My technophile wife once said to me “Everything that has rechargeable batteries and is wireless makes everything easier.” She’s either been whispering the same thing to Sony, or they agree with us because their new wireless speakers are going to change the way you listen to music and media.
Newly available are the SRS X-5 and SRS X-7 personal audio systems, equipped with many of Sony’s signature specialty features.
Besides a sleek black exterior on both, they also come with Sony’s S-Master Digital Amplifier, Digital Sound Enhancement Engine, and ClearAudio+. ClearAudio+ is one of the biggest life saving (or sound saving as it were) technologies ever imagined for digital audio. Through its audio filtration capabilities, ClearAudio+ makes the poorest sounding audio files sound great. I have a small handful of mp3s from my high school days when I was learning how to encode my CDs and kept faltering on proper CD quality sound. These mp3s always had a fair bit of static and distortion. ClearAudio+ always cleans up the channel feed and makes it sound great.
Pictured Above: The SRS X-5
Let’s start with the SRS-X5. Small in stature, but big in output, it features a dual sided subwoofer/speaker combination, and is the simpler build of the two. It functions as wireless musical output and a phone handsfree.
The SRS-X7 may be the coup de grace of rechargeable speakers, however. This audio system is not only much larger than the SRS-X5, it comes jam packed with so many features that chances are that if it plays the faintest bit of music, this powerful piece of hardware supports it.
In addition to nearly all of the features the SRS-X5 brings to the table (it can’t take handsfree calls,) this system also includes:
- WiFi Support.
- SongPal support for iOS and Android. Sony has recently put a lot of effort into expanding the range and capabilities of the SongPal app, enabling more compatibility for its various wireless devices through it. The app was recently updated once again, and I assume will continually be updated throughout the product’s lifetime.
Note: SongPal is a mandatory feature on your smartphones. If you don’t have it installed, you will be required to do so after you connect via Bluetooth.
- AirPlay support. With this, the SRS X-7 becomes a fully capable output device for Apple AirPlay supported audio and video too.
- Capability for Sony’s own Music Unlimited Network, as well as Pandora, Spotify and TuneInRadio, one of the largest collaborative podcasting and music hubs online.
Plenty of paperwork comes with both devices. A small welcome kit appears just after you open the box to give you a pretty high level introduction to the capabilities of your speaker and talk about all of the Bluetooth capabilities. Flip open those flaps and you’ll be greeted with the well packed contents of the box. An AC Adapter, set of instructions for connecting over your WiFi network and software licensing information. Setup is so simple that any electronics veteran could configure it without reading those instructions. For those not as familiar, one of the most frustrating things I hear is that the instructions leave much to be desired. They will take you only so far and then assume you know the rest. These instructions are so well thought out, and cover so many angles that I could hand this device to my technologically unsavvy mother, and she would have it running in minutes. They’ve even added spots for you to record your WiFi ID and password in case you need to come back to it in a pinch. It’s not necessarily the safest thing to do to keep your ID and Password written down in multiple places, but when your password is harder to crack than a bank vault, it might help to have it handy in case you lose it.
If any of this sounds daunting to you, don’t worry. They both come with more traditional audio-in ports for wired support too.
Pictured Above: The SRS X-7
If you’re comfortable enough, however, the Bluetooth configuration is a snap. After hooking my iPhone up to countless Bluetooth devices and having so much difficulty with some devices, I was pleasantly surprised to see this took mere seconds on both devices. In fact, I would say without a doubt it’s the fastest I’ve ever connected my phone to any Bluetooth device. As far as the SRS-X5 is concerned, that’s all you need to do. You can then access music, or anything on your phone that outputs audio, and have at it. For me, that included Netflix too. I even snuck in a few rounds of Jetpack Joyride for kicks in between tunes and a couple episodes of Archer.
The SRS-X7 is a bit more sophisticated, however. As I’d mentioned above, if you wish to connect this with your phone, you will have to download the SongPal app and then you have one more extra step: You must opt all of your audio output apps in. If you play your music and hear nothing out of the speaker, chances are you’ve forgotten that step. Once you DO configure, however, you have access digitally through the app for a plethora of sound equalization abilities. You can turn ClearAudio+ on or off, or can choose a mixture of pre-set equalization options based on the music you’re listening to. My personal favorite was the jazz setting, and singing along to some Michael Buble in the baby’s room to help put her to sleep. My singing is nowhere near Michael Buble’s as much as I’d like to believe it is, but baby doesn’t have to know that.
