Sony Mobile ES Car Speakers: First Look Review – CarAudioNow
the range of mobile devices
Let’s start by introducing the new lineup a bit more. the mobile es line of speakers includes a total of 5 different speakers: 3 coaxial speakers, 1 component speaker and 1 subwoofer. I think their goal was to cover all of the most frequently updated speaker sizes in the widest variety of cars. and this combination of speaker sizes does just that. here’s the lineup:
- xs-162es: 6.5″ two-way speakers with a separate 1″ synthetic fiber dome tweeter.
- xs-160es: 6.5″ 2-way coaxial speakers
- xs-690es: 6×9″ two-way coaxial speakers
- xs-680es: 6×8″ 2-way coaxial speakers
- xs-w104es: 10″ subwoofer
- The xs-680es doesn’t come with a traditional grille like the rest. I assume this is because this size is only for the door panels on fords, mazdas, mercury, etc.
- The xs-162es is a component speaker, so it will come with two 1″ tweeters and separate speaker crossovers in the package. It will also come with tweeter mounts that lock into a straight position or what looks like a 22.5 degree angle.
Between 6.5″ coax and component and 6×9″/6×8″ coax, you can be pretty sure that at least one combination of these speakers will fit in any car you own. If you’re not sure, you can check our speaker installation guide to see what sizes your vehicle has.
Reading: Sony car speakers review
from a subwoofer perspective, sony only offers one size: 10″. this is probably because it is the most complete sub that suits most applications. The punchy bass doesn’t seem to be what Sony was going for with this lineup either. Full-bodied, high-quality vocals and detailed instrument textures is what this lineup was designed for. That being said, I hope Sony comes up with a 12″. in my opinion that’s the most versatile subsize out there if you have the room for it. meanwhile, if you want more bass, just get two of their xs-w104es subwoofers!
unpacking the speakers is mobile & subwoofer
If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you’ll know that I like to cover the unboxing experience in a fair amount of detail. I do this because it’s part of the shopping experience… it should be covered. Apple products have solidified how significant this part of the buying process is with their packaging and products. They could probably put an ordinary product on their packaging and still make you feel good about it. But unboxing also shows how much detail a manufacturer goes into protecting their products from damage in the shipping process, which will help prevent you from installing a speaker only to discover it’s damaged.
As a quick preface to the images I’m going to share, these products were demo products so they may not be packaged exactly as they would be if they were retail products. things like the outer box, manuals, etc. they may be different on retail products, but the overall packaging should remain the same. here’s a look at the opening of the xs-162es. I choose this speaker because it has the most components in the box (for example, tweeters and crossovers).
as expected, the sony packaging is impeccable. what i look for when opening a new set of speakers is how well all the components are secured. Speaker cones are fragile and if a screw or grill comes loose, you could puncture it. The molded packaging is ideal, which is what’s on all of these speakers with the exception of the subwoofer which has cardboard. Here are some snapshots of the subpack as well, as it’s the only one that was different.
Something I liked about opening these speakers and subwoofers was that they were all very well protected with cloth, protective film, or plastic inside the molded packaging. an example is the speaker grill, which comes packed on top of the speaker. but since it’s not mounted, it could vibrate and scratch the outer edge of the speaker. To protect the speaker from the grill, Sony added a piece of cloth in the middle. It’s this kind of detail that lets you know how much detail Sony probably spent on the speakers themselves. although I have opened up very high end speakers that have also been terribly packaged. but overall it’s a good sign.
what’s in the boxes of these speakers? Here’s a look at all the speakers once I first took them out of the box with all the components they came with. these images do not include things like manuals or mounting hardware.
As for what comes in the box for these speakers, all coaxial speakers basically come with the speakers, grilles, mounting screws, and manuals. however, there are a few things to mention with some speakers:
From the get-go, you really get the feeling that this line is a high-end product. the materials they use for the cone, basket, and even the anodized aluminum coil give clues to the performance of the speakers. we’ll talk more about technology and materials shortly. but, in general, they pass the vision and touch test with flying colors.
sound characteristics of the mobile speaker en
the mobile range is from sony includes many great features that i have rarely/never seen before. Many of the features that they have introduced with this line are proprietary and truly innovative. The result is a really great, well-performing set of speakers and subwoofer. Many of these new features are quite technical and may require you to have a decent understanding of how a speaker works, but I’ll try to translate some of these features into layman’s terms. You can also read about the anatomy of a car speaker if you want to learn even more about the components of a speaker.
