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A Sony ULT Field 1 speaker placed on a mossy rock in the outdoors
Dave Carr / SoundGuys

Sony ULT Field 1 review

Go ahead and smash that ULT button.
By

Published onApril 17, 2024

The bottom line
Lacklustre companion app aside, the Sony ULT Field 1 makes for a decent on-the-go, lightweight but rugged adventure-ready portable speaker—but maybe skip the off-white finish.

Lacklustre companion app aside, the Sony ULT Field 1 makes for a decent on-the-go, lightweight but rugged adventure-ready portable speaker—but maybe skip the off-white finish.
Product release date
April 11th, 2024
Price
$129
Dimensions
206 x 76 x 76 mm
Weight
646g
Model Number
SRSULT10B.UC
Waterproof
IP67
What we like
Durable
Portable
Lightweight
IP67
What we don't like
Mono sound
Lackluster companion app
White cloth finish gets dirty fast

The ULT POWER SOUND lineup is the latest personal audio product series from fan-favorite Sony. Straying from its traditional product names and model numbers — generally more suited as Star Trek USS starship registry call numbers — the ULT POWER SOUND lineup includes a brand new outdoor-oriented portable speaker, the ULT Field 1. Focusing on bass response and effectively replacing the Sony SRS-XE200, I took it to the mountains to discover how the ULT Field 1 performs in the wild.

Editor’s note: this is the first version of the article. Updates will follow as the market changes.

About this Sony ULT Field 1 review: We tested the Sony ULT Field 1 over six days. The Sony Music Center app ran version 7.4.0. The company provided the unit for this review.

The Sony ULT Field 1 is an ideal choice if you’re hosting smaller backyard BBQs, casual park hangs, days at the beach, or heading off on weekend adventures.

What’s it like to use the Sony ULT Field 1?

The Sony ULT Field 1 speaker hanging from a nail on the outside of a cabin.
Dave Carr / SoundGuys
The rope handle allows multiple placement options.

The Sony ULT Field 1 is finished in an off-white cloth wrap, an interesting choice of color and material for a portable speaker. Within a day of use, the white cloth picks up dirt and scuffs from general use and travel. However, it features an IP67 protection rating, making this speaker both dustproof and waterproof, so it’s suitable for beach days, no matter how dirty it gets. Sensibly, the ULT Field 1 is also available in black, forest gray, and orange finishes.

White cloth aside, the Sony ULT Field 1 is lightweight and won’t take up much room in your gear bin if you’re off to the woods for the weekend. The speaker also comes with a simple but adjustable rope handle attachment, which allows you to use it in various settings and environments without relying on a level surface.

The passive radiators on the ends of the speaker are recessed and protected by rubberized plastic. These protective end caps add to the ULT Field 1’s durability; Sony states this speaker is shock-proof, meaning it can handle a drop from 1.22m (4 feet) onto a sheet of plywood. Though there is no guarantee of a damage-free impact if it lands on anything less forgiving, like falling out of your car onto the driveway, it’s safe to say that it will survive a tumble or three.

How do you control the Sony ULT Field 1?

Top down view of the Sony ULT Field 1 control strip on a grey bench
Dave Carr / SoundGuys
The ULT Field 1 is beach-friendly with an IP67 protection rating.

The waterproof, silicone control strip is located along the speaker’s top, and you may be drawn to the luring metallic sheen of the ULT button, just begging to be pressed. While not all controls are backlit, the UTL button is backlit when engaged, and the Power and Bluetooth buttons show green lights when active. Below is a breakdown of how they operate:

Action Power buttonBluetooth buttonPlay / PauseVolume -Volume +ULT button
Action
Press once
Power button
Power on/off
Bluetooth button
Enter pairing mode
Play / Pause
Play / Pause / Answer/ End Call
Volume -
Volume -
Volume +
Volume +
ULT button
Engage ULT boost

Should you use the app with the Sony ULT Field 1?

A screen shot of the Sony Music Center app, showing various control and EQ options.
A three-band EQ just doesn’t cut it these days.

The Sony Music Center app offers little to get excited about when it comes to sonic control and customization of the ULT Field 1. While a minimal, 3-band graphic EQ is available, you cannot use it to modify the frequency response of bass-heavy ULT sound, which is disappointing. You must choose between the ULT preset or your Custom EQ preset.

Of course, the app also gives you access to any firmware updates, and if you have a second ULT Field 1 speaker, the Sony Music Center app allows you to pair them together for stereo performance.

How does the Sony ULT Field 1 connect?

The Sony ULT Field 1 speaker facing to the left on a mossy mountainside rock.
Dave Carr / SoundGuys
Sony recommends using tap water to clean the white cloth finish.

The ULT Field 1 connects to your device via Bluetooth 5.3 and supports SBC and AAC only. There is no option for a wired connection. However, the ULT Field 1 offers something interesting here: the ability to choose between “Priority on Sound Quality” or “Priority on Stable Connection.” “Priority on Sound Quality” provides compatibility with SBC and AAC, and the ULT Field 1 automatically chooses the optimal codec. However, if you are experiencing connection issues, “Priority on Stable Connection” will automatically select SBC. You can access this feature via the companion app.

Pairing the Sony ULT Field 1 is easy and follows the usual steps:

  1. Press the power button once to turn on the Sony ULT Field 1
  2. Open Bluetooth settings on your device
  3. Press the Bluetooth pairing button on the speaker
  4. Select “ULT FIELD 1”

How long does the Sony ULT Field 1’s battery last?

Sony advertises 12 hours with ULT engaged, but in our standardized testing, designed to emulate real-world use, with ULT off, we were able to squeeze a whopping 28 hours and 45 minutes of playback time out of the ULT Field 1.

