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Big and Powerful but with Serious ShortcomingsPosted
Sony’s new GTK-XB72 Wireless Speaker System is certainly powerful, very flashy (literally!) and with make its presence known at every party. But I was disappointed by some elements which Sony could have executed far better. The Sony GTK-XB72 system is designed to provide both room-filling sound and visual excitement to parties. It is primarily designed as a Bluetooth speaker but it can also support other sources via stereo RCA connections, a built-in FM radio and a microphone input. Here are the key features: • Powerful home audio system with multiple inputs • Two 160 mm (6.3”) woofers • Three 50 mm (2”) cone tweeters (only two active at any time) • Vertical or horizontal placement (position activates appropriate tweeters) • 30 watts per channel RMS power • Total Harmonic Distortion less than 0.7% • Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity with 33 foot range, supports up to three source devices simultaneously • NFC for easy connections • Multicolor LED line lighting on front, top, sides and speakers • Two strobe lights at the top and bottom of the main speaker pair • FM tuner: 87.5 MHz – 108.0 MHz (100 kHz steps), telescoping rod antenna, 20 preset stations available via Sony Music Center app • Extra Bass: enhances bass level • Live Sound: DSP enhances 3D spacial effect • Sony Music Center app may be used to control most speaker functions • Sony Fiestable app controls lighting effects and DJ sound effects • Party chain connectivity (to other Sony speakers) • Add speaker function to create L/R stereo speaker pair • R/L RCA analog inputs for other sources • R/L RCA analog outputs • 6.35 mm (1/4”) stereo microphone input with volume control, supports karaoke mode • USB-A 2.1 Amp input and charging power output • Built-in microphone for speakerphone function • Voice guidance system • Up/down volume buttons • Up/down FM tuning • 120v AC power only, 60 watt consumption • Dimensions: 13.6” wide x 14.9” deep x 25.8” tall • Weight: 27 pounds • Two carrying handles • One year warranty Included in the box are the speaker, AC power cord, quick start guide and instructions. Setup is very easy. Just plug in the speaker, turn on the power and press the Bluetooth button to connect to your source. You can also listen to FM radio by selecting that input. Once you plug it in, the light show begins (even before you turn it on.) LED line lights which frame the speakers cycle through various colors. The two main speakers also light up and have their own color patterns. In addition, two strobe lights begin flashing near the two handles of the unit (at the top and bottom or left and right, depending upon how you have the speaker oriented.) Sony certainly put some effort into the design of the lighting effects. They do add to the party atmosphere. Also my young niece and her friends loved them so they would be a hit for children’s rooms. For normal use of the speaker you can turn off the lighting effects. The Sony Fiestable app can provide further control over the lighting (and create DJ sound effects.) However, there does not seem to be any way to turn off the strobe light separately from the LED colored lights. That is a design flaw. Using just the LED lights the effect can be soothing but the strobe negates that benefit. Using both (LED and strobe) is fine for a party but most of the time this speaker is going to be used in calmer settings where a strobe is inappropriate. How good is the sound reproduction? Unfortunately, it is only acceptable for loud, bass-heavy music that you might play at parties. For all other music the speaker just doesn’t do justice to vocals or instrumentals. I set up a small Sony Bluetooth speaker (the new XB-22) next to the big XB72 and alternated music output between the two. (See photo.) While the little XB22 could not match the bass of the XB72 its rendition of mid-range and high notes was far superior. This is really sad because I know that Sony can create great speakers. The XB72 should have been designed with a good three-way speaker set (bass, mid-range and tweeter) rather than the two woofers and bizarre set of three tweeters. Really, Sony, what did you save? $30? I cannot imagine why Sony went to the trouble to put in three cheap paper cone tweeters and a switching arrangement to direct output to only two at a time. The resulting stereo effect is just not worth the wiring. Why not just put in four decent small speakers at the corners, two of which would be true tweeters and two could be mid-range speakers? The XB72 has most of its controls on the top (the exception is the volume control for the microphone which is hidden on the back, just above where the mic would plug in.) All controls on the top are pressure sensitive buttons. (See photo.) I am definitely not a fan of these controls. First, none are lighted and in a typically dark party setting you would need to hold a light over them to tell them apart. Even in normal room lighting the identifying text is faint and not easy to read. The volume buttons (up/down) are really marginal. You have to press hard multiple times to change the volume level. If you had the speaker cranked up to a high volume the last time you used it (say at a party last night) and the next morning you want to listen to some music, the volume will resume at that extreme level and you have to scramble to reduce it before your neighbors pounds on your door with complaints. Why didn’t Sony just put a volume knob on the unit? It would be easier to use and you could find it in the dark. Similarly, the FM tuner uses up/down tuning buttons. Using them, it takes forever to get to your favorite station. You can use the Sony Music Center to preset 20 stations but that is a complicated solution to an easy problem. Again, why not just