SonicStage is the name for Sony software that is used for managing portable devices when they are plugged into a computer running Microsoft Windows. It comprises a music player and library manager, similar to iTunes, Windows Media Player and RealPlayer. It is used to manage the library of ATRAC OMG/OMA and MP3 recordings on a PC. It was first used in VAIO PCs put on the Japanese market in October 2001, and superseded OpenMG Jukebox. Version 2 was found on 2004 model products, and Version 3 on 2005 model products.
The Sony Connect service was formerly used to purchase recordings online, and could be accessed from within the SonicStage program. However, Sony announced that on the 31 March 2008, its CONNECT download site would be going offline, therefore affecting SonicStage users.
However, in late 2008, Sony launched a new online music store called "bandit.fm" on a trial basis for a small number of markets. It was expected that Sony would launch bandit.fm globally, however Sony never did this and closed the store in 2016. Japan exclusively uses the mora service.
Copying and usage restrictionSonicStage is closely tied to a requirement that the program guard against copyright infractions. Sony music players have a write-only design. Somewhat similar to an Apple iPod, it is not generally possible to move tracks from the music player to the PC hard drive, and thereby from one music player to another. Some earlier models could not even transfer voice recordings made by the user to their PC.
Copy restriction is provided not by any one feature, but by a group of design features and software limitations. The main features being:
- The software strictly enforces digital rights management through its use of OpenMG. SonicStage ties the DRM license of each track to the hardware of the computer from which it has been transferred. SonicStage will not allow transfer of tracks from the player to another computer. It is possible, however, to backup "My Library" and import it into another installation of SonicStage on a different computer.
- Music files have to be "wrapped" by Sony software in order to be played on a Sony music player. Sony has not introduced drag and drop support for music files. Although it is possible to load files directly onto a Sony player without using SonicStage, it is not possible to play music files loaded this way. Neither is it possible in most cases to transfer music files back to a PC.
- The program does not generally convert OMG/OMA files to MP3 or WAV.
- The program only supports OMG format, not MP3. The program converts any audio files imported into it into OMG format, including audio files that are not legally downloaded, or illegally copied music.
- The program lacks a true import album feature for WAV and MP3 files. The program imports tracks as is. MP3 and WAV files can not generally be used. Imported files cannot be grouped into an album with artist, title and tracknumber fields assigned at the time of import. This has to be done before or after import.
- When WAV tracks are imported, they remain linked to their WAV source file and the track can only be edited for as long as the WAV source file remains on the computer. This makes it difficult to use SonicStage to edit CDs that have been ripped with another program.
MP3 supportSupport for MP3 files in both SonicStage and 2005 model devices is problematic. A 2005 model device may not be able to play some tracks. For example, it may not be able to play low bit rate MP3 tracks,.
SonicStage will play ATRAC3 files directly from a digital music device when the latter is connected to the computer and detected by the software. SonicStage 3 does not play DRM-wrapped MP3 files directly from the device.
Many bugs, however, are corrected and addressed.
Version 1Version 1.5 adds the native support for ATRAC3plus and Windows Media Audio. And addition, MP3 encoding plug-in was sold on Sony's on-line stores, for their Palm device: CLIÉ. But those encoding function for WMA/MP3 was removed in SonicStage Version 2.0.
Version 2This is the last version of SonicStage before native MP3 devices were introduced by Sony.
MP3 is supported by converting the mp3 file to ATRAC format and downloading that file to the device.
The v2 library manager is "benign" in that it sits on top of what is already on the hard drive, and doesn't change what is already there Users can tell it an album exists in a directory, and import that group of files as an album without having the program change the header information in the tracks.
Version 3Version 3 uses the header information in the tracks to get album, artist and track name information.
The tracks are placed in the database according to what is in the tracks. When the header fields in a track are blank, the program imports the track into the unnamed album. As a consequence, when importing tracks, many albums are placed into the album called "Unnamed".
Tracks under digital rights management cannot be changed, and neither can tracks with a missing source link.
