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Sony is, without a doubt, masterful when it comes to building sexy and desirable consumer electronics devices. For a while it looked like there was no aspect of the CE market that didn’t turn to gold when Sony touched it, producing super-stylish designs that just oozed desirability. But Sony products were never just about design, there was always solid functionality behind the good looks. With this in mind, it always surprised me that Sony still hadn’t produced a digital music player that was worthy of the brand.
Design has never been a problem with Sony’s digital music players, they’ve always looked good, but functionality has never been all that it could be. Part of the problem was that Sony refused to enable its devices to playback MP3 files, forcing everyone to have to convert any MP3 content to ATRAC. Not only was this a laborious process, but it also meant that you had to have two separate music libraries on your PC, taking up lots of space. The other problem was SonicStage – Sony’s proprietary music manager – which was just plain horrible to use.
Recently Sony has addressed the biggest bugbear, and enabled its players to playback MP3 files natively. While it has also refined SonicStage into a more usable piece of software. Both these points have helped the NW-E507 to be the best digital music player that Sony has ever produced, and finally a device that’s worthy of the Sony brand.
First things first – the NW-E507 looks absolutely stunning. Finished in brushed silver and Champaign gold, the NW-507 definitely falls into the gadget eye candy category. Most people who saw it thought it was a cigarette lighter at first, but I always thought it looked like a small perfume bottle. The bottle theory is borne out by the fact that you can set the display to show bubbles rising from the bottom to the top of the device while you’re listening to music.
The mirror-like Champaign gold fascia looks plain, but there is an OLED display hiding behind it. In this respect the NW-E507 reminds me of the iRiver N10, which also hid its display behind a mirrored fascia. Also like the iRiver, the display on the Sony is superb. It’s a three line affair that will display the track name, artist, play time and battery life – although that’s in the main display. If you fancy something a bit different you can set the NW-E507 to display a set of dials relative to the track being played, or even the aforementioned bubbles.