What just happened? Sony has introduced a portable Bluetooth speaker, model HT-AX7, that offers spatial surround sound primarily for phones, laptops and tablets. This "portable theater system" consists of three speakers including a main front unit and two detachable satellites. By positioning the three speakers around themselves, users can enjoy a surround sound experience in any indoor setting.
The HT-AX7 is equipped with Sony's 360 Spatial Sound Mapping technology, which the company says "creates multiple phantom speakers at the front, rear, and overhead" to envelop the listener in spatial sound and allowing them to enjoy a surround sound experience similar to being in a movie theater. Sony also highlights the system's portability and that it doesn't require any special installation like embedding speakers in the ceiling.
The new speaker also incorporates Sony's upmixer algorithm, which the company claims can convert stereo audio into three-dimensional surround sound. To achieve this, the algorithm analyzes sound in real-time and "separates individual sound objects, redistributing them to create a more immersive listening experience." The algorithm enables the device to upmix 2-channel content from streaming services to create a simulated surround sound effect.
Sony claims the HT-AX7 provides up to 30 hours of playback time on a single charge. That's entirely on Bluetooth, as the device does not feature an HDMI or 3.5mm connection for cable-based playback. In terms of design, the main speaker is flat and oblong, while the two satellite units are flat and circular, reminiscent of Amazon's 3rd-gen Echo Dot devices.
Sony asserts the device is environmentally friendly thanks to the use of recycled plastic to make the fabric covering the speaker body. The company states that the fabric is composed of 100 percent recycled PET bottles and incorporates other forms of recycled plastic. The company also says it has reduced the use of plastic in its packaging by using its proprietary Original Blended Material that's derived from bamboo, sugarcane, and recycled paper.
The speaker system has a lot going for it, but one potential pain point is its price, which is on the higher side for a device in its category. Sony has set the price of the HT-AX7 at $499 in the US, £499 in the UK, and €550 in Europe, positioning it on a niche segment that sounds even beyond Apple's usually pricier spectrum. It is scheduled to launch in select markets in August, and is expected to become available in more countries in the following months.