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Excellent machine - though maybe too quiet for some
on 10 September 2010
I bought this on the strength of my previous purchases of Sony Walkman MP3 devices (S639F). The winning features of this model are excellent and covered by other reviewers. Comparing the audio through the same headphones from the A845 and my old S series showed a major problem: the A845 is very noticeably quieter.
The indicated volume in the A845 is on a scale that goes up to 30. With any level above around 24, there is a dynamic change detectable in the volume. As you increase beyond that up to the max of 30 you can hear the volume being effectively clamped to Sony's interpretation of the new EU regulations. So there are two problems here; the volume limit (which isn't on my old S-series Sony Walkman) and the dynamic volume variation as you get close to the max volume setting.
Other MP3 players allow bypassing the EU-restriction (e.g. Cowon by selecting 'non-EU country' in the setup). Sony however have provided no possible bypass for the machine on sale here. It may be worthwhile checking AVforums for any future change in their policy, but Sony remains adamant..
For many this may not be a problem, but if like me you are slightly hearing challenged, like quiet classical music and want to hear this in a noisy environment, then this may not be for you. The noise cancellation is OK but don't expect Bose-equivalent results. The good point about the noise-cancellation is that you still get excellent quality audio, although the relative quietness of the machine kind of nulls the benefit of having noise cancellation. And if your ear canals are too big (my problem!) or too small (my daughter's problem) for the supplied three different sizes of rubber seals supplied for the earphones, then you won't get the benefit as the noise cancellation is only for the supplied earphones.
If you are ok with the earphones, then there's a real benefit with this Walkman that's not advertised. You can plug a special lead (included in the pack) into the audio feed on airplanes, so that the Walkman operates as a pair of noise-cancelling headphones with excellent volume-limited audio.
In summary 5 stars for an excellent machine and 1 star for Sony's unflinching dedication to EU regulations which spoils the enjoyment of hearing challenged folks like me.