If you’re after a compact and portable speaker, the Sony SRS-BTX500 might just win you over. It’s compact, neat, has a sleek finish and it can accept Bluetooth streams from all types of smart devices.
However, you might have to set your sights elsewhere if you’re going to prioritise audio quality over convenience…
Design and portability
The Bluetooth-toting Sony SRS-BTX500 boasts NFC (Near-Field Communication) connection, six hours of battery life, and a carrying case – all of which emphasise its portability. It’s cleverly designed to look sleek and svelte when viewed straight on, but the grey grilles and brushed stainless steel finish hides a chunky back panel.
A hidden stand flips out at the base to keep the speaker upright – it’s all very convenient and practical. Overall the build is solid and the SRS-BTX500 feels like a quality product for its £280 price tag.
That compact design makes it easy to carry around, with the neoprene case providing a snug, scratch-resistant cover. There’s no space in there for the mains cable and plug adapter, though, so you'll have to carry them separately.
Six hours of battery life is a good amount for portable playing – it’s a much longer than the Libratone Zipp’s paltry four hours. That said, it does take four hours to get the BTX500 back up to full charge.
Bluetooth is the BTX500’s main (and only) wireless streaming feature although it's versatile enough to support iOS, Android and Windows handsets, as well as Bluetooth-enabled laptops and computers. For an even swifter connection, Android users with NFC-enabled devices can simply tap their smartphone to the NFC tag on the top of the unit to make a connection.
There’s also a 3.5mm input tucked away at the back, so you can hardwire music sources. However, we feel the SRS-BTX500’s missed a trick by not including a USB port for charging your smart device.
Sony advises you to download the (Android-only) NFC Easy Connect app, but we found that most Android smartphones and tablets, such as the HTC One and Sony Xperia Z, are already NFC-enabled. You’ll have to make sure NFC and Bluetooth are turned on in your device’s settings to get connected of course.
Since there’s no remote control, Sony has taken care to make sure that the SRS-BTX500 is easy to use out of the box. The control buttons, inlaid in the right hand-side, are kept to a minimum.
The buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, auxiliary audio input and sound modes are all accompanied by LEDs to indicate their status – it’s all straightforward enough, and we didn’t miss a remote control.
The volume rocker sits on top, next to a button for picking up phone calls when you are using your smartphone as the music source. The hands-free feature is nice to use when you’re inside, but we’re not sure we’d want our phone calls projected through a loudspeaker for all our neighbours to hear when playing the speaker outside…
If the Sony BTX500’s portability and design features have already charmed you, then its crystal clear sound might tempt you even further. Stream Birdy’s Shelter over Bluetooth, and the midrange in particular is in sharp focus; the haunting vocals sound wonderfully clear and concise.
The fast and agile timing drives tracks along energetically, and there's a good solidity to the sound, despite this not being the most bass-heavy of speakers. There’s a sharpness here, however, that can lean towards a hardness, even as it etches the leading edges of notes with precision.
As a result, the treble can sound quite bright at times. If you want to lose that hardness a little bit, switch to the auxiliary input – the wired connection sounds more solid and gentle than its streaming counterpart.
The soundstage isn’t as wide or open as it is with rival speakers such as the JBL OnBeat Rumble (great fun) or the Libratone Zipp (more musical) either, and overall the Sony could do with a large helping of subtle and refined detail.
There are two sound modes worth exploring, though both involve adding extra bass. The Mega Bass option (the sound-mode LED shines amber) does exactly what it says on the tin, but since the overall balance is good on the Sony, the added bass sticks out like a sore thumb.
Mega Bass Surround (green LED) is a more open and spacious interpretation of Mega Bass, but the low frequencies still feel like a lumbering presence. Turn the sound modes off and the SRS-BTX500’s balanced sound snaps back into place – we’d definitely keep them disabled.
So, where does that leave the SRS-BTX500? WOn the one hand, we like the convenience and portability but, despite that wonderfully clean sound and snappy timing, the Sony just doesn’t have the levels of emotion and subtle depth to compete with its rivals.
The JBL OnBeat Rumble, Libratone Zipp and Geneva Model S Wireless DAB+ all outclass this speaker in terms of outright detail and scale, and they offer plenty more in terms of connectivity – AirPlay, Lightning docks and wi-fi – as well.
It’s easy to like this smartly designed speaker, but the Sony SRS-BTX500 doesn’t quite reach the high standards of its rivals.
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