What is the Huawei Sound X?
The Huawei Sound X is the new wireless speaker from the Chinese manufacturer, and was developed in conjunction with high-end French audio brand Devialet. Huawei might be better known for its smartphones and 5G networks, but the company has clearly decided to pull out all the stops for its initial foray into the Bluetooth speaker market.
The Sound X is built around six 1.5-inch tweeters fitted in a ring shape, and two 3.5-inch woofers in a push-push configuration. There’s 65W of amplification to power all these drivers, and a claimed frequency response of 40Hz to 40kHz. There’s also support for Bluetooth 5.1, along with NFC and an Android remote app.
While Huawei hasn’t skimped on the build quality and styling, the lack of an iOS app, AirPlay support, Wi-Fi or smart functionality might work against the Sound X, especially as it costs £299 at the time of writing (September 2020). The wireless speaker market is incredibly competitive, so let’s see if Huawei’s entry has that all-important X Factor.
The Huawei Sound X looks like someone has combined an Apple HomePod with a Google Home and subjected it a serious course of steroid injections. The Sound X definitely looks the business and feels extremely well made, with a solid and nicely-engineered construction. The speaker itself is compact and measures 203mm high, with a 165mm diameter, and a weight of 3.5kg.
The Sound X obviously isn't portable, but it makes for a stylish addition to your home with a cabinet that's attractive, lightweight and robust. The finish is referred to as 'Starry Night', but that's basically glossy black to the rest of us. The lower part is covered in a wrap-around black mesh fabric grille, behind which are six drivers firing out in a 360˚ configuration, while the two woofers are visible on either side.
Connections and Control
The Huawei Sound X supports Wi-Fi in China, but for the rest of the world the only means of connection is wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.1 aptX (16-bit/44.1kHz). There are no physical inputs, and the lack of Wi-Fi support means no AirPlay, no Chromecast and obviously no smart functionality.
In the UK the connectivity is limited to Bluetooth 5.1, with no Wi-Fi support or physical inputs
On the plus side it's easy to connect the Sound X to your Bluetooth source. Simply hold the multi-function button on the top down until you hear a notification tone, and then pair the speaker with your Bluetooth device. To disconnect the speaker from your device, simply hold the same multi-function button down for more than three seconds.
The Sound X's primary method of interaction is using the touch-sensitive controls on the top. These light-up as your hand approaches, thanks to a motion sensor. There are volume up and down controls (the use of which is accompanied by an annoying click), along with a mute button for the six built-in far-field mics (although these aren't used outside China). There's also the multi-function button, although its only functions appear to be creating a Bluetooth connection or performing a factory reset (in conjunction with the volume down button). If you want to mute the speaker, just place your hand on the top, while doing the same will unmute it.
There are touch-sensitive controls on the top, but the indicator light ring appears more cosmetic than informative
The top controls are surrounded by an RGB colour circular indicator light. While this certainly looks pretty, I'm not sure if the changing colours actually provide any feedback. There's nothing in the manual to suggest the different combinations of colours actually signify anything so, as far as I can tell, they are purely cosmetic.
Features and Specs
The Huawei Sound X is something of a curate's egg when it comes to its features and specs, because it's essentially a combination of technologies provided by Huawei and French audio specialists Devialet.
The Huawei contribution relates to the onboard processing power, which for a Bluetooth speaker seems wildly over-specified. The Sound X uses a quad-core 1.5GHz processor, with built-in 512MB of RAM and 8GB of ROM. The reason for this is that in China the Sound X boasts a Mandarin-speaking AI, along with built-in Wi-Fi and UPnP streaming. Sadly, for the rest of the world, connectivity is restricted to Bluetooth 5.1 aptX (16-bit/44.1kHz). This puts the Sound X at a disadvantage to competing wireless speakers, many of which not only include Wi-Fi but also offer other features such as AirPlay, Chromecast or the ability to work with Siri, Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
The Sound X seems wildly over-specified for a Bluetooth speaker because the built-in AI only works in China
There are a couple of other Huawei-related features, although to enjoy these you need an Android phone. The Sound X supports NFC (near field communication), allowing what Huawei refer to as OneHop audio sharing. If you have a phone running Android 5.1.1 or later, you can simply tap the NFC area on your phone against the NFC icon on the speaker, and establish an immediate Bluetooth connection. Huawei also offers the AI Life app, but this is only available for Android devices, leaving iOS users like me frustrated.
Devialet's contribution relates to the speakers and amplification, and on paper the specs actually look rather impressive. There are six 1.5-inch full-frequency drivers in a 360˚ configuration, and these are backed by a pair of 3.5-inch woofers in a push-push configuration. There's a claimed 65W of amplification built-in, which is a decent amount of grunt for a wireless speaker.
