(Pocket-lint) - Sony announced a move into the multi-room audio at CES 2015 at the beginning of the year but the products haven't been made available until now.
The multi-room line-up includes everything from wireless speakers and sound bars to TV base speakers, AV receivers and Micro Hi-Fi systems. But they join a market with some stiff competition so what does Sony offer that the others don't?
There are three wireless speakers within the Sony Multi-room audio range including the top-of-the-range SRS-X99, mid-range X88 and the portable X77. All three of these can then be connected to the HT-ST9 and HT-NT3 sound bars, the HT-XT3 TV base speaker, STR-DN1060 and STR-DN860 AV receivers or the CMT-SX7B Micro Hi-Fi System.
The idea is that you can build your sound system as you please, and each of the products in the line up will work independently, as well as within a group. They can also all be controlled via the SongPal Link app - more about that in a bit.
We heard the HT-NT3 sound bar in action and it sounded great from what we could tell in our demonstration, while offering a lovely slim and slender design, but it's the wireless speakers that really caught our attention.
The SRS-X99, X88 and the X77 are almost identical in design, with the only visible difference being their physical size and the X99 featuring a slightly more detailed top. As you would expect, the top of the range model is the largest of the three, while the portable X77 is the smallest and the slimmest.
The X99 measures 430 x 133 x 125mm, while the X88 measures 359 x 111 x 103mm and the X77 is 300 x 132 x 60mm. The latter has a built-in battery that Sony claims will last 10 hours on a full charge, which is where its portability comes in.
The portability aspect is one of the key features of the X77 speaker as while it doesn't offer Hi-Res audio functionality like its bigger brothers, it is one of the few multi-room speakers available that can be taken around with you.
Sonos for example, doesn't have a portable option, although LG does within its Music Flow range. The X77 could be used on the balcony for example, or a terrace, and it will work with the multi-room system as long as it stays within your Wi-Fi range.
In terms of the numbers, the X99 is 154W in total, while the X88 is 90W and the X77 is 40W. Both the X99 and the X88 have a technology called DSEE HX, which is basically the ability to upscale audio to near Hi-Res, while the X77 has DSEE without the HX so it won't deliver as high a quality as the other two.
There are four super tweeters, two mid-rangers and a subwoofer, along with a passive radiator in the X99, while the X88 has just two super tweeters. When it comes to the X77, you'll find two full-rangers, a sub-woofer and a passive radiator.
All three of the wireless speakers offer a very clean cut look. They are rectangular in shape with square, crisp edges and they all feature a glass top and brushed aluminium sides. We liked the fluidity of the design and it was nice to see how well they all matched.
You could very easily tell they were part of the same family and while the design is very simplistic, it looked good and reminded us of the OmniBalance style the company opts for on its smartphones.
The speakers also come with magnets that allow users to take the front grilles off to reveal what is sitting behind. This is a lovely touch as it gives the speakers and entirely different feel.
When it came to the quality of the sound, it was difficult to judge in the small amount of time we had with them but we listened to a couple of tracks on the mid-range X88 and we were impressed. All the tracks we listened to were Hi-Res but as you would expect, you could hear a great amount of detail - including the lips smacking and the saliva of the artist in one song we listened to. It was almost so clear it was off putting.
The SongPal Link app can be used to control the wireless speakers but they do also come with a remote. The app seemed to be easy enough to use to with the grouping of speakers simply done with a drag and drop.
All Google Cast compatible apps, which equate to around 100 now, are accessible through the SongPal Link app without you having to come out of it and then launch each individual app separately. You can also choose the specific apps you want to appear within the SongPal Link app, like TuneIn and Google Play, so you don't end up seeing all the available options, keeping everything nice and clean.
Overall, our first impressions of the Sony Multi-room audio range are good. It's great to see such a vast selection of different products and the build of the wireless speakers is certainly one that can compete in the current market. They are pitched high in price though, with the X77 starting at £260, which is £90 more than the Sonos Play:1.
It seems Sony is going after the audiophiles with this range, using the Hi-Res capabilities as its main selling point so it will be interesting to see how they perform in the real world. We will judge the speakers more when we come to review them in full but so far, we were impressed by what we saw and heard.