At first glance, we felt that this new Sony wireless speaker was made to decorate a house or office rather than reproducing music with high quality. But Sony has always paid attention to all its attention to the presence of technology, never done “purely designer” things. We saw it again when we got acquainted with it and got a chance to provide a Sony SRS-RA5000 review for our readers.
Design and technology
Externally, this Bluetooth speaker system resembles a bell or flower vase. Why give the body such a shape? The point is in the tasks that the developers faced. They primarily sought to eliminate resonance within the speaker, which arises from the reflection of sound waves from parallel surfaces. And thanks to the intricate shape, they are scattered. The second function is to provide a circular direction of radiation so that the speaker’s sound is heard equally well at any point in the room. That is important, because often we listen to music in the background, do household chores and move around the room or apartment.
It was also necessary to harmonize compact acoustics with 360 Reality Audio Technology owned by Sony. It is a type of analog of theatrical immersive 3D Audio formats such as Dolby Atmos, but does not require complex multichannel systems and is implemented using “virtual speakers”. Music in this format can be listened to with headphones or compact speakers that support it. So far, we are only talking about Sony wireless speaker systems, but in the future, the range of such devices should be expanded.
To solve all these problems, it was necessary to install seven speakers in the column. Three drivers with a diameter of 46 mm are directed upward and form a vertical measurement of the sound hemisphere, three more 46 mm each is located in a circle above the “waist” of the speaker and align the sound field horizontally. Another speaker with a diameter of 70 mm is directed downwards – this is a subwoofer that forms a bass foundation. All drivers are equipped with powerful magnetic systems. Note that many wireless speaker systems from other brands make do with two or three speakers, sometimes supplemented by passive radiators.
The company does not disclose the power output of the speaker. It can be assumed that the numerical value of power is small, but it does not matter to us, because the actual loudness and quality of the system are important.
According to some information, not officially confirmed, the Sony RA5000 has a 6.1 channel and 7 amplification configuration. It is known that these are proprietary S-Master HX modules and that another proprietary development is implemented in the speakers – DSEE HX. Both technologies have been used by the company for a long time and are well known.
An important part of the system is the powerful DSP, which transforms sound into specific rooms, and also creates an immersive sound field when playing any content related to Sony 360 Reality Audio (Immersive Audio Enhancement processing). Of course, there is a multi-band equalizer – control over it, like other functions, is done through the Sony Music Center mobile application.
Connect and Conquer
It is unlikely that someone will spend money on a speaker to listen to it offline, although such an opportunity is provided – there is a 3.5 mm analog input available. You can limit yourself to a wireless connection via Bluetooth using NFC technology – pairing with it is extremely simple. But in this case, only a small part of the system’s capabilities will be used, and not only functional but also of high quality. The manufacturer prompts us that “Bluetooth” is required only in extreme cases as only the SBC and AAC codecs are supported. And if you need maximum sound quality, connect via Wi-Fi.
After the system is connected to Wi-Fi and detected by the Sony Music Center mobile application, we get access to all the settings and functions. There is no need to climb there – the column does not need additional tightening of the nuts, but out of curiosity you can look in.
The developers did not reinforce the wheel and implemented a network connection via Google Chromecast technology, which is now used by many manufacturers. We have already familiarized ourselves with it on the example of other wireless acoustics, so we will not go into details again. We will just remind you that you need to install the Google Home application on your smartphone (there are versions for Android and iOS), which connects the gadget to your home Wi-Fi network. It will also come in handy if we want to create a multi-room sound installation at home with several wireless speakers in different rooms.
Any mobile applications can act as content sources: a music player (if music is stored on a smartphone), streaming service clients (such as Deezer, Spotify), or network controllers such as Bubble UPnP (if music is stored on a NAS in a local network). Spotify Connect technology is also supported, allowing you to create multi-room systems from devices of different brands. Unlike Chromecast, it may require a paid Spotify Premium subscription and only streams music from Spotify.
