Sony SRS-NS7 Review: Takes personal entertainment seriously
The Sony SRS-NS7 is aimed at a niche category of enthusiasts seeking a personal home theatre experience. At Rs. 24,990, is it worth buying?
Sony makes some of the most awesome headphones and stellar Bluetooth speakers. Hence, when we got the SRS-NS7 ahead of its launch, the mind took time to process this –WHAT IS THIS? It looks like a horseshoe to some, boomerang to others, and even a split toilet seat to the weirdos! It is, however, a genius solution for someone who said– “Wish if I had a speaker dangling around my neck but without stuffing it inside my ear”!
Inside that awkward form factor hides a potent speaker system, which when paired with a great TV, offers a unique audio experience. At Rs. 24,990, it positions itself as some serious audio gear for the discerned enthusiasts who want the home theater experience without stacking multiple odd boxes around the TV.
But does it work in reality? I spent a few days with the SRS-NS7 to find out.
Sony SRS-NS7 Design
Wearables are a tricky thing to design. Get the lines and surfaces right, and it becomes one with your physical being; get one aspect wrong and you want to stow it away forever. The SRS-NS7 lies in a weird space between these aspects. Put it around the neck and it hugs your skin like nothing else. The soft-touch plastic surface is comfy, although sweaty conditions could cause irritation.
Within 5 minutes or less, this design starts to limit your natural body movement. Because there's nothing to hold it in place, the weird weight balance of the thing keeps it shifting around the neck. Tilt your head up and it slides behind; tilt it down and it tries to ride up the next. This is more pronounced if you are not wearing winter wear (jackets, sweaters). Maybe a strap (like in a helmet) could have been reassuring. After all, 318 grams of weight dangling around unsecured is highly uncomfortable.
As a result, I did not find it even half as comfortable and reassuring as a headphone. Moving on, the controls are placed on the inner side – this means changing volume levels or turning off the mic using the onboard buttons is such an unpleasant task that you would rather pick up your phone, or the laptop to do the same.
On the plus side, the neckband is IPX4 splash resistant rated. Hence, I wasn't worried when I accidentally dropped a few water droplets while drinking out of a bottle. The fabric mesh on the top is easy to clean. And thanks to USB-C port, charging it is easy with the same charger I juice up my smartphone with
Sony SRS-NS7 Audio Performance
The weird form factor of the SRS-NS7 neckband limits the size of speakers that one can fit in. Sony has stuffed a full range driver on each side, accompanied by a passive bass radiator. These speakers beam the audio upwards in a direction where your ears lie. As a result, the beamforming allows Sony to play with the surround effects in ways that a Bluetooth speaker doesn't.
Pair it to a smartphone, set your tunes, and be prepared for a surprising audio performance. It seems as if you are sitting bang in the middle of a 7.1 channel speaker system, with similar levels of the surround sound effect. The speakers themselves are loud and good in terms of audio fidelity. The soundstage is wide enough, with a major emphasis on the mids. The lows are clear and I did not witness any distortion in the highs. Hence, Bollywood numbers as well as Indie pop sounds good, but not great. A similarly priced headphone or TWS earbuds will deliver a better audio experience.
However, it is this weird surround sound effect that justifies the price. For example, in Kun Faya Kun from Rockstar, the instrumental background score feels no different to listen to than a live performance. It is as if the musicians are performing right beside you. The passive radiator does a good job in amplifying the bass and even adds into the experience with its haptics. And, it never becomes too much for the ears. And this is with the Dolby Atmos and other fancy surround effects turned off!
This is great when you are watching movies wearing the SRS-NS7. I watched a single episode of The Big Bang Theory wearing it and I couldn't watch the same again on my TV's speakers. The audio tuning is meant for movie or TV watching, and hence it all starts to make sense. The SRS-NS7 isn't even trying to compete with similarly priced headphones, where the focus is on sublime and private audio quality all the time. This neckband is all about an enjoyable listening experience, wherein it wants to bring the joy of good speakers closer to your ears.
That's not to say the SRS-NS7 isn't suitable for earphone duties. There's a mic that lets you take calls like you would do with a pair of neckband earphones. The mic reception is decent and for you, the call experience is unreal – your phone call audio seems to be coming from around you. Nice way to make those late night phone calls with your better half immersive!
Drawbacks? It is still a speaker and that means everything is audible to the people around you. Forget the intimacy that only a headphone can provide.
Sony SRS-NS7 Smart Features
On paper, the SRS-NS7 has a lot of smart stuff packed within. The biggest one is the support for Dolby Atmos audio, which paints a promising premise for movie lovers. Then there's Sony's 360 Reality Audio, which works with limited music streaming service for the ultimate spatial surround audio effect.
Moreover, you can have most of these effects available for your TV viewing sessions if you connect it via the bundled WLA-NS7 wireless transmitter. You need to connect it with the TV's optical port, pair the neckband via Bluetooth to the transmitter, and then switch the audio output on your TV to PCM.
Sadly, it isn't as practical in reality as it sounds on paper. It turns out that you need to have Sony's Bravia XR TVs to pair it seamlessly. My non-Sony TV did not have the required optical port and hence, I was unable to pair it up with the TV. Note that the transmitter is necessary for Dolby Atmos audio. The technological barrier is too high for a non-Bravia XR TV, hence check for compatibility with your TV before buying.
Thankfully, you can pair it with your smart TV via Bluetooth for the 2.1 channel effect. The benefits of the Dolby Atmos aren't there but it still makes for a surreal TV viewing experience.
For when you have to pair it with your smartphone, the Sony Headphones app offers the ability to tweak the equaliser settings, use the 360 Reality Audio features, alter Bluetooth connection quality, and even download firmware updates. The app also records the usage activity, similar to how Digital Wellbeing does it for Android phones.
Sony SRS-NS7 Battery
Although Sony claims up to 12 hours of battery life, I am able to max out the SRS-NS7 up to 6 hours. Note that this usage includes 2 hours of phone calls on an average, and four hours of music streaming – all this at 40-50 percent volume. Charging is painfully slow, with the neckband taking up to four hours to fully recharge.
The Sony SRS-NS7 is aimed at a niche category of enthusiasts seeking a personal home theatre experience without opting for either headphones, or a home theatre speaker system. If you are looking for that from your next audio gear, only then is the Sony SRS-NS7 a good purchase. It certainly transforms movie nights with its unique surround audio effect; if you have a Bravia XR TV, or one that supports Dolby Atmos output, it could prove even better. And for a 3-hour movie session, the battery life is more than enough.
That said, I am unsure of the weird design – I wonder how many of you would like this heavy “boomerang-like” thing dangling around your neck all the time while limiting your natural head movements.
How about a headphone replacement? Nah! The audio isn't that good and the experience is far from intimate; I would rather recommend getting the Sony WH-1000XM4. What about as a Bluetooth speaker? Trust me, there are much better Bluetooth speakers selling for far less in the market right now. Is it good as a handsfree? Perhaps, but only if you are content with the weird shape and weight of this thing.
- Audio quality
- Great surround effect
- Decent battery life
- Uncomfortable to wear
- Compatibility issues
BatteryUp to 12 hours
Dolby Atmos SupportYes
App SupportSony Headphones app