You can't easily get big sound out of a small object, and when a speaker is designed first and foremost to be tiny, you can be confident it won't rock the house. Sony's Bluetooth Wireless Mobile Speaker SRS-BTV5 is proof of that. This £55 speaker is a little larger than a pool ball and looks good, but it can't output loud music – or even close to loud volumes. It's a nice novelty speaker, but there are other Bluetooth speakers that are still portable at twice the size and sound much louder, such as the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox.
The speaker is a little ball measuring 65mm in diameter and standing 70mm tall, making it only slightly larger than a pool ball. It weighs 135 grams, and whether you toss it in your bag or hang it from the drawstring of the included mesh basket pouch (pictured below), you'll hardly notice it's there. It comes in black, white, and pink versions, all of which are otherwise identical.
The single driver sits under the ball's "cap," pointing straight up at a cone-shaped object that spreads the sound consistently 360 degrees around the speaker. A microphone sits right above a call button near the underside of the ball for speakerphone calls, and opposite them sit volume control buttons. Between them, a flush door conceals the microUSB port used for charging the speaker and a 3.5mm audio port for using it without Bluetooth.
The flat base of the speaker holds a sliding switch that powers the speaker on, disables NFC pairing, and forces manual pairing. A blue light near the switch indicates it's paired while staying only slightly visible when sitting on a flat surface, and an orange light indicates when the speaker is charging. According to Sony, the speaker can last for five hours of constant music playing before it needs to be charged.
The top of the speaker has a little symbol you can tap your NFC-enabled smartphone or tablet on to instantly pair it. I had no problem pairing it with my Samsung Galaxy S3, and the NFC pairing process is much more convenient than manually pairing by holding the power switch until the Bluetooth light flashes.
If you're expecting big sound from this speaker, you need a reality check – it's a little plastic ball a few inches away, not a bowling ball-sized loudspeaker several feet away. The Sony Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker can't compare with the likes of the Jabra Solemate or Logitech UE Mobile Boombox in terms of power, and it can get completely lost when compared to speakers that weigh over 1kg. That much is a given, but what's a little frustrating is that it doesn't get much louder than a decent clock radio either, and certainly can't fill a room with music. It's nice for a bedside speaker, but don't expect this to work as your main sound system.
The speaker doesn't produce the cleanest sound, either. Bass response is non-existent, and treble can sound tinny. I listened to Oingo Boingo's "Dead Man's Party," and the kick drums lacked any weight while the snares were too bright and lacked texture. Danny Elfman's vocals were clear, and the electric guitar and horns were accurate if slightly bright, but it didn't offer the full range the song had to offer. "Shake Hands With Beef" by Primus suffered from similar issues, with the heavy bass guitar notes distorting and feeling empty. Since Primus' music is roughly 98 per cent bass and 2 per cent absinthe, it meant the song lost a lot of its power.
This doesn't mean the Bluetooth Wireless Mobile Speaker is a complete waste of time, though. If you go in expecting no bass and plan on listening to more melodic music, it can be a pleasant experience. (Tip: Stay away from funk metal). Queen's "Bicycle Race" sounded relatively clean, and while it still reminded me of a clock radio, I heard Freddie Mercury's vocals and the back-and-forth shouting of the lyrics clearly.
The speaker also doubles as a speakerphone, but it isn't particularly powerful in this respect, either. I tested it with my Samsung Galaxy S3, and while it sounded much cleaner than my smartphone's speakerphone mode, it didn't get as loud, and I could barely hear the caller with the speaker on my coffee table. My voice came through clearly, but the point is moot if I can't hear who I'm talking to.
Sony's ultraportable Bluetooth speaker is appealing for its size and price, but not much else. It doesn't get very loud, it suffers from lightweight bass that distorts easily, and a tinny treble response – and it doesn't work well as a speakerphone to boot.
However, at least it's one of the more affordable Bluetooth speakers on the market, and it's attractive and well-built. It's a nice little speaker to leave on your nightstand – it just isn't a very impressive sound system on its own. If you can afford £25 more, consider the Logitech UE Mobile Boombox, which is slightly larger but kicks out much more sound (and is much more useful as a speakerphone).
Manufacturer and Model
Sony Bluetooth Wireless Mobile Speaker SRS-BTV5
1.2 Watts RMS
Wireless, iPad, iPhone, Android