STEREO GUIDE test verdict
+ deep, powerful bass
+ sounds very relaxed even at high levels
+ very good apps and controls
+ rich connection possibilities
- somewhat pale midrange reproduction
- no aptX for Android devices
- very high weight dampens mobility despite rollers
Sound: Tonal balance / transparency7.3
Sound: Bass / Dynamics9.5
Ease-of-use / Connectivity9.4
Price / Performance9.2
After the success of the small portable party speakers, the Japanese company Sony is now also getting involved in the premium class. The Sony SRS-XV800 is a battery-powered PA tower that targets a single opponent with plenty of power, features and flexibility: The JBL Partybox 310. In contrast to the latter, Sony does without a strobe function. On the other hand, there are some features that make you sit up and take notice at the higher price. For example, a spatial 3D radiation with a total of five tweeters or mid-range tweeters, stereo arrangements for both vertical and horizontal operation and a whopping 25 hours of battery life for operation away from the mains. Sony sensibly placed the power supply for charging and non-stop operation in the really big Bluetooth box.
We deliberately do not write: mobile operation. Because with 18.5 kilograms of live weight, the Sony easily surpasses the similarly sized US competitor once again and is anything but easily portable. How good that both have rollers built into the base of the case?
Portable or rollable?
This is exactly where the first obstacle that the big Sony sets in mobile use shows up: Unlike the competition, which has large casters and an extendable trolley handle, you have to tilt the SRS-VX800 very far before you can really use its casters. Otherwise, the lower part of the not only heavy but also bulky casing acts as a brake due to ground contact. Since the two handles are located at the very front and very back, respectively, you walk very bent over to move them. This is maximally uncomfortable for the back and the Japanese party box requires even more strength because the center of gravity moves towards the handle. For the solo entertainer, that may be just acceptable from the trunk to the party room. But if there is a stick, stone or stairs in between, it is no longer fun.
Those who do not have a problem with heavy loads or are in possession of a hand truck will be compensated by the Sony’s clever acoustic concept: In classic upright mode, it combines two quite closely spaced midrange-tweeter units at the front with two indirectly radiating tweeter domes at the rear. This promises more surround sound than other tower concepts when used in the apartment or party cellar due to reflections from the walls. Sony even talks about omnidirectional 360° sound. Finally, the manufacturer also enables connection to the TV via optical S/PDIF digital connection.
But Sony’s trick also takes another aspect into account: If the XV800 is literally the center of attention at a party, those dancing behind the speaker will also get a load of treble on their ears for a more balanced sound. In contrast to basses, trebles do not go around the corner, to put it casually.
Not too bad for tipping
If you put the Sony SRS-XV800 on its side, the lowest of the three front midrange/tweeter speakers is used. This then guarantees a maximum stereo base width. Because of this acoustic alignment, there are small rubber bumpers only on one side, unlike the JBL Partybox 110 that was just tested. The stable lateral position therefore only works in a given position and not on both flanks as with the JBL.
The idea behind it: Tweeters focus the sound with increasing frequency like a flashlight. This physical effect weighs more heavily the larger the diaphragm diameter. A 6 cm cone like the one Sony uses in the SRS-XG800 has doubly bad cards in this regard due to its shape and size. Therefore, the optimization for horizontal operation on the right side of the bass reflex cabinet is supposed to give the handicapped drivers the maximum possible distance to the floor so that they can radiate more freely.
Angular speakers, lots of power
The woofer concept of the 2-way bass reflex design seems similarly well thought-out to us: Two woofer drivers are located in the center. For better use of space, these are equipped with square membrane in the format 17 x 17 centimeters (“X-Balanced Speaker Unit”) – one might think. However, various early Bluetooth and HiFi boxes from Sony fuel the suspicion that the Japanese also want to express the specialness of their products a bit with this long-held technology fetish. In contrast, the Japanese are cagey when it comes to the wattage specifications that have been in demand for ages at the hi-fi table. Sony does not specify the power of the individual power amplifiers of its Bluetooth active speakers, nor the total power that is effective for advertising. Only the maximum power consumption of the power supply provides an indication: 77 watts of power consumption should be planned for in the hunt for maximum sound pressure level.
