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Not Your Daddy’s Walkman: Sony’s New Portable Music Player Matches World-Class Sound With Studio-Quality Headphones

The $8500 DMP-Z1 music player boasts its own amplifier and stores up to 20,000 songs.

The Sony DMP-Z1 music player Photo: Courtesy of Sony

Sony, which decades ago began the portable music revolution with the Walkman, is taking a fresh approach to mobile listening. The new DMP-Z1 music player is an extension of Sony’s Signature Series (to which the Walkman also belongs) and, at $8,499, is aimed squarely at the ultra-high-end market’s discerning listening enthusiast. At 5.5 lbs, the device won’t be much of a walking or running companion, but it offers the benefits of a full-size headphone amplifier in a battery-operated, luggage-friendly package.

Aficionados of portable audio typically must settle for multiple devices or sacrifice quality for portability; the DMP-Z1, however, changes the game. The device incorporates the full power of a desktop headphone amplifier with the features of an integrated digital media player. In simpler terms, users can upload super-high-resolution files to the player and listen to them with the best sound quality that headphones can offer.

The device can store up to 256 gigabytes of music internally (that’s 20,000 songs) and has slots for external expansion if needed. Some of the internal wiring is done by the high-end, audiophile-cable manufacturer Kimber Kable, and the top of the amplifier features a sleek glass screen for navigation.

Sony announced the release of the DMP-Z1 in conjunction with a pair of innovative in-ear headphones, the $2,299 IER-Z1R. Stunning aesthetics aside, the Signature Series headphones sport three drivers—the components that change electric signals to sound waves—in each ear and custom-tuned machining to ensure the perfect balance of sound.