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Hand-on review: Sony X-Series XG500 Portable Bluetooth Speaker & Sony WH-1000XM4 Headphones

By Owen McCarthy, Tue 14 Dec 2021

For as long as I can remember, Sony have been known as purveyors of quality sound. I leapt at the opportunity to review two of their latest products. The editors have seen fit to let me loose on the X-Series XG500 Portable Bluetooth Speaker and the WH-1000XM4 Headphones. 

The Sony X-Series XG500 Portable Bluetooth Speaker is designed for a party animal like myself. Armed with a couple of apps, some of your favourite playlists, an Android or iPhone, you’re a mobile party waiting to happen.

Don’t be fooled by the word “portable.” Yes, it has a handle for easy carrying. When you see the size, you’ll understand why.  

This is a bona fide party machine with built-in speakers offering a superlative sound experience. Coupled with Sony’s Music Centre and Fiestable apps, you transmogrify into a roving party animal, DJ or Karaoke party. (You will need your microphones for the karaoke, of course.) You will be able to take control of the party’s ambience by customising the lighting to the desired ambience for your soirée. I also loved the strobe effect.

Using the “Megabass” setting, you’re set for a night of head-banging Rock and Roll! On my Benchmark test, I gave it a rating of “rocks my socks off” for a bass that is sure to rattle your innards if you crank it up enough. I couldn’t fault the bass on either the portable speaker or the headset. 

I didn’t have the volume set to “teeth-rattling,” as I’m keen to preserve what hearing function I have left. However both managed to capture the smooth round tones of “Sun King”, as well as the punchy bass in “I Want You.” Thank Peter Jackson for my song choices. I’ve been binge-watching. 

At other times, all I really want to do is curl up with some music or my favourite science fiction programmes and zone out on my own. Sony’s WH-1000XM4 headphones allow me to go to my solitary happy place and forget about all the partying that’s going on. 

 

 

Quality builds
Both items feature excellent build quality. Let us take a closer look.

WH-100XM4 headset: 

At 100% humidity, I expected my ears to turn into miniature swimming pools, but I remained pretty cool and comfortable. The WH-1000XM4 have a beautifully soft, plush feel to them, leaving your head and ears feeling pampered and comfortable. Easily adjustable, they will stay in place, leaving you feeling well-wrapped rather than in a head-vice. They have to be one of the most comfortable headsets I’ve worn and trust me, I have worn a few. 

SRS XG500:

On the box, Sony proclaims, “Live life loud”, and it is obvious they expect the user to venture far and wide with this item. The structure consists of a mix of fabric and hard-wearing plastic. 

Designed to function in a variety of social environments, it will be equally comfortable at your little get-together to celebrate Beethoven’s 251st birthday (this Thursday, December 17, as nearly as we can work out) or at your beach barbecue  I wasn’t invited so don’t ask me when). 

With an IP 66 rating, it is dustproof and resistant to jets of water. It will not mind being at your beach or poolside party, but don’t go swimming with it. If you have playlists stored on USB drives, simply plug them in at the rear and play. 

While you are doing that, you can use the other USB port to charge up your mobile phone. With up to 30 hours of play-time, you will still have plenty of battery life to see you through your social event. 

Versatility: 

The two apps, Sony Music Centre and Fiestable, add to the fun you can have. With Music Centre, says Sony, you can “Optimise audio settings, control music, choose lighting patterns and manage your devices right from your phone.” 

Fiestable allows you to create your own karaoke and make party playlists. The Party Connect function enables you to connect up to 100 compatible speakers to really crank up the volume. You can also sync with the lighting to create an ambience your guests will remember. 

But wait! There’s more. You can plug in your guitar and use it as an amp, or your microphone and use it as a karaoke machine. In short, to quote H A Field, you can do an awful lot with the XG500.

The WH-1000XM4 headset is foldable and includes a well-designed case to keep them safe when not in use. It is one of the most well-designed cases I have come across, with organisation for your accessories. 

Inside the case is the aircraft adaptor, an audio cable and a USB3 to USBC charging cable. Ten minutes of charging will give you five hours of use. Meanwhile, a full charge will keep you going for up to 38 hours.

When I get a headset with a snug fit, I am immediately alert to see just how good the noise-cancelling qualities are. The WH-1000XM4 are right up there. I was oblivious to the downpour that had been raging all afternoon or the latest episode of “When Calls the Heart,” playing in the living room.  

You can connect to two devices at a time, moving smoothly from one to the other at the touch of a button. The Multipoint Connection function means that the headset will automatically connect you to the correct device if you receive a phone call. 

The right headphone also boasts a range of touch controls, although I only used it to pause and recommence playing. The left headphone was simplicity itself, with just two buttons to worry about. The “custom” button changes the ambient settings, and the on-off switch is the only other control to worry about. 

Sony mention Adaptive Sound Control, a feature that learns where you generally use your headphones; the office, the gym, your favourite café and then tailors the sound to suit the environment.
   
I scarcely scratched the surface of all that can be done with the sound controls. If someone manages to catch your attention, simply place your hand over the housing to let in the ambient sound and turn down your music. I also used the touch control to pause.
 
Tapping and swipe controls allow you to change the volume, take phone calls and change tracks.
  
All day long comfort:

Sony mention that the build means that the WH-1000XM4 can be worn all day. This makes them ideal for the user who fields a lot of calls, works in a busy workspace, or just likes to ignore people! Hands-free phone calls are enhanced by the five built-in microphones, delivering clear voice quality to the people you call.

The WH-1000XM4 has a retail price of around $409, with the XG500 retailing just below the $500 mark. Both would make excellent stocking stuffers for those of you leaving your shopping for the last possible moment. Have a wonderful and blessed festive season, and Santa, if you’re reading this, I’ve been extra good this year! 

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