Sony’s new NW-A306 hi-res portable music player is surprisingly affordable

Sony NW-A306 hi-res portable music player
(Image credit: Sony)

Sony has unveiled a new NW-A306 portable music player as part of its Walkman range, with a surprisingly affordable price tag.

At first glance, the NW-A306 looks like a stripped-down version of the higher-end NW-WM1ZM2 (£3,299) and NW-WM1AM2 (£1,299) players. 

It features a rectangular, milled aluminium design with rounded sides, large physical button controls and a 3.6-inch touch screen. The only big difference is that it has lost the large semi-circular protrusions seen on the older model’s top.

However, look a little closer and you’ll find it has one key selling point differentiating it from past Sony portables - its price.

The NW-A306 will be available for pre-order on the Sony store for a modest £350 /$350/€400 at an unspecified point later this month. 

The price is a bold move by Sony and means the new player radically undercuts our current Award-winning portable player, the Astell & Kern A&norma SR25 MKII, by £300/$300. 

The SR25 MKII currently retails for £699/$749 on Amazon and sits on top of our best portable music player guide, with our reviewers listing its great value for money as a key reason for the recommendation.

It has been quite some time since we’ve seen a hi-res player from such a big brand cost so little and we’ll be very curious to see how the NW-A306 performs against its more expensive rivals when we get it in for testing.

Running off Google’s Android 12 OS, the device is full of features normally only seen on much more expensive portables.

For starters, its circuitry uses a reflow solder containing gold. Combined with Sony’s S-Master HX digital amp and native DSD (Direct Stream Digital codec) support, Sony claims this will let the NW-A306 offer significantly better audio, with less distortion and noise, than most flagship smartphones.

For serious listeners there’s also a 3.5mm input for wired headphones - check our best wired headphones guide for our curated picks of the top performers we’ve tested.

There’s also Bluetooth and wi-fi support, plus improved DSEE Ultimate upscaling tech for those that want to cut the cord. Sony claims it has improved its algorithms to let the player offer more acoustic subtleties and dynamic range when playing CD-quality 16-bit/44kHz tracks, even with lossless codecs.

The final upgrade relates to its battery life, with the NW-A306 claiming to offer up to 36 hours of 44.1kHz FLAC playback and up to 32 hours of 96kHz FLAC high-resolution audio playback, which should be more than enough to get you through a long-haul flight. Charging is via the USB-C connection, and a cable is helpfully provided in the box.

Does it all sound great? We think so, but there is a catch. Specifically that according to Sony’s spec sheet the NW-A306 will only feature 32GB of storage. To make matters worse, only 18GB of this is listed as being “usable”.

Considering how quickly we managed to fill the SR25 MKII, which features 64GB of onboard storage, this could be an issue for people that like to have large hi-res music libraries downloaded locally. Though given the player’s price, it’s surprising that this is the only obvious shortcoming we’ve spotted so far.

We’ll make sure to update you on how the NW-A306 performs in actual use when we get it into our test labs for review, so make sure to keep checking back with What Hi-Fi?.

MORE:

Upgrade your portable's audio using our best wired headphones guide

Here are all the hi-res audio files explained

Check out our best wireless earbuds buyers' guide

Alastair Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Alastair is What Hi-Fi?’s editor in chief. He has well over a decade’s experience as a journalist working in both B2C and B2B press. During this time he’s covered everything from the launch of the first Amazon Echo to government cyber security policy. Prior to joining What Hi-Fi? he served as Trusted Reviews’ editor-in-chief. Outside of tech, he has a Masters from King’s College London in Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion, is an enthusiastic, but untalented, guitar player and runs a webcomic in his spare time. 

  • Nealyboy73
    Can't wait for the review of this as it looks interesting and at a good price point. I did notice that it does have a MicroSD card slot on the bottom of the player so possibly this could augment the onboard storage?4266
    Reply
  • Travis Daki
    Nealyboy73 said:
    Can't wait for the review of this as it looks interesting and at a good price point. I did notice that it does have a MicroSD card slot on the bottom of the player so possibly this could augment the onboard storage?4266
    You haven't read the entire article, now have you?
    Reply
  • Nealyboy73
    Travis Daki said:
    You haven't read the entire article, now have you?
    No, just the one posted earlier today. I’m waiting for the full review in anticipation.
    Reply
  • Escudos999
    Sony has already uploaded a user guide for the player, noting the use of micro sd cards.
    https://helpguide.sony.net/dmp/1301/v1/en/contents/TP1000752528.html
    Reply
  • Gray
    18GB of 'useable' internal storage. How many DSDs will that be good for? 🤨
    Still, today's price for a Sandisk 400GB card is £35.45 (half of what it was not that long ago).
    And the player itself can be pre-ordered for £300.
    Watch out A&K.......maybe.....
    Reply
  • Roberardi
    Nealyboy73 said:
    Can't wait for the review of this as it looks interesting and at a good price point. I did notice that it does have a MicroSD card slot on the bottom of the player so possibly this could augment the onboard storage?4266
    Yes, but for the moment the Maximum capacity of this additiona SD card remains a mistery and to me this will make the difference between purchasing or not the Sony NW-A306. If the SD capacity will be at least 1 Tb I will certainly purchase this unit, as a gift to a friend, comparable to my current A&K SR25 MKII.
    Reply
  • David Collins
    I texted a guy from Sony on their official site and asked whether this device will have EU volume limiting and warning built in. I live in UK, own the A106, and absolutely loath this in European models, it can't be disabled.
    He wasn't sure, asked a colleague and said yes, the new models would have it.
    That's a deal-breaker for me, unless I try to source an American or Japanese market model.
    Reply
  • Gray
    David Collins said:
    I texted a guy from Sony on their official site and asked whether this device will have EU volume limiting and warning built in. I live in UK, own the A106, and absolutely loath this in European models, it can't be disabled.
    He wasn't sure, asked a colleague and said yes, the new models would have it.
    I can't wait till we leave the EU.
    Reply