These are some of the most notable exclusive and differentiating characteristics that the new line presents. To get you started, here’s a diagram of the speakers to help you align the feature with the speaker itself. simply line up the numbered feature with the numbers on the diagram.
Let’s start with the common characteristics that the subwoofer and speakers share. I am combining them because they are the same technology, just in two different types of products.
#1 separate notch border
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This is a feature I haven’t really seen before. On all the speakers I’ve seen, the surround sound is smooth. This is Sony proprietary technology. as I understand it, this technology makes the speaker move vertically more accurately and actually gives the cone a higher x-max. x-max (again in layman’s terms) is basically how far the cone moves back and forth. the more it moves, the more air it pushes and the higher/lower frequencies it can play.
In theory, this makes sense as these notches reduce the amount of material in the surround sound and probably reduce the amount of friction the speaker has to overcome as the cone moves. however my only question would be related to reliability as the material is thinner with the notches and edges are often the first thing to fail on a speaker. especially in a dry climate or a speaker that is exposed to the outdoor elements. only time will tell. It also looks great if you don’t cover them with the speaker grills.
dynamic air diffuser #2
dynamic air diffuser are basically vents that are integrated into the structure of the speaker and subwoofer baskets. these vents serve two purposes:
- allows air to pass more efficiently through the back of the speaker. this helps reduce any air pressure buildup that the structure behind the cone can create and makes the cone move more efficiently and with more precision.
- cools the voice coil. The speakers don’t have an overheat sensor that shuts them off to prevent damage when it overheats like amplifiers do. so this design is designed to help ensure the speaker operates within a safe temperature range while under heavy load.
- the xs-162es and xs-690e come with a 1″ tweeter diaphragm.
- the xs-160es and xs-680es come with a 13/16″ tweeter diaphragm.
progressive height rate spider #3
A spider is what prevents the inside part of the speaker, called the pole, from moving laterally and touching the magnet that drives the speaker’s woofer. it should be stiff from left to right, but provide enough vertical elasticity to allow the woofer to move and produce sound. Sony’s Progressive Height Index Spider was designed to allow the woofer to move with more precision and greater power without sacrificing any lateral movement.
The height, angle, and shape of each wave can have a significant impact on the sound, as they will ultimately affect the movement of the cone. spyders are also physically connected to the cone via the voice coil coil (in general). It really all comes down to the material that is used and the shape/design of the material that will differentiate one manufacturer’s speaker from another. This is a feature that is hard to have an opinion on when watching or listening to a speaker, but it is a critical component. but i can tell you that each spider is designed/optimized by sony for each individual product. so the spider on your 6.5″ coaxes is slightly different than your 6×9″ speakers. many manufacturers use a spider on multiple products because it is cheaper and less time consuming. Sony engineers use computer simulation to modify each product’s spiders, then refine them through audition testing.
so while you might not be able to tell the difference or an inexperienced ear might not be able to hear the difference, spiders really do play a big part in overall sound quality. The fact that Sony spends time and money individually optimizing the spider for each product is just another example of how this line is unlike many of the speakers on the market today, even other high-end speakers.
five beam structure #4
The structure of the speaker basket is actually the frame of the speaker. Like the frame of a car, it prevents it from twisting, vibrating, failing, and malfunctioning while under engine load. Four-beam structures are very common in the loudspeaker world, but five-beam structures not so much. The five-beam frame design provides rigidity but also limits the amount of unwanted resonance that comes along with a frame that could otherwise flex, vibrate, or impair the speaker’s ability to operate with precision sound.
When I was inspecting these speakers, I really liked the design. many speakers have jacks in the front and ugly jacks in the back. but this frame design really makes the speaker look great from front to back!
exclusive speaker features
these are features that come specifically on the speakers and not on the subwoofers.
#5 synthetic fabric soft dome tweeter
Most tweeters come with two types of domes: soft and hard. a hard dome tweeter is usually made of aluminum or titanium and has a much “harder” high frequency sound. in some cases, titanium and aluminum domes can even be tough in certain applications, but they tend to go longer distances and pump higher volumes because the dome is incredibly stiff.
Soft dome tweeters are… softer in their sound shape. They are traditionally not as harsh as a hard dome tweeter and are better for indoor and proximity music (like your car). Sony uses a synthetic fabric for the tweeter dome, but it doesn’t get much more specific than that. soft dome tweeters would definitely be my personal preference for a vehicle tweeter.
