Sony SRS-X9 High-Res Wireless Speaker Review
Sony's latest wireless speaker reveals some serious audiophile aspirations
What is the Sony SRS-X9?
The world of music is changing fast and these days, thanks to high resolution audio, you can get hold of recordings that sound as good as the original studio master.This revolution has largely been due to the development of the computer and now, with faster processing power and greater storage, your humble PC or laptop can be the primary source of high quality music. There have been two major side effects of this shift in music storage and playback - the resurgence of the DAC as a popular product and the increase in streaming audio to other devices. As a result the wireless speaker has been gaining in popularity over the last couple of years as people look for new ways of accessing their music collections.Sony have been championing high resolution audio quite heavily recently and initially their efforts concentrated on stereo separates and more traditional HiFi products. However, with the launch of the SRS-X9, Sony are now bringing their high-res expertise to the wireless speaker market. There's no denying the audiophile aspirations of the SRS-X9 and Sony have clearly taken an uncompromising approach to its design. The result is one of the most attractive and best specified wireless speakers we have reviewed. Let's see if the performance matches the ambition...
Sony SRS-X9 Design and ConnectionsSony has always known how to design desirable products and the SRS-X9 is no exception, with a gorgeous but understated form and plenty of attention to detail. The rectangular shape might seem fairly pedestrian but the rest of the appearance is pure class with a black glass top, a removable metal grille at the front and brushed metal sides. The build quality is excellent, with a nicely engineered and solidly constructed cabinet that sits on five large rubber feet that provide support and isolation. The SRS-X9 itself measures 430 x 133 x 125mm and weighs a hefty 4.6kg.
Under the glass top are the touch sensitive controls, which light up when the speaker is on and allow you to select the input and change the volume. Also on the top is an indicator light to show when the SRS-X9 is connected to a network, the on/off button and two additional tweeters. As a handy tip, when looking at different Sony models, the gold trim around these top tweeters indicate that the SRS-X9 is a high resolution audio product. Finally there is an NFC (Near Field Communication) tag for quick and easy connection to smart devices that support it.
The understated design and excellent build quality of the SRS-X9 just oozes pure class.
At the rear of the SRS-X9 are the physical connections, including a USB-A input and a USB-B input, along with an Ethernet port and 3.5mm audio in jack. These inputs are all at the bottom right hand corner of the speaker, along with a WPS button for easy connection to a router; whilst in the bottom left hand corner is the two-pin connector for the power cable. Along with NFC, the SRS-X9 also supports aptX Bluetooth and is DLNA certified for wireless streaming. In the top right hand corner there is a built-in antenna to boost wireless reception, that can be neatly pushed into the cabinet when not in use.
The provided remote control is a slim rectangular affair that matches the speaker itself in terms of its design aesthetic. The angular nature of the remote makes it slightly uncomfortable to hold and the available buttons are fairly basic but they cover all the main controls. So you can turn the speaker on and off, adjust the volume, select the input (Network, Bluetooth, USB-A, USB-B and Audio In), mute the audio, play/pause and skip. Of course, this being 2014, there's also a free remote app available and Sony's Songpal proved to be very effective, making the remote control itself largely redundant.
The SRS-X9 is incredibly flexible in terms of setup, offers comprehensive file support and plenty of features.
Sony SRS-X9 FeaturesThe SRS-X9 utilises a seven speaker design that includes five speakers at the front and two tweeters on the top, thus creating a larger sound field. Behind the grille, which can be removed using provided magnets, there is a central woofer with bass radiators on either side. On the far left and right there are mid-range magnetic fluid drivers and above those there are tweeters, with two more on top of the cabinet. This combination of speakers gives the SRS-X9 a frequency range that goes from 45Hz to 40kHz. The speaker uses a built-in S-Master HX Digital Amplifier that can deliver up to 154W of power to the seven speakers in the cabinet.
In terms of other features, the SRS-X9 includes the previously mentioned support for NFC, Bluetooth and DLNA, as well as built-in WiFi. Setup is extremely simple and the best approach is to connect your smart device to the speaker, either via NFC or Bluetooth, and then use the Songpal app to connect the SRS-X9 to your network. Of course, if you prefer, you can instead use the WPS button on the back to easily and quickly connect the speaker to your network. Once connected you can then use Songpal to play music from the media server on your network and, if you're an Apple user, there's also support for AirPlay.
Songpal is a well designed and easy to use app that allows you to control the SRS-X9 and also gives you access to Sony's Music Unlimited service, along with Deezer and TuneIn. The SRS-X9 includes DSEE HX (Digital Sound Enhancement Engine) technology which upscales lower resolution compressed files so that you can get the most out of your entire music collection and not just the high resolution content. In addition it has ClearAudio+, as well as a number of equaliser functions and these, along with DSEE HX, can all be controlled from the Songpal app.
