Backstage: Sony’s stylish iPod shuffle competition | iLounge Backstage

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Backstage: Sony’s stylish iPod shuffle competition

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By Jeremy Horwitz

Editor-in-Chief, iLounge
Published: Friday, July 1, 2005
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Even as an iPod shuffle owner, I’ll be the first to say two things: first, Sony got the aesthetic design of the shuffle’s latest competitor - the new NW-E505 Network Walkman ($149.95) - almost entirely right, especially the screen. The 3-line OLED display isn’t quite as useful as it could be, but it’s bright, attractive, and does let you see up to three songs or menu choices at a time.

But in even more important ways, the company got it almost entirely wrong. In a Marvel Comics-style “What If?” world where the 505 was $50 cheaper, we might be looking at a serious challenger to the low-end of the iPod family. But would anyone seriously shell out $150 for a 512MB flash player when there’s a 4GB iPod mini for $199? Is the average person even willing to spend $150 for half a gig of music storage? And what’s up with the five buttons and twisting, three-position control knob?

Our brief look at the NW-E505, with plenty of pictures, continues inside. Click on Read More for the details.

You can’t help but be impressed by the NW-E505’s body when you first see it. The shuttle-like (shuttle, not shuffle) design uses mirrored plastic and frosted metal to create a highly sleek, almost futuristic body that’s a tiny bit smaller than the iPod shuffle in footprint, but thicker. Sony sells blue and pink versions of the 505, and a nicer silver for the 1GB 507. A darker blue color is used for similar models called the 405 and 407, described below.

On all of these models, Sony uses an odd control knob to move backwards and forwards through tracks - it’s hidden on the right, inbetween a play/stop button and the headphone cable, with two tiny buttons for volume up and down right above it. Those aren’t the silver buttons you see to the left of the play/stop button - one brings up the menu, the other lets you switch to FM radio mode.

FM radio mode! Yeah, we don’t use it too often. But many people have been begging for it in an iPod, and even with the recent release of BTI’s Tunestir accessory, they’ll probably continue to wait for something better to come along. By comparison with other devices we’ve tested, Sony’s FM tuner is really quite good. You tune with the control knob and the signals come in pretty much as you’d expect them to. The P—on the screen is for presets.

Then there’s the user-adjustable bass and treble control screen. Okay, it’s not a five-band equalizer, but it’ll do the trick for most people. You can save two presets (“Sound 1” and “Sound 2”) and switch between them and the flat default Sound setting with the button on the unit’s back, which also doubles as a repeat songs button. A pin-hole sized reset button is also there; thankfully we haven’t needed it (take that, Creative!).

Sony’s even thrown in some alternate visual displays for musical playback - a standard screen with most of the details you’d expect, then a graphical (timer) version without text, and a not-quite-a-visualizer screen with moving bubbles. In power saving mode, the standard display disappears and little echo sound waves appear on the screen to indicate playback. These are all fun touches - surely better than not having a screen at all.

But here’s the rub. There’s a lot to like about the hardware of the NW-E505, but it’s missing so many things that iPod owners now take for granted. We’ll skip optional accessories entirely, but in the box, you get a light plastic shirt pocket clip that ain’t going anywhere, and a generic black bag that some people might use as a tote for both the E505 and its cheap included earphones - assuming they don’t mind the risk of one scratching the other. Sony also includes a small headphone extension cable and a USB cable for both charging and syncing.

That’s correct: a USB cable. There’s nothing wrong with that on the surface, and especially given that the NW-E505 promises 50(!) hours of run time on a single full-charge. Even better, Sony very wisely mentions on the box that three minutes of charging time will give you three hours of playback. Genius stuff, there, seriously. But you’ll have to have the USB cable with you to recharge. That’s not the case with the iPod shuffle - any open, powered USB port will do, no need for cables.

The much bigger problem is software. Using Sony’s bundled SonicStage, now in its third major release, is like stepping back three years in time. Never mind the fact that it’s Windows PC only; its default organization of music files, menus and overall functionality just cannot compare in either ease of use or breadth of features to iTunes. Sadly, that would have been true even if we were talking about an old version of iTunes, but the latest ones make the gulf even more profound.

We would have been entirely happy if we could just drag and drop MP3 files onto the NW-E505 - it is, after all, now capable of playing them without transcoding. But Sony forces you to use their bad software, which itself forces you to build a new music database, and so on. Slogging through SonicStage just to update a device with the capacity of an iPod shuffle just seems insane.

The last couple of issues are the obvious ones: pricing and practicality. Apple understood the magic of the $99 price point with the 512MB iPod shuffle; even though Sony has a legitimately cooler piece of hardware on its hands here, it’s not worth the $150 asking price, even if you leave iTunes, the iPod shuffle’s wealth of optional accessories, and everything else aside. This was true even before the 1GB iPod shuffle dropped this week to $129.

Apple’s also nailed the “truth in marketing” and simplicity points, at least as far as music storage is concerned. Sony’s box continues to insist that the 512MB E505 can hold 345 songs - almost three times as many as a 512MB iPod shuffle - which practically just isn’t true. Because this is so misleading, there are asterisks all over the front of the box that lead you to explanations: the songs need to be encoded at 48Kbps, and the battery won’t really run for 50 hours unless you play back songs encoded at 102Kbps in ATRAC3 format. Great. Of course, the 512MB iPod shuffle can hold 1,000 songs if you compress them enough, and so on and so on, but Apple’s not cheesy or desperate enough to put that sort of stuff on the box.

