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September 2019 Retro Gaming Article


September 7, 2019 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

For the Walkman's 40th anniversary Sony unveiled a high-end digital music player with a cassette pic on its screen

Sony Walkman logo
Don't get too excited about your old cassettes and CDs. This device is a digital-only tribute and more akin to an iPod.
The original Sony Walkman TPS-L2 launched in 1979 and here we are 40 years later with an anniversary commemoration of the Walkman. Like many of us, I began with the cassette version and moved on when it became the Discman and CDs were all the rage.

As the Walkman turns 40 and CD sales are on the decline, Sony's tribute to the Walkman comes in a high-end digital music player, the Walkman ZX series. Your cassettes and CDs can stay on the shelf (or in storage) as the ZX series of players can stream over wifi, play via micro SD or USB. It will play High-Resolution Audio at a higher bitrate than CDs (24-bit/192kHz and beyond) as well as a variety of other high-res audio formats.

Almost everyone loves music and many of us consider CD to be a high standard and don't think much about the quality of MP3 files. However there are a variety of popular and niche formats for audio that exceed the rate/quality of audio found on CDs. Bandcamp for example offers downloads in formats above the average MP3 file, but many of these formats are niche and not well known among the masses of music fans. At $900, this commemorative ZX series is a celebration for the niche crowd.

Sony Walkman ZX digital music player

My Issues With Modern Music & Formats

If you've ever downloaded an MP3 file from a questionable source and wondered why it sounded awful, the answer may be in the bitrate at which it was produced. We casually use the tern MP3 to represent any and all digital music files. There are many more, but more importantly, MP3 as a format does not adhere to a standard quality. You can find M3 files at fairly low bitrates. This is similar to the visual quality of a high vs low quality jpeg image file.

Since we have these hi-end formats, why are they not adopted across all devices. Does format compatibility with a device really alter it's retail price. Why are only insanely expensive players capable of high-end audio? Music should be available to everyone at a reasonable price. I don't feel better quality formats should be restricted to only expensive devices.

Contrast this to stereos from my childhood to today's state of playback. I grew up with this thing called stereo. These days, speakers function over wifi and connect to their source via Bluetooth. But it's not even speakers - plural. We're seemingly expected to buy one speaker to connect to a cell phone. WTF? I'm no audiophile, but when I inquired about new speakers (plural) for my stereo, the guy at Best Buy asked what kind of phone I had. I left the store.

When I was a kid, I yearned for a guitar so I could play songs by my favorite bands. I wanted to rock out! Today, if a kid was motivated to buy an instrument to delve into their favorite songs, I'm not even sure what instrument to recommend. A synthesizer? Software? The landscape is changing and I'm OK with that, but Stereo is still relevant and a Walkman tribute should play tribute to cassettes in a more meaningful way than a pic on a touch-screen.

So, this turned into a rant, didn't it? Not my original intension, but too many of today's musicians don't play instruments and pretending your phone is a stereo robs this generation of volume, power, and feeling the bass line!

The Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2 Released in 1979

The Sony Walkman TPS-L2

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