As far as the presented program is concerned, the Sony SRS-XV800 has a colorful variety. Besides Bluetooth 5.2 with the audio codecs SBC, AAC and Sony’s own LDAC and the already mentioned fiber optic digital input (Toslink) USB-A for playing mass storage devices and charging smartphones, there are three analog inputs. These are a stereo AUX input with 3.5mm jack and two 6.35mm jack inputs for microphone or electric guitars. They are protected against splashing water according to IPX4 on the back under a rubber cover. Above the instrument inputs there are also knobs for level adjustment and buttons for various sound effects.
Convincing controls, great apps
The top of the XV800 features illuminated touch fields that are easy to see even in the dark. They are used, for example, to control the playback of the smart device paired via Bluetooth, to regulate the volume, to activate/deactivate the relatively discreet light effects and to call up the bass boost function.
Various effects for sound and light, including the flanger sounds familiar from recording studios, can be called up via the app. If installed on the iOS or Android device, the Sony Fiestable app can be used to control the light show and karaoke functions or to create playlists directly from the Sony Music Center app known from many other review devices. Here you will also find the settings for Motion Control. This is what Sony calls the control of audio playback and light show by shaking movements via the smartphone’s motion sensor. There are also equalizer presets to affect the sound at the touch of a button plus a 3-band equalizer.
How does Sony’s heavy device sound?
Sure, the high weight and the poor mobility despite wheels and handles stoked certain expectations for the Sumo among Bluetooth speakers the listening test. These were also quite fulfilled in terms of level and bass yield. But surprisingly, the Sony XV800 didn’t distinguish itself so much with extreme impulsiveness or brutal bass punch. Her most outstanding characteristic was the nonchalance with which she reached remarkable volume levels without sharpness or signs of overstraining. This tuning fits well for chilling in the lounge, but less for the dance floor.
Flashy impulses or kick bass are not Sony’s cup of tea. In the bass, it trumps rich and relatively powerful, but seems a bit soft. The Japanese party speaker presents voices surprisingly soft and reserved compared to the basses. The treble also plays on the mild side rather than the wild side. What one can find quite pleasant in a lounge or as background sound in the living room, does not necessarily have a stimulating effect in terms of drive to enter the dance floor and move to the rhythm of the music.
As for the impulsiveness in the mid-high range, the associated expressiveness and differentiation of vocals, even the by no means flawless JBL Partybox 110 made more in the unequal comparison – due to price and size. And that despite the fact that it couldn’t come close to keeping up in terms of low end and bass volume, even with Bass Boost. But their sound and beats had that certain something, while the heavy Sony sounded confident, but at the same time somewhat distant and undifferentiated. However, its lush bass foundation left little to be desired in terms of quality, and almost nothing in terms of quantity, especially with activated boost.
Test conclusion and alternatives to the Sony SRS-XV800
Do you prefer the Sony or the undisputed market leader JBL Partybox 310? Those who value a certain boogie factor will hardly get past the JBL in this case. This applies not only to the lively, jump-starting sound, but also to the more spectacular light show. And even the much cheaper Mackie Thump Go 8″ plays much more responsive and differentiated despite lower bass. However, if you are looking for a relaxed, yet powerful and voluminous lounge sound system that you can listen to for hours without stress, you will get your money’s worth with the Sony SRS-XV800. This is especially true if movies with bassy special effects are to be played in the lounge from time to time. After all, Sony certainly didn’t build the fiber-optic digital input for connecting to the TV into its party box for nothing.
Technical data Sony SRS-XV800
- Manufacturer’s suggested retail price: 650 euros
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 32 x 72 x 37.5 cm
- Weight: 18,5 kg
- Battery life up to 25 hours
- Features: IPX4 splash protection (only when placed vertically!), 3D surround sound, Mega Bass, Analog AUX input, Microphone/instrument input, App control.
- More at: www.sony.com
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