Brillant sound from compact but adventurous speakers.
Summertime is the perfect time for get-togethers. When the weather gets nice, it’s just time for cookouts and tailgates and there is no better setting for portable music. In the past couple of years, I’ve seen an influx of portable Bluetooth speakers hit the market that are meant for use outdoors. They are waterproof, dustproof, and ready for action. I was very excited to learn about this particular lineup of speakers from Sony — the Extra Bass speakers.
A few months ago, I was officially introduced to this product line when I reviewed the Sony XB60 — a very large, PA style speaker. I was a wake-up call for me and what a speaker could actually do without a subwoofer. Sony worked to design headphones and speakers that were specifically meant to provide more bass than other products. The Extra Bass series feature the Electro Bass Booster technology which brings bass into focus no matter what tracks you are listening to. This battery-powered enhancer digitally increases low-frequencies in the music and maximizes the deep, punchy sound and rhythmic feel that bass-lovers dream of. The Extra Bass function is built into these products as an active button on the device. That way you can turn it on and off at will. So, when I was presented with the option of checking out a couple of Sony’s more compact and portable Bluetooth speakers, I jumped at it.
One of these speakers is the SRS-XB21 — a petite Bluetooth speaker that can easily fill a room (approximately 12 x 12) with its powerful 42mm (dual) speaker unit. The speaker is compact and will easily fit in any travel bag. It’s got the right shape to fit in the bottle-holder of most backpacks. I had no problem carrying it around with one hand. It’s lightweight (just over 1 lb.) and the size of it is just perfect for single-person use.
The speaker comes in a Sony-branded box with a nice image of the speaker on the cover. The SRS-XB21 comes in four different colors – red, blue, white, and black — and the box reflects which color is inside. The front of the box depicts the different features via icons on the bottom left-hand corner. One of the sides describes the app functionality of the speaker that allows you to customize your listening experience. The Sony Music Center app is available for either iOS or Android users. I actually have previous experience with the Music Center app due to my recent review of the Sony CH700N Wireless headphones. It’s a unique app that allows you to control not only customized features of the speakers but also the music you are listening to. You can use the speakers without the use of the app but you have a much better experience with it.
The back of the box provides the user with a bit more information about the features of the speaker. Some of the features include LIVE SOUND mode, Party Booster, and Wireless Party Chain (connect up to 100 speakers). It is within these features that I feel like the SRS-XB21 really stands out from the crowd — well, that and the incredible sound it pushes out compared to its size. For the most part, I only had to have the speaker set at volume level one or two while I was using it at my desk. If I walked away from it, I could still hear it just fine if I cranked it up another notch or two. I believe you would need to be outdoors in order to turn it up to 100% volume. Otherwise, I think you would chance to cause damage to your ears.
I love the feel of this speaker. It just feels like a ‘premium’ speaker. The SRS-XB21 paired with my iPhone quite easily. When you turn it on for the first time, it goes into pairing mode and appears within your Bluetooth menu in just a few seconds. If you ‘forget the device’ from your Bluetooth menu, you will have to press/hold the power button for approximately 5 seconds in order to enter pairing mode on the speaker again. There is an indicator light to show that the speaker is powered up and paired/in pairing mode. There are also +/- buttons to advance songs or increase/decrease volume and a play/pause button that serves as an answer/hang-up button, too. The buttons are very tactile even though they are covered in silicone.
There is a trapdoor on the back of the speaker that includes an aux point, Micro USB port for charging, reset button, and three other buttons for added functionality. The SRS-XB21 is ready for any adventures. It is rated IP67, which means it is waterproof and dustproof. The speaker can even be immersed in water. The fabric that covers the speaker is exclusively made in Japan and it’s very easy to clean. I found the speaker to be very easy to work with and loved the sound coming from it. I have tried some speakers that are the same style as this one and they usually have a hollow sound and lack any sort of depth. This Sony speaker delivers a deep, powerful sound that doesn’t disappoint.
Another EXTRA BASS speaker from Sony is the XB21’s big brother, the SRS-XB41. This moderately-sized speaker is enough to fill a large with sound. In comparison, if the XB21 fills a 12 x 12 room easily, I would say that the XB41 could fill a lecture hall without losing any sound quality. The XB41 features a 58mm (dual) speaker unit inside its case. Much like the XB21, the XB41 is waterproof, dustproof, and features exclusive Japanese-made fabric. This speaker quickly became a favorite of mine when I saw the impressive light show it put out. The XB21 features a little dancing LED around the border of the front face of the speaker, but the XB41’s speakers light up and so does its face. This light show can be customized in the Music Center app. The XB41 boasts a powerful sound and 24-hour battery life. One other feature that comes in quite handy is the built-in battery. You can charge your phone (or another device) directly from a USB-A port on the rear of the device.
Other than that, the two speakers have a lot in common. Sony designed these speakers to be able to work in tandem while retaining some individuality. That said, they carry the same basic feature set. See the chart below for a direct comparison of the two speakers.
|Bluetooth with NFC||√||√|
|Speaker unit diameter||42mm (dual)||58mm (dual)|
|LIVE SOUND Mode||√||√|
|Battery life (approx.)||12 hours||24 hours|
|USB Charging port||X||√|
|Weight (approx.)||1.17 lbs.||3.3 lbs.|
|Wireless Party Chain||√||√|
|Durability||IP 67 dustproof and waterproof||IP 67 dustproof and waterproof|
The Party Chain feature really comes in handy when you are trying to entertain a lot of people. It allows you to connect more than one speaker together while only having to control one of them. I did try this with the two different models and it worked! I will admit that it took me a few minutes to get it to work, but eventually, the two speakers connected and I was able to have the same music pumping through both speakers. What was really cool was that I turned off the XB21 and the XB41 turned off as well.
The XB21 and XB41 are two remarkable speakers that are sure to turn up the excitement at gatherings. I love that you can take them absolutely anywhere and have great sound without having to have an entire speaker system. Even though each speaker is well worth the investment, the XB21 is a bit more affordable with a price right at $100. The XB41 comes in around $250. Both speakers see to be built to last and since ‘Sony’ is synonymous with ‘quality’, you are sure to get what you pay for. I can recommend these speakers to any type of user.