There's no FM radio though, or true gapless playback. Fans of live music albums may be disappointed at the split-second gap between tracks.
The E Series has a search feature but it simply allows you to scroll through alphabetical lists of artists, albums, songs, genres or album release dates, much like a traditional browsing system in any other MP3 player. Thankfully, the cursor returns to the top of the list when it reaches the bottom. Those of you with large playlists on players that don't have this simple feature will appreciate how useful this is.
Sound quality on the NW-E013 is excellent, with great reproduction throughout a range of genres, including dance, country, rock and classical.
We set some hard-hitting drum and bass from club-favourites Pendulum playing and we were impressed with how full and powerful the track was driven. Similarly, with a folk number from KT Tunstall, melodies were accurate and passionate, and comparable to a popular £300 MP3 player. It's always impressive to hear something so small produce sounds this full and dynamic.
The supplied headphones are sadly nowhere near as impressive as the ones Sony distributes with its NW-A808 -- they're tinny and give a very muddy performance. It's definitely worth investing in a pair of decent headphones.
The 'Clear Stereo' enhancement built into these players is very effective, predominantly enhancing mid-range frequencies.
Various equaliser modes are available, with several presets that will throw your music into an arena, a studio or into a live environment. These can be used alongside the VPT (Virtualphones Technology) functions, which aim to produce a more three-dimensional, natural sound reproduction.
Sony has always been strong with the battery performance of its music players. It comes as no surprise, then, that these lipstick-shaped digital players are estimated to have 30 hours of continuous battery life. Our tests clocked 29 hours, which is impressively close to Sony's estimation.
Resuming playback mid-song only works for the song you're currently listening to, so podcast fans and audiobook lovers will have to scan to the point they were up to, irritatingly. There are numerous play modes, and an 'Intelligent Shuffle' option that selects songs based on conditions such as year of release -- the player randomly selects a year and plays all songs from that period.
The NW-E013 is a superb-sounding player pitched at a reasonable price. Its wide range of supported formats and its incredible battery life make this a really convenient option for many lifestyles. The small buttons and tiny screen may render it a little less suitable while out jogging, for example, but its light weight and convenient design make up for this minor downside.
If you're after something a little easier to control while on the jog, maybe consider Apple's iPod Shuffle or Creative's Zen Stone. But in all honesty, aside from its predecessor, the NW-E003, this player is in a league of its own and carries its flag valiantly. Good on you, Sony.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Kate Macefield