While Sonos has long had the multi-room market to itself, Sony is looking to change that with its new Sony SA-N510 network speaker. The brand will also be launching the smaller Sony SA-NS410 and Sony SA-NS310, with all three speakers sporting 360-degree sound. We went up close and personal with the new gadget at Sony's HQ in Tokyo.
Sony SA-NS510: Build
The unusual design of the flagship Sony SA-NS510 means that it offers 360-degree sound, so it can be placed anywhere in the room. The conical-shaped speaker sports a distinctive grille that spirals up to the top creating an unusual textured finish.
Along with a simple array of controls, the top of the speaker is also home to an integrated carry handle to make it easy to move the speaker around. It can be powered by battery as well as from the mains, so there's no need to worry about finding a nearby plug point. We're told that the battery will offer up to five hours of playback time.
Sony SA-NS510: Features
Going head to head with the Sonos ZonePlayer S5, the SA-NS510 is well connected, packing Wi-Fi, DLNA and even AirPlay compatiblity, so that you can stream music from any iOS-toting device.
The speakers can either be used individually or as one multi-room system.
Sony SA-NS510: Apps
Sony has developed the Network Audio Remote to use with the SA-NS510, enabling you to select a music service to stream to the speaker. Apps will be available for both iOS and Android, and we saw them demoed on the Apple iPad 2 and the Sony Tablet S.
The apps were slick and simple to use - making it possible to send separate music streams to different speakers from your tablet or computer or from cloud music services (although Sony couldn't confirm exactly which services will be supported at launch).
Sony SA-NS510: Sound quality
The Sony SA-NS510 offered a strong sound performance with plenty of punch and clarity and enough low-end response to cope with bass-heavy tracks.
Sony SA-NS510: Verdict
Although the retail version of the product has yet to be finalised, we were certainly impressed by the pre-production model that we saw in action. As a standalone speaker, the SA-NS510 brings a lot to the table, but as part of a multi-room system with its sibling speakers, it offers an even stronger proposition.
The app integration is also a key selling point, as the AirPlay functionality, and we also think that the unusual design is pretty slick, as is the portability and 360-degree sound. Keep your eyes peeled for a full review.
Sony SA-NS510: TBC
Sony SA-NS510: TBC (estimates suggest £500)