Words: Devon Michaels
Photos: Marcus

Model: Devon Michaels


Street Price $299


First things first: MP3 players are the hottest ticket in portable music. We've reviewed several, and have a general understanding of both their pros and cons. The solid-state memory card MP3 players are limited in their music storage capability, and the transfer time from computer to memory card can be quite slow. Major minus for those with little patience and the need for a zillion songs. Bear in mind, the 1GB flash cards, (for those with $600 to blow), will hold a whopping 1000 minutes of music. Why you would ever need 1000 minutes of music on one card is beyond me, but the option is available. That $600 does not include the price of the player, by the way, and seems to me, a ridiculous amount of money, but, it the option is there. Stick with the original and you'll get it 80-100 minutes of music per MiniDisc ( that's more than enough for me) , and the MiniDiscs are just $2.00. It'll take you awhile, but once you've finally transferred all that music, simply grab a MiniDisc or two, and out the door you go, with plenty of songs for your listening pleasure.


Having said that, allow me to review Sony's Net MD Walkman, a pretty little piece of overpriced technology. Let's get that right out of the way-- $299 price tag. I like neato gadgets as much as the next girl, OK, much more than the next girl, but that's a lot of do-re-mi to listen to my do-re-mis. Portable music just isn't that important to me. I can think of a lot better things to spend $299 on, like, well, just about ANYTHING but an MP3 player, but, hey, that's just my opinion. It's pretty cool, and if you aren't bothered by the price, you might just want to check this out.

You WILL look cool at the gym with this player. It's sleek , stylish, and small. The magnesium finish looks great, and that, combined with its size, makes it look expensive ( which, of course, it is.) However, size is both a gift and a curse in this case. It's tiny, the width and height of one MiniDisc case, and about as thick as two cases. At just 5 ounces ( with MiniDisc and internal battery), it definitely won't strain your back, even if you're a puny wimp who spends all his time transferring music to take to the gym, instead of actually going to the gym. But I digress. It's little. That's great, right? Yes, until you drop it, and then you're screwed. Even one mishap and there's a good chance it won't work, or will perform poorly. Repairs are probably going to cost you more than the purchase price, and will take some time. So, if you're a klutz, avoid this product, or , perhaps, invest in some bubblewrap.


While it may not withstand a drop, it will take quite a bit of general jostling. The anti-shock capability is an admirable 40 seconds. Marcus said he tested it while running on the beach, the treadmill, and stairs. It withstood all three, never once skipping. Also commendable is the battery life, with a quoted 20 hours of use on a single charge. Charging the internal battery is pretty much a no-brainer. Simply place the Walkman in its docking station and a red light will signal that it is charging. Should you need it, the external AA battery adds another 16 hours of life. Pretty impressive in my book; I like endurance. Also impressive is the fact that the device can record without a computer. Simply take your connection cable over to your buddy's house, attach it to his CD player or Walkman, and suck out his entire collection. It is copyright infringement of course, but then, you knew that. Other MP3 players simply can't do this, and its definitely a perk.


Definitely not a perk, is the program included to transfer MP3 songs . I want to slap Sony's face for this one! Due to copyright concerns( the same ones you're not concerned about when you're nabbing your buddies songs) , you're only allowed to "checkout" songs from your main MP3 collection. In addition, you are only allowed to have three copies of any one song out at the same time. If your try to copy a fourth version of the file, the software just won't let it happen. You're also not allowed to import your existing MiniDisc songs to MP3 format. Even if you do go through the effort of transferring MP3s to your MiniDisc Walkman, the transfer wait is excruciating due to the USB connection. You can record songs via the optical line with the supplied fiber optic cable. Marcus said he likes playing with the laser because it makes him feel like even more of a geeky computer guy than he already is, and , "it's really shiny." There you have it. Use the shiny laser to record songs on the shiny magnesium-finish Walkman. One more big minus, at least in my eye, or ear-- the headphones. They're those little fold-up earbud kind, and are partially IN your ears. That's just gross; stuff shouldn't go in your ear, ever, except for maybe a Q-tip. Perhaps that's just overly girlie of me, but I fly every week and use disposable earplugs because I wouldn't think of reusing something that had already been in my ears. Ick. Not to mention, they're also uncomfortable and don't put out enough volume to drown out background noise. Of course, this is just Sony watching your back, and their ass! It's common knowledge that its dangerous to have loud music that close to your eardrum. Actually, you're never supposed to have any earphones, even the kind that lie flat against your outer ear, loud enough to drown out background noise, but we all do now, don't we. In this case, it just isn't going to happen. Any of these annoyances might prevent you from purchasing the Walkman.( In my case, the price did that already.)


We're coming into the home stretch here, so if you're still intrigued by the Walkman, allow me to tell you just a bit more. The unit itself is controlled by one primary five-way switch for all the all functions: play, pause, fast-forward, rewind, and stop. Volume is, of course, controlled by a plus and minus button, and a separate illuminating switch for record is underneath. You can randomize track order, repeat, and scroll through two bass levels. Hit pause and you'll more than likely be incredibly annoyed by the continuous beep of the unit. Other devices stay quiet in pause mode, and turn themselves off after a set amount of time. This would be my preference. I have enough beeping , ringing, drive-me-crazy things in my life already. The hold switch is also a bit of a nuisance to me. To use it, you have to turn the unit upside-down. It's inconvenient and too small for a button that is frequently used. I do rather like the labeling dial, which is used for inputting text into the unit while recording or listening to songs. It's a simple up-down dial on the side of the unit-just press to enter selection. Simple. Beautiful .

Other than record, the player itself does not have an illuminating display. That bugs me. I'm not entirely sure why. It just does. I like things that light up. The attached cable remote that hangs down at your side, does light up. It falls at a very comfortable and easy to reach, waist-level. The remote is much more user friendly. Unlike the main player, you don't have to scroll through menus-- all the function buttons are right there ( display , play, repeat/enter, volume) . Scrolling through the display button will list the name of the song, number of tracks on the disc, and SP or LP record mode. The not-quite remote also has the ability to fast-forward and rewind the tracks as well as starting, stopping, and pausing--- again with that crazy beep.


There you have it-- little, shiny, cool, annoying-- a virtual symphony of opposites. I loved it; I hated it. Personally, I wouldn't spend $300 of my hard-earned money on it, but if someone were to give me one as a gift ( lemme know- I'll send you my mailing address guys) , I'd be pretty happy with it. Despite some inconveniences and the sheer fact that it's almost too fragile for a walking example of Murphy's Law like myself, I dig it. As an MP3 player it doesn't rank that highly with me- just a tad too slow and those software limitations blow. In fact, that cool-looking fancy docking station is basically only useful for recharging, as the actual MP3 functionality is poor. If it's all about the MP3s for you, I'd recommend sticking to a standard hard-drive MP3 player. You just won't be satisfied with this one. However, it you're cool with MiniDiscs, it might just be your player. It's about six of one, half a dozen of the other, as my mom used to say. The good and the bad seem to balance here- neither outweighing the other, at least in my opinion. If the price doesn't stop you, you might just want to check one out for yourself. It's a good product overall, but personal preference definitely comes into play. And---. While you're contemplating that, let me just give you a bit of a heads-up on another MP3 player, the 20GB Apple I-Pod. It's about double the size of the Walkman ( hey, sometimes size does matter), and may just take over as the portable music champ. We'll be reviewing it in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled.

Thanks for listening.
Devon Michaels

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