put an FM tuning knob on the XB72? And, while I am whining about shortcomings, I should mention that an AM tuner would make sense on this speaker system. I could see using it to tune into a sports event (which are usually on the AM bands) and broadcasting the game to a yard full of friends while you grill the food. Another solution to the control shortcomings would be to have a lighted LCD panel on the top with all controls accessible from it. It might cost a bit more but it would work and look very cool. There were a few other minor issues I had with the speaker, none of which are deal-breakers but all added to the frustrations I had with the design decisions made by Sony. • First, the power cord included is very short. It really should be at least twice as long (10+ feet, rather than the roughly 4 foot length provided.) • The FM radio uses a cheap chrome-plated telescoping antenna rather building a good FM antenna into the body. This antenna will likely be an early casualty at a party. • Given that the speaker will probably be used in large rooms there should be some way to mount it on a wall or some other support. You really should be able to get the speaker off the floo, particularly since it has no water resistance of any kind. Bottom line - the Sony GTK-XB72 audio system may be appropriate for a fairly narrow range of uses (e.g., blasting dance music at big parties) and for those who need that functionality I can certainly recommend it. But the severe flaws I noted above force me to give it no more than three stars. Sony, you could resolve every one of my issues with just a few changes – I hope you read this and incorporate the needed improvements in the next generation of this potentially outstanding product.
I would recommend this to a friend
Good for game rooms, sleep-overs, back porch BBQsPosted
PROs: - Huge, room-filling/back-yard filling sound--EXTRA BASS function/dedicated button gives a nice, full-bodied sound without just adding in gobs of super-sloppy bass that completely overpowers the music - Multitude of connection options and sound sources (Bluetooth, USB, stereo line-in, built-in radio, even a microphone jack) give you a great deal of flexibility for use--in a small space, you could easily set this up to a be a room-dominating Bluetooth speaker, hook up a USB DAP, and even a TV, game console or disc player via the analog inputs; and it's got the capability to form a stereo pair (or "stacked mode" where both speakers play the same signal) if you have a second compatible Sony speaker - Helpful/integrated "device perch" at the back with a slotted opening in the middle of the shelf makes it easy to stand up a phone or tablet (for album art/screen color display, playback controls, karaoke lyrics, etc.) and even have a USB cable dangle out of the bottom for charging or USB playback - Very easy to reach/access dedicated playback controls (play/pause, FFW/REW skip) and you can even answer the phone or make a call from the speaker...mic quality was certainly passable in close proximity (according to feedback from the caller), but it was definitely a kick to have a group phone call with grandma via this massive speaker during our last movie night - Offers potentially higher quality Bluetooth connection via LDAC codec than regular BT if your source supports it...still works as a regular BT and NFC pairing speaker even if you don't have LDAC on board, but it's a nice inclusion for those of you with a phone or DAP that has LDAC under the hood - Sony Music Center and Fiestable apps really do allow for some fun interactions...Fesiable especially will turn your own phone into a color-changing/flashing extension of the music; and while in the app, you can use gestures and draw on the screen to further change the speaker's colors and strobes and add a multitude of effects like scratch, phasers, drums, DJ catch phrases (seriously!), music isolation...the range of effects is quite extensive and certainly a lot of fun (at least for a while) - In the dark, the LED lighting is quite striking with long strips around the edges, white strobes at either end, and color changing LEDs casting across the speaker drivers...even in the daylight, the LEDs provide a fun effect with a multitude of adjustment options to match your mood/locale - Mounting feet on the bottom and side allow you to orient the speaker either horizontally or vertically to match the available space/intended use without having to set the speaker down directly on the cabinet's finish...and side or vertical mounting automatically changes which tweeters are used for stereo effect - A microphone input...how many speakers these days have dedicated microphone inputs? Probably not the most practical inclusion per se, but definitely amps up the party factor and makes it a viable options for use at a block/back-yard party or in a REALLY loud indoor setting - Integrated carrying handles at both ends make for relatively easy transport (it clocks in around 25+ lbs) either dangling from one hand or moving-box style with both hands occupied CONs: - Similar to my experience with other Sony speakers with the 'Live' button, the "Live" sound signature was situational in application/suitability. When activated, it did create a slightly greater sense of spaciousness, but it also made the sound somewhat hollow and tinny...honestly, as this is already a party-inspired speaker, I'm not sure when you'd want your music to sound even "more lively," and when you did, wouldn't you already have pretty loud music & raucous party sounds going anyway? YMMV... - Sound quality is good, possibly even really good...but you can arguably get the same good, or really good, sound from other units (even from Sony itself) that produce some remarkably wonderful, detailed, or bass-crunching music from something that doesn't eat up quite so much real estate - Unlike