Submerged audio with some interruptions
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, Sony has introduced premium speakers with its 360 Reality Audio technology, which sets it apart from what was already on the market. The company is now proud to launch Sony SRS-RA3000 and Sony SRS-RA5000 in India. The former is priced quite competitively at Rs 19,990, the speaker is huge, equipped with 360 reality audio and immersive audio enhancements and lots of connectivity options. There is no shortage of large, loudspeakers in the market but what Sony does differently with these speakers is the room-surrounded sound technology that tries to fill the whole room with ambient sound by bouncing sound from floor to ceiling. Here’s how the speaker worked in our review.
Construction and design
The Sony SRS-RA3000 has a remarkable build that is about 10 inches long and weighs 2.5 kg. Nonetheless, it is a wired speaker and the company does not market it as portable, so it is something that you will set up in a certain place in your home and forget about it. Even if you move it, the speaker automatically calibrates to the level of the room so that the room is adequately filled with sound. We didn’t really test it in a bunch of different sized rooms, but the speaker easily fills a large-value-sized room with its sound. The speaker can adjust the volume automatically according to the playing track, to ensure that it is not too loud or quiet.
The Sony SRS-RA3000 looks quite classy and elegant. It comes with a fabric finish that contrasts with the copper-colored grille. The fabric finish, however, ends up being quite a dust magnet. The speaker is strong and holds firmly to the bottom due to the rubber grips. Sony further claims that the speaker is moisture resistant but has no official IP rating attached to it, so we recommend not using it in the washroom or pool.
On top of the speaker, you have a touch panel that has speaker control. Buttons allow you to pause / play music, increase or decrease volume, turn speakers on or off, connect via Bluetooth, audio in (AUX input) and Wi-Fi. There’s also an immersive audio enhancement button that significantly changes the speaker’s sound profile and fires music from floor to ceiling to provide a more immersive sonic experience. Behind the speakers, you have an audio in jack and a power jack.
There are three ways to connect and play music from the speaker You can connect the speaker to your smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth, use a Wi-Fi connection to stream music since the speaker comes with Chromecast built-in or you can simply connect the speaker via an AUX cable. Alternatively, you can connect the SRS-RA3000 to a compatible Sony Bravia TV via Bluetooth.
As we mentioned above, the Sony SRS-RA3000 has the capability of automatic calibration and automatic volume adjustment which is quite useful. In addition, the speaker packs Sony’s 360 reality audio technology that can play supported tracks, including three-dimensional sound location data to provide room-filling, immersive audio. Unfortunately, so far only a 360 reality audio platform is available and it has been paid for, so many users cannot use it. If you still want to try it, there’s a 30-day free trial that you can try using nugs.net, a streaming app that includes a few 360 reality audio tracks. It’s a shame that there’s no other option at the moment, since the 360 reality audio speaker is a big selling feature.
However, Sony has also included immersive audio enhancement technology that converts regular stereo tracks into enclosed room-encapsulating sound. We found a significant difference between regular stereo audio and immersive audio enhancement, which we will discuss in the Performance section below.
Although the Sony SRS-RA3000 is not a smart speaker by itself, the device can be set up alongside an Echo or Google Nest device to give it some smart brains. This allows users to control the speaker with their voice. Additionally, speakers can be set up via Google Home to connect to a Spotify account and play music directly without using a smartphone.
There’s also an app with Sony’s Music Center that lets users change their EQ settings and configure Alexa and Google Assistant voice controls. Lastly, using the Google Home app, one can pair multiple Sony SRS-RA3000 speakers together and play different songs in different rooms, even playing the same track in your home where the speakers are kept.
In terms of hardware, the Sony SRS-RA3000 packs a full-range 80mm speaker and two 17mm twitter along with two passive radiators. The speaker supports SBC and AAC audio codecs. We initially tested the speaker in normal stereo mode and immersive audio enhancement mode. We tried 360 reality audio and the results were quite impressive, the sound stage was full and dynamic, however, since the only option at the moment is paid so many users cannot use this service, we will focus on the above two modes.
First, with immersive audio enhancement mode, we’ve seen performance polarize somewhat. The speaker certainly emits room-filling audio with a wide soundscape, but the bass booms, especially at high volume. Also, there is a definite lack of clarity compared to regular stereo listening. The floated base was somewhat problematic on tracks that were already bass-heavy and there was a constant floor-shaking, booming bass reaction that was not pleasing to the ear. Still, this mode is definitely more immersive and almost makes you feel like you’re in a concert or movie theater. Using immersive enhancement audio is definitely more understandable when you’re watching TV series and movies instead of listening to music, as bloated bass and compressed narratives can disrupt the listening experience a bit.
In a regular stereo setting, the speakers provide clear, crisp vocals, good rounded bass feedback, and pleasant height. Listening to hi-fi music on nugs.net, we found the sound stage more open and the details more prominent. The sound quality in this mode was quite pleasing regardless of the type of song we played. The bass response is still somewhat dominant, but it allows for much higher temer and other frequencies to improve.
Priced at Rs 19,990, the Sony SRS-RA3000 is a powerful package equipped with lots of features and good sound. At this price, it allows users to get a premium audio experience without breaking the bank Although 360 Reality Audio is not usable due to the lack of apps that support it, Immersive Audio Enhancement offers users the strategy of providing encapsulating sound that fits even larger cells. However, regular stereo setup provides somewhat better details and better base response to the sound. Overall, the Sony SRS-RA3000 is a well-built, featured wired speaker that offers a lot for its price. It competes with the Amazon Echo or Google Home speakers for its ability to transform into a voice-controlled speaker even when paired with a smart speaker.