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Sony ULT FIELD 1 Speaker Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Jul 10, 2024 at 09:21 am
Sony ULT FIELD 1 Picture
6.5
Music
5.9
Videos/Movies
7.7
Podcasts
4.0
Voice Assistant
7.1
Outdoors

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 is the smallest speaker in the Sony ULT POWER SOUND lineup. All the speakers in this series are designed with bass-heavy performance in mind, each equipped with an 'ULT' button capable of injecting some extra low-end into the equation. Ostensibly, it seems like a repurposed Sony SRS-XB33 in a slightly smaller form factor. Let's see if this little speaker leaves it all on the field.

Our Verdict

6.5 Music

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 is okay for music. It has a relatively balanced sound for such a small speaker, with smooth mids and highs that render vocals and lead instruments smoothly. Even with the ULT function engaged, the bass response isn't too substantial, even if it's a step up from the Sony SRS-XB33 overall. This speaker also can't playback stereo content without downmixing to mono, and coupled with lackluster directivity, this doesn't make for a great soundstage performance. While it can get reasonably loud compared to speakers of its size, significant compression at max volume can impact audio clarity.

Pros
  • Portable, lightweight design.
  • Bluetooth multi-device connectivity.
Cons
  • Downmixes stereo content to mono.
  • Lots of compression at max volume.
5.9 Videos/Movies

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 is disappointing for movies and videos. While it has a reasonably balanced sound that will render dialogue with detail, a lack of low-end oomph, even with the ULT mode engaged, struggles to reproduce cinematic sound effects. It also can't playback stereo content without downmixing to mono, and its directivity isn't the best, so it can be hard to locate where the audio is coming from. While AV synchronization error is low with iOS devices, it's a bit higher with Android devices, though your audio and video will still be relatively in sync.

Pros
  • Low latency performance with iOS devices.
Cons
  • Downmixes stereo content to mono.
  • Lots of compression at max volume.
7.7 Podcasts

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 is good for podcasts. It reproduces mid and high frequencies in a balanced, detailed way that lends itself well to podcast audio, which focuses primarily on voices. It's also portable; you can easily bring it around from room to room. That said, its directivity isn't the best, meaning you'll have to be careful with how you orient yourself in relation to the speaker. There's also quite a bit of compression at max volume that can impact audio quality.

Pros
  • Portable, lightweight design.
  • IP67 rating against dust and water damage.
  • Bluetooth multi-device connectivity.
Cons
  • Downmixes stereo content to mono.
  • Lots of compression at max volume.
4.0 Voice Assistant

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 has disappointing voice assistant integration. It has no built-in voice assistant capabilities, relying on your smartphone's Siri or Google Assistant. The speaker's mic really struggles to pick up your voice, even if you speak loudly in a quiet environment. As a result, it often misinterprets voice commands.

Pros
  • Compatible with Siri and Alexa voice assistants.
Cons
  • Mic struggles to pick up your voice.
  • Lots of compression at max volume.
7.1 Outdoors

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 is decent for outdoor use. It's extremely lightweight and portable, so you can easily sling it in a backpack or attach it to your person using the included strap. It's also certified IPX7, so it can be submerged in water, and is rated IP6X for protection against dust. That said, its six hours of battery life means you'll need to recharge it if you bring it for longer trips. You'll also need to be careful about how you position yourself around the speaker, as its directivity isn't the best.

Pros
  • Portable, lightweight design.
  • IP67 rating against dust and water damage.
  • Bluetooth multi-device connectivity.
Cons
  • Downmixes stereo content to mono.
  • Lots of compression at max volume.
  • Only six hours of battery life at higher volumes.
  • 6.5 Music
  • 5.9 Videos/Movies
  • 7.7 Podcasts
  • 4.0 Voice Assistant
  • 7.1 Outdoors
  1. Updated Jul 10, 2024: Review published.
  2. Updated Jul 02, 2024: Early access published.
  3. Updated Jun 26, 2024: Our testers have started testing this product.
  4. Updated May 24, 2024: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  5. Updated May 14, 2024: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 comes in four different color variants: 'Orange,' 'Off White,' 'Forest Gray,' and 'Black.' We tested the 'Orange' variant, but we expect other variants to perform similarly. You can see our unit's label here.

