No one will ever accuse Sony’s MHC-V13 of not having enough features. At $249.99, it’s not merely a massive Bluetooth speaker, it’s also a karaoke system with built-in LED lighting, and, for some reason, a CD player?! Oh, it’s also a guitar amp, an FM radio, and it features DJ controls and vocal effects. Sonically, the MHC-V13 delivers powerful audio with deep bass presence and notably bright highs, all of which can be adjusted using onboard EQ. There’s a lot going on here—perhaps too much—but at its core, this is a fun, powerful speaker with LED lights and a mic input for parties…for a day when parties happen again.
A Speaker of All Trades
Measuring roughly 23.6 by 13.1 by 11.9 inches (HWD) and nearly 18 pounds, the MHC-V13 is a behemoth of a speaker. Thankfully, there’s a built-in handle for carrying it around, but to be clear, this isn’t a portable speaker that can run on a battery—it needs to be plugged in. Furthermore, it has no water resistance whatsoever, so you’ll want to be careful using it outdoors.
The upper portion of the speaker houses the left and right 2-inch horn-style tweeters. A display between the two tweeters offers digital readouts of what sound source is connected. The 8-inch woofer is centrally located and, due in part to the LEDs that shine on it, the central visual focus of the system. The speakers deliver a frequency range of 26Hz to 20kHz.
The controls on the top panel are extensive—this isn’t a system trying to keep things simple. A Function button allows you to switch between the various possible sound sources. Surrounding this button, in a sort of semi-circle array lining the CD tray, are buttons labelled Fiesta (a sound effect that attempts to recreate the sonics of a party hall, with limited success), Sound Field (various EQ presets), Megabass (self explanatory), Bluetooth (for pairing), Flanger (which applies a comb filter effect to audio), Isolator (this runs all audio through a filter that seems to kill most bass and focus on treble), and DJ Off (the Fiestable app described below has various DJ effects you can apply to the audio).
Up front, there’s a power button, as well as buttons for play, stop, tuning the radio, and volume. There’s also a button for the LED light—pressing it switches between various modes or turns it off. Finally, there are buttons labelled Voice Changer (this applies various effects to the mic signal), Wireless Party Chain (you can group multiple speakers together, or two as a stereo pair), Mic Echo, Guitar, and individual plus/minus level controls for the guitar mic input, so you can raise its volume relative to music playing through the speaker.
The MHC-V13 ships with a remote control that runs on two included AAA batteries. Like the speaker itself, the remote is an involved jumble of buttons and controls. Beyond standard playback and track navigation buttons, it offers a wide array of extra controls related to the LED lights, EQ, vocal effects, and various sound source modes…you can even transfer music from a CD to a connected USB drive.
The platter-style CD player has a pop-up lid—we tested it out and it works just fine. Similarly, we had no issues tuning the FM radio and getting a solid signal with the included wire FM antenna.
On the rear panel, there are connections for the included power cable (which seems slightly shorter than would be ideal for a speaker this size), a USB-A port for playing compatible files (the system seems to be fine with most WAV, AAC, WMA, and MP3 files), a connection for the FM antenna, and a 3.5mm aux input. The MHC-V13 is compatible with Bluetooth 4.2 and supports AAC, LDAC, and SBC Bluetooth codecs.
Two apps, Sony Music Center and Fiestable, are also compatible with the speaker, but neither app is required to operate it. The Music Center app allows for basic control functions and EQ adjustment (but you can adjust EQ via the remote), while Fiestable is a music-based app that works with the party features of the speaker. This is where the DJ effects described above are located—you can drag your finger across the screen and adjust the levels of, say, Flanger effect applied to music.
What’s missing? Obviously not much, but a karaoke mic would’ve been a nice inclusion—much of the speaker’s features are built around the mic/guitar input, but you’ll need your own mic (terminating in quarter-inch connection) to use it. This connection should also be able to accept inputs from synths or guitar pedals/FX boxes, so there’s some versatility to it. We wouldn’t suggest the MHC-V13 as a viable guitar amplifier for musicians, but it offers some extra sing-along/play-along possibilities for parties.
