If you love a good weekend escape, you must definitely have a portable Bluetooth speaker with you. The audio market is overwhelmed with a wide range of options, across brands and price segment. Sony recently introduced three new offerings to its EXTRA BASS series and today, we’ll be testing the SRS-XB40, which is the most powerful of them.
16,990, let’s see how well it performs.
Sony SRS-XB40 design and features
The XB40 is a bit on the larger side for a portable speaker plus it’s also fairly heavy at approximately 1.5kg. It seems and feels quite rugged and the soft rubberized lining all around gives it a premium feel. The speaker is designed to be placed horizontally but you can just as well use it standing upright, although there are not any rubber feet on the side like there are on the bottom.
The excess BASS button engages the device’s dual passive radiators for more bass, and the same button may also be used for enabling or disabling the lights. The power button also enables you to pair the speaker with your Bluetooth device, in case you it doesn’t support NFC. The XB40 can work with up to three simultaneous connections.
There is a flap on the back of the speaker which shields the ports from moisture. Here, we have an aux-in interface, USB port, DC-in interface (9.5V) for charging, and a reset button. The USB port may be used to charge your personal electronic devices.
In the front, there’s a metallic mesh grille protecting the drivers. We’ve got two full-range 61mm drivers to get stereo audio, and a passive radiator facing forwards. The second radiator is placed in the back, and may be seen through a similar metal mesh. The SRS-XB40 includes three kinds of lighting – an RGB line that runs across the edges of the mesh grille, speaker lights, and a strobe for each driver. The pattern of these lights may be controlled via the Sony Music Centre app.
The SRS-XB40 supports Bluetooth 4.2 and streaming codecs such as SBC, AAC and LDAC. The latter is Sony’s proprietary high-resolution codec, similar to Qualcomm’s aptX HD. You’re going to need a compatible Xperia device but it’s also now baked into Android Oreo so compatibility will become wider. When connected to some LDAC capable phone such as the Google Pixel, the SRS-XB40 automatically employs the finest available codec. The drivers can handle a frequency assortment of 20Hz to 20,000Hz.
The SRS-XB40 is IPX5 rated so it could withstand light splashes of water. In the box, you get only an AC power adapter. The device is officially only available in black in India, but you will find more colour options in other countries.
Sony SRS-XB40 performance and battery life
With an impressive list of features and specifications, it’s time to learn how well this translates into actual performance. The XB40 does not produce an omnidirectional sound, which requires some getting used too at first. This means that placement is very important, as you can not just leave it anywhere in the room and expect it to sound great. It functions better when it’s facing you and put on exactly the exact same plane as your ears or higher. Setting it up is simple with NFC or regular Bluetooth pairing. The light display kicks in once the music starts playing, and changes depending on the beats and rhythm.
Sony’s Music Center program adds additional features and functionality to the speaker. The Android app isn’t very well designed but it’s functional. It is missing one critical characteristic, which is a display of speaker’s battery life status. The iOS program is slightly better designed. On the main screen of this app, you can pair more of Sony’s EXTRA BASS speakers (up to 10), switch to the auxiliary input, or play songs that are on your device. You could also adjust the volume of the speaker, which is independent of your device’s volume level.
There’s also another app called Fiestable, which you can download. This permits you to add DJ-like effects to the current music track and change the color of this RGB light strip. There are also gesture-based actions for controlling music playback and adding DJ effects, but honestly, this just feels very gimmicky. The volume of the after-effects is nearly twice as loudly as the music track, which makes them incredibly jarring and irritating.
The SRS-XB40 can get really loud which makes it good for outside parties. Enabling the EXTRA BASS feature surprisingly does not muddy the sound as we had been expecting. In actuality, with all the radiators firing too, the soundstage gets a bit wider and you also get some more thump, even at lower volume levels. We used a Samsung Galaxy S8+ for nearly all of our evaluations, which included using FLAC files and flows from Apple Music.
FLAC files did seem better within a wired connection, with a noticeable improvement in clarity. Vocals were crisper and highs are a bit more distinct. The speaker’s actual specialisation is of class is bass-heavy monitors and it handles these quite well. The double satellite drivers ensure mid-range and high notes are not lost one of the bass, which is frequently true with speakers tuned for lower frequencies.
With LDAC and high quality music files, the SRS-XB40 did justice to more delicate tracks, like the unplugged version of Only When I Sleep by the Corrs. Notes in the violin were well defined and separated by background instruments.
Pressing the call button once brings up Google Assistant or even Siri, depending on your paired device. Voice calls are managed nicely and the microphone is fairly sensitive in in picking up your voice even if you’re away from the speaker.
Battery life is rated at 24 hours and while we couldn’t test that out in one go, the speaker easily lasted us about a week, with an average of 2-3 hours of music being played each day, which is extremely good. When the battery is low, the volume level is restricted to about 20 percent and you continue getting a prompt to charge the device if you try to increase the volume. Charging the battery to its entire capacity takes approximately 4 hours.
The calibration of the battery on the unit was a bit off, probably due to it being an older evaluation unit, and we would sometimes get the low battery warning even in 50 percent. You can not control the speaker on the go with a portable charger or possibly a standard Micro-USB phone charger, as you need to use the beefier one that comes with it.
The Sony SRS-XB40 offers powerful sound for the price, and if you shop online, you can find it selling for as little as Rs. 13,340. It isn’t as compact as most portable speakers, however given that the volume output, size of the drivers and battery life, it appears as through there is a specific market for it. The speaker manages most genres of music quite well and it’s nice to see that it’s water resistant. However, the DJ features feel a bit gimmicky.
In general, if you’re looking for a powerful Bluetooth speaker with great battery life, then the Sony SRS-XB40 is a good choice.
Loud and powerful
IPX5 water resistant
Light effects are fun
Very good battery life
A bit heavy and bulky
Just DC input for charging
Value for money: 4