One of the nicest things about the SRS-X7 is the fact that it comes with a flipping Wireless Antenna. One of the problems I’ve always had with wireless capable devices (and even some Bluetooth ones) is that the signal always comes back with a lot of static, or isn’t stable in general. Sound on this device was crystal clear, even in parts of our home that we’d previously had connection issues. We live in a 3 floor townhouse, and our wireless router in the back corner of the bottom floor of our home office. I was able to take this all the way up to farthest corner of the master bedroom upstairs and play off the PC with clean signals, which is more than I can say about the history of our internet connection up there in general. Kudos to Sony for that.
There’s a degree of portability to these speakers too. Since both just require a charge and can be taken anywhere after that (as far as your Bluetooth enabled devices will take you,) it is pretty helpful to tote around the house, and even outside to the park, or beach, or wherever you want to play your media. Considering summer is coming up, this is huge. Gone are those days where you had to re-wire your speakers and place them at the back porch screen door while you sat out on the patio. Just bring this with you.
Sony will be selling carrying cases for the device shortly as well, which will help with that element of portability out of the house. The SRS-X5 is pretty small and can probably just slip into a larger purse or bookbag. The SRS-X7 is a bit bigger. That’s where the carrying case will be your best option (especially if you want to take it to a place like the beach, or any place it could get dusty or dirty.) Personally, with a newborn in the house, I was able to station either speaker on the bookshelf, and could listen to some quiet music together with her while putting her down to sleep. Then I could take it back downstairs and listen to my own music while working. It worked like a charm! Best of all, I didn’t need to plug anything in anywhere each time since it was fully charged. I didn’t mind which speaker I took into the bedroom, but my wife was more partial to the SRS X-7 simply because it allowed her better app access to bringing up traditional Australian folk songs on her tablet that she would then sing to our baby. I was able to stream everything on my phone that I could on both devices successfully, but because certain apps (like Youtube and Netflix) differ between devices, the wife was partial to the one that played less ads in between.
In addition to the spectrum of features you get, one more thing I can always trust Sony to do with their devices is design well. Both of these devices are no exception. The only thing to keep in mind, however, is that you can see I’ve laid the devices flat. This was ONLY for the purpose of comparison. You can store, but cannot play the devices flat with the Sony logo facing you. This is because the speakers are at the bottom of both devices. On the SRS-X5, the speaker is on one flat end and the subwoofer is at the other. On the SRS-X7, both are the side underneath the control panel. Do you remember what it sounds like when your phone vibrate rings on a glass table top? It’s like that, but 10 times worse if you lay the speaker flat. The rubber feet on the control panel’s opposite end pretty well sum up how Sony wants you to display these speakers.
If you end up purchasing either one, you’ll have to charge it out of the box overnight, or perhaps even longer. I left the SRS-X7 to charge for around 24 hours, and was surprised that SongPal told me that it was only at 80% battery life when I started playing with it. That may have been a glitch with the software, however, as it was still reading 80% more than an hour later. I assume this will be patched in time for the full release, if not shortly after.
For the longest time in my childhood, Sony seemed to be front and center in every family member of mine’s household. It always stuck with me that they were the brand that everybody relied on. I even had a Walkman and Discman, however, never relied on them for anything audio otherwise. I own every one of the Playstation systems, and now I’m finding that their audio devices are impressing me all over again in a big way. I enjoyed a pair of headphones I reviewed earlier in the year, and I like these even more. These speakers singlehandedly have given me a way to forego having to find clever ways to stream my media in and around the house. The SRS-X7 in particular is so helpful in a house of a dozen plus wireless capable devices that I can stop worrying about toting anything but the speaker around. That would be the speaker I recommend to you of the two of these, though if you have need for a smaller, less comprehensive device, the SRS-X5 is a good pickup too. Both sound phenomenal, and if sound quality is always your biggest worry, you won’t be disappointed.
The SRS-X5 and SRS-X7 are dropping any day now at Best Buy. Check back shortly for product links
Want to see how the products look next to each other? Check out the unboxing video below