The Huawei Sound gets our Recommended award
for the best sounding Bluetooth speaker
in the compact form-factor category
As with many recent Huawei products, since the bans on the company were applied, many of its products offer a different user experience in China than in the rest of the world. It might not even be a stretch in saying that some Huawei products are completely different outside of its homeland, from a user experience perspective.
That is the case with the Huawei Sound, the smaller sibling to the Sound X. We’ll take a look at this, and other aspects, in our Huawei Sound review below.
It’s no secret that Huawei stepped on the gas pedal when it comes to audio. They manufacture some of the best sounding earbuds on the market, so it made sense to team up with French audio technology company Devialet for the Sound X.
While smaller than the Sound X, the Huawei Sound, still fruit of the collaboration with Devialet, retains the main design of its larger sibling.
The bottom portion of the device is covered in textile mesh, while the rest (about three quarters) is shiny black plastic. While it looks great, it’s a magnet for dust and fingerprints, not that you’ll have to touch it often. The manufacturer thought of that, as it includes a cleaning cloth in the box, as well as a pouch should you not use the Sound for long periods of time.
At the very top, you’ll find four touch-sensitive buttons that light up when your hand gets close enough or hovers. There’s also a circle of light (in various colours) surrounding the area, with the NFC tag dead centre you can scan to pair, or just touch the speaker with an NFC enabled phone to start the process.
The two cutouts on the side reveal the two passive units which resonate with the woofer to minimize or eliminate membrane distortion for bass driver.
The Sound has an external power source, like a laptop, which means it will most likely spend most of its time somewhere close to a power outlet. Usually, these places are shelves and desks, which kind of defeats the 360 degrees sound purpose, but if you’re ok with dealing with cables in plain sight, you can benefit from that 360 sound by placing it on a table closer to the centre of the room. Just don’t trip over the wires.
Also, remember, this thing might be small, but it’s heavy. It weighs 2.2kg, so make sure whatever surface or shelf your place it on can handle the weight.
We touched upon the woofer and the two passive units in the design segment above (as the passive units are visible and Huawei wants you to notice them).
What you don’t see is the other three full-range speakers that are placed in the bottom of the Sound, about where the textile mesh covers the speaker.
Even though it has Wi-Fi support, you connect to the Huawei Sound via Bluetooth, something extremely easy via NFC and Huawei’s own OneHop feature. It also has an auxiliary input in the form of a 3.5mm headphone jack you can use to connect external analogue devices.
Wi-Fi is being used to update the speaker’s software via the Ai Life app, but casting sound to it isn’t as easy as it seems. Apple’s AirPlay is not supported – for obvious reasons – and it’s always just easier to stream via Bluetooth (LDAC supported) than to try and set up UPnP.
Let’s get this straight from the get-go: the Huawei Sound is a smart speaker in China and China alone. There you can use Celia, but if you’re outside of China, the Sound is pretty much a Bluetooth speaker. Period. Don’t let that microphone icon/button trick you. Google Assistant and Alexa are not supported, so if you’re anywhere else in the world, consider this a simple Bluetooth speaker.
There’s nothing simple about its sound, though. It’s sophisticated, rich, full, and to put it frankly, it’s the best sounding Bluetooth speaker I’ve heard in this small form factor. Competitors who achieve the same sound volume and quality usually have products in a much larger form factor.
Whether you have a Huawei phone or not doesn’t matter, you’ll need to get the latest version of the Ai Life app on your phone. That is if you want to access the few settings inside there. You’ll be fine without it, but if you want to customize how the Sound, well, sounds, Ai Life is the only way. You can choose to apply three sound profiles (EQ presets), and, if the insane amount of bass isn’t enough out of the box, you can go ahead and boost it further from the app.
The app is also where you update the firmware, but we never got one since we have the Sound.
If you haven’t been surprised in a while, the first 10 seconds of listening to the Sound will surprise you. I know I was. I’m still baffled by how much sound Huawei packed inside this relatively small box. We’ll go with this, and claim it our own: “the sound to size ratio” is through the roof.
Under normal usage, I never stepped above the 50 per cent volume mark. But I just had to go crazy and push it to its limit (or my neighbours’ limits) and it was insane.
What’s really interesting, and speaks in favour of the Sound, that usually there’s some distortion at high volumes. That’s not the case with the Huawei Sound.
Punchy bass and clear highs are granted, but output is a little muted in the mid-range. It might bother some of you, some might be ok with it. It’s not dramatic to the point of cut-off, but if you’re heavy on rock and other assortments of guitars really punching from your speakers, these might not be the best solution for you.
I’m an audio fanatic and I can say that the Huawei Sound really impressed me. I didn’t have any issues connecting to a Huawei phone, or any other Android, iPhone, and even my Mac.
The listening experience is pleasant (or can drive you nuts with the bass punching you in the chest), but there are some caveats.
If you decide to buy the Huawei Sound, you’ll probably purchase the best sounding speakers in the compact form factor segment. They’re also relatively affordable, going for £149.99 (with £50 off) at the Huawei UK store at the time of buying this.
You do have to understand though, that these are not smart speakers for the rest of the world. Can you make them smart if you already have, say, an Amazon Echo device? Sure. Hook it up via the 3.5mm port and you’ve got it. Just don’t expect it to be anything more than a really good sounding compact Bluetooth speaker out of the box.
+ compact form factor;
+ amazing sound (for its size);
+ great design;
+ Hi-Res Audio support;
+ affordable price.
– shiny finish can be a pain to maintain clean;
– they need to be connected to the power supply;
– no way of turning off (low-power operation can be triggered though);
– not smart outside of China.