The new SRS-XB40 Portable boombox is Sony’s latest rendition of a great portable speaker for your poolside parties. It promises big sound, an insane battery life and… party lights?
Build Quality and Design
The XB40 is a jumbo-sized box measuring 28cm across. This makes it slightly larger than even the JBL Charge 3. It’s also pretty hefty at 1.5kgs but there’s also a lot of substance to that weight. With its matte rubberised surface, the speaker feels reassuring enough for the basketball court or the beach. The speaker’s face is slightly angled to distribute its audio better.
The highlight of the XB40 is its array of multi-coloured LED lights ringing the grill and speaker drivers. When activated, the lights inject a shot of some extra personality to the speaker and some extra funk to the party.
All button controls are featured on top. They are clearly labelled and easy to operate with minimal guesswork involved. Apart from your usual volume, speakerphone and music controls, you’ll get an ‘Add’ button that pairs the XB40 to another one for stereo sound. A self-explanatory ’Extra Bass’ button adds some boost to the lower registers whenever you need it. (More on that later.)
The XB40 supports a comprehensive range of connections like Bluetooth 4.2, NFC Pairing, 3.5mm stereo input and a USB-A output so that you could use the XB-40 as a power bank. These, and the power adapter jack is protected by a cover for better water resistance.
Performance and Features
The XB40 is supported by two separate apps. The Music Center app is basically a music player that grabs files from your phone’s internal storage. It also helps you to pair multiple XB40 speakers together to form a stereo pair or just to distribute sound across a daisy-chain of 10 similar speakers. The interface is certainly much cleaner and more intuitive than its predecessor – the Songpal App.
The light show can only be accessed from the playful Fiestable App, which doubles as a neat little toolkit for wannabe DJs. It also uses your phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to perform certain motion-based controls.
‘Illumination’ mode lets you light up the party with each tap. (No, seriously. The moment you take your finger off, the lights go out. So keep tapping!) Colours can be changed by simply moving your finger around the palette on-screen.
With the DJ Control feature, you could Hi-Hat, Phase and Scratch your way through a soundtrack – even play with some distortion effects. But it’s far from an actual DJ app, though. You cannot apply any loops, and effects are accessed on individual screens which render it utterly useless as an app for DJs. Overall, I see the Fiestable app as more a toy to spice things up and not a serious enhancement to the XB40’s user-experience.
While I was testing out its sonic chops, the first thing I noticed is how loud the XB40 is! It was loud enough to full my living room even at half-volume. With its array of two 2.4” full range drivers and opposing bass radiators, the speaker didn’t scrimp on quality either. It belted out my tunes in full and rich audio that steered clear from sounding bloated. Its bass was sufficiently tight, partnered with a warmth that glowed gently into its mid-range.
It did sound a bit muffled in the upper-registers but that issue is largely mitigated when I turned on (ironically) the Extra Bass mode. Not only did the bass get better isolated (with improved bass extension), even the mids and highs had some hi-res juice injected in it.
The downside of that? This signal processing boost also sucks up battery life.
The claimed battery life of the XB40 is up to 24 hours. At 50% volume playing a variety of albums on loop, it managed provide around 17.5 hours of battery – without extra bass switched on. Its stated battery of 24hours max is plausible if the speaker is played softly as background music.
The fact that it uses a proprietary power adapter is a downside for me. I prefer USB charging since it’s far more convenient than having to bring an extra adapter along on long-haul trips. A power socket may not always be nearby either, such as on camping trips.
The Bluetooth connection is reliable for up to 10 meters and I was able to move the speaker throughout my living room with no signal drops. No AV-sync issues either!
Priced at S$329, the Sony SRS-XB40 may seem affordable for its big sound, great battery life, water resistance and features. However, its light show and DJ features are quite gimmicky, it uses a proprietary charger and it does not have full waterproofing like competing models from JBL and Ultimate Ears.
Still, it’s far from being the most expensive in its class (that accolade goes to Bose), and so the XB40 from Sony is definitely worth a good look for its great battery and big sound.
The Sony SRS-XB40 is available in three shades – Black, Red and Blue.