As you would expect from a high resolution wireless speaker the capabilities of the SRS-X9 are excellent, with all the major formats supported, including WAV, AIFF, FLAC and ALAC - up to and including 192kHz/24bit. Thanks to a recent upgrade, the SRS-X9 is also compatible with DSD (DFF - 5.6MHz and 2.8MHz) and DSD (DSF - 5.6MHz and 2.8MHz) files, assuming you can find any to actually buy. There is a free High Res Audio Player that you can download for either a PC or a Mac and, of course, the SRS-X9 also supports compressed file formats such as MP3, AAC and WMA.
Sony SRS-X9 Video Review
Sony SRS-X9 Sound QualitySony has been developing the SRS-X9 for a number of years and in terms of its audio performance we can definitely say all that work has really paid off. The speaker was certainly capable of delivering a well dispersed sound field and the extra tweeters on the top definitely helped make the Sony sound larger than the speaker actually was. The same is true of the woofer and two bass radiators, which give the SRS-X9 a decent low end presence whilst still remaining well integrated with the rest of the sound field. The high frequencies were replicated extremely well by the four tweeters and the mid-range was superbly handled by the magnetic fluid drivers and, as a result, the sound had a very detailed quality.
Obviously the big selling point of the SRS-X9 is its high resolution capabilities and here the results were spectacular, with a lively and exciting sound. There's plenty of power crammed into this speaker and it was capable of producing sufficient volume to fill a decent sized room, although it struggles slightly if driven too high but then that would be true of most wireless speakers of this size. However the sense of stereo separation was much wider than the size of the actual cabinet, resulting in good localisation of instruments within the soundstage. There was a lovely full-bodied sound to the audio and the level of clarity and detail that the SRS-X9 could produce was impressive. The Sony had no problems with any of the lossless files we played on it and albums such as Mark Knopfler's Privateering sounded wonderful, retaining a certain warmth without ever losing any precision.
The SRS-X9 lives up to its billing as an audiophile product, delivering a beautifully open and detailed sound.
We tried a number of different styles including acoustic tracks, rock songs, uptempo pop numbers and orchestral pieces and the SRS-X9 proved very adept at reproducing each recording. The tweeters handled the higher frequencies found in female vocals and strings very well, whilst the solid mid-range and deep bass gave harder rock numbers an excellent foundation. The speaker was also quite responsive, allowing it to keep up with fast paced pop tracks and the open sound helped replicate the presence of an orchestra on symphonic recordings. The SRS-X9 was also very impressive when it came to up sampling more compressed files, allowing the audio to remain enjoyable without revealing the limitations. As a result it was equally as enjoyable when being used for listening to internet radio stations, Spotify or other lower resolution content.
Sony are keen to promote high resolution audio and the SRS-X9 shows just what is possible with even a wireless speaker, let alone a full separates system. The big problem still remains finding high resolution audio files of your favourite music. Sony helpfully provide links to a number of sites that sell high resolution FLAC and ALAC files including 2L, 7Digital, Cybele, Gimell, HD-Klassk, Linn Records and Naim Label. However the wonderful irony of Sony pointing consumers looking to buy high resolution music to the websites of competitors isn't lost on us. Come on Sony, you own a record label, how about releasing some high resolution music yourself?
- Fantastic sound quality
- Very flexible setup
- Great file support
- Attractive design
- Excellent build quality
- Plenty of connections
- A bit pricey
Sony SRS-X9 High-Res Wireless Speaker ReviewThe Sony SRS-X9 is a fantastic wireless speaker that combines flexibility, looks and performance to create a highly desirable package. The minimalist design uses black glass and metal to create a speaker that is both contemporary and timeless, whilst the build quality is superb. There are touch-sensitive controls on the top and a series of inputs at the rear, including USB and Ethernet. The SRS-X9 includes built-in WiFi and an antenna to boost the signal and it also supports DLNA, NFC, AirPlay and aptX Bluetooth. There is a basic remote control but you're better off just using Sony's Songpal app, which is well designed and effective.
The SRS-X9 uses a seven speaker design with a woofer, two bass radiators, two magnetic fluid speakers and four tweeters, to create a wider sound field. There's a built-in S-Master HX Digital Amplifier to deliver 154W to the speakers and Sony include DSEE HX technology to upsample your compressed recordings. Whilst in terms of high resolution support, the speaker is compatible with all the major formats including DSD, WAV, AIFF, FLAC and ALAC. The SRS-X9 delivered a wonderful audio performance, with a wide and open soundstage that could fill a good sized room. The clarity and detail was excellent, with nicely rendered high frequencies and well integrated low end that resulted in very enjoyable listening.
The SRS-X9 was at it's best when playing back high resolution audio tracks but it was also very capable with compressed files and was able to upsample them very effectively. We also found that we had no problems with any of the files we tried to play on the Sony, so it will be able to handle just about any music collection. So, regardless of your musical tastes or the type of audio files that you use, Sony's SRS-X9 will deliver a great all round performance that more than justifies its price tag. It also proves just how good high resolution audio can sound, even from a wireless speaker, so it would be good to see Sony release more high-res content, themselves.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £599.00
Value For Money8
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