If your charging options are limited, it’s good to know there is a way to extend the battery life significantly, but it’ll cost you some low-end in exchange.

Yes, Sony advertises a 10-minute charge will get you an additional 3 hours of playback.

How does the Sony ULT Field 1 sound?

Considering its size, the Sony ULT Field has an acceptable sound for smaller social gatherings.

Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Scores (MDAQS)

The chart below shows how the sound of the Sony ULT Field 1 was assessed by the Multi-Dimensional Audio Quality Score (MDAQS) algorithm from HEAD acoustics.

Engaging ULT Mode increases the ULT Field 1’s MDAQS score by almost a whole point in both Timbre and Immersiveness categories. Interestingly, while this setting has minimal impact on its Distortion score, it also wins the ULT Field 1 an entire point overall. By this measure, it’s clear that most listeners will enjoy the added “oomph” the ULT sound provides over the default setting.

Timbre (MOS-T) represents how faithfully the speaker reproduces the frequency spectrum and temporal resolution (timing information).

Distortion (MOS-D) represents non-linearities and added noise: higher scores mean cleaner reproduction.

Immersiveness (MOS-I) represents perceived source width and positioning: how well virtual sound sources are defined in three-dimensional space.

See here for an explanation of MDAQS, how it works, and how it was developed.

Reviewer’s notes

Having realistic expectations regarding the sound quality of smaller portable speakers is important. The Sony ULT Field 1 is powerful enough to keep a small gathering of friends going, but thanks to Hoffman’s Iron Law, you won’t get any skull-shaking low end out of a compact speaker of this size. So, if you’re hoping to get rowdy and kick off your in-law’s Sunday backyard BBQ with Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On a Prayer, you’ll need a bigger speaker.

The Sony ULT Field 1 speaker sitting on a mossy rock in the sunlight.
Dave Carr / SoundGuys
The ULT Field 1 sports a shockproof, rustproof, waterproof, and dustproof design.

You’ll first want to hit that ULT button to add some bass to your music, as the ULT Field 1 sounds relatively “thin” without this feature engaged. In a chill setting, this adds some low-end life to the speaker without becoming too overpowering when listening to One of These Nights by The Eagles. Although this speaker is mono, the layers of harmonized guitars and harmonized vocals are present, and there is decent separation. However, at higher volumes, Don Henley’s voice dominates the mix, front and center, and the rest of the instruments struggle to be heard.

Switching gears and pushing things a bit, the pulsing bass expected from cranking up Daft Punk’s Giorgio by Moroder proved too much for the speaker to handle at higher volumes. Again, portability comes with some sonic trade-offs, but the ULT Field 1 with ULT mode engaged performs just fine in more intimate settings, like around a campfire or hanging at the park with friends.

Close up if the Sony ULT Field 1 control panel, focusing on the ULT button.
Christian Thomas / SoundGuys
Smash that ULT Button!

Lastly, if you’re hoping to fine-tune the sound of your ULT Field 1 speaker using the Sony Music Center app, a note about the ULT Sound preset versus the Custom EQ mode: You can only pick one or the other. After some experimentation, I discovered that the 3-band Custom EQ is not very powerful and cannot deliver the same amount of low-end frequencies that ULT Sound provides.

Can you use the Sony ULT Field 1 for phone calls?

Thanks to the speaker’s built-in microphone, you can take and end a phone call with a single press of the Play/Pause button. While catching up with a friend over FaceTime, I connected the Sony ULT Field 1 via Bluetooth to my laptop for better audio, and it was a welcomed addition to our time online.

Should you buy the Sony ULT Field 1?

Front facing view of the Sony ULT Field 1 on a mossy rock.
Dave Carr / SoundGuys
The off-white finish may get dirty, but it is easy to find in the forest.

The Sony ULT Field 1 is a decent buy for an on-the-go speaker that won’t break the bank. With ULT mode engaged, it has enough low-end oomph to keep a small gathering going. It’s durable and lightweight, doesn’t take up much room in your bag, and is designed to withstand the elements, so you know it will survive that weekend adventure.

Sony ULT Field 1Sony ULT Field 1
Sony ULT Field 1
Durable • Portable • Lightweight
MSRP: $129.00

What should you get instead of the Sony ULT Field 1?

The Anker Soundcore Motion 300 hanging from a tree branch.
Finding a home for the Soundcore Motion 300 in the wild is easy.

For less outlay while keeping things portable and durable, the Anker Soundcore Motion 300 ($79.99 at Amazon) is worth a look. The Motion 300 offers 30 watts of stereo audio wrapped in a durable rubberized finish and is designed to perform in three positions: standing, lying, and hanging via a strap attachment. You can assign a different EQ to each of these positions for the best listening experience in various settings, and simply changing the speaker’s orientation will trigger a change to the assigned frequency response.

JBL Charge 5 resting on a bed of crystals.
Sara Carbone
Use the Charge 5 or a pair of Charge 5s to DJ your next beach party.

Of course, we can’t forget the JBL Charge 5 ($149 at Amazon). While more expensive, this durable, IP67-rated outdoor speaker pushes 40 watts of mono sound but is slightly heavier than the ULT Field 1. It also features a USB-A courtesy outlet for charging devices on the go.

Frequently asked questions

Yes, the ULT Field 1 has an IP67 rating.

No, the ULT Field 1 does not have an aux input.

Yes.

Only if your TV has Bluetooth capability.

Yes, using the Sony Music Center app, you can connect to other Sony ULT Field 1 speakers.

Yes, you can take phone calls while connected to the ULT Field 1.

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