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Sony’s odd-looking wearable neck speaker makes movies more immersive

Sony recently announced a $300 wireless speaker that you wear around your neck new, calling it the SRS-WS1 Immersive Wearable Speaker. If it looks a little familiar, you might be thinking about the Bose Soundwear Companion or the JBL Soundgear, both of which sit around your shoulders like the SRS-WS1. But that’s where the similarity ends.

Unlike the products from Bose and JBL, the Sony Immersive Wearable Speaker is not a Bluetooth speaker, even though it’s wireless. That’s because it’s intended primarily as a companion to your TV, not your smartphone. With an SRS-WS1 wrapped around your neck, Sony claims that it will surround you “in the sound and vibrations, you can enjoy a new way of experiencing films, concerts, and games as if you were actually there.” In other words, the device is a replacement for soundbars or complex multi-speaker home theater sound systems.

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To use the SRS-WS1, you connect the included transmitter to your TV’s audio output, which can be either analog or digital. The transmitter beams your TV’s audio to one or two of the Wearable Speakers, so there’s no need to fight over who gets to wear it. Each Wearable Speaker is powered by an internal rechargeable battery. It’s good for about seven hours of operation, according to the product page, and can be fully recharged in three hours. The included charging stand lets you choose where to keep the SRS-WS1 when not in use.

Among the benefits of the design, Sony says that you can still hear your complete surroundings, which definitely beats having to pull off your headphones every time you think the pizza delivery person might be knocking at the door.

As for sound quality, it’s hard to judge without trying it out, but the description on Sony’s site has us intrigued:

Both speakers are equipped with a passive radiator vibration plate which enhances low tones, producing vibrations together with bass sounds from film action scenes or at live venues. Despite its compact size, the speaker combines the sounds and vibrations as they reach the ear to provide an intense experience that makes you feel as if you are really there. The vibration intensity can also be adjusted to three different levels (high, medium, low).

Even though the neck speaker isn’t Bluetooth-equipped, Sony includes a special patch cord that lets you connect to a smartphone — assuming yours still has a headphone jack.

The choice to create the SRS-WS1 without Bluetooth seems like an odd one. On the one hand, we know that both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi can create latency issues with audio, and it would be unacceptable for audio and video to be out of sync. But on the other hand, we’ve seen several products overcome this difficulty without resorting to proprietary wireless technologies. Roku’s excellent private listening feature lets you hear the audio for your Roku’s video stream on a smartphone that’s on the same Wi-Fi network. Any device that uses Bluetooth low-latency technology should be OK, too.

Regularly priced at $300, Sony is selling the SRS-WS1 for just $250 from November 18 to December 1. It will ship in December, hopefully in time for the holiday movie marathon season.

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