Sony has had a good history of producing great wireless speakers. With my previous reviews of the Sony SRS-X3, SRS-X33, SRS-X55 portable speakers, the Sony h.ear go SRS-HG1 somewhat falls flat, literally, in the audio quality.
When playing music using flat setting, the treble is veiled, bass is weak, the audio is contained within the speaker. Despite being marketed as the smallest high-res audio portable wireless speaker, it doesn’t sound at all clear to impress. Even the ClearAudio+ fails to bring sparkle.
Only when activating the Extra Bass mode did the sound quality improve dramatically. The audio is more expansive, delivering wide sound stage. Treble is significantly clearer and exudes the quality expected of Sony. The bass is deeper and louder but the kick-bass sounds unnatural as it lacks the resonance and you can hear the diaphragm distorted sound. The HG1 does sound good for music without the kick-bass, like Classical genres. And leave the Extra Bass on at all times.
The h.ear go HG1 can go loud, which I suspect was the reason for the flat tuning. At high volumes, the treble does not sound overpowering and the hard diaphragm noise (with Extra Bass is on) is being covered up by the heavy bass tones. Hence, the HG1 actually sounds better.
Despite the generally uninspiring audio quality, there are also other benefits in getting the HG1.
Firstly, the Sony HG1 offers a wide range of audio connectivity and streaming. The speaker supports the standard 3.5mm audio input and wireless Bluetooth that easily pairs with NFC. HG1 supports USB DAC, which means when you plug the speaker via USB to a computer, you get digital audio quality processed by the HG1 instead of via the computer’s audio processor which are generally inferior.
The star of HG1 is the Wi-Fi audio. Upon connecting the speaker to your home network, you can stream music via Wi-Fi using any Google Cast music app or Spotify Connect. During streaming, your mobile device can do other tasks like making calls or watch video, and there is no need to be nearby the device unlike Bluetooth.
Based on my experience, I find the Wi-Fi audio is heavily dependent on your home networking quality. My home network runs on dual band (2.4GHz and 5GHz) with different SSIDs, and I find there are frequent drop-outs due to the playback devices auto-switching to different SSID to optimise bandwidth. The playback control is also more laggy than other direct connection modes.
The included SongPal app is not that user friendly and does not have a floating music player for me to quickly change tracks or adjust volume. When I leave the app and go back again, I had to navigate through several screens to reach to the playback screen.
The app is most useful for accessing HG1 to change settings, like EQ, Extra Bass, connectivity mode. You can also use the app to set-up multi-room playback to multiple HG1s and stream identical or different audio tracks to each connected speaker. Using SongPal, you can also stream music from computers via DLNA.
I was pleasantly surprised that the front speaker grille is removable. While it offers no aural advantage, it is a nice touch to satisfy the audio fans who like to watch the speaker cones do the work.
The Sony h.ear go SRS-HG1 caters for the consumer who needs to stream Wi-Fi audio anywhere around the house which does not require proximity to the playback device. Retailing at S$359 with 5 brilliant colours, you are paying a premium for the wireless capability more than audio quality.
Size: 204 x 62 x 60 mm
Frequency: 20 – 20,000 Hz
Speaker size: 35mm x 2
Output power: 12W x 12W
Battery life: 12 hours
Connectivity: WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, DLNA, Google Cast
Audio profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, SPP
Supported codecs: AAC, LDAC, SBC
Included accessories: AC adapter
Official Product Website: http://www.sony.com.sg/electronics/wireless-speakers/srs-hg1