The Sony SRS X55 in black

Sony SRS X55 – basically flawed

I own the best Android tablet that money can buy, a Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet. Alas, its speakers are two inadequate gashes at the edge of the screen that sound rubbish even when they are not covered by your hands.

I was therefore pleased to be given a Sony SRS X55 Bluetooth speaker a few weeks ago. “Now”, I thought, “the sonic experience will live up to the high performance and great graphical prowess of my sex-tastic fondle slab!“ How cruelly my hopes were dashed…

The Sony SRS X55 in black

On the surface, it seems a great piece of kit, as well it should given the pretty penny it cost my anonymous benefactor. its speakers claim to thump out 30W of noise and will do so for up to 10 hours away from a socket if you want music on the go and you do not mind lugging around 1.2kg of speaker

Since the Sony SRS X55 has such a mammoth battery there is a full USB port in the back that you can use to charge USB devices like phones. The Sony SRS X55 needs an adaptor plugged into the mains to juice it up.

The Sony SRS X55 is equipped with NFC for bonding to your device. I did not find this totally successful as it took me about a dozen times to get the bleeder to bond with my Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet. There was no apparently reason why it should have been so temperamental. But, assuming you have better luck, it is a nice touch.

A similarly nice touch, but something I have never found to work with much success, is that the Sony SRS X55 will function as a speakerphone. However, you are not obliged to activate this feature when you pair your device to the speaker and I have not.

In addition to Sony’s Sound+ technology that is claimed to improve sound quality, the Sony SRS X55 also packs another propitiatory system designed to improve sound when connected to another Sony device. This is called LDAC and is supposed to treble the Bluetooth data rate when connected to a compatible Sony device. We shall return to this.

Finally, because it has two 38mm drivers and a 58mm subwoofer, with passive enhancement vents at the back for improving the quality of bass sounds, it claims to be a true 2.1 stereo system. All of this packed into a case measuring a slight 22x12x5cm – in your choice of either black or white (thank you, whoever gave me mine, for choosing black).

Sony SRS X55 dimensions_

The fundamental flaw of the system is that ‘.1’-bit. The Sony SRS X55 delivers bass so thumping it will shake your fillings loose. It is horrible – just too extreme. I am not so removed from popular culture that I have missed ultra-bass-y being the choice of preference for speakers and headphones purchased by the hard of thinking (Dr Dre, who is on the board of Apple hahahahahaha, has a lot to answer for), but I would not have expected this perversion to have reared its vile head on Sony’s premium small Bluetooth speaker.

The skull-jarring bass on the speaker totally dominates all other noises it produces. If you try to discern what is being played in the background, and it very much is the background, it seems like the other frequencies seem lively, sharp and pure; but, to paraphrase Fats Waller, “Don’t like you ‘cause your bass is too loud. Don’t want you ‘cause your bass is too loud. I really hate you ‘cause your bass is too loud!”

I have found a partial work-around for this, but others using the speaker might not have such a capability on their devices. My Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet has its own bass ‘improving’ technology called ‘Clear Bass’. As you can see in the screenshot below I have this turned down to its maximum negative setting. This largely, but not entirely, eliminates the dreadful, unbalanced, overly bass-y nature of the sound.

The Sony Xperia Tablet X4 Tablet graphic equaliser

Unless you have a capability like this on the device you are connecting the Sony SRS X55 to, you had better like bass. A lot of bass. Some form of control for the bass level on the speaker would have been more appropriate rather than forcing everyone to live with knuckledragger-levels of bass.

I really do not understand the fashion for eardrum-popping levels of bass; I like balanced audio delivery, not everything sounding like the blinking 1812 Overture.

Then we come to Sony’s wizardry that is LDAC. Here is my LDAC settings screen:

Sony LDAC settings

You will note that my Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet is sending data in ‘Standard’ mode. “Why?”, you may ask, “Does the best Android tablet there is, not attempt to maximise sound quality?”

I tried that on a number of occasions and it resulted in there being half second gaps in the sound every 4 to 5 seconds, whether I was gaming or playing music. Even at ‘Standard’ mode I get the occasional glitch, but it is vastly improved over the high quality setting.

We are offered helpful hints to improve sound quality, such as, “Try turning off WiFi” or “Try going somewhere where there are no WiFi signals.” That is quality unhelpful advice!

So the bass levels are unacceptable on the Sony SRS X55 and the Sony proprietary sound enhancement technology requires you to be in a lead box (with your own WiFi transmitter turned off) for it to work. However, they are perhaps not the most irksome of the Sony SRS X55’s failures.

I have not timed it, but if you do not play anything through the speaker for about 5 minutes, it will turn itself off. I am sure this is staggeringly eco-friendly, but when I pick up my fondle slab I expect the speakers to be ready to roar as I run through a field of zombies in Into the Dead.

But no. I have to turn on my speaker, wait for it to re-pair with the Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet, and then, after only a minute or so of needless dithering, I can go zombie dodging again.

There is a feature of the Sony SRS X55 speakers aimed at easing these irritating discontinuations of service: you can make it so the speaker goes into standby mode rather than switching off entirely. This means if you want to revivify your speakers you have to go into the Bluetooth settings of your device and tell it to re-connect to the Sony SRS X55s. Frankly, this is a massive pain in the arse.

I would not recommend these speakers to someone who makes me seethe with disgust. Nor to anyone else, for that matter. I like good sound, I feel it is part of the computing entertainment experience. So I have got some top bunny monitors in my studio and a pretty decent set to use when my Surface Pro 3 is in its dock.

The let down is the speaker in the gap in my bed behind my head, to use with my Sony Xperia Z4 Tablet. If a kind reader can recommend such a speaker, it can be mains or USB powered, not too large, not too bass-y, for about £100/$160, I would be definitely most interested to hear your views. I am not terribly interested in going to my Bluetooth settings, choosing to re-pair with the sodding Sony SRS X55s and hearing from them again.

No need to bother yourselves, I hope, dear reader. A trawl through Amazon, reading reviews elsewhere and an exchange of messages with a chum on Facebook made me pretty confident that my co-blogger-cum-partner will not mock me endlessly for having less good audio hardware than him – a view, I must add, that is getting increasingly out of date given my ownership of Audio Technica ATH-ANC9’s (the best headphones for less than a grand) plus all my spiffy studio kit – if I get an Audio Dynamix PULSE V4.

In addition to it sounding vaguely like a sex toy, it is pretty well spec’ed out considering the price. The speakers seem of high quality and the addition of support for the aptX Bluetooth enhancement protocol makes then seem like a winner to me. A review will follow once I have procured one and listened to it carefully for a while. WATCH THIS SPACE!

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