Sony ULT Field 1 review

Is Sony’s bassy Bluetooth buddy outstanding in its field? Tested at £119 / $129 / AU$229

Sony ULT Field 1 wireless speaker on wooden table with dog in picture
(Image: © What Hi-Fi?)

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

The well-furnished, nicely built Sony ULT Field 1 Bluetooth speaker has a lot going for it, but it’s up against tough competition at this level.


  • +

    Bright, clear character

  • +

    Solid, rugged build

  • +

    Comfortable at higher volume levels


  • -

    Lacking the midrange robustness of class-leading rivals

  • -

    Can sound a little thin without “Power Sound” bass boost

  • -

    Occasional harshness at the top end

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Sony is trying something a bit different with its new ULT line of portable products. Diverging from the “greatest good for the greatest number” philosophy which has characterised so many of the brand’s recent successes – including a string of wireless headphone hits – Sony has a clear market in mind for its shiny new ULT family.

Aimed squarely at the youthful end of the consumer spectrum, these are products designed for fun and frolics, for people who want big, bold sound that will survive a night on the town or a day at the beach. Just as the company’s recent ULT Wear headphones – complete with ludicrous helpings of boosted bass – directly pursued the youthful pound, so is the Sony ULT Field 1 portable Bluetooth speaker seeking to appeal to users who want a robust, rugged and rambunctious buddy to fire out their tunes without fuss or fatigue.

This is a tricky market to break, though, and while Sony might be enjoying huge success in the wireless headphones market, a new Bluetooth speaker sees the Japanese brand vying to take over some turf gripped tightly by JBL’s healthy stable of Award-winning portable speakers. JBL are the big boys on the block, and they won’t be conceding any ground to Sony without a fight…


Sony ULT Field 1 wireless speaker held in hand in front of pink flowers

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Sony ULT Field 1 officially launched at £119 / $130 / AU$229 but at the time of writing we’ve seen that fall to £100 in the UK and AU$185 in Australia. At this level, the Sony is on a collision course with the JBL Flip 6 (currently sitting at £99 / $100 / AU$150) and the larger, Award-winning JBL Charge 5, now hovering around the £130 / $125 / AU$200 mark. 

For a greater view of the overall landscape, you can pick up budget options courtesy of the Tribit Stormbox Micro 2 (around £50 / $50 / AU$99) or the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 (£70 / $62 / AU$150), with more expensive options available via the B&O Beosound A1 (2nd gen), priced at £189 / $199 / AU$300 and JBL Charge 5 Wi-Fi (£160 / $138 / AU$300).

Build & Design

Sony ULT Field 1 wireless speaker on flagstones viewed from top

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

As you’d hope, perhaps even expect from a portable speaker made by Sony, the ULT Field 1 is a very well-made piece of kit. It’s longer and a little fatter than the neat, burrito-like outline of the JBL Flip 6, though with more flattened, squared-off sides to prevent its cylindrical form from rolling off surfaces or tumbling away down muddy ravines. 

It feels tough, too, with Sony claiming that the Field 1’s extensive shockproofing allows it to suffer drops and knocks from over a metre high without incurring any serious damage. We didn’t risk damaging our review sample, but the general impression we received during testing was one of sturdiness and a product built to last. We do put that IP67 rating to the test on a typically rainy British May weekend though, and after 15 minutes in a relatively heavy downpour, we take the Sony speaker back into the warm and dry and discover no lasting damage or effect on performance.

Elsewhere, the Field 1 continues to give the impression of ruggedness and solidity to keep up with the class leaders. The speaker's exterior mesh is tightly woven and feels impressively hardy, while the unit’s firm plastic sides seem sturdy enough to deal with the bumps and knocks involved during our outdoor test excursions. A reassuringly thick carry strap adds to the Sony’s usability while a rubber cap over the speaker’s USB-C charging port assuages fears of water or dust getting into the speaker’s inner workings.


Sony ULT Field 1 wireless speaker close up on controls

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

Anyone who had the chance to sample Sony’s ULT Wear over-ear wireless headphones may find themselves quivering with PTSD-like symptoms at the sight of that lenticular-adorned “ULT” button taking pride of place atop the Field 1’s control panel. As we stated in that particular review, the ULT Power Sound switch “unleashes a cataclysmic explosion that should be avoided at all costs”, so you can understand our reluctance this time around with the Bluetooth speaker.

Sony ULT Field 1 tech specs

Sony ULT Field 1 wireless speaker

(Image credit: Sony)

Power N/A

Bluetooth? Yes (5.3)

Mains-powered or battery-powered Battery-powered

Battery life Up to 12 hours 

Features IP67 rating, ULT Power Sound bass boost button, shockproofing, hands-free calling, DSD sound diffusion, Stereo Pair, Fast Pair (Android)

Connections USB-C charging 

App? Yes

Dimensions (hwd) 20.6 x 7.6 x 7.5cm 

Weight 650g 

Finishes x 4 (black, forest grey, orange, off-white)

In this context, though, this particular feature works far better. The button does add greater helpings of extra lower-end muscle, but such wallop feels more appropriate given the form and function of the ULT Field 1, rounding out the portable speaker's naturally lean character and making it sound more balanced in larger rooms or outdoor spaces. We’ll get into this more later, but we’d actually recommend keeping the ULT button switched on if you want a more robust, full-bodied sonic character from your on-the-go tunes.

