Monday, October 3, 2011

Sony Ericsson Xperia ray Review: Part 2 - Pump Up The Volume!

After seeing how great the Xperia ray's screen in my Part 1 review was, naturally I wanted to check how good its media capturing capabilities are.  Does the Exmor R camera really deliver?  How's the audio during video recordings?  What about music and movie playback?  Or are they all just marketing stickers on the box?


First up, audio/music playback.  Test was conducted using the ff:


I decided to compare it against my X10 Mini Pro as a reference playback unit.  I used a 256kbps mp3 of Dave Brubeck's famous Take 5.  The results from switching from one playback system to another are:


  • Included headsets aren't great.  Better than Apple's stock earbuds, but not by much.  So I won't bother giving a detailed review of these.  But these choke the sound quality of the ray to about 40% of their capabilities.
  • The Xperia ray's volume is about ¾ of the X10 Mini Pro.  This makes it quite weak, even with efficient headsets.  Although volume levels are loud, some people may feel it isn't loud enough.  Personally I find it's well within the safe db levels of listening even at maximum volume.  I would however, recommend using a headphone amp.
  • Xperia ray has an annoying clicking while NOT playing any media, this can only be heard through my reference K240DFs, not the K324P or the included headphones.
  • The Xperia ray has much cleaner bass frequency response than the X10 Mini Pro, bass notes are fuller at lower frequencies without being muddy or overpowering.  Treble on the ray seems more balanced than on the X10MP, which may make the MP seem 'clearer'.
  • xLoud feature on the Xperia ray only affects the built-in speaker, and not headphone playback (good call!)
  • The X10 Mini Pro built-in speaker is much louder and much fuller than the Xperia ray.
  • Both the Xperia ray and Mini Pro built-in speakers sound 'clearer' than the X-Mini 2, albeit a lot weaker.
  • xLoud feature on the Xperia ray makes ringtones sound just as loud as the X10 Mini Pro.
  • Xperia ray built-in speaker sounds best 1 notch below maximum volume, at maximum volume, you get a resonant buzz from the casing of the phone itself... this resonant buzz is not present on the X10MP, I'm assuming this wasn't by design, but just basic acoustics.  The sheer volume of the X10MP gives the built-in speaker a larger 'cabinet' to work with thus making it sound fuller and louder.
  • EQ has a few presets, I'm not an EQ kind of guy, but they work better than the ones on the iPhone 4 or iPod Touch 4 which to me introduce way too much distortion.  The ray's EQ is acceptable... although I would still recommend leaving it flat for the best audio quality.


Over-all, I'd say the Xperia ray has average music playback capabilities.  Nothing bad, nothing great.  I find it cleaner and clearer than the older X10 Mini Pro, but the lack of volume output makes using a headphone amp almost necessary, which negates the convenience of a small phone.  Although using it in the car is quite nice and I prefer the output going into my car headunit.

It won't win any audiophile awards, but then again, neither will any mobile phone... will you be happy with the music playback capabilities?  I would say yes.  Unless you like listening to your music at ear-bleeding volumes, it's quite decent for most users.  It sounds better than the 2nd gen iPod Shuffle, but not as good as the iPod Touch 4.

Final verdict: Average music playback.  Decent frequency response and respectable bass extension.  Low volume output, not a deal-breaker, but some may find it a bit too soft.  The included earbuds aren't isolation buds so they do let in a lot of ambient sound, which drowns out the already weak volume of the ray.  So unless your unit came with the LiveSound headset, I'd seriously recommend getting a better pair of cans.

Next up - Say Cheese!  It's picture time!  The big deal behind Sony's Exmor sensor.

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