Moreover, even with the three-line display, finding songs on the E505 isn’t exactly easy. Yes, Apple oversimplified the iPod shuffle by pulling the screen, but if you use iTunes to fill it up with good tracks, even grandma can figure out how play them back. Sony went in the opposite direction.

Besides the fact that it doesn’t have a single, unified control pad as simple as the iPod shuffle’s, the NW-E505’s package overcomplicates things both on the hardware and software sides by creating a separate, uber-genre category called “Groups.” This is just another way to cluster songs - not that we needed one - but Sony pushes you to use it with both SonicStage and the E505.

If you want to move forward and backwards normally through tracks, you need to pull out the circular control knob like a wristwatch dial - not all the way, but to a middle position. If you pull it out all the way, as most people will, you get stuck in Group mode, sifting through tracks in chaotic order, or not at all. If you leave the wheel tucked all the way in, the E505 sits in “hold” mode, like the iPod’s hold switch (or the iPod shuffle’s held-down play/pause button). It’s non-intuitive, not a “smarter” way of doing things, and will make grandma cry.

So who is the NW-E505 right for? Techies who love style, don’t mind dropping $150 on a 512MB player - or $200 for the 1GB version - and are willing to install and use SonicStage. Compared with iPod shuffle sales, that’s going to be a small crowd. Even if you knock $20 off these prices for the versions without FM tuners (405 and 407), and you’re still left with SonicStage and the odd control knob. For now, we’ll stick to our shuffles, but we’re hoping that Apple has something much cooler than this up its sleeve. The music player-as-fashion accessory trend is starting, and if it wasn’t too confusing for a model to figure out, this one would definitely have been ready for the runways…

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Comments

1

That’s one beautiful DAP. You go Sony.

Posted by Riyadh Al-Balushi on July 1, 2005 at 3:20 PM (PDT)

2

I would buy a used ipod shuffle for 200 before i ever bought one of these

Posted by i7got7biz in Garland, TX on July 1, 2005 at 3:59 PM (PDT)

3

It might look good but does the plastic feel good? hmmm, no.

SONY CS is rubbish, I wouldn’t go with them.

As usual it panders to the ASIAN ‘im clever’ market with too much noise on the design, including the callous use of the logo.

Nope I don’t see this being any good, too many conditions and propriety format encouragement.

Posted by Samuel on July 1, 2005 at 4:12 PM (PDT)

4

Design wise… I would say it looks dead slick, amazing body finish and that stylish display look cool.

Rest… well.. let’s just forget about it and turn our shuffles on.

Posted by iGo on July 1, 2005 at 4:15 PM (PDT)

5

The article doesn’t mention Atrac3plus 64kbps which is much better than Atrac3 102kbps. Before I bought the E407, I did a listening test between different formats and Atrac3plus 64 is amazingly good for the compression rate. It was only slightly worse than my lame -alt-preset standard mp3’s (~192kbps vbr). Using this compression, I was able to get 32+ hours of music on to the thing (over 425 songs). This would only be possible on a 2GB shuffle! The transfer time is very slow but my use case for the device is a once-a-week charge and sync.

I agree that SonicStage sucks, but I’m able to get around it a bit. I use a small program that I wrote to convert an iTunes smart playlist to a .m3u file which SonicStage reads in and can transfer to the E407. Supposedly, Sony is working on a way to drag-and-drop transfer, but we’ll see.

All in all, I am extremely happy with this device. It’s design is the best I’ve seen in a flash player. The five different types of display are very cool. I never have to worry about the battery going dead. I can have multiple playlists and only have to sync/charge once a week. I haven’t used my iPod since I bought it and am starting to wonder if I really ever need to carry 40GB of music around with me.

Posted by kemphoto on July 1, 2005 at 5:24 PM (PDT)

6

Kemphoto: You’ve proved the point at the end of the article exactly - you’re the exact target customer for this device, down to the techie point. If you’re capable of writing a program to mitigate SonicStage, awesome (!) - now write one for the Mac so we can drag and drop files without needing to use a PC!

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 1, 2005 at 5:32 PM (PDT)

7

Jeremy, you hit the nail on the head with your techie point! It’s too bad that Sony hasn’t figured out how important the software is for their devices. I really hope that they are working hard to improve SonicStage and/or create a drag-and-drop sync solution. The E407 is such a beautiful and bliss-to-use device that it is a shame that not many people will buy one because of the subpar (triple bogey) software.

Posted by kemphoto on July 1, 2005 at 5:43 PM (PDT)

8

It looks like a flattened syringe. What a nasty-ugly looking thing!

Posted by L-Dog on July 1, 2005 at 8:00 PM (PDT)

9

Sony…don’t even try.

Posted by TheCritic in Mumbai,India. on July 1, 2005 at 9:32 PM (PDT)

10

I thought it looked like a lighter.

Posted by Earl on July 1, 2005 at 10:02 PM (PDT)

11

Add the sony display to the iPod shuffle and I’d leave my 4th Gen 20g at home for the most part.

