I went hands-on with the Sony ULT Field 1 and it's my new go-to travel speaker

 Sony ULT Field 1 speakers outside.
Sony ULT Field 1 speakers outside.

Sony ULT Field 1: Specifications

Price: $129
Colors: Black, Forest Gray, Off White, Orange
Size: 8.1 x 3.1 x 3.0 inches
Weight: 1.43 pounds
Battery life (rated): 12 hours
Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.2
Durability: IP67

Sony isn’t afraid to party when it comes to its audio products. This year, it’s celebrating that distinction with a line of speakers designed to be the ultimate party starters, and at the base of that lineup is the compact and portable ULT Field 1.

ULT in this case, stands for “ultimate,” while Field pertains to its use case as a speaker you bring into the wild — a naming convention that veers tremendously from its more numerical counterparts from yesteryear. Sony is ensuring its 2024 audio products stand out from the crowd with more recognizable titles, and “ULT” is at the center of that ideal.

The ULT Field 1 even has its own ULT key binding on the speaker that gives audio output an extra oomph where needed, most primarily in the bass. You’ll find this across the range of upcoming Sony audio devices, but it comes as a welcome addition on this compact and portable speaker as the enhanced bass-heavy audio can drown out nearby sounds.

Over the course of the past week, I’ve been testing the Sony ULT Field 1 speaker and find it fits into that perfect mold of delivering excellent sound while bringing an extra layer of portability and function to the fold where last year’s SRS-XB100 fell flat.

What is the Sony ULT Field 1?

Sony ULT Field 1 speakers on black background
Sony ULT Field 1 speakers on black background

Merging portability and deep bass, the Sony ULT Field 1 is a wireless Bluetooth speaker designed for the always-on traveler. Portability proves to be at the forefront of the speaker's design, where bass adds to its level of potential through superior sound quality and bone-shaking levels of audio immersion.

As already mentioned, the "ULT" in the ULT Field 1 stands for ultimate and even has its own button on the speaker for its bass boosting function. This essentially works like an amplifier and EQ combined, adding extra energy to the low-end.

The ULT Field 1 is positioned at the base of Sony's new lineup at a budget price, serving as the entry-level speaker and successor of the SRS-XE200 released in 2022. Sony is also launching the ULT Field 7, a higher-tier option among portable speakers for those looking for a bit more power and functionality.

Sony ULT Field 1 hands-on: Price and availability

The Sony ULT Field 1 are set to go on sale in Spring 2024 for $129 in the US market and $179 in Canada. You'll be able to scoop one up at the Sony store and alternative Sony retailers, such as Best Buy and Amazon.

In terms of alternative best cheap Bluetooth speakers, the Sony ULT Field 1 is on the more expensive side, where the JBL Go 3 sits at just $37 and is a bit more compact, while the Tribit StormBox Flow comes in at $79 and features a 30-hour battery life.

Sony ULT Field 1 hands-on: Design

Sony ULT Field 1 speakers outside
Sony ULT Field 1 speakers outside

The ULT Field 1 speaker is built on a compact, lightweight, and portable design that’s immensely rugged. It's gifted an IP67 rating, making it capable of withstanding water, dust, shock (from falling), and even rust, meaning it will outlast practically anything thrown its way and will still sound like you’re at the “front row of the concert,” as Sony intends.

The Field 1 also comes packaged in a neat design language that allows it to be played either vertically or horizontally, whichever fits your necessities. You can stand it up on a piece of furniture like a tower, hang it from the side of a coat rack, or just place it on the table and not have to worry about sound quality taking a hit — all of which lends it incredible versatility.

It shares similar qualities in design and aesthetics to its predecessor, the SRS-XE200, but features a much slimmer profile, which is a welcome change for portability's sake. The adjustable strap is also a nice touch, one that serves several use cases, like attaching to a bag, hanging on a hook, or even for simply holding amid travel.

Jammed within it are two passive radiators on each side of the speaker in tandem with a front facing woofer and front facing tweeter, both of which are tilted 15 degrees north. This allows the ULT Field 1 to rip through high and mid frequencies with ease and you'll be able to hear them much more soundly even from far away.

You'll be able to pick up the ULT Field 1 this Summer in a variety of different colors, including Black, Forest Gray, Off White, and Orange.

Sony ULT Field 1 hands-on: Sound quality

After several hours of testing both indoors and outdoors, I’ve found the ULT Field 1's performance to be pretty impressive. The sound is great despite its smaller size and the ULT button brings an extra layer of oomph to music and audio of many kinds.

Its indoor performance especially was exceptional. You really don't need to play the ULT Field 1 any higher than at about half the volume, especially if ULT is enabled, as the sound will fill the room with ease and clarity — so much so that I was a bit worried my neighbors might complain.

Where the ULT Field 1 truly shines, though, is in its outdoor capabilities, bringing so much juice that it drowns out the ambient surroundings very well. Even amidst the outdoors, the ULT Field 1 doesn't need to hit its fullest volume potential, and you really won't want to as it only offers three hours of battery life at 50% with ULT on.

While sound quality won't be as good as you might get on something a bit larger, like the Sony SRS-XG500 or its successor, the ULT Field 7, audio is still crisp, punchy, warm, and full of deep bass. Given its bass roots, I found that hip hop and other bass-heavy music sounded the best, but jazz, rock, and even electronic music still performed well.

Sony ULT Field 1 speakers outside
Sony ULT Field 1 speakers outside

Total battery life is entirely dependent on the loudness of your music and if the ULT amplifier is enabled. At 25% volume with ULT on, you’ll get around 12 hours of battery life, whereas at 50% volume with ULT enabled you’ll see more like 3 hours of battery, which might seem slightly disappointing but is more than enough as you’ll never really need to hit higher volumes on the ULT Field 1.

Thanks to the ULT function, the Field 1 can hit as low as 100Hz and up to as much as 15,000Hz. A 3-band EQ also allows you some customization on how your music is output beyond the ULT bass boosting function, proving to be a nice touch that allows you to play with audio immersion.

Given it can be played both vertically and horizontally — or even just dangling off the side of a chair via its multi-way strap — the ULT Field 1 makes for one of the most well-rounded travel speakers to hit the market.

Sony ULT Field 1 hands-on: Outlook

Sony ULT Field 1 speakers outside
Sony ULT Field 1 speakers outside

Although I personally may not be on board with Sony's overall ULT strategy, I still really enjoyed the ULT Field 1 and what it brings to the table. It's situated at a pretty remarkable price and gives you exactly what you're looking for — incredible sound in a lightweight and compact form factor.

I can easily see the ULT Field 1 becoming my go-to travel companion, especially for those upcoming trips to the beach this summer for surfing or the great outdoors when I hit the trails in North Carolina for a bit of overnight camping.

I will say, though, while the ULT Field 1 might be small, it packs a surprising punch for its size, so do be warned if you have neighbors or friends who appreciate the quiet serenity over Travis Scott.

Could it be among the best Bluetooth speakers to release this year? I'd say it's definitely in the running and it's all thanks to that handy ULT button, which really gives its output that added punch where it counts — no matter what type of genre your vibe might call for.

More from Tom's Guide