The Sony h.ear go Portable speaker marks their latest effort to bring the next generation of portable audio into your homes. Something that combines the portability of Bluetooth, and Wireless features that join compatible Sony speakers across different rooms.
Meet the Songpal app. It is a controller you could download to your device that helps you to manage these speakers over WiFi, much like what Sonos and Bose is doing. So I took the h.ear go speaker for a test drive over a few weeks and here I'll describe what I found. So that you guys know the flow, first I will touch on the key features, then I will describe the sound quality of the h.ear go, what I don’t like about the speaker, and finally the verdict. Let's do it!
The Sony h.ear go could connect to your WiFi network and you can enjoy music from your NAS (Network Attached Storage) using the Songpal app; you can also pull songs from your phone and stream it over WiFi. Streaming music from my NAS server and from my phone is quick and easy, and since I have a WiFi repeater I was able to interact with the speaker in my living room while I was in my bedroom. The experience was reliable and there was no stuttering or signal drops. Very nice. But there were some things I didn’t like about the streaming experience which I will touch on later.
Apart from WiFi, you could connect the speaker to your device via traditional bluetooth through NFC, or USB and Aux input. It has a speakerphone and a stated 12 hour battery life. However, in real life testing, I activated the ‘Extra Bass’ feature and played a jazz album on loop at 50% volume, and the battery life reached 11 hours 40 mins. Thus, I have no doubts that the speaker could reach or even exceed 12 hours if ‘Extra Bass’ enhancer was switched off but the difference in sound quality is just too huge, it makes no sense to me why anyone will leave that off. I was not able to do it as I just had one set on loan, but you can also connect a second h.ear go to make it stereo or dual mono. And if I use the SRS-X11 as a reference point, pairing them should be very simple, but I wouldn’t place the speakers too far apart.
It also has a removable front grill, so don't expect this to be water resistant at all. The removable front grill is meant to mimic hi-fidelity speakers, to allow sound to travel straight to your ear without obstruction. I love its premium and substantial feel even though the case is built of a kind of plastic. Part of the reason why it feels heavy is its built-in Neodymium drivers, which are magnets more powerful than normal ones used in speakers, allowing the h.ear go to produce much higher resolution audio, while keeping it small. There’s also a passive bass radiator that pumps out pretty good bass. To polish up the sound, it uses Sony's proprietary ClearAudio DSP with an 'Extra Bass' option which I really like. But in a small speaker like this, will that actually improve the sound?
Sound Quality (Extra Bass)
When in normal mode, the speaker sounds average with below average separation and detail. Bass is nothing to shout about. But when ‘Extra Bass’ is switched on… Bam! There was such a huge improvement to the sound that it blew me away! Not only did the bass became so much more heavy and rich, even the mids and highs became brighter, more distinct, more lifelike. Playing Fever by Michael Buble, vocals were bright and clear, and very distinct from the background. There was also good dispersion and the h.ear go sounded open. Track separation was decent and the bass guitar had a tighter twang.
Playing ‘Royals’ by Lorde, I enjoyed smooth and clear vocals. Claps sounded distinct and airy and the Bass carried decent impact. Sometimes though, the bass sounded a bit too exaggerated, but it’s so much better than having ‘Extra Bass’ switched off.
Overall the Sony h.ear go is a clean sounding speaker. The ‘Extra bass’ feature is essential but sometimes exaggerates bass too much. Compared to another speaker like the Bose SoundLink Mini, it was still not able to hit the same bass level. Mid and high range clarity is superior however. This speaker performs very well for strings, winds and vocals.
No speaker is perfect and so is the h.ear go. I find the removable grill to be a fucking gimmick. I would rather gladly exchange a removable grill for water/dust resistance. Oh and that app. The Songpal app is nothing special at all, just a very basic app that seems like it was designed before Retina screens appeared. The interface looked plain, and some buttons are just not necessary. Just a few examples here. There are 2 different ways to play music on your phone and they actually do the same thing. Click on ‘My Music’ and it goes into your phone’s music playlist to play music over bluetooth. If you add ‘Youtube’ to the list, this means you can access YouTube from inside the app and finally play the sound over WiFi, right? Nope! The app basically connects my phone to the speaker through Bluetooth and jumps into the YouTube app. Two separate buttons that basically Bluetooth your device to the speaker, so why can’t they combine those 2, into one simple button that says ‘Bluetooth’?!
And the other thing I absolutely hate is the endless scrolling through my playlists, whether from my phone or music from my NAS. Are we living in 1999? Why can’t they just put in a search field?!
Overall I like the Sony h.ear go. Some of you with a more active lifestyle, I will recommend more suitable outdoors speakers like the UE Boom 2 or the JBL Flip 3. But if you want something around the house or outside once in a while, the Sony h.ear go is overall a wonderful speaker to have.The sound quality is excellent, the speaker is well built and it has WiFi capabilities for multi-room and music streaming that most other portable speakers don’t. If you have the budget, grab a few more and scatter them in different rooms for nice ambient music all around the house. Yes the app has a long way to go before it can compete with the likes of the Sonos app or the Bose SoundTouch app, but the future of portable speakers is in wireless streaming, and Sony has just shown the way with the excellent sounding h.ear go!