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The amazing invisible portable audio technology… used all day, every day, the Walkman!, and The Faerie Queene

By Thomas (2000 Underground Music)

A problem

This week, we had a bit of a problem, the increase volume button on our Sony Walkman NW-E390 series stopped working. It started working again momentarily, then I tried to decrease the volume, and that worked, but then the volume went down to level 0, and I could not increase the volume at all, even when prodding it with things… Well that is it, it is dead.

Front on up-close photograph of the black digital Walkman. Show a digital screen covering the top half of the Walkman, it has various options on it. Then below that, a back, option and home control interface.

Sony NW-E083 Walkman.

Photograph by Morita Akio (30 April 2022), distributed under a CC0 4.0 Deed license, adapted, from

My MiniDisc player buying history

I have bought brand new and used, probably 6 MiniDisc portable players, from about 2000–2016, mainly from Sony, but 1 from Sharp. They were very good, I really liked them, you could record anything, if you can get it down the line of a 3.5mm audio cable. Great for radio and internet mixes. And you could extend a MiniDisc from 80 minutes (LP1, long play 1) to 320 minutes (LP4, long play 4), that I did every time.

Side-on up-close photograph of the MiniDisc player. Light silver casing, it is open, with a transparent see through MiniDisc just put halfway inside.

Sony MD (MiniDisc) Walkman RZ-55.

Photograph by Pierre-Yves Beaudouin (26 March 2015), distributed under a CC0 4.0 Deed license, adapted, from

The few bad things about MiniDiscs

  • The 1 thing about MiniDisc players that was a weakness, was dropping it, or it falling out of your pocket, arghh! That really knackers them, the MiniDisc player opens on the ground, the MiniDisc flies out, and you probably have to buy a new 1. There are a lot of quite delicate and thin metal parts, that are easily bent if violated. We recorded 100s of MiniDiscs from 2000–2016, and very accurately without recording errors.
  • I used to write in really small typography [text], the names of the mixes, trying to cram the information into about a 1″ × 1″ inch space.
  • Think I had only 2 MiniDiscs that I recorded, out of probably getting close to 1000, that ever had a read-write error on, that I could not fix by wiping it, that were basically knackered and could not be used… not bad at all.
  • Another thing not to do with MiniDiscs, is put 1 into a player or recorder, that does not support the LP (long play) setting of the original MiniDisc, so there were about 3 settings: LP1 (long play 1), LP2 (long play 2), and LP4 (long play 4). Do you know what happens, it wipes the disc! and all the audio is erased.

Moving on with newer technology from 2016 onwards

From 2016, I finally went to digital, it was easier than waiting for the recording to finish in real-time, or leaving it and coming back to see if it was done. For me, listening to mixes, it is not that important to have say 320 KBPS bitrate good audio quality. In fact, in 2024, I will listen to any mix at any quality, it does not bother me about sound quality, and in fact, it is very hard to trace and find out the true bitrate of the mix recording when online. Cuts, redownloads of mixes, slices and compressing, resaves, reuploads, different versions, it happens, and that is that. I quite like, or have got to value and like even more over the years, old recordings, so low bitrate or tape recording that are heavily hissing, or old recordings where you can tell they are really old, or have come off an old machine. They have character and tell the listener about the time they were made in. Digital typically is overly clean, cold and less-is-less (this is my view). However, it might be more ideal for music like microhouse or clicks & cuts, where a sharp clean sound is needed. Whereas with deep house, maybe vinyl is warmer and has more character and roughness, that is more desirable.

Sony Walkman NW-E390 series

So the Sony Walkman NW-E390 series, I have had about 3 I think since 2016… they get a lot of use, riding my bicycle through town, walking, working, relaxing, I will listen to it anywhere basically. They are quite good, priced at £69. You connect via a USB 2.0, drag on and off the files, no software needed, they charge up as soon as they go into a USB port. I can play MP3, M4A or WAV. If I get mixes in other formats, I just convert them to MP3. They can store 8GB of audio data, and also other computer files. It has a funny EQ thing, that you can adjust, to your earphone’s preference. Battery life and full playing time is 35 hours, and the battery charging time is 2 hours. A lock thing on the side, to stop it from playing tracks that you do not request, when it is in your pocket with other stuff. I mean it is great, simple, quick, easy, basic, standard equipment and material. I do not even think about it, it becomes natural, dynamic, auto-usable… and it is not precious or expensive.

