My Sony Walkman A818 arrived in the post yesterday (after buying it on Tuesday — best eBay store evar), and so far I’m very happy with it. I knew it would be small, but it’s still smaller than I expected, being just a smidge shorter and wider than Kat’s first-generation Nano. The hardware is very solid, with metal casing all the way around, a clear, bright screen, and buttons that give a very satisfying click. Despite being about 56g or so, it feels dense. The UI is also very solid, simple, and easy-to-use, without needless frills. I don’t know if I can say it sounds any better than my iPod (my ears aren’t golden enough), but either way, it sounds great, and the one thing I was worried about — that its 10mW amp wouldn’t be enough for my headphones — is not a problem in the slightest.
Niggles? Yep, there are a few, mostly in regards to tagging. Unlike an iPod, where the track database is built by an app on the PC, you simply copy tracks to the Walkman, and it builds its database when you disconnect, which takes about 20-30 seconds. The problem is that the Walkman’s firmware is more picky about tags than gtkpod was — ID3v1 tags don’t display properly, and v2.4 tags sometimes don’t display at all, so v2.3 seems to be the magic number. It also ignores TPOS (disc number) fields, so multi-disc albums have their tracks lumped together rather than being sorted by disc, and then by track.
I’ve worked out a simple process for converting the tags and embedding album art if it’s available, but I’m not sure about the disc number issue. I’ll probably knock up a Python “copy file to Walkman” script that does the tag conversion, embeds the album art, and then appends “disk n” to the end of the album tag for multi-disc albums. It shouldn’t take long to come up with something like that, so I’ll give it a go tonight.