(Cybertech) – When Apple released its HomePod we were very critical about that smart speaker not being smart enough at launch. So for Huawei to launch its HomePod-a-like speaker, the Sound X, not long after it’s been lopped off Google Services – i.e. it’s not a smart assistant speaker at all – is a bold move indeed.
Just as we said of HomePod, however, the Sound X does sound really good. In Huawei’s case that’s thanks to a collaboration with Devialet, a company whose speakers we’ve fallen in love with in the past. However, in order to keep the cost down the Sound X doesn’t have that true Devialet magic in our opinion.
Plus, it’s not particularly competitive in terms of price. So, Huawei Sound X, is it more a case of sounding: why?
Design & Display
- Height: 203mm / Diameter: 165mm / Weight: 3.5kg
- Touch panel: mute, volume up/down, connection
- Mains power only, no battery-based operation
- Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity only, NFC
- No Wi-Fi, no smart assistant
- No Google app available
- Colour: Black
This black tapered-edged cylinder has the current smart speaker (sorry, not smart) look down to a tee. Its shape might be like a HomePod, but its finish is more exuberant – it’s material-covered only across the bottom third, the top two thirds revealing a glossy finish with two open ports to let the sound free throughout 360-degrees.
Up top there’s a touch-control panel, which is mounted in a floating circular shape. It’s receptive to touch, but as it only handles volume up, volume down, pairing, and mute, it doesn’t do a great deal really. There’s also no app on the Play Store, so you can’t tweak settings and such like, instead you’ll need to control through your Bluetooth-connected device’s interface (or applicable open app, such as Spotify).
There’s only Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity, with NFC for fast connectivity if you so wish, which works well and doesn’t drop out from our experience having lived with the Sound X as our kitchen speaker for a number of weeks. Even when roaming around the house and forgetting to leave a connected phone nearby it still holds the connection.
With aptX on board the sound quality, at 16-bit 44.1kHz, is on par with CD quality. There’s no Wi-Fi or other connectivity features – so no AirPlay, Chromecast, and so forth.
Also to note is this is a wired-only speaker, complete with a fairly large transformer brick found mid-cable, so it’s not battery based or remote like, say, the Sonos Move or Harman Kardon Citation 200.
- 6x 1.5-inch tweeters, 2x 3.5-inch woofers, 65W total amplification
- Frequency response: 40Hz – 40,000Hz
- Devialet co-engineered collaboration
- 360-degree sound output
When we first heard about the Sound X we were excited about the Devialet co-engineered collaboration – because Devialet has made our favourite ever sounding standalone speaker, the Phantom, which sounds out-of-this-world phenomenal.
The Sound X? Not to that degree. It sounds good, it really does, but it just doesn’t live up to what we would expect Devialet sound to be. It sounds better than an Apple HomePod, in our view, but given the higher price, general difficulty to obtain at the time of writing, and no smart extras, we’re unconvinced that people will be allured by this product.
The Sound X is Hi-Res Audio certified, which is great, but as it’s limited to Bluetooth 5.1 it can’t acquire such higher quality sound sources in its non-Chinese variant, which is not so great if you’re looking for that audiophile experience.
Still, sonically speaking there’s plenty of volume here, spread out across a 360-degree soundscape for all-around listening. Two woofers – which are exposed to the side ports and which you can watch warble about when playing your tunes loud – ensure decent bass, but not quite enough to extend to larger spaces.
Tuck the speaker into a corner to give it some more bass presence – although an app to tune its position would further help enhance that, but also lacks. The claim of 40Hz low-end bass is a bit of a reach too – even if it technically can, we’ve struggled to notice for real bass-centric tracks, but it’ll cater for kick drums very well.
We’ve found radio listening has been where the Sound X is at its best. Some of the more underground bass-driven dance music and driving rock – from Vukovi to Bush – lacks the real grit and drive that we’ve expected. It’s loud enough, it just doesn’t revel in sounding as fully formed as we know it can.
Perhaps the Devialet label has raised our expectations and made us more critical of the Sound X. The collaboration is both its sell and its downfall in some regards.
For all the Huawei Sound X does right on the wall of sound front, its sonic adeptness doesn’t quite seal the deal at this price point – and we’d expected more eloquence from a Devialet collaboration.
There’s also no smart functionality, leading this decent-sounding pill-shaped speaker to deliver Bluetooth-only duties at a price point that’s a little too high considering the vast competition.
Therefore the Huawei Sound X is a good foundation, but just as Apple’s HomePod was limited at launch – and given how critical we were of that product – it just doesn’t quite add up. The Devialet’s in the details, eh?
While we’ve been critical of HomePod and think the Sound X sounds better, at least Apple’s speaker is smarter and more affordable.
It’s cheaper, it’s smarter, and for a bigger picture ecosystem it’s hard to knock Sonos.
Writing by Mike Lowe.