If you encounter a different variant of this speaker, please let us know in the comments, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Speakers

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 is the smallest speaker in the ULT POWER SOUND lineup. Its small, cylindrical design and bass-enhancing features make for natural comparisons with the Sony SRS-XB33. While the ULT FIELD 1 is a little smaller and lighter, its battery life isn't as long, and there's quite a bit more compression at max volume. On the upside, it has a more balanced sound overall, though. It has a similar shape to the JBL Flip 6, although the JBL is a touch more portable. However, the JBL lacks the Sony speaker's voice assistant capabilities and has higher latency with iOS and Android devices.

See also our recommendations for the best Bluetooth speakers, the best portable Bluetooth speakers, and the best waterproof Bluetooth speakers.

JBL Flip 6

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 and the JBL Flip 6 are both small, cylindrical portable speakers. Overall, they perform very similarly, with little to separate them. Both speakers can't play stereo content without downmixing to mono and can get similarly loud. While the Sony has a more balanced default frequency response, it has quite a bit more compression at max volume than the JBL. The Sony also has a slightly longer continuous battery life but takes double the time to fully recharge.

JBL Charge 5

The JBL Charge 5 and the Sony ULT FIELD 1 are speakers with similar cylindrical designs. They're both very portable and can easily be carried around with you on your day-to-day. Some key differences between the two can help you make a buying decision, though. The Sony is better built and has a more accurate frequency response across the whole range, so it's a better choice for music lovers and can withstand the elements better. However, the JBL has much less compression at max volume, so the audio remains clear even when you crank it. The JBL also has a much longer continuous battery life, making it a solid choice for weekend trips.

Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 3

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 and the Ultimate Ears WONDERBOOM 3 are both super portable, lightweight speakers. Unless you're dead set on a speaker with voice assistant support or want a slightly punchier sound, the Ultimate Ears is likely the better choice. Although its bass range doesn't extend as low as the Sony, it has vastly better directivity, thanks to its 360-degree design. It can also reach a similar volume, with much less compression at max volume. The Ultimate Ears has a substantially longer battery life, at over 22 hours, while the Sony stands at a little over six.

Sony SRS-XB33

The Sony SRS-XB33 and the Sony ULT FIELD 1 are both portable, wireless speakers that are marketed around having enhanced bass frequencies. That said, neither has a particularly punchy or rumbly bass response. The ULT FIELD 1 does have a more balanced mid and treble response, which makes it a great choice for podcasts. Perhaps the main point of departure between the two is the difference in battery life, as the SRS-XB33 has almost double the continuous battery life, making it a solid choice for weekend camping trips. That said, there's not much to split the two beyond this. Both speakers can get similarly loud, but the ULT FIELD 1 has more compression at max volume.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
RGB Lights No

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 has a similar cylindrical shape to speakers like the Sony SRS-XB33 and the JBL Flip 6, though it's a little smaller than the former. It's designed to perch horizontally on surfaces and comes with a multi-way strap for ease of transportation. It comes in four color variants: 'Orange,' 'Off White,' 'Forest Gray,' and 'Black.'

9.2
Design
Portability
Volume
70 inยณ (1,142 cmยณ)
Weight
1.4 lbs (0.6 kg)
Power Source
Battery & USB
One-Hand Carry
Yes

This speaker is extremely portable. Its small form factor, lightweight frame, and carrying strap make it easy to carry around.

8.7
Design
Build Quality
Material Quality
Good
Water Resistance
Submersible (IPx7)
Dust Resistance
Dust-Proof (IP6x)
Impact Resistance
Yes (IK rating unspecified)
Floats In Water
Yes

The Sony ULT FIELD 1 has excellent build quality. It's made of durable plastic wrapped tightly in sturdy fabric, with rubber covers protecting the charging port. You can input controls via the rubberized panel on the top. This speaker is certified IP67, so it's fully submersible in water and can even float (though the manufacturer doesn't advertise this). It's also rated for protection against dust damage.

7.9
Design
Controls
Ease Of Use
Good
Feedback
Great
Music Play/Pause
Yes (Physical)
Call Answer/End
Yes (Physical)
Volume Up/Down
Yes (Physical)
Track Next/Previous
Yes (Physical)
Microphone On/Off
No
Additional Controls
Yes

This speaker has very good controls, making it a breeze to input basic commands. The buttons are rubberized and easy to press, and the control scheme is intuitive and easy to memorize. There are also visual indicators on a few buttons that relay important information. The Bluetooth button flashes while in pairing mode, and the battery life indicator flashes at max or minimum volume. The 'ULT' button, which enhances the bass frequencies, also lights up when this function is enabled.

You can see an overview of the controls here. The 'Play/Pause' button also has additional functionality in that you can press it twice to skip a track, press it three times to skip back, and hold it down to enable voice assistant support.

