Disclaimer- my X9 is broken slightly so this review is not totally fair haha
Sony SRS-X9 IRL Review (In Real Life)- Wow its been anothe long stretch since my last post….like back in 2016! So this X9 is a unit that’s been sitting on my shelf for some time. I was really into the thick of bluetooth speakers when the X9 came out. Previously, my speaker experience was mostly with bookshelf speakers (the Audioengine A5+), 2.1 computer speaker set ups, and a few odd ball all in one docking speakers (JBL iPod stuff). When bluetooth speakers came out, I was not totally impressed at first- the Jawbone Jambox was the first wave of BT speakers. They were neat, but I did not really see a use for them, since I mostly used my headphones for music. I remember passing the demo unit for the FoXL speaker from Soundmatters (terrible name IMHO), and being blown by the musical sound quality from the tiny unit at the time. Then, bluetooth speakers were a novelty and very expensive- Jawbone eventually licensed some of the technology in the FoxL and made the Jambox, which really took bluetooth speakers to mainstream territory. Nowadays, they are a dime a dozen, and premium bluetooth speakers struggle to maintain their price point because there are SO MANY bluetooth speakers. Anyways, back in the day, I grabbed the FoxL, and became enamored with what BT speakers could put out- this eventually lead me to wanting more than a 2.0 setup with a passive radiator in the FoxL, and lead me to the BTX500 with a true 2.1 set up. Knowing that Sony busted hard to release the HiRes lineup not long after, I became enamored with what you could do with a full range set up, including tweeters, mid range and the sub. Of course I never felt the 699 original MSRP was worth it. Even when the Sony Store had its close out sale, I could not justify 30 percent off that, since I really wasn’t that big into speakers. Years later, I ran into this unit on the used ads, and it was a fraction of its original MSRP- unfortunately, in my eagerness to buy it, I didn’t press harder to determine why the top two tweeters weren’t firing. I was told they only fire with HiRES tracks, which I know now is total bullshit, but I’m an idiot eager Sony fan and took it anyways. The following review is a limited review given that I have a broken unit haha. FYI, it still sounds amazing, and I am happy I have it.
Design- This is quite the good looking unit. In comparison to the other all in one stationary bluetooth speaker unit I am familiar with, the Samsung DA-E750, they have two very different approaches. The X9 goes for modern chic, and hammers in the omnibalance design that took its entire design portfolio. While I do think the omnibalance design is a nice timeless look, I am pretty tired of it- because EVERYTHING is this omnibalance look. Their phones, accessories, speakers, and other products all have this look. I think Sony has better designs under their sleeves given their past portfolio. I’m not going to hate on this one, because I do think it suits the look, but I would like a different look, especially given that their current speaker line up still looks similar. So overall, its a rectangular block that is substantially smaller than the E750- like half the volume. The front is covered by a metal grill that can be removed by a set of magnets or your finger nail. I think it looks rather boring with the grill on the front, because removing it reveals a WALL of speakers that just looks awesome- two tweeters, two midrangers, one sub, and two passive radiators. Everything just looks initimidating in black. I particularly love the subwoofer with its lines. The tweeters are outlined in a gold ring, indicating that they are of a higher caliber than Sony’s other speaker line up. Up top, there are two more gold lined tweeters, that are unfortunately not working on my unit. The top is covered in a glass panel with touch buttons that light up if the unit senses your proximity near it- it senses your skin like a touch screen would, but it will backlight activate just having your hand hover over it. The sides are aluminum panels (not like a unibody enclosure, but panels on a plastic enclosure AFAIK). The back has the port for the AC, WiFi antenna, and a button to set up the wifi. The bottom has nothing. I cannot tell if there is a way to easily service the unit, as the screws on the front look ornamental rather than functional. In comparison, the Samsung aims for a classic retro look with polished metal and cherry wood stain, and a giant vacuum tube enclosure…and a cheap looking plastic control button. Both units come with wireless remote controls. In general, I prefer the intimidating black speaker wall unit on the Sony, over the Samsung.
Usage- I think in relation to design, I wish Sony had put more controls on this unit- there should have been music controls on the unit itself, and not just on the remote control. The remote control does work well to be fair. I just would like controls on the unit for ease of use. I don’t mind the touch controls- I usually despise touch controls, but these are as responsive as touch on an active digitizer glass panel. Pairing is easy enough- I would recommend using NFC if possible, and skipping the SongPal app from Sony- just use the stock bluetooth connection on your phone. I don’t really use the AUX, but it is there if needed. I HATED the Wifi connection set up- I tried streaming once over WiFi and didn’t like the lack of ease of use to set it up, so I didn’t use it again. The unit starts up quite quickly, unlike the DA-E750 which tends to just whir along for a good half minute (I really don’t understand what it needs to load up- its a freaking speaker, not an operating system).
