I was out shopping at Funan the other day and that's when I came across Sony's new SRS-X5 portable speaker. It looked premium and eye-catching, and the price of $299 surprised me. Somehow this reviewer is attracted more to speakers that sport simple and clean designs.
It has brushed aluminium sides and a shiny black acrylic top. It looked and felt very premium because when I lifted it, it has a healthy heft to it. I read online that it was 1.2kg, which is not too heavy to be carried around. I could tell the top hasn’t been wiped in a while because I could see fingerprints on it. Gave it a quick wipe to make myself feel better. The elegant rectangular box has touch-sensitive controls which means there are only couple of few visible surface buttons (the On-Off and speakerphone button). The touch-sensitive 'Sound' button engages Sony's ClearAudio technology, which I am about to test in a moment. The speaker grill comes in a few different shades like Black, White and Red. Battery life is rated at 8 hours, with a USB port to charge your phone too. It supports APTx codec and NFC is available as well. Overall it looks like something worth more than $299 to be frank.
It was pretty quiet in the showroom with the salespeople ignoring me (as usual), and so I quickly paired my speaker with it. I first put on ‘Baby it’s cold outside’ (ISSE 2013) and immediately I was impressed at how deep the bass guitar went. It sounded full-bodied with impressive bass extension. The vocals came through very clear although there wasn’t much sound staging, which is to be expected of a speaker of its size and price point. I turned the volume up higher and it seemed like the speaker was set to adjust the treble EQ down at higher volumes, keeping the music under control. So far it hasn’t disappointed.
‘Have a good time’ by the Brand New Heavies started off with pretty impactful bass and the drum set sounded sharp, tight and clean. But I noticed that the chassis rattles! I was playing the song at about 60% volume when this happened. It seems like this speaker puts out a lot more bass than what the internal acoustics were designed for. I turned the volume down and it sounded better, but I can’t forget that the chassis couldn’t handle the bass performance this speaker puts out…
Nonetheless! I will be very bold and try if Sony's ClearAudio technology works. While playing ‘Have a good time’ I pressed the ‘Sound’ button. Ok the music sounds a little more laid back and spacious but it’s not a big change from the original sound. Did they make this an option so that it will be easier to reach the X5’s advertised battery life?
Speaking about battery life, I noticed that when I unplugged the speaker to change its position, the sound got softer! WHY SONY WHY. Then it all sort of fell into place. This speaker was never really designed to be taken outdoors much! Aside from the fact that it wasn’t water-resistant (which didn’t bother me much because I hate swimming/going to the beach) it didn’t sound as good (or loud) when unplugged from the power socket, and it looked more like an elegant piece of furniture than something outdoorsy rugged.
Sony has come a long way in the bluetooth portable department, and this is their most impressive offering yet. I was absolutely blown by the audio clarity and its impressive (maybe too impressive) bass performance. With sound that matches other well known speakers out there at the same price point, and an elegant design fit for high-end homes, $299 is an affordable price. But if you’re looking for a truly portable speaker at the same price bracket, that puts out that same great sound when unplugged, smaller and with excellent build quality, and better battery life, it’s easier for LP to recommend the Bose SoundLink Mini II, or the water-resistant UE Boom. In other words….
BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME, SONY.