Turn the Sony SRS-XB40 on, and the speaker cones become suddenly aglow in pale LED light while a band of varying colors dances around the grille. It’s a cool trick, however when the glory of the lights finally fade, does this Bluetooth speaker sound sufficient to warrant its $249.99 price? It does-if you like strong bass response. The lows here aren’t quite on par with a bulky, subwoofer-armed system, but there’s a good amount of thump, and also the ability to change the entire EQ in the SongPal app. Throw in the actual fact that it’s water-resistant, and the SRS-XB40 is a great, capable speaker that certainly isn’t without the great features department.
Despite its built-in light show, the SRS-XB40 is rated IPX5 for water resistance against moderate pressure from jets, provided the cap within the connections panel is closed. Obtainable in matte black, blue, or red plastic, the 4.0-by-11.0-by-4.3-inch (HWD) speaker weighs a hefty 3.3-pounds-it’s portable, but it’ll weigh down totes and backpacks as time passes. Behind the grille, dual 2.5-inch drivers deliver the music with the aid of forward- and rear-firing passive radiators to improve bass response.
The most notable panel houses a comparatively straightforward selection of controls. From left to right, included in these are Extra Bass, Phone Answer/End (which doubles as a battery life indicator), Play/Pause, Add (to make a stereo pair with another SRS-XB40 speaker), Volume Along (these work together with your mobile device’s master volume levels), and a Power/Pairing button. A covered rear connection panel houses the 3.5mm aux input, a pinhole Reset button, the AC adapter connection, and a USB port for charging your cellular devices using the speaker’s battery.
The speakerphone mic is poor. Using the Voice Memos software on an iPhone 6s, on multiple tries, we’re able to scarcely know very well what words were recorded. You’re greater off fielding calls on your own phone.
The SRS-XB40 connects to two separate apps-Sony SongPal and Fiestable. The SongPal iphone app lets you pair multiple speakers (up to 10) with the same device (which can be attained by pressing the Add button on the speaker itself), and adapt the EQ using faders for bass, mids, and treble. The Fiestable software enables you to set the LED band to a custom color, or even to put it in Party Flash mode (or transform it off completely). Neither of the programs is vital to using the SRS-XB40, however the EQ in SongPal permits you to fine-tune the sound in a manner that can’t be manipulated on the speaker itself.
Sony estimates battery life to be roughly a day, but your results will change together with your volume levels.
First, a word about the LEDs: They seem to be to do an acceptable job of syncing to the beat if it is prominent, or at least appearing as though they do, although if the beat isn’t pronounced, the flashing becomes more erratic. The lights could be pretty intense-dual bright LEDs on either side of the grille trade turns flashing on / off, as the colorful outer band switches hues pretty much to the beat, and the drivers themselves illuminate.
For audio, on tracks with strong sub-bass content, just like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the SRS-XB40 offers a good thump. It’s worth noting that the speaker will get exceptionally loud, even though the bass doesn’t distort at these high levels, there’s definitely some digital signal processing (DSP) in play as the bass response appears to thin out a lttle bit when things get really loud. At loud, but slightly lower, volume levels, the bass sounds more intense. Of course, pressing the excess Bass button adds on another layer of thick low-end, even though the SRS-XB40 still doesn’t distort at high volumes with the bass boosted, in addition, it doesn’t quite appear to be there’s a subwoofer hidden somewhere either. Passive radiators execute a solid job of fabricating a feeling of more bass, but it’s never likely to rival the sound of a powered driver delivering deep frequencies.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with much less deep bass, gives us an improved idea of the entire sound signature. With Extra Bass off, the drums upon this track sound fairly natural-full, however, not exaggerated in the lows-while Callahan’s baritone vocals have a nice low-mid richness to them. Turning the excess Bass on provides vocals and drums a lot more bass depth. Some listeners will like this, but a great many other will see it murks up the sound a bit, or at least leans the total amount too far and only the lows. There’s at least a solid high-mid and high frequency occurrence here, therefore the percussive hits and guitar strumming have a crisp presence.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the open,” the kick drum loop’s attack gets a good amount of high-mid presence, and can slice through the layers of the mix. Enabling the excess Bass mode beefs up the drum loop significantly-you get more of the thump and sustain of the beat compared to the attack, as the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat get far more body. Vocals in both modes retain a crisp, clear presence, but again, the excess Bass mode can make the lows the guts of attention.
Booming bass, a flashing LED light show, and a water-resistant design-the Sony SRS-XB40 isn’t light on features. Audio performance is strong for the $200 range, but it isn’t the very best we’ve heard for the purchase price, so a few of this speaker’s cost is spending money on those LEDs.
If you benefit from the light show, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by the speaker’s music performance. If you just want to give attention to the audio, however, the B&O Play Beoplay A1 and the Bose SoundLink Mini II deliver superior sonic performance. And if you are seeking to save $100, the Sony SRS-XB3 and the JBL Charge 3 deliver top-notch sound quality for the purchase price.