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Sony ULT Field 1 Review: A Small But Powerful Bluetooth Speaker with a Secret Weapon

Sony’s smallest speaker with ULT Power Sound, the ULT Field 1 packs a punch in a portable package.

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When we went to the Sony Ultimate Power Sound launch event in New York City earlier this spring, we were impressed by what we saw (and heard). The line includes a couple of portable Bluetooth speakers (ULT Field 1 and ULT Field 7), a massive party speaker (ULT Tower 10) and a pair of wireless Bluetooth over the ear headphones (ULT Wear). The four products all include Sony’s new secret weapon: a button labeled “ULT” for “ULTimate Power Sound.” The ULT button brings a prodigious amount of bass energy to the speaker (or headphones) while still maintaining clarity and overall musicality. Ultimate Power Sound is the successor to Sony’s XBS (eXtra Bass System) which was previously available on select speakers and headphones. Today we’ll focus on the smallest entry in the ULT Power Sound line, the ULT Field 1 ($129).

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Sony’s ULT Field 1 is available in forest grey, off white, black and orange (to match your underwear).

What Is It?

The ULT Field 1 (full model number: SRS-ULT10) is a small portable Bluetooth speaker intended for music listening on the go. It pairs to any iPhone, Android phone, tablet or computer with Bluetooth capability, using Bluetooth version 5.3 at 2.5 GHz. The ULT Field 1 includes a built-in microphone for use as a speaker phone for voice and video calls, or for compatibility with Google, Amazon or Siri voice assistants. Unlike some competitive offerings (like the Sonos Roam), the ULT Field 1 is not compatible with virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa as a standalone speaker – it only integrates with Google, Alexa or Siri when connected to a phone via Bluetooth.

The ULT Field 1 is a 2-way design featuring a 16mm diameter tweeter, a 83x42mm woofer and a passive radiator for extended bass response. The ULT Field 1 measures in at 206x77x76 mm (roughly 8.1x3x3 inches) and comes with a cloth carrying strap attached, making it fairly easy to carry around or hang from a tree branch or bike handlebars. It weighs 650 grams (about 1 pound, 7 ounces). The Ult Field 1 is rated for 12 hours of music playback and fully charges from 0% to 100% in approximately 5 hours at 1.5A using the included USB-C charging cable. Faster charging is possible with a USB-C cable rated for 3A and a compatible wall charger.

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With an IP67 waterproof rating, the Sony ULT Field 1 is perfectly at home at the beach or by the pool.

Who is it For?

Anyone who wants to take their music with them, on the road, on a hike, to the lake or to the beach will appreciate the ULT Field 1. The speaker is IP67 rated which means it is both waterproof and dustproof. It can be submerged in water for up to 30 minutes at a depth of up to 3 feet so feel free to use it to communicate with whales, dolphins and octopuses (octopi?). The ULT Field 1 is shock proof and rubberized on its ends to prevent fall damage. It is also rust proof which is handy if it is used for extended periods in damp or humid environments (like a shower or a sauna).

Unboxing the Sony Ult Field 1 speaker.

Design Details

The ULT Field 1 features a pleasing aesthetic design tapering in the middle which gives the drivers some breathing room and allows the speaker to radiate sound in all directions, more or less. Sound is focused mostly forward from the area where the Sony logo is located as this is where the tweeter faces. The speaker can be placed vertically or horizontally. Sound is mono only, regardless of whether the speaker is positioned on its side or on its bottom. However, if you do want stereo sound, you can purchase a second ULT Field 1 and use the Sony Music Center app to link them as a stereo pair. Unlike the larger ULT Field 7 and ULT Tower 10, the Field 1 cannot be synched with multiple Sony speakers in Party Mode.

Portable speakers really have one main job: play music (or podcasts, or audiobooks) in places that a traditional speaker can’t reach. To be effective at this, the speaker has to be portable and durable. The ULT Field 1 ticks both these boxes. Its IP67 rating means it keeps the weather out. If it falls in the pool or the lake, no problem. Just take it out and let it dry off. Do make sure to keep the charge port cover closed, however, as you probably don’t want that USB-C port getting wet.

Sony says its shock-proof design allows it to survive falls up to 3 feet without incurring significant damage, and while I didn’t intentially toss it around, I believe it as the overall feel of the speaker is rugged and capable. I took it out on rainy days without worrying about it. I even submerged it in water briefly and confirmed that it survived with no apparent ill effects.

The Set-Up

Setting up the ULT Field 1 is pretty straightforward. You can pair it wirelessly with any compatible Bluetooth device just by hitting the Bluetooth button on the speaker and connecting to it in your device’s Bluetooth settings. For additional functionality including pairing two Field 1s for stereo or activating the custom 3-band EQ, you can download and install Sony’s Music Center app for iOS or Android. The Music Center app allows you to enable voice commands, create playlists from your local music files or access streaming services including Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, Spotify, TIDAL, TuneIn Radio and YouTube Music.