Posted by Dave on July 1, 2005 at 10:12 PM (PDT)

12

” But you’ll have to have the USB cable with you to recharge. That’s not the case with the iPod shuffle - any open, powered USB port will do, no need for cables.”

This is the one feature that sold me on the shuffle. I transfer data quite often. Sometimes I’ll be out and about and have some sort of emergency in which I’ll have to transfer data. There’s no way I’m going to carry a USB cable with me wherever I go on the off-chance that I’m going to have to transfer some data, so the shuffle - with its direct interface - was the perfect solution for me. As far as the screen goes, I don’t fill my shuffle to the brim anyway when I’m casually listening outdoors. So I can tell you my track listings by heart. So truth be told, I really don’t miss having a screen because I haven’t found it all too necessary.

Also, one of the major negative points I’ve heard about the Sony player is that the display scratches VERY easily. I’ve read user reviews saying that the screen eventually becomes unreadable because of surface scratches. Can anyone who owns one confirm this? It would be nice if Sony added a better quality plastic(or possibly even glass) display. This is a really nice player.

Posted by Arkonnan on July 1, 2005 at 10:18 PM (PDT)

13

Lots of people have said the design is great, but I disagree.  It does look like a lighter. 

Sony seems to always play design over function.  The shuffle is appealing because it merges simplistic design with simplistic, useful function—something the sony engineers will have to learn if they wish to compete.

And the price?  Ridiculous…

Posted by Cameron Talley on July 2, 2005 at 7:36 AM (PDT)

14

You can use sony’s older software which does allow you to drag and drop songs.  The new software is horrible however.  If sony offerd this at a competitive price point with the shuffle, i would definately trade in my shuffle for one.

Posted by brad on July 2, 2005 at 9:53 AM (PDT)

15

kemphoto - Any hints or tips on writing that code?

I was going to buy one of these, but for £40 more i got the HD5 with 20gig and a massive battery life. the e407/507 feels great in the hand. sadly sonic stage is truly awful in comparison with itunes.

Posted by davebach172 on July 2, 2005 at 10:04 AM (PDT)

16

I love the way the screen is integrated. It’s designed well. If it looks like a shuffle everyone screams ripoff, if it doesnt, its poor design. I think this looks pretty good, not to sure about the controls though. But I think sony did a good job with this one, besides the price.

Posted by Mike Bayuk on July 2, 2005 at 12:07 PM (PDT)

17

Sony are going to get it right sooner or later.  The biggest issues for it at the moment are ugly looking hardware, awful management software (SonicStage is the worst piece of garbage I have ever used and the main reason my Net MiniDisc player is gathering dust in a drawer), and awkward controls.  With this player they have shown they can do slick, stylish hardware.  In fact they always were able to, they just haven’t been able to figure it out with DAP hardware for some reason.  Apple should be nervous because I’m certain they’ll address the other issues sooner or later and come up with a real iPod killer. 

If Apple want to keep their well-deserved market leader position, then they really need to do better than colour screens for the next generation of iPods!

Posted by PassiveSmoking on July 2, 2005 at 12:21 PM (PDT)

18

*orgasm*

Posted by Jet_Blaqk on July 2, 2005 at 2:09 PM (PDT)

19

i actually prefer this sony over the ipod shuffle if the price wasn’t so high and if sony could use like drag and drop instead of there weird and hard4 music programs.

Posted by zerophase on July 2, 2005 at 5:04 PM (PDT)

20

davebach172 - Apple has a great COM api to iTunes which is how the original podcast aggregators worked. You can find the software development kit for free at

http://developer.apple.com/sdk/itunescomsdk.html

The SDK has javascript examples and good documentation of the api. I’ve used the library in both python and c#.

Basically you can get access to the ith playlist and jth track using
IITTrack track = iTunes.LibrarySource.Playlists.Tracks[j]
(c# syntax). For an M3U file you’ll need track.Duration, track.Artist, and track.Name.
You’ll also need to do IITFileOrCDTrack fileTrack = (IITFileOrCDTrack) track to get to the filename with fileTrack.Location

Posted by kemphoto on July 3, 2005 at 6:39 AM (PDT)

21

Ah I still like the look of the Shuffle betta.  More streamline, simpler, sexier.

Posted by clint Curtis on July 3, 2005 at 9:08 AM (PDT)

22

nice one kemphoto! I’ll have a look into that. I’ve found a web site that converts iTunes playlists for you using xsl on the xml playlist - quite simple - now if only SonicStage wouldnt import the files and create duplicates!! (id like it to use the files that already exist in my library)

Site for conversion:
http://chimpen.com/itunes2m3u/convert.php

Posted by davebach172 on July 3, 2005 at 9:52 AM (PDT)

23

I was just getting excited about this piece of work…

then I saw 2 words: SONIC STAGE

ugh…
Why does Sony hate macs (actually, computer users in general… the soft is a POS)

Posted by haguremetaru on July 3, 2005 at 11:14 AM (PDT)

24

“Add the sony display to the iPod shuffle and I’d leave my 4th Gen 20g at home for the most part.”
Totaly agree!!!