Sony Walkman NW-E390 series

Sony Walkman NW-A306 series

Anyway, after my current 1 died this week, I decided to branch out and put more cash into this robust plastic thing, I did not really have the cash, but thought what the hell. So I eventually bought the Sony Walkman NW-A306 series, it is touchscreen, about twice the thickness of my previous 1, 32GB of storage and loads more stuff, but it must be better?, well that is what they would have you believe. Battery life and full playing time is 26 hours, and the battery charging time is 3.30 hours. Price is £349.

I like it, it has loads more features than the Sony Walkman NW-E390 series (my old 1). I am listening to Tenderlove by Snd. Mille Plateaux, Germany 2002, that is some of the finest microhouse I have ever found, and it is booming and making my ears curious. It is all I am bothered about in a Walkman, play, stop, left, right, volume up and down, drag on and drag off files. I wonder how long it will last, and how robust, well made and how long it will serve me.

Tenderlove by Snd. Mille Plateaux, Germany 2002

Very very short history of the Walkman

‘The Walkman was 1st created because Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka, wanted to be able to listen to music on long flights. The 1st model of Sony Walkman, the TPS-L2, was released in 1979, and it proved to be a huge hit’ (Design Museum, 2024).

Side-on up-close photograph of the old cassette Walkman. Dark faded blue front, with steel side casing on the right, with steel buttons.

Original Sony Walkman TPS-L2 from 1979.

Photograph by Binarysequence (3 June 2015), distributed under a CC0 1.0 Deed license, adapted, from

Walkman history

They used tape cassettes (that ranged from 30–60 minutes per side, so 60 minutes–120 minutes per single tape cassette, and this was around 1980!), and uses presumably batteries that have to be rebought every time, because I can not see rechargeable batteries being available then. They enable music anywhere and anytime, and as far as I can understand, Sony Walkmans’ since 1979, have been the leading manufacturers of portable music listening. Although of course, that is not the whole story. As of about 2010, Apple and their iPods and iPhones, allow GB’s of audio files to be played from them, and they are a large part, of the portable music listening industry and culture.

Older medias

I still listen to and buy vinyls and CDs, and play them in the evening or when at home, or at a special occasion. I am not a DJ, so have no real need to play or use vinyl for sound quality reasons. Mr.C in the podcast In the Studio with Mr.C of the Shamen (ZentripZ Talk, 2012) at 38 minutes and 5 seconds said ‘I play vinyl because it is sexy […]’.

Do you remember portable CD players, arghh skippy music is guaranteed, but what a great idea. You could also try walking around with a vinyl deck, some vinyl under your arm, with a cable going into your pocket to a battery! no, probably not…

Final observations

I had to charge the Walkman NW-A306 series initially when it is brand new, for about 3.30 hours, that is recommended. I plugged it into my computer, using I think a USB-C cable, opening the music folder, dragged in all my current music listening, mixes and podcasts onto the new Walkman. That is it, away I go. I can use WI-FI with it, can have it track my every movement to a precise geographical longitude and latitude number, and can even let the manufacturer receive my usage statics, and get it to automatically report errors to Sony, about how it is working, but I am not bothered about that.

My rather personal and subjective review of portable music technology. And there are many others out there, apart from Sony. Walkmans and portable music technology, are like a friend, always there, ready to go, available, and provide what you need, anytime and anywhere.

Ending quote from the The Faerie Queene

Below is an extract from The Faerie Queene book by Edmund Spenser written in 1590 (Spenser, 2023) [that is right, 500 years ago]. So I am discussing a text that was written 500 years ago, printed using pre-cast metal letters, aligned across a line and lines (paragraphs), for quick and easy typesetting of texts (essentially letterpress typesetting, to simplify the concept, that is not too far away, from what it originally was), that then has ink pushed across the face of the letters, then paper pressed on top of it. The paper is then cut, folded, bound and published in a book form. The Faerie Queene has gone from archaic typesetting and printing 500 years ago, that was very labour intensive, to what, pixels lit by electricity via hardware and a computer processor, via cables, from a power station somewhere, that hopefully generates the electricity from wind turbines (the wind)? On the Peter Harrington rare bookseller website in London, a 1596 edition of The Faerie Queene, sells for £30,000!

