- Nice NFC and speakerphone features
- Slick design, quality build
- Relatively decent sound output
- Pricey for a portable Bluetooth speaker
- AC adapter and audio cord not included
The Sony Speaker Ball is maybe too pricey considering it is just a mobile Bluetooth speaker, but it still is well designed and built, pumps out decent audio, and sports fun features.
Technically, this is the Sony Wireless Speaker System, according to the package, or SRS-BTV5. Sony also refers to it as the Bluetooth Wireless Mobile Speaker in its online store, and at the time of review, is running a contest for a new name. However, many will likely refer to it as the Sony Speaker Ball; because really, that’s what it is. This Bluetooth and NFC-enabled speaker ball pairs with Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, which universally feature sub-par audio output due to hardware limitations, for something approaching a decent fidelity audio experience. It also works with at least the Nokia 920, a Windows Phone 8 device.
Now, external Bluetooth speakers for the iPhone, iPad, and Android tablets and smartphones are a dime a dozen, and most aren’t worth said dime, but the Sony Speaker System costs 700 dimes, or $70 a,t launch.
The bad news facing Sony is that no portable speaker is worth $70, in the TechnologyGuide estimation. Portable speakers just don’t provide the utility and fidelity to justify the Sony premium price. The good news for Sony is that its Speaker Ball comes the closest to justifying a high price of any portable speakers we’ve seen, or heard.
It starts with the build quality. Sony is known for making some attractive and well-constructed hardware, and the Wireless Speaker System meets this standard. The speaker is about the size and shape of a cue ball, featuring primarily textured plastic. The bottom is flattened to hide the NFC Off-Power-Pairing switch and indicator lights, while the speaker itself reside on the top, with a smooth plastic covering, dispersal cone, and airflow hole. There is a small compartment hiding the audio and mini USB input, as well as a mic-hole, speaker phone button, and volume up/down buttons. It is available in pink, white, and black.
It feels very solid and surprisingly heavy, and could probably withstand an accidental drop or two (or perhaps a roll right off a desk), though, it certainly isn’t rugged. It ships with a carrying case and USB cable.
The Sony Speaker Ball also has two cool features, including NFC pairing. In another few years, NFC pairing will be as unspectacular as Bluetooth is now, but in the early days of Near Field Communications tech in consumer gadgets, it’s advanced. The other is the speaker phone functionality, which provides only a nominally better chatting experience in terms of sound quality compared to most handsets, but is very useful for answering incoming calls while rocking out. Users can also “speakerphone” the last person called with a long press of the phone button.
Those same users can expect to attain little more than six hours of steady streaming on a full charge; we ended up with 6 hours and 15 minutes. That doesn’t seem like much for a portable speaker, but it will likely outlast most smartphones.
So how does it sound? Decent… for a portable speaker. Notable audiophile and TechnologyGuide test lab director Barney Morisette claims the sound output it, “A little bright in the highs by design – the upward firing speaker has an inverted cone above it to ‘disperse’ the sound. Obviously no true low-end sound but a pumped up mid-bass to compensate. It is a ported speaker and you can feel airflow from the cone when it’s pumping some bass sounds.”
He also adds that, “being mocked by your friends when your girlfriend puts this in her purse,” is a drawback. That’s another way of saying the Sony Speaker Ball is a “cute” device. What’s not cute, however, is that Sony chose not to include an AC adapter for wall charging (the device can charge via USB connected to a laptop or desktop), or standard 3.5mm audio cord.
Is that nitpicky? Perhaps, but for $70, it’s fair to nitpick the Sony Wireless Speaker System, or whatever it’s called.