We’d also recommend downloading Sony’s proprietary Music Centre app for customising and controlling your experience. Sony’s bespoke platform is simple to use and works perfectly well, allowing you to adjust your sound profile via an admittedly fiddly onboard equaliser and access streaming services such as Tidal and Spotify, but it just feels a tad sparse and basic when compared to the smooth, intuitive service provided by the JBL One App. 

To round off the features list, the ULT Field 1 features a decent battery life of up to 12 hours (this may vary depending on how high you turn the volume up), and it's the very same playtime offered by the Flip 6.


Sony ULT Field 1 wireless speaker on wooden outside table

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

We opt to listen to the ULT Field 1 with the Power Sound button firmly resting in the “on” position. While we had feared enduring excessive muddiness and weight at the lower end, the overall result is far from unpleasant as the Field 1 brings a pleasing amount of muscle and force to a Tidal recording of Sugar’s pop-rock anthem If I Can’t Change Your Mind. True, the bass register may feel just a touch heavy-handed, boomy and lacking in tautness, but the heft and robustness on offer go beyond what we’d expect from most units of this size.

Switch that ULT button off and things are almost turned on their head. If that bassy experience was the Field 1 in its darker, Mr. Hyde incarnation, the speaker’s natural, unadorned profile is Dr. Jekyll, opening things up and giving the resultant audio a greater feeling of space, lightness and snap. If I Can’t Change Your Mind feels sharper and freer, clipping along with a sprightly sense of propulsion and rhythmic drive – it’s a genuinely fun listen, and that adjective remains appropriate no matter which of the speaker’s primary listening modes you select. 

Listening with Power Sound off comes with compromises of its own, though. Yes, there’s more air and sharpness to the tonality of our test tracks, but what we gain in lightness and agility we lose in weight and lower-end clobber. Röyksopp’s It’s What I Want sounds pleasingly pulsating with the ULT button switched on but feels a little dragged down by the heavy, slightly boomy nature of the lower end, while switching it off brings a freer, looser performance that sacrifices body and genuine muscle. Neither performance is in any way bad, but the Field 1 seemingly forces you to trade one aspect of sonic competence for another. Rarely can you quite have it all. 

Regardless of mode, what’s really missing is a sense of true cohesion, of everything coalescing into a complete, unified whole; an area that happens to be a real strength of the well-rounded Flip 6 class leader. When flitting back and forth between the ULT Field 1 and the JBL Flip 6, it is the latter that ties together music with a greater feeling of three-dimensionality and weight, marshalling elements and textures more adeptly than the occasionally stretched-out character of the Sony. Crucially, the JBL has more heft in the upper-midrange, something that the Field 1 seems to struggle with, occasionally sounding hollowed out or a tad incomplete when listened to side-by-side. 

Let’s not fall into a pit of despair, though, as Sony’s Bluetooth mini-barrel does have a lot going for it no matter how you choose to tailor your listening experience. Its trump card is that it manages to expose plenty of detail, and whether we’re playing a challenging, texture-heavy offering such as Massive Attack’s Teardrop, Joe Cocker’s bluesy Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood or New Order’s Blue Monday, we’re treated to three distinct performances that rarely skimp on the particulars. Say it quietly, but the Field 1 may even unearth more nuance and textural subtleties than the five-star Flip 6, and that’s saying something. 

That remains the case no matter the volume at which you play the Sony. Whack up the decibels to the limits of the speaker’s capacity and you’ll find a speaker that goes louder than you’d expect for the size, something that comes in handy when you take your portable pal outside or need it to fill large indoor spaces. For fuelling a park-based workout, accompanying a garden-bound kickabout or chilling with your buds in the backyard, the Field 1 has the musical muscle to cope.


Sony ULT Field 1 wireless speaker held in hand showing end of speaker

(Image credit: What Hi-Fi?)

The Sony ULT Field 1 could be the portable speaker for you. With its rugged build and strong feature set already established, this comes down to which, if any, of the speaker’s audio profiles you happen to click with. You may be sold on the oomph and power provided by having an extra helping of lower-end wallop, or you may find that you much prefer the lighter, freer character the Field 1 evidences with Power Sound turned off.

To our ears, though, the Field 1 portable Bluetooth speaker isn’t quite flawless in either mode, and it’s in these areas of relative weakness where the Flip 6 jumps in to fill the gaps. JBL’s five-star class leader is still the Bluetooth burrito to beat, but there’s plenty to like about what the Sony speaker offers in terms of detail, propulsion and, if you so choose, its ample helpings of muscular bass.


  • Sound 4
  • Features 5
  • Build 5


Read our review of the JBL Flip 6 

Also consider the Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 

Read our Sonos Roam review

JBL Flip 6 vs Sony ULT Field 1: which Bluetooth speaker is better?

Best Bluetooth speakers tried and tested for every budget

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test