Posted by Michael on July 3, 2005 at 5:45 PM (PDT)

25

While I would NEVER own this, it’s at least as good as the pos that is shuffle!  I’m sorry, but it was designed to attract cheap morons and the only good thing about it is iTunes.  Did you know that there are people that tell themselves that no screen is a plus?  LOL!  Talk about lying to yourself… heh.  Anyways, I’ll keep my iPod mini thank you very much.  It just annoys me when idiots say stuff like “I’d buy a used shuffle for $200 before I’d own this product.”  Oh really?  I’m sorry…

Posted by topper24hours on July 3, 2005 at 9:31 PM (PDT)

26

topper…...i completely agree. i am an ipod owner, and i love it. but these gung-ho apple fans drive me nuts.

Posted by geniusflip27 on July 3, 2005 at 9:50 PM (PDT)

27

Excellent review! Man it’s nice to make the Sony digital walkman look like a jerk (in a reasonable way) compared the iPod shuffle, and I would never use their own cheap ATRAC3 format even if someone gave me one for free…

Posted by scott523 on July 3, 2005 at 11:50 PM (PDT)

28

Now that’s how an MP3 player should look like.  It makes the shuffle look like a memory stick with huge buttons….wait a minute it is just a memory stick with buttons lol

Posted by brett212 on July 4, 2005 at 1:29 AM (PDT)

29

I about to receive nw-e507 in the end of this week. I hope I will manage to use SonicStage everyone is complaining about… I chose sony, cause my iPod 4g 20Gb didn’t like freeride on the bike wink

Posted by ckaper on July 4, 2005 at 2:55 AM (PDT)

30

Maybe more expensive, but looks alot nicer than the shuffle, its got a screen as well, I’d prefer the sony, although sonicstage sucks, i would just use one of the dozens of other pieces of software. Too many fanboys on the site, iPod hasnt done enough with the shuffle, lets face it shuffle sucks.

Posted by Steven on July 4, 2005 at 6:33 AM (PDT)

31

I actually saw this and I was blown away. I thought Sony was heading to the right direction with a crystal clear sounding mp3 player and the look and operation was flawless.  But I didn’t even compare the price point. Man, Sony has a long way to go.

Posted by Jimmy on July 4, 2005 at 8:23 AM (PDT)

32

One amendment to the original article. I’ve given the NW-E505 a conservative battery test to see how Sony’s claimed 50-hour life actually played out. If you look at the packaging carefully, Sony couches the 50-hour number in specifics: must use normal power saving mode, must use ATRAC3 at a certain bitrate, etc.

I wanted to give the unit a fair shake, but also wanted to see how it did with MP3s. With a random collection of songs at varying bit rates at or above 128k, I used the unit’s most conservative (“super”) power saving settings (screen turned off except when controls were in use - very seldom). The NW-E505 ran for 61 hours, 30 minutes before dying. I’m not going to run more tests under different conditions, but that’s awesome by any standard.

And hugely better than the iPod shuffle. More than three times better, even with a bit of screen access, which for obvious reasons the shuffle can’t offer. And the NW-E505 isn’t that much bigger, either.

The only problem was that the battery meter is not especially accurate. It went from an 80% power to a 40% power reading in an hour or so mid-way through its life cycle, then fell to 10% some time thereafter, then to flashing 10% (nearly dead). No one is going to care much about this, given that a 10% increment can be 6 hours (!), but it was interesting given that Sony devices are supposed to be so good in estimating remaining battery power.

Posted by Jeremy Horwitz in East Amherst, NY, USA on July 4, 2005 at 2:20 PM (PDT)

33

Very nice, but I think my old Sony NW-E5 looks much nicer with it’s cigarette lighter design, rather than an iPod shuffle design.
Although my 4G iPod blows them both away, of course.

Posted by chris on July 4, 2005 at 2:32 PM (PDT)

34

Forget the debate on looks, both the shuffle and the Sony have their pros and cons. Forget the screen debate - I can see why it would be “nice” to have one but not having one does not impact the functionality of the shuffle (which I think is cool in a simplistic way). The real issue here is battery life. 61 hours on the Sony is FANTASTIC. Why can’t Apple get a grip on battery technology? It really REALLY annoys the sh*t out of me that they keep fobbing us off with sub-20 hour performance ratings in the batteries they use. GET REAL APPLE - if you even gave us 30 hours on the shuffle (especially the shuffle with its flash drive), mini or color ipod then I’d be one very happy Apple user. Instead I have to put up with, lets face it, lazy engineering at a premium price new release after new release. Hopefully this Sony will kick them up the a** a bit and force them to get serious on the one issue they keep on dodging…SH*T BATTERY LIFE!!

Posted by JosefK on July 4, 2005 at 4:05 PM (PDT)

35

Lets face it Shuffle inst exactly a revolution, you can purchase mp3 players for £30 which hold the same amount, with a screen. Sure its not apple, but at the end of the day the shuffle looks bland, and i hate to say it tacky, apple are stupid, they had, well still have this market dominated, but they arent advancing as fast as competitors!

Common apple get your thumb out of your arse and do something, because sooner or later the will get pwned, and bill gates will be pissing himself with laughter, as apple fail to kill of the competition again.

Posted by Steven on July 4, 2005 at 4:50 PM (PDT)

36

This looks NOTHING like what the iPod Shuffle would look like with a screen, so why even bother saying that in the title? It’s as lame as saying “another iPod killer?” which we see so many times, never a product that really is an ‘iPod killer’.

