Of course, these days back-to-back tests of this nature are rather complicated by the plethora of music filters and enhancers fitted to music players. The Walkman comes with two user-definable and four pre-set EQ settings, and four sound modifiers: VPT for a surround sound effect, itself with six sub-settings; DSEE for an enhanced stereo effect; Clear Stereo and Dynamic Normalizer.
For the purposes of this test we compared the Walkman back-to-back with a 4GB iPod Nano using the Sony's supplied earphones and our usual Sennheiser HD 25's.
The controls are simple enough to master
Switch all that unnecessary guff off and the Walkman has the more solid bass, the better defined vocal line - consonants blurred on the iPod are far clearer on the Walkman - and a generally more satisfying sense of balance and space. The Walkman also pumped out a fair bit more volume, a handy feature if you are going to be using your player in a loud environment.
When we played the same tunes back-to-back through each players supplied earphones the Walkman beat the iPod like a fat kid stealing someone's lunch. We would even go as far to say that the Walkman shades the Samsung P2 when it comes to sound, and that takes some doing as the P2 impressed us mightily.
Many MP3 player makers could learn from Sony on the subject of bundled earphones
Happily enough, the sound didn't take as precipitous a dive into the toilet bowl when using the Bluetooth headphones as we had feared it might. Sure, there was a noticeable drop in quality especially in the bass, but the listening experience was still far from unenjoyable.
One thing we didn't like about the Bluetooth listening experience was the fact that the volume control on the headphones is a little too close to the track-skip switches, resulting in us often changing the track rather than the volume level.