FOR Wide soundfield; good detail; pairs with two devices AGAINST Lacklustre delivery; bass and mid need more power
A fair assumption here is that the X3 is the bigger brother to the little Onkyo T3. And it is, undeniably, bigger, but the two models don’t immediately scream ‘siblings’. We’re thinking more ‘cousins’.
Eschewing the ingot-like look of the little ’un, the X3 adopts an elliptical form. In the process, though, it loses the visual charm of the little T3. It’s sleek, yes, but it’s also a plain-looking Bluetooth speaker – especially when pitched up against rivals such as the JBL Charge 2+ (see p36) and Award-winning UE Roll 2.
The upper end of portable
The larger chassis – the X3 weighs 620g more than the T3 – naturally isn’t as handy as its cousin’s but allows the Onkyo to remain in the ‘portable’ category. It will still fit in your luggage, but it’s no longer a shoo-in for a handbag. The upside is more space for components. The X3 houses a pair of 45mm drivers plus a brace of 64mm passive radiators, driven by 2 x 4.5W max power.
In addition to the enhanced audio muscle, the X3 maintains the T3’s portable power-pack feature – feel free to use a mains-charged X3 to revive your smartphone – as well as a mic for hands-free calls. The package includes a power supply and, handily, regional plugs, meaning one less device for your travel plug. Even without being attached to the mains, the Onkyo promises up to eight hours’ play from a full charge.
The X3 also offers a double-pairing function. Essentially, this enables you to simultaneously connect two devices, letting you instantly switch music between them. This feature is easy to ‘skim-read over’, but in action it’s actually pretty neat. Whether you’ve got a buddy over, or you and your partner connect, we came up with a fair few scenarios where this option is marked ‘improvement’ on the kerfuffle of un-pairing and pairing devices – often to just hear one new track.
“It enables you to connect two devices and instantly switch music between them”
At this money, the feature count is good, but the sound quality doesn’t receive our double thumbs-up. As expected it sounds bigger than the slighter X3, reaching further while delivering an evenly spread sound. Detail is fine here too, and individual instruments are clear and present. On first listen, the Onkyo also affords Holst’s Mars reasonable space in which to sonically breathe, but a swift comparison with other devices around this price confirms that this classic piece of classical merits more headroom.
Switch to similarly priced, and sized, rival speakers and they give Mars not just space in which to maraud, but outer space, too. The X3 doesn’t bring the reach, or muscle, to match the best.
Holst’s Planets Suite also exposes the X3’s limited dynamics and ‘matt’ performance. Mars wants for the full impact of its dynamic sweeps and underlying threat, while Jupiter’s strings need more refinement and vigour – consequently, we’re left with Mars – The Bringer Of A Bit Of An Argument, and Jupiter – The Bringer Of Half A Smile.
As is the way, the biggest problem for the Onkyo X3 is not its personal shortcomings – the unit remains well specified, adequately turned out, and overall listenable. No, the biggest threats come from rival products such as those mentioned at the top of our review. Standards have recently risen sharply in wireless-speaker world; these models set the bar high and the X3 fails to clear it.
Though bigger than its T3 stablemate, the X3 nevertheless still qualifies as a portable
Even with its sleek, curvaceous form, the X3 looks pretty conventional today