Sony recently launched several Bluetooth speakers with “Party” in mind. When Sony called us up for reviewing their top-notch party speaker, we didn’t expect a full floor standing 26.6 kg beast to arrive in our labs. But when it did, we couldn’t help ourselves but ogle at it.
Build and Design: 8.5/10
The Sony V81D Bluetooth Audio System is fully black with a textured finish and is built-to-last. The entire unit is made of solid polished wood with hardened plastic in the front and top, with metal grills protecting the speakers themselves. The lights on the sides are protected by toughened plastic, bumps, scratches and the wild-party shenanigans will certainly do no harm to this speaker.
Sony V81D Bluetooth Audio System has features galore! So much so that you’ll be confused as to what to start off with first. It has DJ gesture control, drums with Taiko game mode, Karaoke, guitar-in, USB mode, DVD player, music centre with Bluetooth app control, lights show control, and can be connected to up to three smartphones simultaneously.
Ooh, the Bling!
The lights can be controlled via the app and tapped to the beat manually. Automatically, the speaker does a decent job to sync with the beat, though several times I felt it missed opportunities to really match the lights with the dance beats. Thankfully the lights can be turned off for a quieter time at home, directly via the front dedicated button console rather than some convoluted app setting button.
The main subtle blue lights of the speaker are quite nice but unfortunately, one cannot turn off the loud party lights and keep only the subtle ones on. Subtlety is not this speakers’ speciality.
Sony has gone all out to include party lights in their recent line-up, see our recent Sony SRS-XB41 Bluetooth speaker review which gets the right balance between being loud and lights done elegantly well.
This is a unique feature. In this mode, the top panel of the speaker emulates a drum system where you can play the drums to the beat to your heart's content. Yay! Everyone is amazed and happy, right? Well, not exactly. You’ll need sufficient practice of drumming (not easy) to really get it right and get used to the drum system.
On top of it, we couldn’t locate a way to reduce the volume of the drum system compared to the music we were playing. Thus the drums were ear-achingly loud, over-and-above the music. With our non-practised self-drumming out of sync with unusually loud drums, it wasn’t a happy situation at all.
The Taiko mode is a game mode for drummers, it sounds cool…but don’t, just don’t try it. No one wants to hear your cacophony and that loud noise, drunk or not.
DJ with Gesture Control
This is another cool feature. Just hit the top panel for gesture control and you can actually flick left-right to change tracks, add DJ effects, sampler, access Karaoke features etc. The same can be done via app also.
The DJ effects are very interesting, such as adding pre-recorded voices, audience applause, effects such as flange, isolator, scratch sounds etc. when timed right can sound really good. This means more practice till you get it right. The loud-sound issue persisted, but wasn’t as annoying unless you began to mash the buttons incoherently. Don’t let kids get a hold of it.
The top panel is quite the dashboard of buttons and very sensitive to touch. So much so, if you don’t lock the panel even the slightest touch will change something which inevitably happened with my curious cat who jumped on it to find out what this loud flashy thing was in her house.
Thoughtfully Sony has made the top panel splash proof in case you spill a drink and the panel lights up so that you can easily see in the dark.
You can, of course, do everything via the Sony app itself. You will need two apps installed which Sony fails to inform you about. One is the Fiestable app which is actually a plugin and doesn’t work by itself (therefore the bad reviews in the comments) but rather works well with Sony Music Center (formerly called SongPal).
The custom EQ is quite unusable as there are no presets and getting fine control over the 10 band EQ is a frustrating experience. It is as if Sony just threw in the EQ as a last thought just for the sake of completion.
Sony thoughtfully has put in several audio I/O’s in the system such as analogue audio input/output, HDMI out, composite video output and a microphone-in and guitar-in which doubles as a second mic input. It does lack a 3.5 mm jack which would’ve been nice to have that option for a dedicated player, mobile or laptop sitting next to the speaker rather than overly relying on wireless Bluetooth technology.
Being only one box, it gave the impression of being a mono speaker, but thankfully, you get a full-fledged stereo speaker setup with one bass unit. You have four 5 cm (2-inch) tweeters, two 12 cm (5-inch) and two 10 cm (4-inch) mid-range speakers and one 30 cm (12-inch) woofer to do all the legwork. This is basically equal to 2.1 speaker setup with an extra pair of mid-rangers thrown in. Here is a complete list of all the minute specs.
Thoughtfully, Sony has added several speakers behind and to the sides of the unit to prevent muffling of sounds behind-the-speaker syndrome, therefore enabling the speaker to be right in the centre of the room if required instead of a corner of the room.
Unfortunately, the Sony V81D while having wheels to roll it where you want isn’t portable. That means the speaker though emitting 360 degree light and having speakers on the sides and the back, cannot be in the centre of the room as it has no battery operation and relies on a short wire to run all of its shenanigans. Thus, the corner of the room/side wall is the only place it can be.
You’ll find Karaoke for those drunken cacophony nights, electric guitar socket for jamming to those tunes and an old school DVD player if needed. Everything a wild party needs.
The Sony V81D Bluetooth Audio System performance parameters were strictly tested for audio quality alone not for its myriad features.
Strictly by audio quality alone, the Sony V81D has a decent-to-good sound (depending on whom you ask). Don’t get me wrong, the speakers have quite the punch, the power and are totally rocking in terms of sound output but if it is a serious music listening that you want, avoid these!
The speaker colours the sound far too much to get what you want out of them. The flat EQ setting sounds very bad on the speaker, the speaker only gets alive with copious amounts of “Mega Bass” and “Movie” settings (where the mids can be heard) which is perfect for a party. In fact, I didn’t feel the punch was right as the bass needed further curbing to give a sharper kick and this is where I used even more EQing with Poweramp app with settings high in bass and highs. That is when the room really rocked.
The speakers’ strength lies in Boombastic sound, don’t expect anything else out of these.
Verdict and Price in India
Should you go for Sony’s V81D Bluetooth Audio System? Only if you are “the party” kind of person. The audio system is geared for that and does a really good job with it. There is no speaker in the entire market that can do what Sony’s V81D does and it does do it with quite the show. And this goes without saying, you need to have a big room for this speaker to really shine.
At the MRP of Rs 51,990 with a street price of around Rs 49,000, it isn’t cheap. It comes with a hell of a lot of features and is totally party ready. For those looking for a speaker that is good to actually listen to music, Rs 52,000 can get you a lot better in audio quality alone.