LED lights seem to be all rage now whether you are looking at gaming keyboards, mices and even portable wireless speakers. And if you’re into loud deep bass and ah-beng style lighting, Sony wants you to know that they have got you pretty much covered with its SRS-XB series of portable speakers.
The SRS-XB series (with line light) comes in 3 models: the XB20, XB30 and XB40. For this review, we are only comparing the XB20 and 30 respectively as the XB40 is basically just a larger version of the XB30.
|Battery Life||12 Hours||24 Hours||24 Hours|
|Bluetooth Audio Format||SBC / AAC / LDAC||SBC / AAC / LDAC||SBC / AAC / LDAC|
The SRS-XB20 is the lightest and the most compact wireless speaker of the series. While its not the most portable at 590 grams, the weight gives the speaker the stability to not rattle when played at high volume and it definitely feels well made with its rubberized exterior and colored metal grill.
Connectivity-wise, you can choose to pair your smart devices to the SRS-XB20 via Bluetooth or connect an AUX-in cable for analog audio playback. Sony has also included an NFC interface to make pairing with Android devices (like the company’s Xperia smartphones) a breeze. It’s interesting to note that the SRS-XB20 can connect up to 3 smart devices simultaneously (while the norm is 2), which is useful if you juggle multiple smart devices in your everyday life.
|EXTRA BASS||Press once for on/off Bass Boost – long press to turn off the light|
|CALL BUTTON||Press once to answer call/activate Siri or Google Assistant – long press to find out battery life|
|PLAY BUTTON||Play/Pause your music – double press to forward a track – triple press to go backwards|
|ADD BUTTON||Add another SRS-XB20 speaker to create a party mode|
|VOLUME -||Decrease the volume|
|VOLUME +||Increase the volume|
|POWER/PAIRING||Press once to power on speaker – long hold to place speaker in pairing mode|
As you can see, the top panel of the speaker gives you all the control you need for your music playback and calls. I do wish that all the buttons have the backlight instead of restricting to just the EXTRA BASS and POWER button.
At the back of the SRS-XB20, you will find a water-resistant cap that protects the USB charging port, reset button and AUX-in jack. I’m not sure if it was necessary to include the reset button as I never needed to use it during my test period and it’s pretty uncommon for a wireless speaker to hang on you base on my personal experience.
One thing you can expect of in abundance from the SRS-XB20 is the bass. Afterall, the XB in its name is the acronym for “Extra Bass” (i think?).
One of the main key selling point of the SRS-XB20 is of course the light show. The XB20 only utilizes a single-coloured line light that is capable of synchronizing with the music to provide another visual dimension for the users. The light pulsate with your music, letting you see the speaker vibrate as acoustic pressure changes. Even in daylight, the line light can still be seen clearly, allowing you to not only hear but also to see and feel the bass that the SRS-XB20 produces.
The SRS-XB20 comes with a companion app – the Sony | Music Center (SongPal) app for iOS and Android. The app is pretty basic for both the SRS-XB20 and XB30, giving you controls over the speaker’s power, light and music settings. A more robust Sony Fiestable app is available for use with the SRS-XB40 which gives you more control over the speaker’s lighting and audio options.
The Sony SRS-XB30 is the bigger brother of the XB20 at 980 grams. It spots the same rubberized housing as the XB20 though its now bigger with a more rectangular form factor. The XB30 is also powered by Multicoloured line light to give you more variations and colors in the lightshow as compared to the XB20.
At the top of the SRS-XB30, you will find the exact speaker controls as you would on the XB30. As usual, only the Power and Extra Bass buttons are backlighted, the NFC spot has also been moved from the top to closer to the grills.
Protected by the water-resistant flap at the back of the XB30 are the Aux-in jack, reset button, 5V charging jack and a DC out USB port. You will notice that unlike the XB20, the XB30 does not have a microUSB port. That’s because you don’t need one as the XB30 can only by charged by the included wall adapter and not any generic USB charger – a point to note if you intend to bring this around with you frequently.
One trick that the XB30 has over the XB20 is that the speaker also acts as an external battery bank. Connecting a USB cable to the speaker allows you to charge your smart devices. If the speaker is plugged into the AC adaptor, the charging will start automatically. If the speaker is not turn-on or charged to a wall adaptor, you will have to press the power button once to start charging.
Both speakers are IPX5 certified water-resistant, which means they can direct jet streams of water, rain and splashes from the pool and sea. However, the speakers are not dust-resistant so do avoid the sand at the beaches or the great outdoors.
With the XB-series, it’s clear that Sony is trying to out-perform its rivals with its performance. Driver-wise, the XB20 is equipped with a very capable 42mm full range driver while the XB30 has a larger similar driver at 48mm.
The XB20 with its dual-42mm drivers and rear facing passive radiator manages to produce excellent bass response on most tracks even with “Extra Bass” mode turned off. With the “Extra Bass” mode turn on, you get a whole lot of bass even when playing at low volume, something that majority of users would appreciate. The XB20 also gets really loud. Even at maximum volume, audio still don’t break nor gets distorted. While most of us would only listen to a speaker at moderate volume, it’s good to know that the speaker is able to handle high volume at ease especially when used at a party or gathering. Overall, the XB20 is a very balanced speaker, with just enough bass though I find that it still lacks abit of depth in the bass reproduction.
Things really shine with the bigger SRS-XB30. With its bigger drivers and passive radiator, the XB30 is considerably alot more powerful than the XB20 or XB10. Even at its lowest volume, the bass reproduction is surprisingly deep, allowing you to enjoy bass-heavy tracks even at moderate volume. That said, the speaker’s weakness is in its mids range vocal tones which tends to be overpowered by the lows. The speaker performs best in large room settings or at small parties where you will really need the lows and high for the loudness to stand out.
Another cool feature of the Sony’s SRS XB-series is the Wireless Party Chain mode where one can link up to 10 wireless speakers via Bluetooth to synchronise the music and lighting. The chain can be a mixture of the XB20, XB30 and XB40.
The speakers are well-built, sounds great, are water-resistant and can get really loud. If that’s all you look for in getting a wireless speaker and you love your bass, I can recommend the XB20 and XB30 whole-heartedly.
However, I wished that the mobile app could be more robust and provide more customizations for the lighting (the the ones by Bose and JBL). Also, at that price, a USB audio or microSD playback option would also be a good to have, something which many other manufacturers are including in their flagship speakers.
Special thanks to Sony Singapore for the review units.