There are only 2 people in the world (a Scotsman and an Anglo-French man [English and French]), that may know what I am talking about. So here it is, reproduced (it has to be about 25 years since it was last played?). It is a bit old, a bit wacky, but see if you can go with it, from page XLII (430). (Better when read aloud by someone who knows the text, and the version here is written in the original Middle English version, so not as easily recognisable and simplified, as modern-day developed English.)

[…] ‘Right in the middest of that Paradise,

There stood a stately Mount, on whose round top

A gloomy groue of mirtle trees did rise,

Whose shadie boughes sharpe steele did neuer lop,

Nor wicked beasts their tender buds did crop,

But like a girlond compassed the hight,

And from their fruitfull sides sweet gum did drop,

That all the ground with precious deaw bedight,

Threw forth most dainty odours, and most sweet delight.

And in the thickest couert of that shade,

There was a pleasant arbour, not by art,

But of the trees owne inclination made,

Which knitting their rancke braunches part to part,

With wanton yuie twyne entrayld athwart,

And Eglantine, and Caprifole emong,

Fashiond aboue within their inmost part,

That nether Phœbus beams could through them throng,

Nor Aeolus sharp blast could worke them any wrong.

And all about grew euery sort of flowre,

To which sad louers were transformd of yore;

Fresh Hyacinthus, Phœbus paramoure,

And dearest loue,

Foolish Narcisse, that likes the watry shore,

Sad Amaranthus, made a flowre but late,

Sad Amaranthus, in whose purple gore

Me seemes I see Amintas wretched fate,

To whom sweet Poets verse hath giuen endlesse date.

There wont faire Venus often to enioy

Her deare Adonis ioyous company,

And reape sweet pleasure of the wanton boy;

There yet, some say, in secret he does ly,

Lapped in flowres and pretious spycery,

By her hid from the world, and from the skill

Of Stygian Gods, which doe her loue enuy;

But she her selfe, when euer that she will,

Possesseth him, and of his sweetnesse takes her fill.

And sooth it seemes they say: for he may not

For euer die, and euer buried bee

In balefull night, where all things are forgot;’ […]

The Faerie Queene is an epic English poem by Edmund Spenser. Books I–III [1–3], were 1st published in 1590, then republished in 1596, together with books IV–VI [4–6]. The Faerie Queene is notable for its form, at over 36,000 lines of poetry text, it is 1 of the longest poems in the English language (Wikipedia, 2024). Maybe Johannes Gutenberg’s invention around 1450, of the printing press for the mass production and manufacture of printed books, typeset using letterpress letters [pre-cast moulded metal letters], was maybe a beneficial impact on the realisation of this poetry book. And what came, was the possibility to quickly and precisely make, print, bind, manufacture, publish and distribute books. They were initially controlled, censored, even burnt and routinely destroyed. This behaviour still goes on today, with the media and certain countries still doing it (for better or worse).

Edmund Spenser
Johannes Gutenberg

Possible meanings of the poem

Any idea what this stuff is, do you know all of the meaning?

Overall try

Can 2 lovers’ love, ever be 100% guaranteed and secured forever? Yes there is marriage, but could there be anything more guaranteed? Would it even be healthy (in theory it would be interesting to explore). It is a question, one comes to ask themselves later in life, with so much chaos about…

