It's 2015, and I can safely say that there is a Bluetooth speaker for everyone. There's the hulking Fluance Fi30 that isn't very portable, but packs a powerful punch. Then the JBL Charge 2+ is also available, bundling portability, weatherproofing and performance together.
Recently tossed into the eclectic mix is the Sony SRS-X11, a chic and small Bluetooth speaker that can hang around just about anywhere. Despite its compact size, the $69 (£54, AU$99) SRS-X11 is packed to the brim with useful features, surprising performance and a design that makes this a companion cube that you won't toss aside anytime soon.
The SRS-X11 resembles Sony's other Bluetooth speakers of late aesthetically, offering a lot to like in the design department. Sony provided the blue-colored model to techradar for review, but you can also find it available in black, pink, white and red flavors.
This cube-shaped speaker is covered on three of its six sides with grilles splashed in a metallic blue paint. A smooth plastic frame that gives the speaker a rounded-off look that runs between each square face, adding a sky-blue tint to the presentation.
Most of the controls are on the rubberized top of the speaker, which share the space with Sony's logo. From left to right, there's a power button, which doubles as a Bluetooth pairing button if you hold it down for a few seconds. Next, there's a button that answers and hangs up phone calls.
Lastly, two volume buttons, one for decreasing and another for increasing the volume, finish off the control panel. A few of the buttons have rubber nubs near them, which makes no-look navigation of the controls quite simple.
Around its back, the SRS-X11 hosts a few ports and additional features worth mentioning. The "Add" button allows you to tether another X11 onto the Bluetooth signal to achieve a full stereo sound, or to just mirror the sound in another part of the room. Next, the "Reset" button is in place should everything go awry. I never had to use it.
The last two ports are ones that you'll find in pretty much every Bluetooth speaker out there. You have the 3.5 input for wired listening and a microUSB port for charging the device.
I don't talk about the bottoms of speakers often, as there's usually nothing to see. But on the SRS-X11, Sony cleverly put the status indicators to face downward, which reflects nicely if you're resting the speaker on a reflective surface.
I say "if" because that's not the only way to orient the speaker. Looped through the bottom right corner is string that leads to a silicon hook. I enjoyed the versatility of this speaker yielded by its simple, silicon loop. It made bringing the speaker around on adventures easy and even kind of fun.
There isn't much else included in the box, save for a microUSB cable for charging. But for the low price, I don't really expect, nor do I need, much else to begin listening.
The SRS-X11 prides itself in being able to hang out anywhere, so long as there's somewhere to hook it. It can also provide a pleasant experience in terms of its sound performance, battery life, call quality and overall ease of use.
Getting set up on the speaker is a cinch, and the signal is strong. It's advertised to reach up to 30 feet, which honestly isn't all that far, but I never experienced any disruption during testing. Sony estimates the battery to last up to 12 hours, and the results of my use saw it reach that mark, even exceeding it barely while using it at a low-to-medium volume.
For its size, I'm surprised by how full this speaker sounds. It won't win much praise, especially when put up against bigger speakers, but the SRS-X11 makes the most of its small size.
Nothing in particular sticks out in the sound presentation. That said, the lows, mids and highs all exist on an equal plane, and the speaker does well at balancing the sound.
Adding onto the value, Sony tacked on NFC support, which makes connecting to the speaker a much faster process.
The Sony SRS-X11 is a value-packed offering. While it isn't hard to find most of the features inside in other similarly priced – or even cheaper – options, you'll miss out on the stellar build quality put forward by Sony.
However, if it's a splashproof speaker you're in need of, consider the $60 (£49, AU$69) Creative Muvo Mini. It hits many of the same chords as the SRS-X11 in terms of features and sound quality. But in choosing it, you'd be walking away from what makes Sony's little speaker a charmer: whimsical mobility, striking looks and balanced sound performance.