Devialet's contribution is impressive, with six full-frequency drivers, a pair of woofers and 65W of power
Devialet's push-push symmetrical bass structure, allows each woofer to cancel out the back wave vibrations from the other, thus generating deeper bass. In addition, the company's patented signal-processing technology – SAM (Speaker Active Matching) – renders the sound with precision. All this results in a wireless speaker with a claimed frequency response of 40Hz to 40kHz.
The Huawei Sound X definitely benefits from Devialet's contribution to its acoustic DNA, with an excellent sonic delivery that really impresses. It's a shame this wireless speaker is limited to Bluetooth because it sounds excellent, and would undoubtedly benefit from higher quality sources. The Sound X is certified for Hi-Res Audio, which is great for Chinese users who can take advantage of Wi-Fi, but here the Bluetooth 5.1 connection limits it to 16-bit/44.1kHz.
However, its connection limitations aside, this is a seriously good Bluetooth speaker. For a start the six full-frequency drivers in a 360˚ configuration ensure a big presence that can fill the average room with ease. Those twin woofers in a push-push layout also play their part, generating a surprising amount of bass for a wireless speaker. Devialet's signal processing also delivers, and the Sound X produces a clean and detailed sound that's sure to please.
The Greatest Showman soundtrack provides the Sound X with an immediate opportunity to strut its stuff, handling the drums and chanting in the opening song with ease. There's some lovely deep bass, while the amplification can go loud without distorting or losing its cohesion. The nature of the speaker layout obviously means the speaker is essentially mono, but despite this it still has an expansive presence that fills the room and sounds bigger than the speaker's dimensions.
The Sound X handles the higher female registers, piano and strings in the song Never Enough, while This is Me retains its driving beat and wonderful sense of energy. Switching to M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, and the infectious pop sensibilities of Midnight City sound fantastic, and there's a genuine sense of scale to the closing number Outro. This expansive soundscape extends to Hans Zimmer's score for Man of Steel, with its percussively-driven main theme.
The soundtrack of La La Land opens with the track Another Day of Sun, and the Sound X renders all the different vocalists with ease. It retains a pleasing simplicity to the vocals and piano of City of Stars, while Emma Stone's rendition of The Fools Who Dream is achingly intimate. However, it can also handle the larger orchestral arrangements, giving them a width and depth that conjures up widescreen images of Hollywood's cinematic legacy.
The overall delivery is clean and free of any noise or other artefacts, with an un-congested mid-range, and some lovely detail retrieval. The higher frequencies also retain clarity, with no harshness or sibilance. The lower frequencies add a foundation of bass, and crossover with the mid-range without overpowering the tonal balance of the soundstage. It really is a cracking wireless speaker that will surprise many who perhaps aren't expecting much from Huawei.
- Excellent sonic delivery
- Big soundstage
- Plenty of power
- Attractive and well made
- Easy to setup
- No Wi-Fi
- No iOS support
- No smart features
Huawei Sound X Wireless Speaker Review
Should I buy one?
The Huawei Sound X makes for an impressive-sounding wireless speaker from the Chinese giant, thanks mainly to its partnership with high-end French audio brand Devialet. As a result, the Sound X is definitely one of the more sonically accomplished wireless speakers on the market. It can hold its own against the competition in terms of its delivery and power, producing a big soundstage that has a surprising amount of detail and bass.
However, in this country at least, it is little more than an over-specified Bluetooth speaker. The AI smart assistant and built-in Wi-Fi found in China are missing, so the only connection is via Bluetooth 5.1. As a result, there's no proper high-resolution audio support, no AirPlay, no Chromecast, and no ability to work with smart assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. There is an Android remote app, but no corresponding iOS version, which leaves Apple users in the lurch.
If the Huawei Sound X had all the features it has in China, this could be a real contender in the sub-£500 wireless speaker market. But as it stands, the Sound X is essentially a rather expensive – albeit great-sounding – Bluetooth speaker.
What are my alternatives?
The wireless speaker market is ridiculously competitive, with offerings from just about every speaker manufacturer and tech giant. If you're looking for a speaker that's also a smart assistant, then, depending on your preference, there's the Amazon Alexa Echo, Google Home and Apple HomePod.
Alternatively, if you're looking for something where the emphasis is on sound quality, you could consider the Denon Home 150, the Yamaha MusicCast 50 or the Bowers and Wilkins Formation Flex wireless speakers. These are all at similar price points, but offer better functionality.
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