We had the chance to take a listen to Sony’s 360RA speakers back at CES 2020, and they sounded pretty good back then, but now, the SRS-RA3000 and SRS-RA5000 are finally out and available, so… How do they perform?
These are Sony’s first speakers that come with their 360RA spatial sound technology inside, and Sony is actually claiming that these speakers will make it sound as if you’re listening to music inside a cosy cafe by delivering a 360-degree surround sound experience.
Here’s how it works. There’s plenty packed in these two speakers, so let’s look at the RA5000 first. There are three up-firing drivers, three drivers in the middle firing outwards and a subwoofer. This means that sound really is projected in all directions, even vertically up, so that it bounces off the ceiling and kind of fills the room.
Of course, that means there are certain “optimal” listening conditions, like placing the speaker around a metre off the ground, and that your ceiling can’t be too high, but most homes will fit within those criteria anyway.
How does it sound? Well, pretty darn good. It has the Sony sound, warm and lush, and the 360RA tech does help music fill the room quite evenly. It’s full and pretty detailed. I can’t even describe the soundstage because it’s not a traditional soundstage. No matter where you stand in the room, the music sounds exactly the same. It’s wide and it’s encompassing and it really does sound like it’s a proper speaker system instead of just one standalone speaker.
The RA5000 is the bigger brother and costs more, at S$849, but it’s designed to be a speaker for the living room or bigger spaces. It does get plenty loud too, so if you’re having a party at home, having this speaker in the middle of the room makes sure that everybody gets to listen to your awesome playlist.
If you’re looking for something smaller and more affordable, the RA3000 has a more conventional speaker silhouette but doesn’t sound quite as detailed.
It uses a single full-range driver, an omni-diffuser to spread sound, two passive radiators for better bass response and two tweeter units. The RA3000 still fires sound upwards, and while it does do a pretty good job at filling the room with sound, the RA5000 had more power and I found myself opting to turn on the RA5000 more often than the RA3000.
You’ll want to use 360RA tracks with these since that is when the speakers shine. Unfortunately, it means you’ll need a Tidal, Deezer or nugs.net subscription. Thankfully, every purchase of the speakers will come with a free 3-month trial for Tidal, so that’s definitely handy.
If you’re stuck with Spotify or Apple Music though, no problem. Sony has its own Immersive Audio Enhancement feature which uses algorithms and digital signal processing to upscale stereo tracks into surround sound. It’s not as realistic as 360 Reality Audio tracks, but at least the option is provided.
Both speakers also have sound calibration so that you get the best out of them no matter where you put them. It’s automatic on the RA3000, but for the RA5000, you’ll have to hold down on a button to start the process of measuring the environment and adjusting the sound.
You can control them via the Sony Music Centre app, where you can toggle EQ presets, adjust the level of the up-firing speakers, and turn features like Auto Volume on or off. Both speakers can work over Wi-Fi or Bluetooth but do keep in mind that the speaker only supports SBC and AAC codecs. They’re also compatible with Google Assistant-enabled devices, so while you can’t use the Sony speakers themselves to activate Google, you can control them if you have a Google Nest or Home speaker.
All in all, they’re great speakers. The RA5000 might be a bit overkill for use in a bedroom, but it really does shine when placed in the middle of a wide-open area. The only downside I can see is that the asking price of S$849 is a bit steep. But if you take into account the fact that it’s a single speaker that offers surround sound audio, it might work for some people.
The RA3000, on the other hand, is a compact little vertical speaker that fits nicely anywhere; on your bedside table, on a kitchen counter or even in the bathroom. It even has humidity resistance, so as long as you don’t splash water on the RA3000, you can use it to listen to music while you’re showering. Most importantly, it’s more affordable at S$449.
Content by Cheryl Tan