Depending on whether you buy one of the coaxial speakers or the component speaker, the tweeters will either come fixed in the center of the speaker (coaxial) or completely separate (component). you can read more about coax vs component if you want.
coaxial speakers come with two different sized tweeters, depending on which model you buy:
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If you don’t cover the coaxial speakers with the grill, watch out for anything that might snag or puncture the synthetic fabric. it’s designed to be lightweight and accurate, but it could be damaged if you don’t cover them with the provided grids.
#6 mrc diaphragm material
The speaker cone/woofer material is made from what is called mica reinforced cellular (mrc) material. each major manufacturer actually has their own proprietary combination of materials that they design and test extensively. Crutchfield has a good glossary of materials, in which he describes mica as “a group of minerals composed of various amounts of aluminum, potassium, and other metals.” When he looks at the cone the series speakers are, this description of mica actually makes sense. it looks like a metallic pressed cone.
Generally speaking, manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to improve the weight and stiffness of their woofer materials. they can do this using different construction methods (woven vs. pressed vs. pressed honeycomb) or with different mixes of woofer materials. What’s worth noting here is that this is a mica mix that is exclusive to Sony, so they put time and effort ($$) into research and development to develop their own material for these speakers. I can confidently say that this material is superior to conventional materials like polypropylene alone, and since they designed it, they know that they have also extensively tested its performance. it also looks amazing and high-end.
bi-amp terminal crossovers with gain selectors (xs-162es crossover only)
This feature is specific to xs-162es component speakers and is not represented in our diagram above. this is because this feature exists in the separate crossovers that come with your component speaker set.
basically, a bi-amp terminal allows you to power these speakers with two separate amplifiers or two separate channels from one amplifier. bi-amping is done in high output stereos to try to be as accurate as possible with the frequencies that the amplifier sends to the speaker crossover.
this bi-amp feature is really for deep tuning. typical do-it-yourself stereo installers aren’t going to take advantage of it. but if you decide to use this type of setup, you’ll probably need a gain selector on the crossover to adjust the output of the tweeter signal to keep it in balance with the woofer. This is what Sony also includes in its crossovers. in some cases, you may not even need bi-amping to use this selector.
A couple of things worth mentioning about the clear cover over the top of the crossover. one, it doesn’t seal the internal parts of the crossover, which makes it a bit prone to dirt, dust, and moisture. It’s not like you plan on mounting them in an area that gets wet or dirty, but a fully covered crossover might be better suited for items other than a sealed compartment or door panel. and two, just keep in mind that you’ll probably have to remove these clear covers to access the terminals. you can use an angled screwdriver, but you can’t really access the terminal screws without removing the clear cover. removing the cover requires an allen key to remove the four screws holding the top cover.
these features are unique to the subwoofer and are not found in the speakers
#7 mrc honeycomb
the mrc material in mobile subwoofers is from sony is a little different than the mrc material in their speakers. for more details on the material itself, scroll down to #6. the biggest difference is the thickness and the way the material is pressed. Sony uses a lot more material for the subwoofer cone, and it’s pressed in a honeycomb fashion. you can see it very easily up close. Sony claims that this material produces a driver that is “10 times stiffer than conventional PP matrix cones.” rigidity is crucial to avoid distortion at high volumes. 10 times stiffness is a pretty big claim, so it must be a good material.
en mobile speaker/subwoofer specifications
here is a quick high level table of all the key specifications for mobile es products:
Out of the box, Sony’s mobile speakers look and feel high-end. Gunmetal gray with gold accents makes it a stylish speaker. Combined with the MRC cones, they are among the most attractive line of speakers I’ve seen to date. I wouldn’t even cover them with a rack.
There are also a ton of innovative features on these speakers that really make them stand out from other speakers that I’m excited to put to the test when I plug and install them. from the separate notch edge and progressive height spider to the synthetic fabric soft dome tweeter – the only real way to see the difference these features make is to hear them, but after opening and inspecting these speakers I’m sure you I won, don’t be disappointed.
I also like the full range of speaker sizes. you can probably build a system for any car you want with this line. They’re also really reasonably priced – once they’re available, they’ll all retail for under $300. The only thing I would have liked to see is a 12″ subwoofer in the lineup. maybe that will come later.
Overall, I’m very impressed with my first look at this line and can’t wait to build a system in the near future. stay tuned for that installation!
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