Personally, I think it’s ugly. I saw someone on the subway tonight with one, and it’s much thicker than the Shuffle. They’re also much more expensive.

Posted by kloan on July 4, 2005 at 8:40 PM (PDT)

37

But that’s not to say it doesn’t have some appealing features, such as the screen, UI, excellent battery life.

The Shuffle is in need of major improvements. Most notably the slow reaction time to the pressing of buttons. That is THE MOST frustrating flaw of the Shuffle.

Posted by kloan on July 4, 2005 at 8:42 PM (PDT)

38

Great article, you made me feel great about my purchase of a shuffle 1g today.

You neglected to mention a point that was a big seller for me.  iPod shuffle has an ajustable amount of data storage, that can be used like a USB jump-drive.  Does this unit have such a feature, and if it does, it surely can’t be as convenient as Apple’s built in usb connector!  I didn’t downgrade from a larger ipod, i upgraded from a cheaper jump-drive.

Posted by scott on July 4, 2005 at 9:27 PM (PDT)

39

Reading the article made me check both the Shuffle and new Sony out today, and I gotta tell you Sony owns the Shuffle.  It doesn’t have the cheap plastic feel the Shuffle has, the screen is awesome, and I actually liked the controls better.  Check it out for yourself.  If the new Shuffles still doesn’t have a screen, I’m definitely getting this one.  With that said, Apple please go back to the drawing board.

Posted by BobbyD on July 5, 2005 at 4:10 AM (PDT)

40

“Sony seems to always play design over function.  The shuffle is appealing because it merges simplistic design with simplistic, useful function—something the sony engineers will have to learn if they wish to compete.”

—————

this wasn’t always the case. The Sony Design Centre used to be very good at designing with functionality and ergonomics in mind. They even endeavoured to keep most products quite simple (although never to the extend of say B+O, they didn’t believe in hiding controls behind panels). Of course, around the turn of the millennium Sony dropped the ball and have been over-complicating things since. (although some divisions still do ok. I find the cybershot camera’s to be generally be well designed.)

Posted by Nathan on July 5, 2005 at 6:41 AM (PDT)

41

I think a clear turning point in that regard was the introduction of the new Walkman logo. The flashy hipness of the new one was pretty indicative of what Sony was soon to become.

Posted by Nathan on July 5, 2005 at 6:43 AM (PDT)

42

A few points…
sonicstage is GROSS. I am a windows user, and i tried installing it a year or two ago when I made the mistake of buying an MD player…that’s another story…but SS is just irritating. It wouldn’t recognize my player…Once I bought my iPod 4G 20GB and eventually shuffle 512 i had seen lots of music management programs…and to be completely honest, I was most impressed by iTunes. Good job, Apple. Sorry I was so skeptical raspberry
As for that Sony player- looks really cool, and I love the screen, colour… (even to a double iPod owner) but i refuse to look more at it until it’s iTunes compatible. I suggest that to everyone…what’s the point of owning a music player if you can’t put music on it easily?!

Posted by Noah on July 5, 2005 at 7:18 AM (PDT)

43

First off, I think the Sony design is typical. It’s unoriginal “uber-techy” with its cheap chrome-esque plastic knob and shiny display. It doesn’t come close to the simple, clean design of the Shuffle.

As far as an intuitive interface, it sounds like the Sony is horribly over-complicated. Again, Sony tries to make a product “cool” instead of making it easy to use.

As far as the USB cable goes, I for one have considered buying a Shuffle to use primarily as a USB thumb drive. With the 1GB Shuffle for $119 (I’m a student), it’s a pretty good deal to pay $60 more for a Shuffle than a regular 1GB flash drive and have the added capability of playing music. That’s one market the added USB cable kills.

Plus, who wants to re-rip or convert all their AAC files to MP3?

Posted by Erika on July 5, 2005 at 8:05 AM (PDT)

44

I have a 1Gb Shuffle, among other iPods.  The initial review of the shuffle identified it as, “$100 for a 1 Gb USB flash drive with another $50 for an iTunes compatible DAP.”  That is exactly what it is.  I always carried a flash drive anyway; I replaced the flash player in my pocket with my Shuffle and increased the number of songs in my pocket from 0 to 180.  The Shuffle is a gracefully simple flash drive that plays music.

The Sony NW-E505 is a flash DAP, not a flash drive.  It is intended to be used primarily to listen to music.  This is a completely different category and the review correctly identified the iPod mini as the relevant comparable Apple product.

Get over the screen thing.  A screen is for quickly scanning through 1,000’s of songs.  Seriously, with a small, 3-line screen, you can’t do that, jog-dial or no-jog-dial. Barring effective scanning, all the screen does is display the song name.  Don’t most of use recall the song name by hearing the music?

Using the random and sequential playback slider and the forward button I can get to any song in my Shuffle in about 10 clicks, without looking away from the road I might add.  I know what song is playing by listening to the music.

The NW-E505 is an awesome looking MP3(or whatever) player.  They did several things right.  Assuming the 2Gb and 4Gb Shuffle rumors are true, Apple will have to redesign the iPod mini, a screen like the Sony and possibly a different form factor would add tremendous differentiation to that product line.  Apple could stand to take note, but leave the Shuffle alone (except for capacity).  It’s a flash drive that carries songs, not an audio player that stores files.

