FOR Scale and dynamics; can play hi-res files; built to last AGAINST Competitors offer better organisation and detail
As anyone who’s studied the laws of the school playground will know, being first isn’t always best. That hasn’t deterred Onkyo, however, which has billed the X9 as the first high-resolution audio portable speaker.
It’s quite a USP: this Hra-accredited speaker can connect to your PC or laptop via USB to play PCM formats up to 24-bit/96khz and play (but downsample) 24-bit/192khz files. There’s still the opportunity to stream via Bluetooth or plug a source into a 3.5mm jack – it’s just there’s now the scope to go one better.
The X9’s scale and weight, almost one-and-a-half kilograms, mean it isn’t the easiest to carry around, but it feels satisfyingly robust.
Underneath its slim, curved shell is a driver set-up that appears to confirm that notion. You’re looking at a pair of 5cm mid/bass drivers, two 19mm tweeters and two passive radiators, one of which is visible from the rear.
We begin connecting via Bluetooth and stream 65daysofstatic’s No Man’s Sky soundtrack, Music For An Infinite Universe. The first thing we notice is the power and the scale of the sound, which is impressive not only in absolute terms but in that, for this price, the X9 can combine that soundstage with such musical sensibility.
The detail isn’t phenomenal, but there’s more insight than from many competitors. What’s best about the sound, though, is what it does with that insight. The dynamics are as delicate as they are entertaining, the timing is pleasing and there are no hard edges or wobbly low end.
We aren’t going to pass up the opportunity to play some hi-res files either. Plugging into a Mac, we play FLAC files of Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm’s Loon, downloaded from Onkyo’s own hi-res music service. Compared with the same track played through Tidal but with lower bit-rate, there is a step up in terms of detail, but the X9 is still restricted within the confines of its own ability. Being tethered to a laptop, it raises a question about the speaker’s purpose – are we striving for the best-possible sound, even at the expense of portability? If played in the house we’d probably go for the least-mobile option.
Scale, range and resolution
Sitting the Onkyo next to the KEF Muo and Dali Katch, admittedly each costing more and more again respectively, reveals improvements. Those busy recordings are better organised by the Muo, though without the scale or dynamic range of the X9, whereas the Katch is a step up in each respect (though it doesn’t offer hi-res compatibility). But, whatever the opposition, Onkyo has delivered a product with scale and musicality that mustn’t be ignored.
Not the easiest to carry around, but the curved X9 is a robust piece of kit
10-hour battery life
Two passive radiators