Huawei’s cylindrical Sound X smart speaker has a French connection

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends

Huawei has a new smart speaker called the Sound X, and like the partnerships that have benefited its phones so much, it has co-engineered this speaker with an audio expert. This audio company may not be as instantly recognizable as Leica or Porsche Design, but Devialet, a French brand best known for its astonishing Phantom speakers, has brought a lot of what makes those special to Huawei’s Sound X.

Devialet’s tech inside

The Devialet Phantom’s otherworldly design makes it memorable to those who haven’t heard it, but the sci-fi style takes a backseat once you’ve been in the same room as one blasting out tunes. We called the $3,000 Phantom Gold, “near perfect,” and the, “finest all-in-one wireless speaker money can buy,” in our 2016 review. It is unlike anything else, and much of the audio brilliance comes from Devialet’s technology inside.

We’ll come back to that in a moment, but let’s talk about the Sound X’s look and features first. Although it worked with Devialet on the engineering, software, and design of the Sound X, Huawei hasn’t aped the Phantom’s unique design and has instead looked toward the Apple HomePod for inspiration. The result is a rounded-off cylinder with a stain-resistant fabric base and glossy plastic top.

Despite any HomePod similarities, it’s also clearly an evolution of the Huawei AI Cube from 2018. Instead of being perfectly sealed, the Sound X has two cutouts on either side that expose the dual woofers inside.

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This is where Devialet’s innovation can be found. The woofers are mounted in a push-push orientation — meaning back-to-back — which Devialet says cancels out internal vibration at higher volumes due to clever tuning. The 60W dual woofers are mounted above six tweeters providing 360-degree sound, and controlled using software which understands where the speaker is placed in a room, so it always provides the best listening experience.

Devialet’s other technology, such as Heart Bass Implosion (HBI) for super-strong bass, and Speaker Active Matching (SAM) also enhance the audio.

Sound and performance

What’s it like? Listening in a sizeable room, it certainly has plenty of volume and bass, although nowhere near that of a Phantom. The 93db SPL gives it the oomph you’d need to fill a regular sized living room, though.

What’s instantly noticeable is the clarity and control. Feeding it Tokyo Tower’s remix of The KLF’s What Time is Love — which is basstastic — revealed no droning or fluffing at high volumes. Just strong, punchy bass. The rest of my time listening was spent with the speaker in the background, where it sounded melodic and pleasant.

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The Sound X can play back Hi Res Audio files and connects using Bluetooth to your phone. If you use a Huawei phone, it supports the brand’s OneHop sharing feature. When connected to your phone it will take hands-free calls. The controls on the top of the 3.5kg speaker are activated by touch, and covering the whole section completely will mute the sound.

During my use, the controls on the speaker, and from a connected P30 Pro phone were a little slow to react.

Conclusion

It’s a promising start to the relationship between Devialet and Huawei, with the speaker impressing at first listen. However, there are still a few things we don’t know about the Sound X. It’s unknown if the speaker supports any voice assistants, or if it directly links to Spotify Connect or other similar services. It seems like it does not, and this may make it a hard sell, if the price in China is anything to go by.

This is the Sound X’s global announcement, but it has been available in China since the end of 2019, and it gives us a hint of the eventual price, which Huawei didn’t confirm prior to the announcement. In China, it costs the equivalent of about $290.

That’s approaching Apple HomePod money — too much, in other words. That’s more than the popular $200 Sonos One, $200 Echo Studio, and others.

The release date is unknown at the time of writing, but will be confirmed following the February 24 launch event.

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