Sony knows people love bass and has created a line of audio products that pack extra low end punch – the Extra Bass headphones and Bluetooth speakers.
The latest in the series, the SRS-XB40 is a big but portable Bluetooth speaker that delivers thumping bass, a light show and up to 24 hours of battery life.
On paper, the speaker looks like a feature rich speaker that provides good value at $250 (£200, about AU$340). However, after spending a week with it, we weren’t impressed by its sound quality and features compared to other similarly priced speakers.
The Sony SRS-XB40 speaker features a traditional oblong bar shape of wireless speakers with its audio drivers facing one direction. You won’t find 360-degree sound here – like on the Bose Revolve – but the speaker can be paired with other Sony Bluetooth speakers to either amplify sound or to play in stereo.
Perhaps its most distinguishing feature, you’ll find a ring around the grille on the front of the speaker that lights up – with it, the Sony SRS-XB40 provides a light show that syncs up with your music. Rumbling bass? Check. Light show? Check. This is definitely a speaker for the EDM crowd.
Coming in at 279 x 100 x 105mm (W x H x D), the Sony SRS-XB40 is big but still portable. Compared to other speakers, it’s quite a bit larger than the already bulky (but excellent-sounding) JBL Charge 3 so you’ll want to toss the SRS-XB40 in a beach bag or backpack rather than your purse.
You’ll find all of the speaker’s controls on top. There are buttons for power, answering/rejecting calls, playback/volume controls, a pairing button to sync up other Sony speakers and a toggle for the Extra Bass feature. The speaker also offers quick Bluetooth pairing via NFC, a nice handy feature for Android owners.
On back of the speaker you’ll find a grille for the bass port as well as a flap that hides a 3.5mm analog jack, reset button, charging port and a USB-A port for topping up your phone in a pinch.
Speaking of charging, the SRS-XB40 uses a proprietary charging brick, which is annoying if you were hoping to charge the speaker via USB. Lose the one that comes in the box and you’ll have to purchase another from Sony. Bummer.
While not fully waterproof, the SRS-XB40 features IPX5 water resistance. This means the speaker will survive splashes but you won’t want to dunk it in the pool. This is disappointing considering that cheaper speakers like the and can survive a dunk in the pool. The Sony also lacks the charm, attention to design, and balanced sound of the , which also offers earth-pounding bass if you turn up the bass tuning knob.
Like the rest of Sony’s Extra Bass line of audio products, the SRS-XB40 delivers a ton of bass depth and impact … maybe a little too much bass, actually.
With the Extra Bass feature enabled, bass overwhelms the rest of the audio spectrum, masking the mids and highs. For rap, electronic and dance music, the Sony SRS-XB40 is excellent at providing a toe-tapping beat. For everyone else, however, this over-the-top bass focus drowns out everything else. Thankfully, the Extra Bass sound can be turned off with a long-press of a button.
But even with the Extra Bass feature turned off, the Sony SRS-XB40 just doesn’t sound very good. Music sounds muffled because of the bass-heavy tuning so instruments like flute and violin are obscured and lack sparkle.
Outside of audio quality, the Charge 3 offers full waterproofing, meaning it can withstand a dunk in the pool and can nearly match the Sony SRS-XB40’s 24 hour battery life (with the light show turned off) with 20 hours of music playback. Plus, like the Sony XB40, the JBL also lets you charge your phone in a pinch.
You have to really love bass or flashy colors to love the Sony SRS-XB40.
For the money, the SRS-XB40 gives you great battery life, a light show, NFC, speaker phone and splash proofing. But when compared to the competition, you can get all of these features and better sound for a lot less money.
Sony needs to figure out a way to tune the Extra Bass speakers to still have thumping bass without diminishing the mids or highs. Until then, it’s hard to recommend the Sony SRS-XB40 when its competitors offer more for much less.
By Lewis Leong
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