Posted by rochester on July 5, 2005 at 8:06 AM (PDT)

45

There’s no discounting that Sony is a stud duck in the tech pond, and therefor can move the world when they get it right. The issues I have: 1) the decline in Sony’s quality control of recent years and 2) their design staff has over designed their entire product lineup. Funky, just plain funky.

Posted by FahrenheiPod 451 on July 5, 2005 at 8:38 AM (PDT)

46

rochester - I disagree that a screen is only useful for quickly scanning through 1000’s of songs. A screen enables some features that I feel are essential for me: multiple playlists and audio preferences (EQ and auto-leveling). I never scan through looking for a particular song, even with my iPod.

I like how Sony implemented playlist switching with the control knob. It’s tactile, very responsive, and you don’t have to look at the screen if you don’t want to.

I don’t understand how you can find any particular song on a shuffle in 10 clicks unless you only have 10 songs on it.

Posted by kemphoto on July 5, 2005 at 9:17 AM (PDT)

47

“As usual it panders to the ASIAN ‘im clever’ market with too much noise on the design, including the callous use of the logo.”  So, Samuel, precisely what is this Asian ‘im clever market you refer too and how does it apply specifically to the topic at hand?  No matter your answer, to me it sounds like a racist rant and not appropriate for this forum (or any other).

Posted by Pragmatist on July 5, 2005 at 9:29 AM (PDT)

48

kemphoto,

Ah, playlists!  You can tell I usually use my Shuffle, and playlists are outside my paradigm.

I concede that a 3-line screen, while still not being particularly effect in sorting 1000 songs is a tremendous tool to support playlists. 

To locate my songs on my shuffle in 10 clicks:  I first sort my songs in iTunes by artist.  I know the Shuffle is random, but imagine if each click cuts the number of songs in half.  So, setting the slider to random, I start with 180 (256Kb I use for file storage), so each press of forward generally doubles the chances of being near the song I want to listen to: 1/180, 1/90, 1/45, 1/22, 1/11, 1/6.  Don’t crack on my math yet, I know it is overly optimistic.  By 6 clicks, I am usually near the song I want to listen to.  I switch the slider to play in order, and finish with a few more clicks.

I said about 10-clicks.  Multiple songs from one artist increase the likelihood of locating the song.  I switch to ordered play when I hit the right artist or know that I am near the right artist, then advance to the song.  This somewhat offsets the random nature of advancing through songs in the random setting. 

Is it a perfect solution? Not by a long shot.  Does it help?  You betcha’!  The whole issue centers on item reduction, whether that it using playlists or switching modes on the Shuffle.

Posted by rochester on July 5, 2005 at 10:01 AM (PDT)

49

I would trade my Shuffle in for that in a heartbeat!  C’mon playlist capabilities, equalizer, AND FM tuner?  Makes my Shuffle look like crap, no disrespect to Apple.

Posted by James212 on July 5, 2005 at 12:12 PM (PDT)

50

rochester - So you’re using the shuffle function to randomly sample artists and when you’re close to the artist/song that you want, you step in sequence through the tracks. That’s really an interesting idea. Thanks for the explanation.

Posted by kemphoto on July 5, 2005 at 12:25 PM (PDT)

51

James212 - you really want to use SonicStage that much?!!! C’mon…itunes is untouchable in this respect.

Rochester - you make some good points regards functionality and the reasons for buying a shuffle in the first place but do you agree that the battery life sucks and needs to be increased? Does anyone agree with me on this one?

I could care less about screens/capacity etc. all I want is a same-size shuffle where I can pop in a AAA battery and get 50 hours playback. Sony has worked out how to do it so why can’t apple?

Posted by JosefK on July 5, 2005 at 2:07 PM (PDT)

52

eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeew.

Posted by punkrockavocado in VA on July 5, 2005 at 3:23 PM (PDT)

53

SHUFFLE = OWNED

Posted by AllenEye on July 5, 2005 at 6:42 PM (PDT)

54

The display looks nice.  $50 more and I could’ve gotten that….grrrr

Posted by Liz on July 5, 2005 at 6:55 PM (PDT)

55

i’d gladly pay an extra 50 bucks for a screen that nice.

sorry, but i like to know what song I’m playing, what time it is, and -you know- what the hell is going on.

I’ll take my mpio fl 350 over both.

Posted by OMGWTFSTFU in United States on July 5, 2005 at 7:00 PM (PDT)

56

Niiiice!  I hope the new shuffles add a screen like that.

Posted by Sam V. on July 5, 2005 at 10:10 PM (PDT)

57

I don’t care too much about the Shuffle because I think that the screenless thing was a dumb idea.  Can you say “Shuffle Killer”.

Posted by iPodman777 on July 5, 2005 at 11:18 PM (PDT)

58

Crap!  This makes me hate my $150 Shuffle.  WHY APPLE WHY??!!!

