SONY SRS-BTX500

£280

If it’s a portable speaker you want, then the Sony SRS-BTX500 might just win you over. The compact build and sleek finish is neat and practical, and Bluetooth streaming — the unit’s only wireless streaming feature — is a hit with all smart devices. Even so, you might have to set your sights elsewhere if you’re going to prioritise audio quality over convenience…

Made for mobility

The Bluetooth-toting SRS-BTX500 boasts NFC connection, six hours of battery life, and a carrying case — all of which emphasise its portability. It’s cleverly designed to look sleek and svelte, but the sleek grey grilles and brushed stainless steel finish hide a chunky back panel. A hidden stand flips out at the base to keep the speaker propped upright when placed on any surface — it’s all very convenient and practical. Overall the build quality is solid and the SRS-BTX500 feels like a quality product for its £280 price tag.

The compact build makes it ideal for carrying around, with the neoprene carrying case providing a snug and scratch-free cover. There’s no space to put the accompanying mains cable and plug adapter in the case, though, so you’ll have to carry them separately.

Six hours of battery life is a good amount for portable playing — it’s much longer than the Libratone Zipp’s somewhat paltry four hours. That said, it does take four hours to get the SRS- BTX500 back up to full charge.

Bluetooth is versatile enough to support iOS, Android and Windows handsets, as well as Bluetooth-enabled computers and laptops. For an even swifter connection, Android users with NFC-enabled devices can simply tap their smartphone to the Sony’s NFC tag on the unit to make a connection.

There’s a 3.5mm input tucked away at the back panel to hardwire your music sources, yet we feel the SRS-BTX500’s missed a trick by not including a USB port for charging your smart device.

Since there’s no remote control, Sony has taken care to make sure the SRS-BTX500 is easy to use out of the box. The control buttons — many of which have status LEDs — are kept to a minimum and inlaid on the right-hand side of the unit. It’s all straightforward and intuitive to use.

Solid, with agile timing

If the Sony’s portability and design features have already charmed you, then its crystal-clear sound might tempt you even further. Stream Birdy’s Shelter over Bluetooth and the midrange in particular is in sharp focus, with her haunting vocals sounding wonderfully clear and concise. The fast and agile timing drives tracks along energetically and there’s a good solidity to tracks, despite this not being the most bass-heavy of speakers. However, there’s a sharpness to the sound. It etches the leading edges of notes with precision but it can lean towards hardness — as a result the treble can sound quite bright at times.

Short on width and detail

The soundstage isn’t as wide or open as rival speakers such as the JBL OnBeat Rumble (which also sounds livelier) or the Libratone Zipp (more musical), and overall the Sony could do with a large helping of subtle and refined detail.

So where does that leave the SRS-BTX500? On the one hand, we like its practicality and portability but, despite that wonderfully clean sound and snappy timing, the Sony just doesn’t have the levels of emotion and subtle depth to compete with its rivals.

The JBL OnBeat Rumble, Libratone Zipp and Geneva Model S Wireless DAB+ all outclass it in detail and scale, and they offer more in terms of connectivity as well.

Sony SRS-BTX500 £280 ★★★☆☆

• Power 40W • AirPlay No • Bluetooth Yes • Dock No • Aux in Yes • Radio No • Remote No • Dimensions (hwd) 15 x 38 x 6.5cm • Weight 2kg

Rating ★★★☆☆

FOR Clear, sharp, weighty sound; punchy rhythm and agile timing; nicely built; portable

AGAINST Rivals sound more open and detailed; bright edge to sound

VERDICT There’s plenty to like about the Sony, but there are more talented alternatives

NEED TO KNOW

Consider if you need something small and portable.

Make sure you make space for the power cable and adapter when out and about. There’s no room for them in the carry-case.

Avoid ‘Mega Bass’ mode — the effect sounds ungainly.

You’ll need The NFC Easy Connect app for certain Android models.

Highlight its portability and sharp, clear sound.

Top tip Keep it natural

‘Mega Bass’ does what it says on the tin, but sticks out like a sore thumb. ‘Mega Bass Surround’ is a more open interpretation, but the bass still feels like a lumbering presence. Turn the sound modes off and the balanced sound snaps back into place.

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