It was 1979 when WALKMAN® audio players first gave us the freedom to enjoy music easily whenever and wherever we pleased. The next step in this evolution is into the pool. Now you can bring your favorite tunes with you not only when jogging but even when swimming. The WALKMAN® W series invites you to enjoy another dimension of freedom in a new listening experience.
Iijima: The W series is all about enjoying music as you stay in shape. You might say that we had already perfected the design of these players by the time we released the previous, third-generation model. It would be hard to make them any smaller, so the real question was how we could take them to the next level. They were also already splashproof, by design, but we were interested in making a player water-resistant enough to swim with. Around that time, one of us in product planning who happened to be a triathlete said he wished he could listen while training in the pool, so we decided to investigate it.
Trying out a prototype at a pool, I was surprised how interesting music sounded. Normally, you wouldn't hear any background music at a pool when you're under water. But when I wore W series headphones, music sounded the same to me both above and under water. It was a strange new sensation. That's when I knew we had to make them a reality.
When the project officially began, Morimoto was immediately chosen to lead design. Not only is he an experienced headphone designer, he was once on a swimming team. It's no joke to claim that extensive personal experience has a big impact on design.
Morimoto:On my high school swimming team, I always used to imagine how great it would be to be able to enjoy music in the water. I was very excited to be designing something I myself had always wanted. Field testing prototypes in the pool did reveal a few potential problems to solve, though. The first obstacle to overcome was size. Although the current model at the time was small enough, it still produced some drag in the water when I was swimming. Still, the internal components were already as small as they could be, with no way to make them smaller.
Iijima:We considered shrinking the battery, but that would sacrifice battery life. So, we took another look at the internal layout, this time focusing on the micro USB port. These are very versatile ports used for charging and transferring music, and it had been a natural choice for the W series so far, but we wondered if the port was truly necessary. Maybe that's where we would find a breakthrough for the seemingly impossible task of making them smaller. After much thought, we incorporated an original interface in the new W series player, instead of a standard USB port. This made the prototype about 30% smaller by volume than the previous model (NWD-W263). It was now small enough to swim with.
One by one, we solved each of the other potential issues uncovered during field testing. In the neckband that loops behind your head, for example, it was hard to find the optimal shape and length. You might also wear them jogging, of course, so we had to make sure the neckband wouldn't get in the way as you run. At the same time, in the water, it had to stay in place and withstand the drag as you swim. Considering that head size varies by sex, race, and other factors, we carefully determined the optimal length for a one-size-fits-all band used around the world.
What length would fit most users comfortably? To find out, we tested prototypes by asking all kinds of people at a health club near our San Diego office to try them out. Ultimately, the results of this testing helped us decide the length and shape you see today. They also come with a tension band, which ensures a great fit for as many people as possible.
*Can be worn when swimming in pools up to 2 m deep. Be sure to follow all pool rules.
*If the earbuds are too loose, water may enter your ear and prevent you from hearing music. Choose the right size of earbud for each ear, and make sure they fit well. If water does get in the earbuds, drain them by tapping the tips gently against your palm 5-10 times. If the water does not drain out, remove the earbuds and tap the ends of the player gently against a dry towel 5-10 times.
*Do not wear where your safety depends on hearing nearby sounds, as by railroad crossings, on train station platforms, streets with traffic, or construction sites. Do not wear on bicycles, motorcycles, or when driving, or when swimming in rivers or the ocean.