The WM-EX5 was a special edition model released to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of what would become the Sony Corporation by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita. In 1946 the company was known as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo K. K. which loosely translates to “Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation”, the Sony name came later. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
Fast forward to 1996 and a special product was needed to commemorate this important event. The WM-EX5 shared its basic mechanism with other Walkman models (such as the WM-EX652) but was presented quite differently, the cassette door opened along its “short” side and the cassette was posted in lengthways, much as it is in a car player. The cassette lid featured an all-over mirror finish, the cassette was only just visible inside. There were but a few visible controls on the machine itself, the largest of which being the door catch at the top centre. Beside this were switches for Dolby NR ("B” type) and blank skip, along with a volume control and a battery indicator. On the rear behind a slide-down door could be found four tape transport buttons, logic controlled of course, which could operate the deck’s basic functions. Finally the edges of the model were finished in soft grey rubber and a special silver carrying bag was provided to protect the finish. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
The reason for the simple on-board controls was of course that the WM-EX5 was intended to be remote controlled. This, along with the shape, colour and location of the volume control etc on the top of the machine brought to mind the WM-7 from 1982, although it is unlikely that this was deliberate. The supplied remote control was the RM-WM71EL, an unusually styled unit that included an LCD panel with electroluminescent backlighting in blue. From this all the functions could be seen and monitored, including extra sound modes (Real Vocal/Groove/Mega Bass). Either the remote control keys or those on the machine itself could be used to select various automatic play modes such as AMS (skip/repeat up to 9 tracks), automatic play from the start of either side and music scan. MD-ED136 in-ear headphones were supplied with the remote control, these had Sony’s special “micro plug” and so could be disconnected and more upmarket headphones (e.g. the MDR-D33, D55 or D77) used instead. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
The mechanism itself was also interesting, the capstans for example were supported by bearings both at their top and bottom, unusual on any cassette machine, especially a personal stereo. The FF/REW modes were greatly accelerated to 25 times the playback speed but under servo control to prevent tape damage, this slowed the rate at which the tape was wound when the ends were neared. This remarkable system could rewind a C90 cassette in under a minute. Finally the belt tension was adjusted automatically depending on which function was being performed, reducing the tension during playback reduced wow and flutter and helped to extend the battery life to up to 62 hours is the internal rechargeable cell was used in conjunction with an external Alkaline “AA”. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.
In other markets similar models were offered, for example the WM-EX1HG which celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Walkman. Although different in some styling details this was essentially the same machine. Text copyright © Walkman Central. Unauthorised reproduction prohibited.