Sony SRS-X99 review: Taking the multiroom fight to Sonos
Sony has been building wireless speakers for years now, but without much in the way of promotion, they’ve gone somewhat under the radar. Its speakers deserve more attention, though, and its latest effort, the SRS-X99 is a stunner, with brilliant sound quality bolstered by support for a wide array of connection standards.It slots into Sony’s multiroom speaker range at the higher end of the firm’s single wireless speaker range, just above the SRS-X77. It’s significantly bigger than the X77, measuring 430 x 133 x 125mm and weighing a hefty 4.7kg. Unlike the SRS-X77, which is far more portable and includes a built-in battery, the SRS-X99 isn’t likely to be moved around quite as much.
The heavy use of glossy, piano black glass makes a welcome return for the SRS-X99, and it gives the speaker a gorgeous, luxurious appearance. Its clean edges and uninterrupted front grille look classy, and it feels as good as it looks. You’ll probably want to refrain from touching the SRS-X99 too often, though, since its surface is a magnet for messy smudges and greasy fingerprints, so much so that there’s a microfibre cleaning cloth included in the box to help you keep the speaker looking tip top.
Luckily, the SRS-X99’s touch controls are located on the top corner of the speaker, making any potential marks less obvious under bright light. They’re backlit, too, so they’re easy to find in the dark, and a proximity sensor will turn them on only as you reach out to touch them. It’s a subtle effect that’s both functional and charming.
Using the controls, you’re able to swap between the speaker’s different connection modes including Network, Audio In and Bluetooth, the latter of which can easily be enabled via its NFC contact point. You also get a simple, minimalist remote control, which has media playback controls as well as different input buttons.
On the back of the cabinet you’ll find both USB-A and USB-B ports. The former can be used to charge your portable devices, such as your phone or tablet, as well as connect external storage devices with local music files, while the latter can be used to connect the SRS-X99 to a PC or laptop for direct playback. Alternatively, you also have a 3.5mm auxiliary jack for analogue connection.
The SRS-X99 supports a wide array of formats, including FLAC, AAC, ALAC and DSD in addition to MP3. This being Sony, it comes as no surprise that there’s high-resolution audio support as well, so playback of 192kHz/24-bit files isn’t a problem. This will be particularly attractive to audiophiles with an exciting library of high-resolution masters.
If all that wasn’t enough, the SRS-X99 has built-in dual-band Wi-Fi and an Ethernet port for a wired network connection, so you’re not left wanting when it comes ways of accessing your music. A pop-out antenna can be used to improve wireless reception, but once you’ve connected the SRS-X99 to your network – which can be done through Sony’s SongPal app – you open up Spotify Connect, AirPlay, Google Cast and DLNA as wireless connection options alongside Bluetooth.
Sony’s SongPal app can be used for managing multiple speakers, changing EQ settings and accessing music stored on your home network or device. Grouping speakers together is straightforward: simply tap and drag speakers connected to your network together to add them to a group.
In terms of driver configuration, nothing has changed from the SRS-X9. There are seven in total, and these consist of two 50mm magnetic fluid drivers, a central 94mm woofer paired with two passive radiators, two 19mm front wide-dispersion tweeters and a pair of 19mm upwards-firing tweeters. The front speaker grille can be removed using a special tool (included in the box) to expose the impressive drivers inside.
In terms of digital sound enhancement, you get both DSEE HX, which upscales compressed files to near high-resolution levels, and Clear Audio+, which applies digital signal processing for crisper audio. I’ve never been a fan of Clear Audio+, though, as while audio does sound marginally more detailed, it also adds in a tad too much bass, colouring the sound.
Thankfully, there’s a decent amount of control over the EQ to get your music sounding just how you like it. On a flat EQ, the SRS-X99 sounds universally great across all genres. Orchestral tracks have presence and space, while hip hop has plenty of low-end drive and aggression.
Listen to high-resolution tracks and you can begin to pick out even more detail. Acoustic tracks sound ethereal, with the subtlest of details, such as singers’ breathing and fingers on fretboards, discernible for that authentic, in-the-room experience.
The SRS-X99 is a superb all-rounder with stunning sounds, and the additions of Spotify Connect and Google Cast over the SRS-X9 are useful improvements and make it a fully-functional multiroom speaker.
It trumps similar high-end speakers such as Sonos’ Play:5 when it comes to connections and high-resolution audio support, too, but the Sonos still wins in terms of multiroom convenience and delivery, as it supports a wider variety of online streaming services.
Depending on what you need, though, you won’t be disappointed with the SRS-X99, especially if you shop around, as it’s often available for around £399. That makes it slightly cheaper than the Play:5 and therefore, a touch better value.