We’ve played with some of Sony’s wireless speakers before, including the really-quite-large XB7, which is like an on-stage monitor wedge standing on end. Quite the beast. But nothing is likely to prepare you for the unboxing of Sony’s latest “Home Audio System” under its ‘Muteki’ line. Muteki translates from the Japanese as something along the line of “invincible”, while Sony gives Muteki the tag: “Ultimate Powerful Sound (Soul shaking sound)” and “Massive design”. Yes, well. You can see why.
First you unbox the “subwoofer section” — rather over a metre high, weighing 37kg, and offering a pair of 10-inch bass woofers with the main control surface above. Then you unbox the “satellite unit” and bolt that onto the top of the subwoofer unit, adding four 13cm midrange cones and four 50mm tweeters, two facing outward, two straight forward. You’re now facing an assembled unit which rises 1.7 metres, weighing over 50kg. Thoughtfully Sony has put trundle wheels on the back, so it’s actually quite the easy thing to move around. Given its many purposes, you might well want to move it sometimes.
What does it do? It plays music. We imagine many users will do this via Bluetooth, which has tap-to-pair NFC if your phone supports it, and we note that the Bluetooth profile includes not only SBC (base level) but also the Apple-friendly AAC and Sony’s own LDAC, which can approach high-res quality via Bluetooth if, though only if, you also have an LDAC-equipped sending device.
But not only music — there’s a disc drawer in the middle of the V90, which plays both CDs and DVDs. The V90 has an HDMI output to play video on to your TV, and can also play audio from your TV if you plug it into an ARC-equipped HDMI socket on your TV (assuming your TV agrees with Sony’s ARC; not all combinations do, though more these days than when it first arrived).
With the unit connected to our network we found that the V90 also has Chromecast inside, so any castable apps (including Spotify Connect) can be used to address the Muteki directly over your home network, and it can play shared network files through DLNA (MP3, AAC and WMA, plus up to 24-bit/192kHz WAV, AIFF, Apple Lossless or FLAC files, and even 2.9MHz DSD files). There’s an FM tuner, and a USB slot into which you can put a stick and play not only audio but also video files in MP4 or Xvid formats, again for output via HDMI.
And as you might just have guessed, given the party nature of the V90, there are microphone inputs for karaoke! Two of those, both quarter-inch jack sockets, but one can be used for a guitar. Full karaoke function, as well, with echo and the ability to pitch change the music, change your voice (seven options) and even have the unit score you for accuracy against the original tune.
All this, and gesture control. But not just for boring old next/last track, volume up/down stuff. It can do that but you can also put gesture control into DJ mode (flange it, isolate it to drop the bass, wah it or pan it) or Sampler mode to trigger sound effects, which sometimes shot out alarming loud — ‘Come on!’, ‘Let’s Go!’ or scratching, cheering and more phasing stuff. The gestures also work in karaoke mode, which rather cruelly includes a “booing” sound effect…
We found the gesture control took a bit of practise to get right — there’s left, right, up, down and also rotating waves to triggers its joys. But then all the best DJing requires a bit of skill, and anyone living with this tower of delight will surely invest the time required to get suitably ‘jiggy’ with it. [Subs, please substitute a suitably youthful ‘with it’ phrase for ‘jiggy’ here, thanks.]
Not content with being visually imposing in its own right, the V90 is loaded with lights, which you can enjoy using almost as many modes as are available for the sound. They seemed somewhat connected to the sound, if not quite flashing in time. You can take control of this remotely using Sony’s Music Centre app (formerly known as SongPal, and referred to as such in the manual) and then further downloading the ‘Fiesta’ extension to this, which allows custom colour and speed control. All this works most effectively in darkness or semidarkness, of course, reinforcing the V90’s party machine status. One warning: “Don’t look directly at the light-emitting part” warns Sony, in its best Poltergeist impression. We tried not to.
Fortuitiously we had an office party while the V90 was in residence, and of course it caused quite the stir, blasting out the tunes under the control of our iPhone’s djay 2 app via Bluetooth, then switched to its TV input for a particularly popular Australian horse race, the commentary being, for the first time in office memory, audible over the general clamour of people discussing their dodgy sweeps selections.
We also spent time with it in our proper listening room, where its true audio abilities could be assessed in a more leisurely manner. As you might guess, it’s not a hi-fi performance, more of a club-style sound simulator. It delivers a great deal of large-scale bass, which you can dial down using either the sound EQ presets — we tried the ‘flat’ setting and also a reduction via the app of the subwoofer level a notch or two. But reducing the bass in this way merely left the higher frequencies overdominant. The treble response depended very much on your listening height — curtailed when seated, raised when standing — while the midrange was recessed between this and that stonking bass response, so that for once we’d say get off the ‘flat’ setting and let the unit deliver what is clearly intended. When we engaged Sony’s ClearVoice+ option supposed to select the best sound for your music source), it immediately slammed on the MegaBass and chose the ‘RnB’ sound setting, even though at the time it was playing Leonard Cohen. There is some distinction of left and right, though limited in width, and our usual reference tracks seemed ridiculously out of place — this isn’t a speaker system designed for Diana Krall. Nor is it designed to deliver rapid dynamics. It is designed to party, and we see it fulfilling its task in basement recreation rooms — connected to a TV for DVD playback, pumping tunes and lights for the teenagers, put into ‘Virtual Football Mode’ to crank up the stadium atmosphere for the big game, and ready later for some post-match karaoke and guitar-shredding.
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Clearly once you have one Muteki V90, the rest of your friends and family will want one too. Should you thereby assemble a veritable Stonehenge of Mutekis, there are ‘Party Chain’ connections on the back to connect them all together, and you can use Wi-Fi or Ethernet to further add multiroom playback with other compatible systems. Any of the linked units can become the Party ‘host’, and each speaker system can be set to stereo, left only or right only. Just remember it’s polite to invite the neighbours...
Sony Muteki MHC-V90DW Home Audio System
+ Built to party
+ A lot of stuff for the money
+ Wide range of sources and functions
- Not strictly high fidelity
Inputs: Ethernet/Wi-Fi, CD/DVD, Chromecast, Bluetooth with LDAC, USB-A (charge and play), DLNA, FM tuner, 1 x analogue RCA, HDMI ARC, 1 x microphone, 1 x microphone/guitar
Outputs: HDMI, composite video, RCA audio/party link
Drivers: 4 x 50mm tweeters, 4 x 130mm midrange, 2 x 10-inch woofers
Power: not stated
Dimensions (hwd): 1706 x 532 x 494mm
Warranty: One year