Feature Design

NWD-W270 series

Taking music
to new heights,
and new depths

35 years ago, few could imagine
how enjoyable music anywhere,
anytime could be.
Then came the Walkman®.
Now, a new frontier,
for listening has emerged.


〈 NWD-W270 series 〉

A stroke of inspiration
—listen as you swim

W series Walkman are all about enjoying music as you stay in shape. Once we found the perfect form for these sports models, we made them smaller and smaller, but after three generations, we were reaching the limit. Looking to push the boundaries in other ways, we focused on its water resistance. Improve it, a designer suggested, and people could listen while swimming. About that time, a product planner who happened to be a triathlete shared his wish to listen while training at a pool. The project was beginning to take shape.

An experience
out of the ordinary

Swimming with music was amazing, when I tried out a prototype at a pool. Any background music at pools usually fades away when you’re under water. These W series headphones seemed to keep my music at the same volume above and below the water, which was an amazing new experience. I knew then that we had to develop it.

Iijima, senior producer

Industrial Design

〈 NWD-W270 series 〉

Pushing the limits
by questioning
the unquestioned

Field testing in a pool revealed the issues to solve. Understandably, a key issue was size. Reducing drag in the water depended on shrinking an already compact player, yet the internal parts were as small as they could be. A smaller battery would reduce the battery life. But another approach might be to redesign the micro USB port. Changing such a versatile port was a radical idea, but it just might make the impossible possible and streamline the player. This thinking led to an original interface on the W series, instead of a standard micro USB port. The player is about 30% smaller by volume than the previous model (NWD-W263) —and small enough to swim with.

One size truly does fit all

This was not the only issue solved through field testing. The neckband had to be the perfect shape and length. Short enough to stay out of the way when you jog, but contoured to keep its shape as you swim. Finding the best length for an international, one-size-fits-all band was another goal. What length would fit most users comfortably? The fit of prototypes was tested on many health club members near our San Diego office, which led to the current length and shape. The tension band also ensures comfort for the greatest number of people.

A dream design project

Ever since swimming on a team in high school, I wished I could listen to music in the pool. Designing this W series player was a dream come true, because it was the player I myself had always wanted. I was truly motivated to contribute.

Morimoto, producer and designer

effective algorithmic design

Most critical was to streamline the body and minimize drag, but there were few examples of submersible Sony products, and conjecture and subjective values from field testing are limited. That’s why a computer-aided engineering (CAE) department at Sony specializing in fluid dynamics lent support. Insight from simulations was analyzed with algorithms and directly applied to refine the shape.

Simulations showed that water got between previous, rounded headphones and the user’s face, pushing the headphones away. Keeping the headphones in place meant taking advantage of resistance by minimizing inner roundness and adding outer curvature. And because drag changes a lot as you move your head to take each breath, the shape was tested in 3D simulations to reduce resistance from all angles. Through this approach, the pulling force of water was reduced to about one-third that of the previous model (NWD-W263). Field testing and simulations made the W series a better player for swimming than ever.

simulation tangible

Test results from simulation were made more tangible for designers by supplementing numerical and verbal descriptions with graphics and animation. Visually, areas of maximum drag were clear to everyone. Our CAE department made it easy for everyone to understand this visual information and apply it intuitively to refine the design.

Fukuma, designer

Note: Can be worn swimming in 2m pools. Please follow pool rules.
Note: Loose earbuds will admit water and interfere with listening. Choose the right size for each ear, and ensure a secure fit. In case of leaks, drain by tapping the tips against your palm several times. Otherwise remove the earbuds and tap the ends of the player several times on a dry towel.
Note: Do not wear where safety depends on hearing nearby sounds. (Ex.: railroad crossings, train platforms, streets with traffic, construction sites.) Do not wear on bicycles, motorcycles, or when driving, or when swimming in rivers or the ocean.