtrack I’m listening to and does a wonderful job of it.
There’s also DSEE Ultimate, which I could turn on or off, which upscales compressed audio files, but it needed me to restart the device when I wanted to use the feature.
Running on Android 12, the device comes pre-loaded with the usual suite of Google apps. Done often or for prolonged periods, checking mail and browsing the web on the Walkman feels like too much of a strain on the tiny screen. Typing gets a bit tricky, too, given the space constraint.
The device itself is not without glitches. For starters, everything seems to take longer than I’m used to on gadgets now. Powering on the device takes a good minute each time. Firing up the Walkman app to listen to some music or even logging in to check my mail - all functions seem to take a couple of seconds too long.
There’s 32 GB of storage on the music player, of which the system takes up a big chunk - 14 GB. The rest 18 GB might fit about 700 FLAC files (Free Lossless Audio Codec) or almost 1,600 MP3 files.
Battery life is one thing I don’t have to worry about. With a couple of hours of usage daily, almost 3-4 days go by before I have to plug it back in. If you’re primarily going to load and play lossless files, the battery life will be shorter.
While the Sony Walkman A-306 shines through with all things music and acoustics, it needs to catch up with faster performance overall. And I wouldn’t mind a sleeker, fancier-looking device while they’re at it!
Price - ₹25,990
Pros - Excellent music streaming capabilities, supports lossless codecs
Cons - Laggy performance, limited storage for high-res files