Music lovers dream
Automatic sound calibration is best done when you first turn it on, especially since it does not require any wireless connection. If the column is moved to another location, the calibration must be repeated. It can be done by holding down the button with the “Notes” icon or through the mobile application. The system will reproduce the sequence of test signals, fix them with a built-in microphone, calculate the parameters, and then fix the frequency and phase characteristics. It only takes a few minutes.
Traditional Hi-Fi systems will not let you relax that way. After months (or even years) with the choice of speakers and amplifier, it will be necessary to find the optimal location for the loudspeaker and determine the best listening position, and ideally, one would have to eliminate the echo in the room with the help of heavy acoustics.
And after all the hassle, you’ll still be listening to music in the background most of the time, doing some business, you won’t experience spatial effects, stage depth, and other tricks of the stereo. With the Sony SRS-RA5000, you get almost the same result in a few minutes.
But what about emotional involvement and aesthetic pleasure? The answer is: With this, everything is fine. Sony 360 Reality Audio music sources are Amazon Music HD, Deezer, Tidal, and Nugs.net streaming services. Over time, of course, their range will expand, as their creation software is available to all recording professionals.
We listened to regular recordings from the Deezer HiFi streaming service, as well as FLAC tracks from smartphones via Chromecast. To begin with, we tried a Bluetooth connection – it turned out surprisingly well, but it was heard that this interface did not reveal the speaker’s capability. Wi-Fi is more interesting.
A lot does not mean Good
The column is powered from the main, so they listened to it not on a bench in the park, but in a room with an area of about 40 m, which is too much for such acoustics. We placed the gadget on the table in the center of the hall and walked around. The sound was practically identical at all points. We also moved it to a corner and put it close to the wall, repeated the calibration – the intonations did not change: the frequency balance is ideal, the highs are transparent and clean, the bass is clear and loud. No bumps and failures, everything is smooth and harmonious.
If you go to the “Height speaker control” settings section and select the “High” preset there, the sound will become a little more distinct and transparent. We also did not have an idea to adjust something in the equalizer. Note that the room where we listened to the speaker is used for recording podcasts, and therefore is carefully muted, which is not very good for audio equipment: high frequencies in such rooms usually sound dull. But the calibration system easily coped with this, moreover, raising the characteristics at HF did not give audible distortions.
Nevertheless, the absence of re-reflections from the floor, walls, and ceiling still manifested itself: the “hemisphere” sound made by the speaker seemed relatively compact. In an ordinary living room, the speaker will look very large. It seemed to us that an area of 20 square or less would be ideal for this system. Furthermore, due to the spacious and cluttered room, the process of immersive audio enhancement could not show itself in all its glory, although one might like its action: the sound became more spatial but less physical and dense.
Even in a large hall, the speaker had enough strength – a comfortable volume level reached a maximum of 75%, and even earlier on recording with strong compression. For the sake of interest, we tuned heavy bass music and lowered the volume all the way. The worn-out room saved our ears – this level was quite tolerable, with no audible nonlinear distortions. Not surprising though: Class D amplifiers produce fewer harmonics at maximum power than minimum power.
Sony’s signature sound is generally described as neutral and unbiased, and the same is true of the SRS-RA5000. But the speaker is not only accurate in terms of sound nuances, but also in expressing emotions – it is very musical.
Separately, we note that recording at 24-bit / 96 kHz sounded much cleaner and transparent than the standard 16-bit / 44.1 kHz, meaning that the new product offered a Hi-Res Audio for a reason.
The Sony SRS-RA5000 is a very decent wireless speaker, which is easy to connect, set up, and use. Well-made, unusual, and attractive externally – a real decoration of the house. It seems as the creation of the legendary brand seems to be accurate, clean, and captivating.
And it is not as expensive as it may seem at first glance, it is now available to pre-order on Bhphotovideo.com for $699.99 or buy at Amazon.co.uk for £590.62. After all, it is full of networked Wi-Fi acoustics, and even with automatic sound calibration.
So how did you like our Sony SRS-RA5000 review?, please let us know in the comment box below.