Sony 2017 Extra Bass Speakers - Review

June 09, 2017

CES 2017 saw the announcement of 4 new speakers in Sony's portable wireless range, namely the Sony SRS-XB10, SRS-XB20, SRS-XB30 and SRS-XB40. Last month saw their launch and availability in Singapore. We now look at the unique features of each, but the main focus will be on how they perform collectively.

Type - Portable Wireless Speakers 

What's The Big Deal?

1. Sony SRS-XB10

Sony's tiniest Bluetooth speaker

The SRS-XB10 is Sony's most inexpensive unit and is the most compact of the four speakers. Its silicon strap serves two useful purposes - it can serve to attach to a backpack or to prop the speaker on its side to direct music toward your ears.

  • Price - USD 48 / SGD 79
  • Weight - 260g
  • Dimensions - 75 x 75 x 91mm
  • Battery Capacity - 1,400mAh
  • Playback Time - Up to 16 hours
  • Charge Time - Approx 4.5 hours (by USB charge)

2. Sony SRS-XB20

Great sound in a portable frame

The XB20 is the lightest rectangular unit and is probably likely to be compared with the Bose SoundLink Mini II (670g) due to its similar form factor and weight. There's a single lighting tone that compliments the speaker's color nicely. It's possibly the unit that juggles weight, sound quality and portability most effectively 'cos it's light and you can still charge through a standard micro-USB cable. 

  • Price - USD 98 / SGD 169
  • Weight - 590g
  • Dimensions - 198 x 68 x 69mm
  • Battery Capacity - 2,100mAh
  • Playback Time - Up to 12 hours
  • Charge Time - Approx 4 hours (1.5A) / Approx 12 hours (500mA) (by USB charge)

3. Sony SRS-XB30

Bass-boomer with good sound control

At close to one kg in weight, this is where the bass picks up, especially if you turn the volume above the mid-level. This is a solid speaker that, along with the XB40, features multi-color party lights. It hits a more than reasonable 24 hours of playback but requires charging through an AC adapter. 

  • Price - USD 148 / SGD 269
  • Weight - 980g
  • Dimensions - 228 x 82 x 86mm
  • Battery Capacity - 4,200mAh
  • Playback Time - Up to 24 hours
  • Charge Time - Approx 4 hours (by AC adapter)

4. Sony SRS-XB40

Party animal

The XB40 is undoubtedly the life of a party. When you play David Guetta's thumping hits, you get the feeling that the low frequencies engulf you. That's of course ideal when you have big spaces where you need sound to reach out to. The party lights are most visible in the XB40 with flashing strobe and multi-colored lights punctuating the night. Hits 24 hours playback and requires an AC adapter. 

  • Price - USD 248 / SGD 329
  • Weight - 1,500g
  • Dimensions - 279 x 100 x 105mm
  • Battery Capacity - 5,400mAh
  • Playback Time - Up to 24 hours
  • Charge Time - Approx 4 hours (by AC adapter)

Common Features On All Speakers
Now, let's check out the commonalities and we'll elaborate what's the value of each feature.

All the 4 speakers feature:
  • IPX5 water resistance
  • Sony's Extra Bass feature
  • Near Field Communications (NFC) 
  • Auxiliary input (3.5mm)
  • Similar playback controls
  • Link Up Capability
  • Party Lights (except SRS-XB10)
1. IPX5 Water Resistance
This means that the speakers will not be affected even when a water jet is sprayed. It does not mean that they are waterproof so don't dunk them in a pool! Just note you'll have to close the covers to the ports to ensure everything works fine.

2. Sony Extra Bass
It's as the description says - pressing this button basically adds an additional depth to the bass levels. Only the SRS-XB10 doesn't have a dedicated button but incorporates this feature by default.

3. Near Field Communications
Sure the speakers connect to your music device by Bluetooth but they simplify the pairing process by including NFC. You just need to power on the NFC on your smartphone and hold it to the NFC point on the speaker (marked by the N logo) and you should be paired.

4. Auxiliary input 
If your music device needs to be connected by a 3.5mm cable, then that's what this port is for.

5. Similar playback controlsThe layout of the controls is exactly the same for the XB20, XB30, XB40 where they are laid out in a straight line - Call / Play / Add / - / + / Power. The XB10 is similar though it drops the 'Call' button. We'll talk about how 'Add' functions shortly.

6. Link Up Capability
A great feature to have especially if you have more than a few of the new Sony speakers available. There are 2 link up modes:

a. Wireless Party Chain Mode
Three of the speakers, namely the XB40, XB30 and XB20 can be linked together. The result is audio comes out from all the speakers simultaneously. You need to pair a primary speaker, acting as a master, to your music device then hold 'Add' and '+' buttons together until a beep sound is heard. You then turn on the second speaker and hold the above mentioned buttons again. Once done, then 2 speakers are connected. Though we linked just three of them, Sony states that up to 10 speakers can be supported in this mode. The flipside is it can be quite tedious to link all speakers if you're going to repeat the same steps again and again.

Interestingly, you can control certain functions from the master speaker such as activating Extra Bass, party lights, playback and the power. To give an example, we tried the SRS-XB30 as the master. Powering off the XB30 causes all connected units to simultaneously switch off. If you perform these same actions on the slave speakers (eg. XB20), you will only activate the functions on a singular unit.

b. Stereo Mode
There's also a Stereo Mode where you can link two speakers of the same model together where one acts as the left channel and the other as the right channel (for example, linking one XB20 to another XB20). I was unable to test this out as I had four different models on hand but judging on the success rate of linking the 3 speakers in wireless party chain mode, linking them on stereo mode shouldn't be a problem. 

So What's The Ideal Speaker For...
Now that you've seen the four speakers, you may be a little confused what speaker would suit your needs. To make things simple, we have a few user profiles that serve to give a rough idea on possible usage patterns. 

1. A Beach Bum
Recommended: SRS-XB20
You want something portable to hit the beach with. Of course, you need good sound quality and the convenience to charge through a micro-USB port should the need arise. The form factor of the SRS-XB20 would be a great candidate.  

2. A Party Host
Recommended: SRS-XB40
You love hosting parties. Doesn't matter if they are wild ones or just a meeting between friends as long as you can a sound profile that fills the room. The XB40 would be ideal due to its ability to easily make its impact felt around huge rooms.

3. A Tertiary Student in Hostel
Recommended: SRS-XB30 / SRS-XB20
You stay in your student accommodation during the week when going for class and love having fellow students over for drinks (we mean coffee of course!). If so, the XB30 makes a good choice. If you do shuttle back and forth to your home every weekend, then the XB20 may offer a more portable option.

4. A Parent 
Recommended: SRS-XB10
If you are a parent like myself, it's a strong possibility that when you go out, you'll be lugging a whole lot of stuff with you - milk powder, diapers, change of clothes, toys, blabla. The whole idea is to minimize the load you're carrying and that's where the SRS-XB10 is ideal. It's really light and the loudness is quite decent to entertain the babies / toddlers / kids to their fav Netflix / YouTube channels. 

Where To Buy
The four Sony Extra Bass speakers can now be purchased at Sony Stores and Sony authorised dealers. 

Credit to Sony for the review units.

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