Back in January Sony gave us a look at their WA1 music streamer—a compact boombox that hooks up to your Wi-Fi network and lets you stream music from your PC. The player, which comes in white and black, also streams music from the Internet and can hook up to just about any audio equipment you have (it's got aux-in, optical out, and RCA connections).
Here's the catch. It costs $350, which is a lot of dough to fork over for a streamer. So we called one in to see if the WA1 is worth your cash. Let's start superficially: looks-wise the WA1 is a winner.
It's got a nice curvy design, it's portable (it's relatively light and comes with a 4-hour battery), and it has a fancy mirrored top that doubles as a touch-sensitive display when turned on. The downside to the mirrored display is that it picks up fingerprints like crazy. Yeah, it's gimmicky, but Sony pulls it off nicely. Performance-wise, however, there's nothing to justify the high price tag. Here's what I mean.
For starters, the unit is PC-only and requires that you install Sony's software before you get started, so it's not as plug-and-play as I would've liked it to be. The good news is that once you get everything installed and configured (about a 5-10 minute process) the WA1 is simple to use. The player has 4 basic functions. To switch between them just hit the right button: PC, Web Radio, Aux, and Memory (the player has 128MB of built-in memory). Once the power is on, you got basic controls like volume, back, play, fwd, and so forth.
Unfortunately, the WA1 locks you into stations on Live 365. So if you're buying this solely for Web radio, don't, and make sure you at least know what's up with online radio if you do. Sound-wise, the unit could use an extra punch or two of bass. Even when streaming from our PC the sound was good, but not $350 kinda good. To be fair, I've only spent a day with the player, but so far, I'm leaning on the "don't buy this" side, mainly 'cause of the price/performance ratio. There are some cheaper and not-so-cheap (but excellent) alternatives.