Posted by Steve on July 5, 2005 at 11:36 PM (PDT)

59

Anybody thought about sound quality?

iPod Shuffles have, IMO, the best sound quality of ANY mp3 player on the market at the moment and why they don’t need a screen so you adjust the equaliser - coz it doesn’t need one

If something’s got an equaliser on it - I don’t buy it

Anybody noticed why audiophile amplifiers invariably only have a volume control - nothing else?

Posted by dnd on July 6, 2005 at 5:24 AM (PDT)

60

JosefK-

Geez, I never realized what a POS my Shuffle was!  It IS absurd that the Sony lasts 50 hours with a screen, and the Shuffle while half the size, gives only 12 hours.  Outside of that, I am rarely away from a computer for more than 4 hours at a time.

Again, though, the Shuffle is more of a computer peripheral that plays music.  I think the best comparison is between the Sony and the Mini.  The Sony is half the size, has an FM tuner, more battery life, costs $50 less, but has 1/4 the capacity.  The overarching question, as I see it, is why is the mini still hard drive based?  When the new 4Gb flash chips start coming out, why can’t Apple put two of those in a mini case.  Or even better, redesign the mini case?  Make it fit in my wallet and I’ll ditch the Shuffle!

I think there is room for a basic player, without a screen to play a few songs.  Perhaps even $100 entry price is too high considering the limitations, at least to some.  As is the case with all convergence devices, they usually don’t completely master the added task.  With that in mind, maybe I’ll keep my cash in my pocket this fall when the iTunes phones come out…hopefully next to a redesigned Mini.

Posted by rochester on July 6, 2005 at 6:36 AM (PDT)

61

DND - i agree that all Apple players have great sound quality but the cnet website did an audio test recently and rated the Sony’s way above the ipod. Can’t really comment as I’ve not heard the new Sony’s but that surprised me I must admit…

Rochester - yup agreed. But all I want is 30 + hours battery and I’m willing to overlook everything else…!

Posted by JosefK on July 6, 2005 at 11:58 AM (PDT)

62

No more WHITE memory stick for me!

Posted by John on July 6, 2005 at 4:54 PM (PDT)

63

Everyone is complaining about the shuffle but it is only the first generation and sony has been making these types of mp3 player for how long?. Also one of my friend recently bought one of these thinking they are way better then the shuffle and the screen became blurry after 2 months and sony refused to replace it. In conclusion I would buy apple over sony due to better qulity and willingness to help their constomers

Posted by Liam on July 6, 2005 at 8:17 PM (PDT)

64

Liam - “I would buy apple over sony due to better qulity and willingness to help their constomers”

Yea ok, Apple wouldnt even give me phone support after 3 months, cheap bastards…


I own a 20 gig 4th gen and I love Apple products, not because they have the most features and are technically superior to its competitors but because Apples are basically a fashion statement.  But when I saw the Shuffle i felt that Apple has gone to far.  Most people believe that the Shuffle is cheap but is it really?  Its basically a thumb drive with a phone jack + bottons.  I can get a 512MB no name thumb drive for $20.  Hey lets add a music player and sell it as an Apple!  If you compare the Sony to the Apple the Shuffle is well… a pretty bland piece of white plastic.  When you have a hundred songs in a shuffle, its prettyy hard to find a song you want to hear without a screen.  And for those that compain about the 3 line screen, at least it has one.  And hey, it has a FM tuner, 99% of other flash mp3 players have that too, except the shuffle….

This is capitalism at its best.  Apple doesnt care if the shuffle is featureless, people would still buy it because its an “Apple”.

Posted by Pookgai on July 6, 2005 at 8:51 PM (PDT)

65

Now why can’t apple make their shuffles like that?  That is sweet!!  They should at least put a freakin screen.

Posted by TO84 on July 6, 2005 at 9:44 PM (PDT)

66

I don’t know why anyone in their right mind would waste money on a 1gb music device that doesn’t have a screen. The day I buy an iPod Shuffle is the day I become clinically blind.

My 60gb iPod Photo on the other hand IS functional and to date, has served its purpose.

Posted by analord on July 7, 2005 at 8:28 AM (PDT)

67

are shuffle owners finally realizing that they got tricked into buying a memory stick?  HAHAHAHAHAHA

Posted by crazycabbie on July 7, 2005 at 8:44 AM (PDT)

68

Who the hell uses the ATRAC audio codec? I might as well encode everything in WMA in that case. Other than that, it looks very slick.

Posted by John on July 7, 2005 at 3:08 PM (PDT)

69

Makes you wonder why Sony doesn’t disrupt Apple and make their mp3 players play AAC format. They make no money out of their connect music store and everyone hates sonicstage. So the question is…why doesn’t Sony embrace the AAC format and blow Apple out the water?!! They beat Apple on every front apart from the software…

Posted by JosefK on July 7, 2005 at 5:14 PM (PDT)

70

I have a 60 GB iPod Photo and love it, but I travel a lot and it started to feel big and heavy. (Go figure—I bought my first iPod—a 3G—because it was so much smaller and had better sound than the Creative I owned then.  But I fly about 10,000 miles per month nowadays. So I got an iPod Shuffle. I find it much easier to use while flying—I wear it with a DLO adjustable lanyard which makes it quick on and off through security. It’s also great for running around shopping and such. I load up before the trip with a variety of music that strikes my fancy and take it as it comes. I use the “big” iPod in the hotel and rental car.

