Sony SRS-BTX500

A worthy peer to speakers by Bose and Jawbone, the Sony SRS-BTX500 is one of the best premium portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy.


8.3
CNET Rating

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Sony's 2013 portable Bluetooth wireless speaker offerings are pretty varied. At the low end, or entry level, as companies prefer to describe it, you have the ball-style SRS-BTV5 (AU$79). Then there's the purse-style SRS-BTM8, which retails for AU$129. And finally, at the high end you have the SRS-BTX300 (AU$229) and the SRS-BTX500 (AU$329).

I'm most impressed with the X-series line, especially the subject of this review, the SRS-BTX500, which has a very slick design and delivers excellent sound for a compact Bluetooth speaker. At around AU$300, it competes against such products as Bose's SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II and the Jawbone Big Jambox and should be on your short list if you're looking for a premium portable Bluetooth speaker.

Design

Like a lot of these Bluetooth speakers that don't feature any sort of dock, the SRS-BTX500 has a clean, sleek look, and the speaker is a classic example of Sony's design prowess. If there's a fault, it's that the matte finish on the back scratches pretty easily if you rub it up against a rough or sharp surface. But otherwise it's really nice.

Most of the SRS-BTX500's buttons are on its left side.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

At just over 2kg, the SRS-BTX500 has some heft to it, and it's probably not something you want to be carrying around in your luggage, though it will certainly fit. The speaker seems better suited to moving from room to room and outside onto the patio. Sure, you can carry it wherever you want, but with its more executive styling I don't see this as a speaker you'd want to bring to the beach.

The kickstand is retractable.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

The notable extras here are the speakerphone capabilities, an integrated USB charging port for juicing up your smartphone (the AC adapter has to be plugged in for this feature to work) and NFC pairing for compatible devices.

Connectivity includes an auxiliary input and USB charging port.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Like its Bose and Jawbone competitors, this model has a built-in rechargeable lithium ion battery. It provides up to six hours of continuous playback, though you can do better than that if you play your music at lower volumes.

The speaker face down.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Performance

The SRS-BTX500 has a 2 x 10W power rating, which adds up to 20W of total power. For a small speaker, it's got some kick to it and can fill a small to medium-size room with sound. What I liked most about it is that it sounds very clean for a Bluetooth speaker and the punchy bass holds together pretty well at higher volumes. That said, the bass isn't huge, and I did get some distortion when I cranked up the volume on bass-heavy tracks.

A neoprene carrying case is included.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

As noted, there's a sound mode button on the side of the speaker with a little LED light next to it. The default setting is for Mega Bass (amber LED), which is supposed to help deliver "high-quality bass." Tap it once and it shifts to a green LED and Mega Bass + Surround, which opens up the soundstage a bit with some digital processing. Tap it again and the sound effects are turned off. After playing around with sound button a bit, I leaned toward the default Mega Bass setting.

I compared the SRS-BTX500 with the Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II, which I like a lot and offers similar battery life (6 hours is OK but not great; the Jawbone Big Jambox is the winner there, with up to 15 hours of continuous play). The Bose also plays impressively loud for its size, but I thought the Sony sounded a little bit clearer and was a bit better overall. But it is a larger speaker, so you'd hope it would deliver better sound. As for speakerphone performance, it was decent, though not great; the Big Jawbone offers better speakerphone performance.

A neoprene carrying case is included.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Conclusion

The Bose SoundLink Bluetooth Mobile Speaker II and its predecessor have really owned the premium portable Bluetooth speaker market (yes, the Jawbone Big Jambox is a strong product, but it hasn't had nearly the success of the much smaller, original Jambox). While the SoundLink II is an excellent product, its dominance has been more than partially fueled by Bose's massive marketing efforts.

The Sony SRS-BTX500 won't get that kind of support from Sony, but it certainly holds its own against the Bose. It's a slick, excellent-sounding portable Bluetooth speaker that also features speakerphone capabilities (the Bose doesn't offer that), a USB charging option for smartphones, and NFC pairing for NFC-enabled devices. As I said in the beginning of this review, if you're in the market for a premium portable Bluetooth speaker, the SRS-BTX500 should certainly make your short list.

Via CNET.com

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John_Peterson posted a comment   
Canada

Thank you for the very comprehensive review. If you were in the market for a speaker to cover all your needs from picnicking to the boardroom, I take it that this would not be your choice. Correct?

I am really enamored with my Mighty Dwarf BlueII - Bluetooth vibration speaker as it is extremely portable, offers the speakerphone, and can turn any solid surface into the speaker - whether the surface is the hull of a canoe or the conference table.

The price point puts it at the have fun with the speaker range rather than the look at me I own this speaker range...sorry Bose.

 

Rolloxan posted a comment   
Australia

You would be remiss not to review - or at least look at - the TDK A33. Please, try and get your hands on one and see what you think... It got my money.




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User Reviews / Comments  Sony SRS-BTX500

  • John_Peterson

    John_Peterson

    "Thank you for the very comprehensive review. If you were in the market for a speaker to cover all your needs from picnicking to the boardroom, I take it that this would not be your choice. Correct?..."

  • Rolloxan

    Rolloxan

    "You would be remiss not to review - or at least look at - the TDK A33. Please, try and get your hands on one and see what you think... It got my money."

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