some of Sony's other portable/BT speakers, this one gives up some points on the usability scale with its controls--the LED light control button, which you'd arguably want to use more often on an LED-enabled party speaker, is actually just a secondary function (written in near-impossible-to-read lettering) to the wireless party chain button which you'd arguably only use once in a blue moon for system setup, and then only if you happened to have dropped the coin on another compatible Sony speaker. Similarly, there's a large dedicated ADD button on top that is only useful if you sprung for a second compatible Sony speaker to form a stereo pair; and again, I argue would only be used sparingly during setup anyway. And yet the volume control for the microphone, which you'd arguably want to use more frequently during a single event for PA or karaoke functions (this is marketed as a PARTY speaker, after all), is actually a very tiny rotary control buried in the middle of the rear connectors under a top lip and is difficult to reach and adjust in the blind (unlike the much larger playback and main volume controls) - Radio tuning/navigation is an unnecessary pain in the posterior, especially in the Sony Music app where, despite fine frequency control down to 1/10th of frequency hop, you cannot directly enter the radio frequency you want (via number pad) which means waiting for what feels like FOREVER to navigate button-push-after-button-push to a local station in the middle of the FM band before you can lock in one of the presets. Oh, and speaking of the radio--I found performance spotty with even nearby stations sounding a bit noisy/grainy...and get ready to carefully unfurl or retract one of those old-school, boombox-style telescoping silver antennas at the back when you want to use the radio at all...it's a shame as it breaks the lines and "cheeses up" an otherwise great looking speaker to have ugly silver rod angling out of the back--at least it could have been anodized black to look a bit classier - The price point seems to have been driven by size alone--there are no integrated digital assistants (Alexa, Google Home), yet the physical design would suggest this speaker is primarily intended for indoor (or at most, just outside the back door) use where a wireless network signal would be likely...surprising given that some of Sony's own smaller offerings include some capable digital assistant integration - Speaking of the physical design; this speaker is not really suited to outdoor use (despite having the horsepower to pump out the jams across the yard) as well as some of Sony's other lighted BT speakers--there's a laughably short AC cord, no built-in battery (though maybe that's a good thing given how heavy it already is), and no water resistance/water proofing means even indoor party-goers need to be careful with their drinks - Not boxy, but trapezoidal in shape...the speaker is angled on all sides so that it's always pointing slightly upwards when sitting on a flat surface--meaning you can't easily stack them, or you risk aiming the drivers slightly above ear level depending on the shelf/table-top upon which it's used. There are also no wall-mount slots or tripod attachment points anywhere...a total let-down, especially for something that begs to be perched up high/on a tripod for a party or outdoor event Summary review: This speaker was going to be a step up for me from another Sony LED speaker...the XB501G. I was impressed with how well the 501 performed, especially given its size. I hoped the XB72 would blow me away given that it's easily 5x the size of the XB501. If nothing else, I expected a noticeable uptick in sound quality given the massive drivers and cabinet design...in practice though, I feel like the smaller XB501 was actually a better value for the money. Don't get me wrong, the XB72 is a great multi-function Bluetooth/LED party speaker--and for bragging rights alone, those of you with the gumption and spare change to add it to your household will likely have the biggest Bluetooth speaker on the block. It's certainly got a lot going for it with quite a few party-friendly features--the amount of stuff you can do in the Music Center app definitely has the potential to liven things up, and my daughter and her friends had a great time playing with all those functions during her last sleep-over. I just don't know how often I see someone coming back to using all the DJ, lighting and sound-morphing effects on their phone's app before ultimately they tire of the effort involved and just leave it to stream music and let the LEDs strobe out unattended. Given my impressions, and that of my family during use, I ended up putting this unit through its paces more as a "regular" LED-enabled speaker than I did as the musical and interactive centerpiece of some basement rave or block-party blow out (despite the fact that it certainly has the potential and functionality to support the latter). As a speaker, then, the XB72 is certainly a cable unit, if a bit over-engineered for what it delivers. I mean, this speaker will play loud--sure, and it does sound...GOOD...I don't know as I was as blown away as I hoped I would be by the sound quality, especially given how big it is--and it falls short in some key areas that were unexpected for a speaker of this size/price-point. In particular, the lack of mounting options and even basic water resistance make this party speaker a tough sell for those of you with visions of using it in any but the most tame/captive (i.e. near an outlet) of outdoor party settings (beach, pool, etc.). If you desperately need a BIG speaker that is first and foremost for party use, this is probably a good choice; but if you want a really good, well-designed/appointed speaker that also has some party-friendly features on board, there might be better options out there.
