If you love a good weekend escape, you should definitely have a portable Bluetooth speaker with you. The audio market is flooded with a wide assortment of options, across brands and price segment. Sony lately added three new offerings to its EXTRA BASS series and today, we are going to be testing the SRS-XB40, which is the most powerful of these.
It boasts of features like a 24-hour battery life, water resistant design, the ability to daisy chain it to other similar speakers, and of course, flashing lights. 16,990, let’s see how well it works.
Sony SRS-XB40 design and attributes
The XB40 is a bit on the bigger 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 equally well use it standing upright, although there aren’t any rubber feet on the side like there are on the bottom.
The EXTRA BASS button engages the device’s dual passive radiators for more bass, and the exact same button can also be used for enabling or disabling the lights. The power button also enables you to pair the speaker with your Bluetooth device, in the event you it does not support NFC. The XB40 can operate with up to three simultaneous connections.
There’s a flap on the back of the speaker which protects the vents from moisture. Here, we have an aux-in port, USB port, DC-in interface (9.5V) for charging, and a reset button. The USB port may be used to control your personal electronic devices.
In the front, there’s a metallic mesh grille protecting the drivers. We’ve got two full-range 61mm drivers for stereo audio, and a passive radiator facing forwards. The next radiator is placed in the back, and can be observed through a similar metal net. The SRS-XB40 includes three types of lighting – an RGB line that runs across the edges of the mesh grille, speaker lights, along with a strobe for each driver. The pattern of the lights may be controlled via the Sony Music Centre program.
The SRS-XB40 supports Bluetooth 4.2 and streaming codecs such as SBC, AAC and LDAC. You’re going to need a compatible Xperia device but it’s also now baked into Android Oreo so compatibility will become wider. When attached to some LDAC capable phone such as the Google Pixel, the SRS-XB40 automatically employs the best available codec. The drivers can handle a frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz.
The SRS-XB40 is IPX5 rated therefore it can withstand light splashes of water. In the box, you get just 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 see how well this translates into real performance. The XB40 doesn’t produce an omnidirectional sound, which requires some getting used too at first. This means that placement is quite important, as you can’t just leave it everywhere in the room and expect it to sound good. It functions better when it’s facing you and placed on the same plane as your ears or higher. Setting it up is simple with NFC or regular Bluetooth pairing. The light show kicks in once the music starts playing, and changes based on the rhythm and beats.
Sony’s Music Center program adds additional features and functionality to the speaker. It is missing one critical characteristic, which is a display of speaker’s battery life status. The iOS app is slightly better designed. On the main display of the program, you can pair more of Sony’s EXTRA BASS speakers (up to 10), switch to the auxiliary input, or play songs which are on your device.
There’s also an additional app called Fiestable, that you can download. This lets you add DJ-like effects to the current music track and modify the colour of the RGB light strip. Additionally, there are gesture-based actions for controlling music playback and adding DJ effects, but honestly, this just feels very gimmicky. The amount of the after-effects is almost twice as loudly as the music track, which makes them extremely jarring and irritating.
The SRS-XB40 can become extremely loud which makes it good for outside parties. Enabling the excess BASS feature surprisingly doesn’t muddy the sound as we had been expecting. In actuality, with the radiators firing too, the soundstage gets a bit wider and you get some more thump, even at lower volume levels. We used a Samsung Galaxy S8+ for nearly all of our evaluations, which included the use of FLAC files and flows from Apple Music.
With Michael Jackson’s Heal the World, that the XB40 delivered a pleasing warm tone with very great detail in the mid-range frequencies, and subtle but audible low notes. FLAC files did seem better over a wired connection, with a noticeable improvement in clarity. Vocals were crisper and highs are a bit more distinct. The speaker’s real specialisation is of course is bass-heavy tracks and it handles these quite well. The dual satellite drivers ensure mid-range and high notes aren’t lost among the bass, which is frequently the case 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.
The XB40 has a built-in microphone, which works well for voice calls. Pressing the call button once brings up Google Assistant or even Siri, depending on your paired device. Voice calls are managed well and the microphone is fairly sensitive in in picking up your voice even when you’re away from the speaker.
Battery life is rated at 24 hours and while we could not test out that 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 excellent. After the battery is low, the volume level is restricted to about 20 percent and you keep getting a prompt to charge the device if you attempt 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 at 50 percent. You can’t control the speaker on the move with a portable charger or even a typical Micro-USB phone charger, even as you have to use the beefier one which comes with it. This is something to consider when deciding between the SRS-XB40 and smaller, more mobile options.
The Sony SRS-XB40 offers powerful sound for the price, and if you look 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 like there is a specific market for it. The speaker handles most genres of music quite well and it’s nice to find that it’s water resistant. On the other hand, 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.
Price (MRP): Rs. 16,990
Loud and powerful
IPX5 water resistant
Light effects are enjoyable
Very good battery life
A bit heavy and bulky
Just DC input for charging
Ratings (Out of 5)
Value for money: 4