Build Quality- this X9 feels premium- its a dense heavy unit, just like any good quality audio product tends to be. I don’t get the sense that the frame is metal, but plastic instead, but that doesn’t seem to affect the build quality- its generally very solid overall and feels reassuringly dense when you pick it up. The materials used feel very good overall, and do feel befitting of the 699 asking price. Obviously, I question the quality based off the two tweeters not working, but I am not certain how the previous owner broke them.
Sound Quality- this is where the money is- it sounds bloody fantastic. Its easily my favorite sounding speaker I have listened to on a long term basis. I always hate tryign to describe audio quality in words, because I just don’t think adjectives properly quantify my thoughts. I will leave measurements for other reviewers. I can say that the design aims for a fun, yet still relatively flat signature. It has a MUCH larger soundstage than the BTX-500/SRS-X33 (it freaking better!), but its quite similar to the E750. I do feel like I prefer its sound over the Audioengine A5+, which I think sounds a bit too clinical for my liking (which it should, being more of a reference monitor). Musically, its just a really fun sounding speaker, that offers enough detail and soundstage to ensure you aren’t just getting a fun v-shaped sound. I would put it close to the sound of my XBA-H3 (less so my MDR-Z7), given that it has a fun low end, but its complimented by a fairly rich mid and upper range. I don’t think the low end bloats out the sound, like the Z7 headphones struggle with sometimes. I would say that its quite similar to teh E750 Samsung, which would be fine, given that they are the similar original price point. I like this speaker with most genres of music- I feel it does seem to do better with female vocals, classic rock,EDM, and pop, and less so with alternative rock, heavy metal, and hip hop, where the recording quality tends to be not as great. I cna clearly hear where Bush’s recording sucks on Sixteen Stone on the X9. I don’t notice that on my X33/BTX500 because they don’t have the same level of detail, and the bass can muddy up the sound to cover up for the poor quality overall in the recording. I also feel like while its not a room shaking bass drop, the bass is adequate enough to compliment the sound, and its good enough. Its a sound you can get lost in, just experiencing your favorite tracks. I don’t get that too often with a baby in the house haha.
As for the broken top tweeters, I am definitely sad they don’t work, but I mean the sound is just so fantastic that I don’t really care as much haha. I do wonder what they sound like if they were working- the promo materials say that the top pair help increase the soundstage so it sounds grander than an all in one unit firing from one position spatially. That would be sweet, but I’m already happy with this sound haha.
Value- The difficulty is the value of the speakers- are they worth the 699 MSRP, vs buying your own set of amplified monitors/BT connection? That’s debateable- I would say you are paying primairly for the compact design, which an all in one generally is meant for- you certainly won’t get the stereo separation of separate monitors, but I’m not sure if that’s something you would be aiming for anyways if you are a user hunting for an all in one unit. Ease of use is also straight forward for setup, given the single power cord to plug in, and tapping the NFC panel to connect. This is different from my Sony BM10 bluetooth receiver/Audioengine A5+ set up, that requires a lot more fiddling to get up an running. And maybe the thing is that I am the wrong person to be asking about speaker values- I’m a headphone guy much more so than a speaker guy, and I never felt I would have wanted to pay the original MSRP for ANY set of speakers haha. However, if I paid the original MSRP, I would truly be happy with what I got- I think its a clearly better sound than the 300 dollar BTX-500, and it is a much more refined sound- its a sound I feel comfortable playing to guests at my home and being proud of. I personally love the balance of making it just fun enough to get into the music, without losing the larger sound stage and details that a more audiophile oriented sound aims for. I also love the design- its a lot more compact than the Samsung, its most direct competitor, and it looks bloody fantastic. I don’t think you would go wrong with either speaker TBH, and its probably more of a personal choice in design taste (or brand loyalty like me!) than anything.
Conclusion- its a solid speaker. I’m not certain how strong the market is for all ine one stationary speakers in the upper market, but given the amount of times I see them go on big sales (i.e. the Harmon Kardon Onyx), I can’t imagine the market is that big for upper class all in ones- I imagine most people spending that dough are buying their own 2.0/2.1 set up and not caring about size as much (you can get the A5+ and S8 subwoofer from Audioengine for a similar price if you time your sales right). However, for a modern sleek set up where money is not as critical, this is bloody fantastic- it looks great, and it sounds great. Even at its MSRP, I feel that Sony did the right amount of design and engineering to make you feel like you got your money’s worth here- its clearly a premium product that fits the bill nicely. It sits well with somebody who doesn’t want to have a wall of speakers cluttering their apartment set up, but does want a mini wall of speakers to intimidate from the corner shelf.
TLDR- Pros- fantastic premium design, fun but also detailed sound; Cons- my unit is broken