No, I would not recommend this to a friend
OK, but not the best audio quality.Posted
I had high hopes for this speaker system. After purchasing Sony's excellent WH1000 headphones and my prior Sony TV's and audio gear (CD Players, Tape Decks, etc), I thought this would be a home run. SET-UP If you use this product with an Apple product, you will love the ease of set-up. After pairing the device via Bluetooth, your Apple product will automatically (with permission) open the App Store and display the 2 apps that you use to adjust its many parameters (Music Center & Fiestable). The Music Center iOS app allowed me to add my music subscription services without issue and I could either use the Music Center app to access these services within the app. A total breeze and a true delight. AWESOME! I was less successful with my Android phone. I tried to pair the speaker with my S7 via NFC. I had several unsuccessful attempts to pair with NFC and eventually just paired it manually via Bluetooth. The Android Music Center app worked very well & also allowed me to add my music services. Oddly, when you select add app (for your music services), the Sony Music Center app doesn't just display the music apps on your Android device, it displays every single app, regardless of its purpose installed on your phone. The Fiestable app didn't work so well either. The motion effects of the phone didn't work correctly and the whole Party Light function was a battery hog. PERFORMANCE These were my biggest disappointments. Sony uses 3 x 2" tweeters that are not high quality. Anyone that has had a good set of home stereo or car speakers will realize how important a good soft dome or titanium tweeter can be. Sony's appear to be a paper material (like what you would find in a cheap set of factory car speakers) and do not lend themselves to high quality music reproduction. Sony also touts XTRA BASS for this system, and that is good. If you unselect XTRA BASS (enabled by default), you literally get no bass. Even with XTRA BASS enabled, these are not high excursion, deep bass producing woofers. Second - The item has a built in FM tuner. It is entirely software based and you set the presets via your iOS or Android device. The tuner received all major broadcast stations in my area without issue, but suffers from a definite noise problem. It is not static, it is just digital noise that is always present in the background & cannot be fixed (it reminds me of analog tape hiss). The louder your music, the more noticeable it is, especially during the quiet passages. Third - Sony uses LDAC as opposed to the far more common Apt-X for Bluetooth streaming. LDAC offers up to 3 times the bandwidth of normal Bluetooth for superior sound quality. My S7 picked it up (iOS was out of the question) and I enabled it. Unfortunately, even under ideal conditions (less than 18 inches) from the speaker, my phone could not provide sufficient bandwidth (Prioritize Audio) to maintain a stream. Once I selected Prioritize Connection (this utilizes a far lower bitrate), it played without issue. But I feel it offered little, if any, discernible improvement over standard Bluetooth streaming. With all this long winded information, the speaker is fun. It has a good selection of input options, such as Bluetooth, NFC, a mic input for karaoke & the speaker even allows you to charge a phone and/or play files via USB. The Fiestable app allows you to play amateur DJ and adjust things like LED flash rate and color, create sound effects like scratching, audience applause, drums, cymbals, etc. If you throw large parties, it may be fun to play DJ and it is always fun to listen to how bad your buddies sing karaoke. With the ability to pair multiple devices via Bluetooth to the speaker, others can share their music with everyone. However, I quickly saw little value after the newness wore off. The speaker is link-able to other GTK-XB72's to expand the sound and the coverage. However, with the deficiencies noted above, there are better choices for streaming & sharing your music. Furthermore, these other major players offer similarly priced speakers with better, more detailed music reproduction. Some even account for your room acoustics. If you don't specifically need the karaoke function, the portability or the limited DJ enhancements, you are better served elsewhere.
No, I would not recommend this to a friend
The speaker is good but not great!!! The sound quality could be better.
No, I would not recommend this to a friend