Apple, Bose, Sonos, Google and Amazon all have plenty to offer in the £200-£400 bracket Bluetooth speaker market – not to mention a more stable footing in the audio game – this may explain why Huawei has called on the services of audiophile pioneers Devialet to deliver something that will stand out. Enter the Huawei Sound X – a nicely weighted and compact speaker that more than holds its own in an already crowded market.
Made from a combination of shiny black plastic and audio-transparent knit fabric, the Sound X somehow manages to look like a hyper-realistic rendered photo even in real life. Its two exposed woofers even make it look a little different from the competition.
Behind the fabric base are six 1.5in drivers, which, once combined with the two 3.5in woofers, manage a rated output of 65W and 360-degree listening. It’s enough to create plenty of oomph in any configuration, but the back-to-back woofer design uses Devialet’s Push-Push bass structure that means, aside from showing the speakers pulsating (up to 20mm), each woofer cancels out the backwave vibrations of the other. This greatly suppressing distortion, which is often the curse of small speaker cabinet construction.
The same technology is used to stunning effect on Devialet’s award-winning Phantom speaker, which, from £990, has the sort of audio quality and bass response you’d expect from a £10,000 hi-fi.
Huawei has also incorporated Devialet’s Speaker Active Matching (SAM) processing from the Phantom, that lets the speaker accurately match the sound pressure generated by the microphones during the studio recording process in real time during playback. Think of it this way: if the kick drum has ‘x’ impact on the recording mic, then the same impact supposedly comes through on the speaker.
But before we get to performance, it’s worth explaining a little more about Huawei’s collaborator on the Sound X. Founded in Paris in 2007, this niche audio brand quickly found a cult following thanks to unique driver configurations, processors and chipsets capable of generating 4,500 watts and 108 decibels of audio nirvana from a ridiculously compact speaker. Some 76 awards and 160 technology patents later Devialet has started buddying up – its first being with Sky TV – and is clearly looking to tap into a more mainstream audience.
Huawei is no stranger to collaborations, previously working with both Porsche and Leica, and seems content to stick to their strengths and bring in the experts where needed. So, has Huawei created the best streaming speaker £300 can buy? From a sound quality perspective, and despite only streaming, at best, Bluetooth 5.1 aptX (16-bit/44.1kHz), the performance is sensational.
Wherever we positioned the speaker in the room, we were met with a thunderous amount of volume – rated up to 93dB – without a hint of distortion. The Sound X is louder than anything else we’ve tried at this size or price, and even kept pace (in terms of volume) with Naim’s £749 Muso Qb 2. But we’re not 12 and this isn’t a boombox, and volume counts for very little without detail, soundstage and balance to match. In this respect Devialet can be proud of the shift it has put in, having created a speaker full of nuanced power that more than justifies its price tag.
Like the Devialet Phantom, there’s a richness to the sound quality here, and an impressive amount of control over the low frequencies. We sampled tracks across genres, from the rough and rumbling D&B classic Valley of The Shadows by Origin Unknown, through the Talking Heads back catalogue with Tina Weymouth’s edgy bass lines, and the Sound X remained accomplished, boasting a level of audio authority we genuinely weren’t expecting.
It’s not the final word in sonic subtly, and neither should it be for £300. The bassline prefers to show off at higher volume, and this is evident when played side-by-side with the Apple HomePod, which is sorely lacking the same weight of impact as the X, but still matches it comfortably on balance and detail.
But all is not perfect. Firstly, and we assume this is down to ongoing issues over privacy, despite it having a quad-core 1.5GHz processor, built-in 512MB storage, 8GB storage and Wi-Fi, outside of China the Sound X is little more than a good Bluetooth speaker. There’s no Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant, and the lack of Wi-Fi limits audio-streaming quality, which is a crying shame.
If you have a Huawei phone, you can tap on the NFC logo to hand-off music to the speaker, and it also plays nice with Huawei HiLink, the company’s smart control platform, but practical uses remain scant compared to the competition.
Maybe the Devialet badge and trickle-down audio wizardry is enough to entice, but Huawei isn’t a hi-fi company, and, like Apple, it desperately wants you to invest in its tech and communications ecosystem. Without the hands-free simplicity and enhanced streaming compatibility of brands such as Sonos, Amazon and Apple, despite the Sound X’s strong audio showing it remains a few updates short of the competition.
Price: £299 | Huawei
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