Despite its best efforts to scare me off, I actually do like this speaker a lot.
Unboxing the speaker two things immediately struck me. First, the speaker is smaller than I'd thought it would be based on the box (lots of packing materials to keep it safe). Second, the speaker feels surprisingly heavy given its size. It only weighs a little more than 2 pounds according to my kitchen scale, but it feels a lot heavier than that when you're holding it in your hand.
I got the speaker in blue (one of my favorite colors). The blue is a duskier shade than I was expecting, but it's still pleasing to the eye. That being said, I do regret not having picked this up in black as it would have coordinated with my furniture better. The texture is lightly rubberized and purports to be water resistant. The front of the speaker bears an LED light ring that can be customized to hit a range of different colors. All of the speaker's ports are hidden behind a door on the back right-hand side. It came with a great big notice taped to it advising you to make sure that the door is shut when the unit is in use. I can only presume that this is to ensure the unit's water resistance as it seems to operate perfectly fine with the door wide open.
A surprising addition to the ports is a traditional USB type A port. It should be noted that this port is for power output only and does not support power input or data transfer. The documentation says that the port is included to charge one's phone or tablet using the speaker. This is a nice addition, but it feels a little random to me.
Turning it on proved to be the first stumbling block for this review. Following the instructions, I charged the device for four hours prior to attempting to use it. With the speaker still plugged into the wall, I pressed the power button . . . and nothing happened. I tried pressing it several times and got no response whatsoever. I worried that I might have received a defective unit, but unplugging the device from the wall and pressing the power button finally yielded results with the device promptly turning on. Oddly, this was the only time that I encountered this issue. I have since left it plugged in and pressed the power button, and it turns on right away. Charging proved to be another oddity with this device. Using it for about two hours, I was down to 75% battery according to the phone app that goes with this speaker. With the speaker still on, I plugged it in to see about charging it while using it. An hour later, the app still reported a battery status of 75%. I'm not sure whether this is a characteristic of the device itself or a glitch with the phone app.
Pairing the device was simple enough on an android phone. I did have to turn my Bluetooth on and off to get it to show up, but I suspect that was the result of a bug on my phone and not with this speaker. The app that works with this speaker is a little too generic and lacks polish.
This is where things start to go downhill.
First, the big selling point for this speaker is its ability to wirelessly pair up and synchronize with other speakers from this series to create a stereo or surround sound effect. I couldn't test this as I only had a single speaker to work with. Sony really ought to consider selling these in multi-packs if they're going to make such a big deal of this capability. I knew from my own research prior to getting this speaker that this capability only works with other speakers from this series. You can't use other bluetooth speakers from other manufacturers or even other models of Sony speakers to do this. That being said, the language in the app is very vague and makes it sound like you can grab any old bluetooth speaker to create a wireless speaker network. Curious to see if this was actually the case, I grabbed a pair of bluetooth speakers from other manufacturers and attempted to pair them. Sadly, as expected, neither one of them would pair.
Second, the app's control of the customizable LED light ring isn't quite what I was led to believe given the packaging and documentation. My hope was to use this speaker with my home theater system and have it paired with my home theater PC rather than a phone or tablet. Given the speaker's ability to link up with other speakers, I'd had thoughts about maybe using this to eventually implement a wireless surround sound and/or whole home speaker system. My PC setup has a nice blue LED lighting effect, and I thought it would be cool to get the LED ring on the speaker to match the blue that the rest of my setup has. That's when I discovered the second shortcoming of the app. You can't select a single color for the LED ring to glow. The app only gives you a list of preset color schemes that you can choose to have it cycle through. You can't select just a single color and tell the speaker to hold it continuously (special PSA on the lighting: if you're epileptic, don't attempt to use this speaker until you adjust the color settings. By default, this speaker came in "RAVE" mode which has white flashing strobes along the left and right edges. There was no mention of this strobe effect in any of the materials I read prior to getting this speaker, and it's a little disturbing that this was enabled by default).
Third, the voice control button within the app doesn't appear to actually do anything. Pressing it prompts you to say a keyword. I tried saying "Sony," "Speaker," "Hey you," and "Play Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody,'" but I had no luck getting the app or speaker to react. Pressing the help button within the app didn't lead me to anything offering any support for this. Saying "Google" did pull up a screen with icons for Google Music and Youtube, but I couldn't get the app to do anything beyond that point using voice controls.
Unfortunately, the shortcomings aren't limited to just the app.
The speaker also has a button on the top for bass boost. Upon first using the speaker, I was very impressed by the sound. It was clear and loud with a lot of punch to it. Curious to see what it would sound like with even more bass, I pressed the bass button on the top . . . and the sound immediately went flat and tinny. Apparently, the bass button was already enabled by default. Given the way that this is set up, the bass button is less of a boost button and more of a "make my music sound anemic and bad" button. The perception would have been much improved had they not opted to have this enabled by default.
Using the speaker on a phone call yielded mixed results. The audio came over both loud and crystal clear on my end. That being said, the person on the other line said that my voice was distant and full of distortion. Suffice it to say, that speaker's microphone isn't very good.
A couple of warnings if you're going to try and use this as a speaker on a PC. First, you won't be able to control the speaker's settings from the PC. You're going to have to use the phone app to control things like power management and the LED lighting. Secondly, you're going to want to go into the power management options within the app to turn off the auto-off power saving feature. This feature is enabled by default. The speaker doesn't automatically wake after powering down. If you don't turn off the auto-off, then you will be forced to press the power button on the speaker to turn it back on after it powers down.
The amazing thing is that despite the shortcomings that I've listed, I still really like this speaker. The LED lighting is fun, the sound is terrific with lots of volume and bass, and the aesthetic is nice and clean.
Is the speaker perfect? No.
Is the speaker really good? Yes.
Despite the shortcomings, I'm still seriously considering buying another one to use in my home theater setup.
I would recommend this product.