As noted above, Version 3 lacks an "Import Album" feature. SonicStage v3 classifies tracks according to the album-related information present in their headers.
2 GB memory sticks are not supported.
Sony have added the option to drop DRM on ripped files in SonicStage v3.3.
SonicStage 3.4 includes an option to de-DRM an entire library allowing unlimited transfer and playback on PCs. Users can share non-DRM files with other people.
The option to de-DRM files does not work on unplayable OMA files.
SonicStage 3.4 does operate on Windows Vista after some manual driver installations.
Version 4 (SonicStage CP)Adds the ability to import AACLC, as well as HE-AAC.
The main downside is that a number of features, such as the ability to recover from corrupt track lists, are still missing. Restrictions on what non administrator users could do were due to restrictions imposed by Windows XP and earlier. These restrictions are not present with Windows Vista and later.
Version 4.3 adds Windows Vista compatibility. As of October 2008, this is the latest version of the English SonicStage. From March 29, 2013 onwards this version is no longer available for download from Sony website.
Version 4.4, released on January 10, 2008, added HE-AAC transfer function for new walkmans.
Version 5 (SonicStage V)SonicStage V is the latest version of the Japanese SonicStage, and features a new user interface like [|SonicStage for LISMO]. Version 5.0 released on October 9, 2008 in Japan. On 9 Feb 2009, version 5.1 was released.
SonicStage V does not work with the Hi-MD/Net MD Walkmans, MP3-CD/ATRAC-CD players and other old devices.
SonicStage for LISMOSonicStage for LISMO is a stripped-down version of Japanese SonicStage CP, and is a part of the "LISMO Port" suite. Version 1.0 was released on February 1, 2008. SonicStage for LISMO developed for a new ATRAC service of LISMO, the online music store provided by a Japanese mobile phone operator KDDI. There are some useful functions to using LISMO, but little value for non-LISMO users. The playable codecs are same as SonicStage Version 4.x, but encoding functions are only available for the ATRAC codecs.
As of October 2008, 16 au phones support LISMO's ATRAC service.
MP3 File ManagerSony offers the MP3 File Manager for Network Walkmans as a very limited alternative to SonicStage. It only provides a simple drag-and-drop interface and is lacking many of the newer, more advanced features of SonicStage.
The application is intended to be installed on the Network Walkman itself.
Although it can be run directly on the device, it is not truly a portable application because it requires that the driver be installed on the computer.
The most recent version can be downloaded from here or here. There is also an older version for older Network Walkmans available here.
VAIO Music TransferAs mentioned in this forum, the VAIO Music Transfer software allows files to be dragged and dropped onto the player. It may still require SonicStage to be installed. It works with the NW-A700-series, NW-E00XF-series players as well as the NW-HD1 and NW-HD3.
MP3 Conversion ToolSony released an MP3 Conversion Tool in 2007. The MP3 Conversion Tool can be used to convert non-DRM protected ATRAC® format audio files stored in your computer to MP3 format audio files. To run the MP3 Conversion Tool, the OpenMG Secure Module is required. The tool can be downloaded from Sony's eSupport page, here.
- voidMP3FM file manager is free, and supports some features that the official MP3FM does not. voidMP3FM currently works with NW-E002, NW-E003, NW-E005, NW-A608, and NW-E015F, allows transfer of tracks back to HD, and the compatibility is improved in each version. It also works under WINE in Linux.
- JSymphonic is a piece of open-source Java software that works on Linux, Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X and can transfer MP3s to and from the Sony NW-E00x series and HDD NW-A series players. It is also a continuation of the NW-E00x Mp3 File Manager project.
- Grab Your Music software allows to transfer audio files back to the computer from the Walkman.
- ML Sony is a plugin for the popular multimedia player Winamp. It integrates with Winamp's Library and allows the user to transfer MP3s between the PC and the Sony Walkman. It does not require SonicStage to be installed. The official discussion thread about it seems to be offline.