Onkyo X9: Acoustic craftsmanship
Over the recent years, some of the biggest names in the audio industry – most notably JBL, Harman/Kardon, and Ultimate Ears – have been flooding the market with their own rendition of a portable Bluetooth speaker, such as the JBL Clip 2 and Charge 3, as well as the UE Boom 2 and MEGABOOM.
But the thing about them – and most portable Bluetooth speakers in general – is that their audio quality usually isn’t anything to write home about. Sure, they tend to sound incredibly loud, but often times at the cost of accuracy. Understandably so, considering they’re primarily designed for poolside parties rather than serious audiophile listening sessions.
There are, however, some exceptions. Allow us to introduce you to the Onkyo X9 – a portable Bluetooth speaker that’s more concerned about audio quality rather than decibel levels.
Design and features
Veteran audiophiles should definitely be familiar with the work of Onkyo, the Japanese audio equipment manufacturer that was once known for its high-end A/V receivers and home theater systems. You could take the X9 as Onkyo’s attempt to keep itself in-sync with modern times, while also appealing to the newer generation of audio purists.
The X9 doesn’t need to rely on loud colors or an unnecessarily quirky design to grab your attention –its understated metallic silver finish, sleek convex design, and exposed passive radiator on its back is enough to attract curious stares from across the room.
With a weight of 1.47kg and larger-than-usual dimensions, the X9 isn’t exactly a pocketable Bluetooth speaker, but we’re more than willing to trade off a little portability for rock-solid build quality. Don’t get us wrong, the X9 is still lightweight enough to be moved around the house, but it might be a little too cumbersome to be brought along on a family vacation.
When the X9 isn’t connected to its power adapter, its built-in 2,200mAh battery will step in to provide up to 10-hours of continuous music playback. There’s even an integrated microphone for you to participate in phone calls, too.
As you can tell from the exploded-view diagram above, crammed within the confines of the X9 are two 25mm dome tweeters, four 50mm mid-low range drivers, and two 3.5-inch passive radiators. Plenty of firepower, no doubt – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
What makes the X9 truly special, is the fact that it’s one of very few portable Bluetooth speakers that supports High-Resolution Audio. But do bear in mind that you’ll only be able to appreciate its ability to playback 96 kHz (24-bit) lossless PCM audio files when it’s connected to your PC or notebook via USB.
This means unless you already have an extensive library of lossless audio files, you would probably resort to streaming music from Spotify via Bluetooth instead, or perhaps directly from your smartphone though its 3.5mm audio jack.
But don’t worry, the X9 did a fantastic reproducing the 320kbps audio tracks of Spotify Premium – despite the fact that they were being streamed wirelessly from our smartphone via Bluetooth. In fact, its sound quality is by far one of the best we’ve heard from a portable Bluetooth speaker.
We’re not exaggerating when we say that listening to the live acoustic version of Nils Lofgren’s Keith Don’t Go on the X9 made the hairs on our forearm stand on its end. We honestly didn’t expect the X9 to deliver audio that sounded so amazingly crisp and clear, without ending up sounding overly harsh or bright. We could literally hear Lofgren picking and strumming away on his guitar during the complex solo towards the end of the song – it is that detailed.
The X9 manages to balance its accuracy and clarity with just the right amount of warmth, which means in tracks like Kenny G’s Jasmine Flower, for example, you don’t just hear his saxophone blaring away in the foreground, drowning out the mellower background instruments in the process. In a sense, you could say that everything is very well balanced.
As much as we’d like to continue throwing out a bunch of words and adjectives to describe the sound signature of the X9, it would probably be more relatable if we simply said that the audio quality of the X9 genuinely is above and beyond that of most Bluetooth speakers – be it portable or not.
It really doesn’t matter if you have a thing for Linkin Park, Jay-Z, or Kenny G, because the X9 is purposefully designed to deliver great-sounding audio, regardless of your musical tastes. What more, considering how proficient the X9 is with Bluetooth audio streaming, it really should have little trouble meeting – and perhaps exceeding – the lofty expectations of die-hard audiophiles.
For those of you who prefer being loud and proud, you can turn up the volume of the X9 to seriously detrimental levels without having to worry about crackling or distortion. In fact, the X9 has more than enough oomph to make its presence felt in a living room.
Not often will we come across a portable Bluetooth speaker that leaves quite an impression like the Onkyo X9. It looks great, it’s built like a tank, but above all else, it sounds absolutely wonderful.
Hardly any surprise, then, that the X9 is able to confidently command a very premium price tag of RM1,899. Yes, it’s plenty expensive for a Bluetooth speaker, let alone a portable one, but you can rest assured that it’s worth every single cent.
In fact, we dare say that the X9 could very well be the only Bluetooth speaker that you will ever need. Period.