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In the flesh, the Sony is a very classy-looking unit. The design has been cleverly thought out, from the integration of a carry handle, to the roles of the buttons positioned along the centre of it. The speaker is either mains-powered, or you can feed four AA batteries into the compartment tucked away in the base. While Bluetooth is the primary function the BTM8 does so with the help of NFC or Near Field Communication technology to help things along. Should you happen to own an NFC-enabled smartphone such as Sony?s own Xperia X or the Google Nexus 4 or HTC One XL, you can pair the handset to the speaker simply by touching it next to NFC icon on the centre of the carry handle. My phone automatically turns Bluetooth on and connects in a matter of seconds so you?re ready to stream ? it?s a neat, convenient way to connect and it?s only going to gain popularity and prominence. As with the vast majority of speakers at this level, there?s an element of thinness to the Sony?s treble, but it isn?t overly spikey or splashy. Low frequencies display a decent sense of weight for the unit's size, while there?s good control and definition on offer too. The SRS-BTM8 drives along to Spector?s Celestine with gusto ? guitars, drums and vocals all combine to produce a relatively seamless listen. If you need a Bluetooth speaker that?s nice to use and can handle decent volumes in decent-sized rooms, then the Sony should be near the top of your list.
During the summer months, I always like to listen to music in the garden. Until recently, I used to accomplish this by using the main Internet radio HiFi system we have in the conservatory. Unfortunately, this gave up the ghost and stopped working last year, leaving me to find alternative means of listening to my music. I decided to go down the route of using a Bluetooth speaker system. Not only would this give me the functionality to listen to my music in the garden, it would also provide me with the flexibility to take it anywhere I went so I could listen to my music anywhere.
After much shopping around and research, I decided to go for the Sony SRSBTM8B speaker system. I have always got on with Sony audio products which influenced my choice with this product.
What is in the box?
Unpacking the Sony speaker was quick and easy due to the fact there wasn't actually that much in the box. The majority of the space was taken up with the speaker itself with the only other hardware being the mains adapter. A user manual was included but only about two pages of this were relevant. The rest was the standard safety information which I've never even attempted to read.
A tour of the Bluetooth speaker system
The Sony STSBTM8B speak system is nicely designed and quite attractive to look at. The materials used are consistent all around the speaker and while it does feel a bit plastically, it is obvious the build quality is exceptional and it feels extremely sturdy. The entire front face of the speaker is used to deliver the sound. Although there is only one speaker unit for this product, it still broadcasts in stereo due to there being multiple speakers enclosed inside the unit. Towards the bottom of the speaker is the Sony badge. Apart from that, there is nothing more to report about the front of the speaker unit.
The back of the unit is equally uninspiring. Apart from the Sony logo embossed into the plastic, the only other things to note are the mains port and a headphone socket.
So far you could be forgiven for thinking that the Sony Bluetooth speaker system is rather boring. However, looking at the top of the speaker is where the fun begins. Although there are only six buttons, setting up the speaker for use is extremely quick and easy. On the extreme left of the speaker, you have the power button. This is self explanatory, press it once to turn the speaker on, press it again to turn the speaker off. Below this button is the battery indicator light. Sony predict that you will get 20 hours of use out of the speaker. This isn't a bad estimate to be fair. The next button you will come across is the pairing button. As this is a Bluetooth speaker, you will need to pair it with a compatible device before it can be used. By pressing the pairing button, you will make the speaker visible for two minutes. In this time you can search for the speaker using the Bluetooth connection on your smartphone, tablet or any other Bluetooth device you may have. Once pairing has been completed, you are free to listen to your music via the speaker.
Moving over to the right hand side of the speaker you have the volume buttons. Volume of your broadcast can be controlled in two places. Firstly it can be controlled by the source device (smartphone, tablet, etc) but it can also be controlled from the speaker itself. It is worth noting here that if you have the output on a very low volume from your source device, you are never going to reach full volume via the speaker. I would recommend have the volume set as maximum on your source device and then controlling the actual volume via the speaker.
The final button on the Bluetooth speaker is the telephone button. Yes, you can actually conduct a phone call via the speaker system. Press the phone button to make or receive a call and the audio will obviously come through the speaker but, with the aid of the built-in mic, the other party will be able to hear you without the need to use your phone handset. I think this is a really neat feature of the speaker system and one that I wasn't expecting when I was looking to buy a unit.
The final control on the top of the speaker system is not actually a button, but just an "area". The NFC (near field communication) area allows you to tap a compatible handset on the speaker system and it will automatically connect. This is an extremely simple way of connecting with your Android or Windows smartphone or tablet. As iPhone and iPad devices do not have NFC capabilities, they will not be able to make use of this functionality.
Speaker systems can have all the additional functions and gimmicks mentioned above but if the sound quality is poor then the speaker is not going to become very popular. Thankfully, the sound quality of the Sony SRSBTM8B is what you would expect from a speaker system in this price range. Bassy sounds are really vivid and generally, the output is crystal clear. As with most speaker systems however, the sound does get distorted and unpleasant if you have the volume turned up to maximum (and the volume is also on maximum on the source device). On the whole, I have no complains about the sound of this speaker system.
If you are listening to music on the Sony speaker from a fixed device (ie a desktop computer system) you are going to be interested in the range of the speaker. As the device uses Bluetooth to communicate, typical Bluetooth distances will apply although it is worth noting that this range will be reduced if you need to travel through walls or any other obstructions. I have got a Bluetooth dongle in my PC which I sometimes use to play music from my computer through Spotify into the speaker. My computer is on the first floor of our house and I listen to the speaker system in the conservatory on the floor below to with no loss of quality to give you an idea of how the speaker system can be used in a typical house.
The Sony SRSBTM8B Bluetooth speaker system does everything I want it to and more. It is simple and quick to set up and can be paired to work with multiple devices although, obviously, it can only be physically paired with one device at a time. Sound quality is excellent which makes this device an essential item for parties or other social gatherings when you are not near a more traditional sound system. The phone functionality is an added bonus and although you probably won't use it a great deal, it is nice to know that it exists, should the need arise. The speaker isn't the lightest speaker system you can buy, but this is offset by the quality inside the unit. If you are carrying the speaker around for 15-20 minutes, you could start to feel your arm getting tired but it has really been designed to be placed on a surface with the carrying arm, predominantly for transportation purposes.
I bought my speaker from Amazon for £55. You will be able to pick up speaker systems for a lot cheaper than this but from experience, you really do get what you pay for in the audio market. I would definitely recommend this product.