Review- Sony BTX500 Bluetooth Speaker – The Sony BTX-500 was their flagship portable bluetooth speaker system when BT portable speakers were becoming a hot item back in 2013. I’ve had the speaker since its release back in 2013 summer and following is my IRL (in real life) review from my own experiences.
I first encountered the Sony BTX500 when I was in store in winter 2012/13 looking at Sony’s offerings. I had picked up the relatively tiny Soundmatters FoxL bluetooth speaker earlier and was getting excited about two things- aptX lossless music streaming and passive radiator speakers. I was excited to see what a full blown speaker system could do with a wireless set up (the BTX500 is a 2.1 system vs. the 2.0 system in the FoxL) and the radiator speakers were an interesting alternative to having subwoofer ports. When I found out the Sony had two passive radiators, on top of having two full range speakers and a subwoofer I was hooked.
You can see in the above image how this is laid out- its a nice amount of speakers for its size. I do wonder what all that empty space is for.
Design– The BTX500 is an elegant looking speaker- from head on its a simple rectangular shape that could look fine in any bedroom. Its not gaudy and eye catching as other designs so that’s for the user to decide. I do like that it appears like a super thin speaker from the front/side because of the tapered back- however I know its design well and the weird chunky plastic butt seems a bit odd to me. The front speaker grill is metal and the sides are aluminum (and they dent easily I must add) while the top, bottom and rear are plastic. There is a solid metal kick stand that slides out the back. All the controls are on the right side and top right- it includes volume, call control, sound EQ, audio in and BT control. In general, I find it sufficient but not impressive- there are better looking and better feeling speakers out there. I do prefer it to its premium competitor, the BOSE Soundlink II, but its not as neat of a design as the Jawbone Big Jambox for example. Knowing that I prefer premium feeling materials, you can guess that the chintzy plastic doesn’t do much for me.
Here’s that thin side profile I was talking about- it really does appear thin and light, but its a chun ky monkey and I feel like its a little hollow- I wouldn’t mind more weight if it meant more battery or bigger speakers.
The device comes with a nice neoprene carrying bag- its nice to have these accessories in the box instead of paying for it extra like in their new speaker line up. Its not going to protect against a drop but it will prevent small dings and scratches in transport (which is good because the aluminum dents REALLY easily- this is why I love magnesium more than aluminum). Getting a bag on the side is quite a bit for the new line of X speakers so its nice Sony threw it in here.
Connectivity– The BTX5000 is able to connect through two ways- a direct 3.5mm analog through the back port, or bluetooth aptX. I tend to not use the analog connection too much but the bt one gets much use. I also really like that there is a BT standby mode- this makes the device go to sleep but leave the BT on- this way you can start streaming directly on your phone right away without having to go to the device. There is a USB port for charging and its 1.5A which is great for big battery smartphones. Another plus- the BT connection is consistent and reliable-I don’t have issues with it disconnecting or being hard to pair. There is an NFC chip on top to do quick pairing- this is useful if you have multiple BT devices and want to switch devices. Oh and the device can take phone calls but its pretty meh in sound quality- I honestly would prefer my phone’s speakerphone but this will work in a punch.
Battery life – The BTX500 is OK for battery life- not great. I tend to charge it and use it over a few days for a few hours a day. The Jawbone Big Jambox is much better for battery. This frustrates me because it feels like there is a lot of empty space in the speaker that might not be an expansion chamber for the speakers – just wasted space. It also charges through a propriety barrel charger which is pretty annoying- I wish it was micro USB.
Sound Quality– This is the most important piece- and its great. I bought this after reading reviews of the Logitech UE Boom box, and the Bose Soundlink II, two of the better BT speakers out there at the time- and the Sony pulled out in front of all of them for sound quality alone. I do feel like a pair of tweeters would bring out the highs a little better like on the UE Boom, but other than that, I quite like the sound as a portable machine. I find this machine quite good if you place it in the right area- the bass becomes absolutely incredible in a corner placement. I don’t find the sound boomy at all, but do find the highs less sparkly than I would like. Its a great sounding machine that works well with a wider range of music, which probably indicates that it takes away some of the detailing and is more forgiving on the quality of the music (like the Sony MDR-1R headphones). I also really like the EQing on this- the Sound button has three settings- off, mega bass and surround- I like the mega bass setting after adjusting my phone to a flatter EQ. I dont like the surround mode as it adds too much virtual effects and takes away the musicality- I do find it works well with movies though. This is certainly powerful enough for a small party- however, do note that it does have some distortion at full volume, which is disappointing.
Conclusion-I find this speaker to be awesome- the sound is great with a wide range of music, and ….and thats it. I bought this for the sound and its great for a portable. I find the design a little bland, I don’t like the materials used in it, I don’t like the propriety charger and I wish there were media control buttons on the device itself. However, I do LOVE the stability of the device – the BT connection is consistent and reliable with my Xperia Z3. Its a wonderful companion to my device and it brings a whole new level of sound for portable use. I don’t know if I would buy this again though- the newer SRS-X5 is said to be better sounding than it and the newer flagship portable the SRS-X7. I really wish the design was more striking- it just doesn’t fit in with all the unique styles Sony has been putting out lately.
TLDR; Pros-reat sound, stable bluetooth connection/ Cons- meh design, meh battery life, meh phone call quality