You can organise tracks and playlists using the Connect Player software, but its main function is to transfer songs to the player. It's not entirely clear what Connect Player is doing to your music as it transfers it -- judging by the speed it may not be a straight transfer. SonicStage would convert music to Sony's proprietary ATRAC format and then transfer it onto the player but, as we understand it, the Connect Player converts anything that is not MP3 format to ATRAC, but leaves MP3s in their original codec.
The Connect Player also deals with DRM (Digital Rights Management). Sony has had a lot of bad press recently over its copyright protection methods, but Connect Player seems to be fairly liberal in what it will let you transfer. We were able to fill the player with regular MP3s with no problem whatsoever. Though the Connect Player is still not as polished or usable as Apple's iTunes, in comparison to SonicStage it's a revelation.
Two things struck us instantly about the NW-A1000. The first is that the maximum playback volume is much lower than what we've heard from other MP3 players. This is no bad thing and we suspect the player has been intentionally limited to prevent hearing damage. There is likely to be a patch available at some point to remove this restriction -- but do so at your own risk. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that listening to headphones at high volume causes loss of hearing.
This may pose a problem for commuters who travel on noisy trains. If you're determined to hear your music loud and clear and don't mind running the risk of damaging your ears, most other MP3 players can generate a much louder volume.
Sound quality on the player is very good. Listening to I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor by Arctic Monkeys revealed excellent definition and control to the sound. Although we're not volume junkies, we couldn't help but feel that the NW-A1000 wasn't delivering the punch of other players. Within the bounds of the volume available to it, the sound was well balanced and unstrained, but some listeners may find it frustrating that ambient noise begins to drown out some of the detail in songs quite quickly.
Edited by Mary Lojkine
Additional editing by Kate Macefield