Sony GTK-1XBT Boombox Wireless Speaker Review
It's not all about the bass...there are flashy lights too
Hi-Fi reviewSRP: £250.00
What is the GTK-1XBT?This is a brute of a portable speaker, designed for those who like their music loud and are not averse to a bit of a light show while they listen. It’s impossible not to draw comparisons with it and the ‘ghetto blasters’ of the 1980/90’s so that should give you some idea of the target audience here. We’re talking teens, students or, at the very worst, the terminally young at heart. Considering the size of the thing, and therefore the speaker drivers inside, we’re confident in issuing a preliminary judgement that the GTK-1XBT will represent good value, at its current asking price (February 2015) of around £220.
DesignAs said above, this is a very sizeable item and, I’ll be frank, it took me aghast upon delivery. It didn’t look this big on my 17-inch monitor that’s for sure, so be cautioned that this is not a wireless speaker you’re going to want/be able to sit on a kitchen work surface, bedside unit or window sill. In fact, you could almost make it a piece of furniture, in its own right, and sit on the thing if it weren’t for the fact the top surface slopes. Well, we say the top surface but since the 1XBT can be positioned vertically, too, it’s also the side. Despite the relatively enormous proportions, it is actually quite lightweight, coming in at round 14Kg, so it’s easy enough to cart around.
The tale of the tape reveals a W x H x D of 756 x 306 x 371cm and you can obviously transpose width and height measurements when it’s vertically orientated. Assuming the horizontal position, there are a simple set of control buttons, at the front, top-right, and a funky triangular display panel just above that. Below the playback controls is an NFC (Near Field Communication) tag for instant Bluetooth pairing with compatible phones and tablets. To the right hand side are an additional set of controls, with pride of place given to a very large volume dial, but there are some EQ presets and effect buttons present too.
But it’s not just the sheer size of this beast that makes it an unusual design, there are also LED lights within the unit, as well, and they can illuminate in twelve different colour patterns, ranging from pure white to rainbow, synchronising with the rhythm of the beat. Look, that’s not really our sort of thing but we can see why some would like it. For fuddy-duddy’s like us, there is the option of switching them off entirely.
Remote ControlIf you want to get hands-on with the GTK-1XBT you do have the choice of a stocky little remote control, which replicates the functionality of the various buttons on the speaker unit and adds sleep, tuner and timer options in to the mix. In all honesty, we found the buttons just that bit too small and there’s too much text for the size of thing, making it look rather cluttered. As a result, we mostly found ourselves using the unit controls, especially that alluring volume dial. You do also have the option of using the SongPal app but more on that later.
The remote is a bit too busy for our liking
Sony GTK-1XBT Specifications and ConnectionsThe GTK-1XBT features a two-way driver design, with 2 x 20cm woofers working in tandem with the pair of 6.6cm tweeters. The woofer drivers utilise Mica Reinforced Cellular (MRC) fibre cones, rather than the usual paper ones found at this kind of price which Sony says are better able to hold their shape when driven at high pressures and speeds. In terms of Bluetooth, the 1XBT supports all the latest profiles and codecs but you will need to use the Options menu to tell it when to expect AAC or aptX to get the best quality.
SongPal AppSony’s SongPal app is available for iOS and Android devices and we have to say it is really good. The UI is easy to follow navigation is very slick. From the home screen, you get direct navigation to online streaming services including Deezer, TuneIn plus allows any other service on your device to integrate. For example, we hooked up our Tidal, Spotify, Google Play Music and Bubble UPnP apps with it, opening up the content available significantly. Using the app is simply a case of making sure your phone or tablet is connected to the GTK-1XBT by Bluetooth and then choosing your music source from the main screen. There are some volume and EQ settings available from a context menu top right and all the other settings are accessed from a finger-over menu on the left.
Party ChainAn unusual feature of the GTK-1XBT is in its ability to team up with other audio systems to deliver extra sound. This is achieved using the L/R stereo outputs at the rear and up to four devices can be connected. You can even include non-Sony equipment which don’t support the Party Chain feature, although that reduces the number of available devices to three. We managed to test it with another couple of speakers attached but the practicalities of running long lengths of speaker wire around the home probably means this is not something that will be widely used; that’s not to mention that it’s likely to provide an uneven and unmatched output.
Of course it does bass heavy very well but it can be subtle, if you really want it to be
Sony GTK-1XBT Sound QualityDespite its looks, the 1XBT is capable of quite a refined performance and operates well at lower listening levels. Obviously that’s not what it’s designed to do and the presence of a cooling fan, within the unit, does somewhat detract from that pursuit but at least it’s not all bling and bluster. Push it somewhat harder and the GTK-1XBT begins to make much more sense and it’s more than capable of filling a room with floor shaking bass that, price point considered, is pretty tight and fast. That’s not to say it’s only suitable for the likes of dance - or other bass heavy – music but the 1XBT does lack a bit of nuance in the mid-range to make it suitable as a true audiophile device.
We were largely streaming lossless FLAC from TIDAL, which sounded generally great, but even with the lower bitrate of Spotify there was little to complain about, although the lack of lower end detail in the more compressed material was quite easily revealed. Just for a bit of fun, we couldn’t help but have a play around with some of the effects buttons and, whilst they were definitely a bit of fun, they are most certainly just a bit of novelty. The Bass ‘Bazuka’ mode, by the way, is almost gloriously over the top but only to be used when the party goers are totally mashed! Leave the GTK-1XBT in its default Flat EQ mode and things will sound far better and the inherent power of the system means it can deliver with high impact and make it sound like much more than a £250ish speaker.
- Big bass, big sound
- Song Pal app is very good
- Great value for money
- It's huge
- Built-in disco lights
- It's huge
- Built-in disco lights
Sony GTK-1XBT Boombox Wireless Speaker Review
Should I buy the Sony GTK-1XBT?Provided you know what you’re buying in to – and what you want it for – the GTK-1XBT delivers excellent value for money with a large, bass heavy and expansive sound. The most important thing to consider, pre-purchase, is where you’re going to place the thing, as the dimensions are truly imposing, although it is fairly light and transportable. The size of the bass drivers and the built-in LED light show will tell you this is a system designed for party lovers but it can perform other more subtle disciplines.
Connectivity options are centred around Bluetooth and the GTK-1XBT features both NFC pairing and aptX capability, for the highest quality streaming but you can also utilise stereo and USB inputs for playback. Sony’s SongPal app is also excellent, providing integration with just about any streaming service you can think of and some will enjoy the various ‘DJ’ effects on offer, as well as the ability to bolster the sound by connecting to other devices in the Party Chain Mode. This isn’t a product I would but for myself but it’s one I’m happy to recommend to the ‘right crowd’.
What else could I consider?
In all honesty, we can think of no like-for-like equivalent of the GTK-1XBT so if it’s a combination of booming bass, disco lights and various other party features you’re after then this is pretty much the only game in town, at present. About the only one we can think of that is capable of a similarly large sound is Sony’s own Sony SRS-X9 but that’s a different kettle of fish, really, and is priced considerably higher. For a more general overview, you could always consult our Buyers Guides, which include a number of speaker related recommendations.
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