Audio and Feature Performance
On the music playback front, the MHC-V13 is a powerhouse. We began testing the speaker in Flat EQ mode, but the Sound Field button provides plenty of EQ preset options to experiment with. One thing to note: The volume works independently of whatever Bluetooth source the speaker is paired with. We gave it a stress test by maxing out the volume on an iPhone 8, along with the volume on the speaker itself—not only did it get exceptionally loud, but on tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” there was no distortion. Even when we turned on Megabass mode, there was no distortion. Simply put, the speaker gets super loud and delivers a thunderous bass response that can be dialed back.
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Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the MHC-V13 ’s general sound signature. With Megabass off, the drums on this track sound surprisingly thin—the track sounds almost too bright. Adding in Megabass, things change dramatically—now the drums have a heaviness to them, but they still lack serious thunder. This is actually a good thing, as they don’t really pack much sub-bass in the actual mix, but we often hear deep bass added into the mix on bass-forward speakers. Here, the lows are dialed up, but not overdone. In other words, the MHC-V13 isn’t going to invent bass where it doesn’t exist—but on tracks that do have it, you can expect a deep bass response.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives plenty of high-mid presence, allowing it to retain its punchiness. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are delivered with some power, but not the over-the-top rumble you might expect from a speaker of this size. The vocals on this track are delivered cleanly and clearly, with perhaps a little added sibilance.
This MHC-V13 seems an unlikely vessel for serious classical music listening, so instead of discussing how Beethoven sounds through its drivers, we’ll continue with our overall assessment. Ultimately, for a speaker this large, we expected a little more rumble. That said, there’s plenty of bass depth and power, just not the crazy levels the look and size of the speaker imply. The most surprising thing is how bright the various listening modes seem to be—they can be adjusted with EQ to taste, so it’s not a real issue. Also, your perception of how this speaker sounds is going to have a lot to do with placement—its tweeters are just barely angled upward, so if you’re standing, the audio won’t sound quite as bright as it will if you’re sitting nearby. And the MHC-V13 sounds best with Megabass mode turned on—when it’s off, it’s as if Sony is intentionally making it devoid of low-end so that you get excited about the bass response when it’s on.
The built-in LED lights are sometimes fun, sometimes annoying. They can follow the beat somewhat, or simply fade between various colors. Thankfully, they can also be turned off.
The karaoke/guitar input works just fine. We ran a Fender Jazz bass directly through it without any issue, though no one is going to mistake this for a true guitar (or bass guitar) amp. The Mic Echo, which is more delay than reverb, works on both mic signals and instruments connected to the quarter-inch input.
The Sony MHC-V13 has a lot going on. But while some of the extra features are unlikely to get used as much as others, there’s no denying you get a plethora of possibilities. This is the Bluetooth speaker built for parties, as well as for anyone who simply can’t get enough extra features. It also delivers some powerful bass depth (without overdoing it) and solid LED lighting effects, all for $250. This price seems fair based on the audio and lighting alone—add in everything else, and the MHC-V13 is a solid deal.
If you don’t need the extra features and just want quality Bluetooth audio from a powerful system, the $400 Marshall Woburn II Bluetooth and the $500 JBL Boombox 2 are solid options, albeit for substantially higher prices. If you’re more into this style of party speaker, but want to see what else is out there, we also enjoy the JBL PartyBox 300, which is available for $300 as of this writing—between it and the MHC-V13, one of them should be able to serve your LED-lit, karaoke party needs.
The Bottom Line
The Sony MHC-V13 is a massive Bluetooth speaker with a ton of power and a long list of features that make it well suited for parties.
Sony MHC-V13 Specs
|Physical Connections||3.5mm, USB|
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