Design
In The Box

  • Sony ULT FIELD 1 speaker
  • USB-C to USB-A charging cable
  • Reference guide

Sound
6.9
Sound
Frequency Response Accuracy
Slope
0.63
Std. Err.
2.73 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
55.8 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
14.1 kHz

The frequency response accuracy is fair and in line with speakers of a similar size. While the 'ULT' mode brings about a perceptible increase in bass frequencies, it still lacks the thump and rumble present in larger speakers. You can see how the 'ULT' function affects the frequency response here. With the 'ULT' mode enabled, the mid and treble ranges are well-balanced, resulting in detailed vocals and clear lead instruments. Vocal-centric content, like podcasts and audiobooks, sound crisp and well-defined. We noticed an increase in bass and low-mid response when the speaker was plugged in too.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
Binaural Recording @ 1m
Binaural Recording @ 2m
6.1
Sound
Soundstage
Directivity Index
3.53 dB
Stereo
No (mono)

This speaker has an acceptable soundstage performance. It can only play content in mono, so any stereo content is downmixed to playback in only one channel. That said, on speakers of this size, it's often difficult to hear separation between channels, even if the speaker is stereo-compatible. Its front-facing design means that, while its directivity is good, the audio won't be totally consistent from every listening angle around the speaker.

5.5
Sound
Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
87.3 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
4.89 dB

This Sony ULT FIELD 1 has a sub-par dynamics performance. While it can get marginally louder than the Sony SRS-XB33, it's still not loud enough to fill a packed room with sound. There's some significant compression at max volume, too, creating pumping artifacts and decreasing the overall audio quality.

Active Features
5.6
Active Features
Battery
Battery Life
6.4 hrs
Charge Time
5.4 hrs
Power Saving
Yes
Charging Port
USB-C
Battery Powered
Yes

This speaker's battery performance is sub-par. The manufacturer advertises 12 hours of battery life, and while this is accurate if you keep the volume at around 25%, we found that it lasted a little over six hours at 80dB with the 'ULT' feature enabled. Generally speaking, turning the 'ULT' function off will allow you to get more out of the speaker's battery life. The battery life will also depend on your listening habits, the overall volume, and other factors. A handy auto-off feature also turns the speaker off after 15 minutes of inactivity.

1.7
Active Features
Voice Assistant
Alexa
No
Google Assistant
Yes (Requires Smartphone)
Speakerphone
Yes
Siri
Yes (Requires Smartphone)
Voice Assistant
Yes
Voice Activation
No
Microphone Mute
No
Far-Field Performance
Bad
Ambient Noise Performance
Bad

This speaker doesn't feature any built-in voice assistant capabilities and relies on your phone's voice assistant. It's compatible with both Siri and Google Assistant but not Amazon Alexa. That said, this speaker really struggles to pick up your voice, even if you're speaking loudly and in a quiet room. Often, the voice assistant misunderstands the question or command, and the speaker volume decreases as the voice assistant replies.

6.3
Active Features
App
App Name
Sony Music Center
iOS
Yes
Android
Yes
EQ
Graphic + Presets
Stereo Pair Mode
Yes
Party Mode
No
Multi-Room
No

The Sony Music Center app is passable and offers you control over some basic parameters, including a 3-band graphic EQ, EQ presets, and Bluetooth audio volume, and it also displays the battery percentage. You can also use it to set up a stereo pair with another ULT FIELD 1 speaker. You can see a video of the app in action here.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Wired
Aux Input
No
USB Audio
No
Other Ports
No

This speaker has a USB-C charging port but doesn't offer the option to use a wired connection via AUX or USB.

8.9
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth
Yes
Bluetooth Version
5.3
Bluetooth iOS Latency
44 ms
Bluetooth Android Latency
117 ms
Bluetooth Range
334.6 ft (102.0 m)
Multi-Device Pairing
2 Devices

This speaker has amazing Bluetooth connectivity. It can connect with up to two devices simultaneously, and audio playback will stop on one device once you commence playback on another. Audiovisual synchronization error is low with iOS devices, resulting in a lag-free video experience with no lip-synch issues. It's a bit higher with Android devices, though it's still perfectly suitable for watching videos. That said, devices and apps compensate for latency differently, so your experience may vary.

0
Connectivity
Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Version
No Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Frequency Band
No Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi
No
Apple AirPlay
No
AirPlay Latency
N/A
Google Chromecast
No
Chromecast Latency
N/A