Listen Up

In terms of sound quality, I listened to a variety of tracks from folk to classical to rock and EDM on TIDAL and Amazon Music Unlimited. I compared the Ult Field 1 to a few compact speakers I had on hand: an original Amazon Echo, a Sonos Roam and Sony’s own entry-level portable speaker from last year, the petite but powerful SRS-XB100. The Sonos Roam is closest in functionality and in price to the ULT Field 1 at $179 compared to the Ult Field 1’s $129 price tag while the compact XB100 sells for just under $50. The Amazon Echo sold for $99 but has since been discontinued.

On bass-heavy EDM music like “Alive” and “Bright Lights” by KX5, Kaskade and Deadmau5, the ULT Field 1 provided a punchy sound that projected outward nicely. Without the ULT Power Sound engaged, bass was tight and solid, if not very extended. But once I hit that ULT button, the low end got much more prodigious. This led to a more impressive and impactful sound overall. On tracks like New Order “Blue Monday,” Michael Jackson “Billie Jean” and Daft Punk “Get Lucky,” the prominent bass lines sounded solid and firm even at higher volumes. But engaging the ULT button also led to a slightly recessed midrange, so vocals were not as prominent.

On softer singer/songwriter fare like Indigo Girls “Closer to Fine, ” Billie Eilish “The 30th,” and “Fast Car” by Tracey Chapman, the Ult Field 1 conveyed a nice sense of intimacy with a good blend between guitar and vocals. In “The 30th,” the Ult Field 1 captured the dynamic build-up at the end of the song quite nicely.

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Pictured (left to right): Amazon Echo, Sony ULT Field 1, Sonos Roam and Sony SRS-XB100.

Compared to the Amazon Echo, the ULT Field 1 offered significantly better bass response which held up even at higher volumes. The Echo starts to sound a bit “tubby” in the bass at higher volumes. But on the flip side, vocals were a bit more intelligible on the Echo. High frequency details like strings and cymbals sounded more natural on the ULT Field 1 and its dynamic range was far superior to the Amazon speaker. The Echo is great for podcasts, news and other vocal-heavy content, but the ULT Field 1 beats it soundly for music reproduction.

Compared to the Sonos Roam, the ULT Field 1 again offered more prominent and extended bass, but the Roam’s overall sonic presentation was more neutral across the entire frequency range. Vocals were more intelligible on the Roam, and high frequency details were clear and articulate without being harsh. The ULT Field 1 is capable of reaching much higher SPL levels, however, so if you’re listening outdoors or are trying to fill a large room with sound, the Sony is probably the better choice.

The Sonos Roam is more expensive than the ULT Field 1 by almost 50% but its built-in WiFi connectivity, Sonos whole home ecosystem support and ability to be used as a standalone Alexa smart speaker earn that higher price tag. For indoor use at home, I prefered the Sonos Roam. But when out and about, on a boat, on the dock or in the backyard, I prefered the ULT Field 1.

Compared to Sony’s entry level SRS-XB100, the ULT Field 1 has a similar sonic signature but plays much deeper and much louder. The XB100 is my current go-to compact Bluetooth speaker, but there’s only so much it can do for under $50 at its compact size. The ULT Field 1 is more than twice the size and weight and more than twice the price, but if you can swing it, the ULT Field 1 is definitely worth the upgrade over the little XB-100.

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The Sony ULT Field 1 supports a Custom EQ mode where you can adjust bass, midrange and treble for your specific tastes.

From extended listening, I found that the sound of the ULT Field 1 without the ULT power sound feature engaged was too thin while the sound with the ULT feature engaged was just slightly too bass forward on some material. It would have been nice to adjust the level of the ULT processing, but ULT Power Sound is binary – on or off. In the Sony Music Center app, you can switch from ULT mode to “Custom” and this allows you to adjust the EQ via a 3-band graphic equalizer, so I ended up switching back and forth between ULT mode and “Custom” mode, with the bass up about 5 ticks and the midrange up two ticks, for much of my listening.

Pros:

  • Fairly Affordable
  • Can Get Loud
  • Nice Compact Form Factor
  • ULT Power Sound Brings the Bass
  • Durable, dust-proof and waterproof (IP67 rated)
  • 3-Band EQ in Sony Music Connect app lets you customize the sound
  • Can be paired for stereo listening

Cons:

  • Slightly recessed midrange when ULT mode is engaged
  • No standalone smart speaker capability
  • Bass can be a little bloated on some content
  • No support for Sony’s “Party Mode” to link additional Sony speakers

The Bottom Line

Sony’s ULT Power Sound line is intended for music lovers who want punchy dynamic sound on the go. As the entry level Bluetooth speaker in the line, the ULT Field 1 satisfies both of these requirements. It gets loud enough for small outdoor and indoor gatherings and its ULT bass boost will definitely get your toes tapping. Its relatively compact form factor, durable cabinet design and IP67 waterproof rating make it a great choice for those who want to take their music with them wherever they go.

Where to Buy: $129 at Amazon | Best Buy

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