A display would be nice, but I’m OK without it. An FM tuner does not interest me in the least. I’m in many different cities and don’t want to bother figuring out which commercial-saturated stations are the least annoying. I only listen to radio for news and talk.

At this point, I’m pretty much stuck with iPods anyway even though I’ve never owned any other Apple product. Why? Because I’ve accumulated about 800 CDs over more than twenty years and do not want to have to re-rip. (Converting AAC to MP3 ruins the quality.) Not only that, I’ve bought a few hundred protected AACs from iTunes. So be it.

Posted by Steve on July 8, 2005 at 7:40 PM (PDT)

71

Frankly, I think that all the media players are far too expensive.  I just built my last computer for 700.00 P4, DVD dual layer burner and the whole nine.  I have a 4G 20GB player that cost 299.  Doest that make sense?  The shuffle costs $99 and $149!!!  That is crazy for 512 and 1GB of storage.  The market (us) need to demand that these outrageous prices come down.  We need to support products that give the most bang for the buck.  My Ipod is pretty, but it should have cost, 149.99.  I had an old Archos Jukebox that sounded just as good for that price.  Not as feature rich, but a heck of a lot cheaper.

Posted by Apanther on July 14, 2005 at 10:47 AM (PDT)

72

There is actually, a drag and drop application for Sony NW players… its called the MP3 Manager, or something. You don’t need to install Sonic Stage either. Link for download and instructions follows:

http://www.sonydigital-link.com/DNA/NWW/nww.asp?l=en

However it doesn’t have alot of flexibility, still its worth a shot.

This review seemed biased, as if on a crusade against the Sony player. I suppose it is to be expected. Valid points are made, but the negatives are emphasized over the positive points.

The real problem I have with this series of players is that the price. For example, the E507, at 200 USD, is at the same price point as the iPod mini. Sony must realize that they do not control the mp3 player industry, Apple does. Sure they have a killer design here, but putting a huge premium over even Apple’s products doesn’t help.

Posted by Jiggs on July 23, 2005 at 2:43 PM (PDT)

73

Oh my, what a biased review.

I own both devices (one was a gift) and I prefer my NW-505 over my Shuffle.

I do prefer iTunes over SonicStage, but the device itself is worth using the software, or the MP3 manager better yet.

Sorry Apple, Sony is catching up.

Posted by Z on August 17, 2005 at 3:24 PM (PDT)

74

Hi .

I dont really understand, will og will this device not function with Apple?

Posted by Tobias Gress Hansen on October 22, 2005 at 9:49 AM (PDT)

75

There are a couple of real negatives I discovered about having an E407 for a few weeks.

1. The OLED display is useless outdoors, even on a cloudy day.

2. This in definitely not the unit to use if you like to listen to audiobooks, especially those with long tracks or 30 to 40 minutes. There is no bookmark function. And the shuttle controls make it very easy to go to the next (or previous) track if you happen to accidentally hit it. Also, if your finger slips holding down FF or REV, you can easily change track. And finding your place in a lost track, can take many long minutes - even though Sony has added an incremental speed-up function to FF and REV, it is really not that fast.

3. If you have a collection of music that is properly tagged with Genres of music, too bad. This unit does not recognize genres.. so you cannot for example, play all music that is ‘classical’ for example.

4. The ‘group’ selection on this player is about as useless as can be. For all intents, it is the same a selecting music by artist.

Posted by Paul Leduc on October 23, 2005 at 10:19 AM (PDT)

76

Further to my previous comments about the NW-E407…

As I said, one of the things I really missed with this unit is the ability to play random tracks from a selection of music of a particular genre. There is a sort of work around, using what SonicStage calls ‘groups’. But it is messy.

In SonicStage, you create a new group in your mp3 device, for example, ‘Classic Rock’. Then you drag individual files into this group or folder. You cannot drag ablums.. you must drag individual tracks.

So, in the end, you end up with a whole pile of mp3 tracks (with music from different artists and different albums) in this new group. However, the information about the original album they were on is lost.

Furthermore, you end up with two copies of each file in the player: one in the newly created Classic Rock group, and one in the original album. This wastes space.

You can of course, just delete the copy in the album, but then you can never just play the album any more.

Lastly, getting to play random tracks from just the new group can be done, but takes some time to figure out. Even a call to the Sony support line could not help me.. but I finally figured it out. Real pain!

I am not very pleased with this unit.

Posted by Paul Leduc on October 24, 2005 at 7:58 PM (PDT)

77

Hey,

I bought this product and I love it.  I bought it at best buy for only 119.99 and it’s well worth it. The price has come down. Everyone is complaining about the software that comes along with this.  If you haven’t heard yet, you can use the drap and drop method software for this which is called mp3 file manager.  Download this software off the internet before you plug it in your computer and don’t use the software that comes with it.  Just go to.

http://www.css.ap.sony.com/consumer/template/DDSummary.aspx?Id=44358&Category=Personal+Audio

Download the driver and the mp3 file manager software.  I don’t work for Sony, I just like this player.

Posted by Trent on December 12, 2005 at 10:48 AM (PDT)

78

i would like tokow how to put on the music file to be playedback on the sony NW-E505 walkman

Posted by kakomo francis on July 18, 2008 at 6:28 AM (PDT)

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