Gadget Review: A tower of musical power

Offering a good, balanced musical experience at low volumes and a thumping party experience in the highs, the Sony SRS-XV800 is a standout in the crowded tower speaker space

By Anirban Bagchi

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Published: Sun 14 Jan 2024, 5:34 PM

The tower speaker market is a crowded space. There are umpteen offerings from the likes of LG, JBL, Panasonic, Samsung, JVC and even smaller brands such as Elista. So, if you’re a Sony fan, how do you set yourself apart in a market that is already saturated with what has now become the default device to listen to music both at home and outdoors?

You do it with superior finish, better sound and some add-on gee-whiz features, such as customisable, multi-coloured lighting options to liven up your aural experience with some visual wizardry.

The first thing that strikes you about the Sony SRS-XV800 is its design, finish and build quality. Having tested some other rival tower speakers recently, I was at once taken up by how minimalist and sleek Sony manages to keep the design. This Sony will blend with any décor, whether sophisticated, loud, minimalist or maximalist.

All portable Bluetooth tower speakers in the market these days incorporate multi-coloured LED light, but while other brands highlight their lighting design by painting their grills in the bright colours that the lights will illuminate in later, Sony keeps it understated. The XV800 has an all-black look when not in use, seamlessly blending into your home.

But switch it on and the multi-hued lights come on – not in an in-your-face way but subtly. They are placed behind the two handles on the top and bottom of the speaker, which shield them from directly hitting your eyes. The lights fall on the panels of the speaker, whose smooth-finished surface reflects them all around. A neat visual trick.

You can also switch off the lights completely if you so desire, on occasions when you really need to unwind with some soothing music with no other distractions – a feature that not all competitors offer.

This brings us to the sound quality of the XV800 – and here the speaker has a split personality. With its 360-degree audio technology, Sony tries to envelop you with sound, delivering clear highs and thumping lows. The endeavour is to recreate the ambience of a live concert but this is something that the XV800 only half-succeeds in, and that is not due to any lack of effort from Sony, but merely the nature of the beast for single tower speakers. Try as they might, they can never recreate the soundstage of a twin-speaker stereo set up.

However, we will give props to Sony here: Of all the tower speakers we have heard so far, the XV800 manages to paint the most immersive and wide soundstage. Whether you're a fan of classical, hip-hop, or dubstep, this speaker ensures a high-quality audio experience.

The speaker’s personality splits when you raise the volume and press the bass boost button. Suddenly the loudness increases, the bass thump becomes a reverberating boom that is no more in sync with the rest of the music, and everything seems more peppy but less musical. The XV800 has just entered party mode.

You can also take the party outside, or to wherever you’d like to take it. Sony claims a whopping 25 hours of playing time on a full charge of the XV-800’s batteries, and we got a very decent 16-18 hours consistently on high-mid volume levels. A great plus is the ability of this speaker to charge your mobile phone when you connect the two devices via the USB port at the speaker’s rear. This will ensure that your beach party goes on even when your phone runs out of juice.

Speaking of beach parties, it may be a trifle difficult to take this speaker to the venue. It weighs a hefty 18.5kg and while it does have a pair of wheels, one at each rear corner, there is no retractable handle, cabin-baggage style, with which to pull and wheel it around. We feel Sony missed a trick here in the design department.

In the final analysis, Sony’s SRS XV-800 delivers well on the sound and features department, but its Dh1,999 price tag – higher than the competition – and lack of ease of portability keeps it from earning our highest rating. It is still among the best Bluetooth tower speakers out there, though, and we’d recommend it highly.

Sony SRS-XV800 portable Bluetooth tower speaker

Hits:

- Good sound

- Sleek design

- Customisable lighting

Misses:

- Lack of retractable handle

- A tad pricey

Price: Dh1,999

Rating: 4.5 stars


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