In-depth analysis

Or maybe it is about the woman (Venus), who ‘takes her fill’ (anytime she needs, desires and wishes), who seems to be stronger and more powerful, than the man (‘wanton yuie’ the wanton boy, he is not even given the higher status of ‘the man’). Who she monopolises, weakens, crushes and controls (who lies waiting in secret ‘in secret he does ly’, because she is playing with his internal need for happiness and utopia (or total lack of it), breaking him and making him near powerless (‘For euer die, and euer buried bee’), because she plays with and slightly redirects his love of her? Venus is stronger than the man (‘wanton yuie’ the wanton boy), because she is able to control him, through her stronger emotional intelligence. Because he drops his guard and every defence, against ‘Adonis ioyous company’ (Adonis joyous company), to which he simply cannot resist, and must commit to a 100%. There is physical strength, but there are also other types of strength, and it would seem Venus has the more powerful 1, that beats the obvious physical strength of a man. But oh no, she will not tell the man, or make him aware of it… The power seems to be modern-day gold currency information, that she shapes and sculptures, as she needs. She puts the man, who is referred to as a boy (because he has little power) around ‘Lapped in flowres and pretious spycery’, so there is even less chance of changes of information positions, that could and would, lead to possibly more undesirable workload increases by ‘Stygian Gods’… It might sound like what I am suggesting, is that the woman is doing something bad or negative, using the man’s love of her, against him. But I think Venus likes to be the boss, I do not think it is necessarily bad, negative or deceptive, and she (Venus) gets quite a lot, from being slightly more intelligent than the man, who surrenders to his feelings of his love for her.

What is the solution, or what could a possible solution be?

It seems there can only be 1 solution for the man… in order to recover from emotional competition, and to beat and out-play Venus, and this is, to give her what she seeks ‘sweet pleasure’. Then she cannot complain, and she too is left ‘weakened and crushed’. (I think we have got off-topic here, anyway, I have attempted to describe part of the poem, how I see it.)

What for the man after the solution?

But then, what is left for the man, after in theory he ‘wins the game’… He should be content and fulfilled with what he has achieved, with what has happened, and has been done… Well it is easier said than believed, for men. They usually have a hard time with this, with the constant worries and problems of tomorrow… But then what is left and remaining?, thinking, food, wine, reading, exercise, creativity, construction, gardening, counting money, maintenance, another game… music..?

Information and the remaining questions

So if we go back to the point of:

‘There is physical strength, but there are also other types of strength, and it would seem Venus has the more powerful 1, that beats the obvious physical strength of a man. But oh no, she will not tell the man, or make him aware of it… The power seems to be modern-day gold currency information, that she shapes and sculptures, as she needs’.

And the line from the original poem:

‘By her hid from the world’.

There is a question that I am unable to resolve and remains, that maybe you can help with? Are both of them in agreement of this information struggle and competition? Is it just Venus who agrees and actively plays with the information (withholding, bending, shaping, slightly deceivingly, and so on). Or is the boy (‘wanton yuie’ the wanton boy, the man) in agreement as well… It would seem not, but there is nothing to say that he does not have a choice, or is somehow captured and not allowed to move… All we are given is ‘in secret he does ly’. In secret he does lie willingly, waiting in hopeful anticipation? Or in secret he does lie, held captive until Venus is ready and wishes to see him?

So the questions are:

  • Is the man in agreement and is he allowing her to do this?, or:
  • Is he somehow influenced and unable to totally decide for himself?, or:
  • Has he somehow been unwilling and unknowingly displaced, bordering on maybe harmful conditions for Venus’s convenience and pleasure?

What do you think? It leaves us with an ethical and moral conflict, well for me anyway…

In fact… rereading the poem, it says precisely ‘By her hid from the world’… Now this leads to an important aspect, she has hid him from the world, for her own pleasure and convenience, ‘where all things are forgot’… I think this is a good place to end this article.

The exact meaning of the poem is still not known 500 years later, readers still have to ponder, think and speculate, to hopefully arrive at an answer or answers. It seems Venus is good at information, communication and designing it. Got any ideas?

Our favourite mix of 2023

We listened to a mix in December 2023, and we have to say, this is our favourite mix of 2023. Stunning, amazing, life-changing, great great work, transformational, 10/10! Very very good… and past about 50 plays in a week. It fits the text and poem quite well, so here it is but be warned, it changes your life Best of bvdub (Vocal Compilation) – Part 2 by Harrison Divecha, 11 March 2022, an incredible mix, a mix for lovers, to play around love, passion and of appreciation and admiration (maybe this is what Venus, the devalued man and the ‘Stygian gods’ were feeling…). Enjoy the journey, wow!

Harrison Divecha (Canada)

‘My SoundCloud webpage was set up to promote music, and art, that is relatively unpopular “underground” and/or unknown… Everything I upload, is for fun and promotional purposes’.

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