Wireless Speakers are tricky products to review, just like any sound-based product like headphones or earpieces. Sometimes, sound can be subjective and something that sounds great to one might sound trashy to another.
Of course, speakers geared for audiophiles are in a totally different class, far above mainstream boxes with their capabilities (and prices). We’re not reviewing them today, instead we’re taking a look at the Sony SRS-XB21 Wireless Speaker, meant for mainstream listeners.
If you’re in the market for a decently priced wireless speaker, should you pick it up?
What is the Sony SRS-XB21 Wireless Speaker?
The Sony SRS-XB21 Wireless Speaker is the latest in a line of Bluetooth and NFC enabled mass market speakers from Sony.
Its speaker is 42mm, with its overall dimensions being 193 x 72 x65 mm. It supports SBC / AAC / LDAC codecs over Bluetooth, with a maximum communication range of 10 meters.
It weighs 530g, has a 3.5mm input jack, a micro USB port (for charging) and is IP67 water resistant. Sony claims it can last up to 12 hours (10 if you’re using the Extra Bass mode and lighting). Its retail price is SGD$169.
Here are the full specs in a handy list form.
|Speaker size (mm)||42|
|Dimensions (mm)|| |
193 x 72 x65 mm
|Codecs Supported||SBC / AAC / LDAC|
|Maximum range (m)||10|
|Audio jack||Yes / 3.5mm|
|Water Resistant||Yes/ IP67|
|Battery life||12 hours (10 hours with Extra Bass and lighting)|
One thing you’ll notice with all the SRS-XB21 promotional material is that it’s geared for parties. Nearly every single highlight on its product page screams that out to you.
Looking at it in that light, the wireless speaker done its job well enough. It is loud, offers decent bass (you can even adjust it via the Sony Music Center app) and you can daisy chain these speakers to have up to a 100 of them playing in sync at once.
We don’t know why you’d want a 100 of these speakers, but if you do stumble onto a bunch them, you’re going to have one hell of a party.
Life of the party?
The first thing I sought to test out was the sound. In that regard, the sound quality of the wireless speaker was pretty decent, with a mixture of great highs, decent mids and bass-y lows.
I used the same songs to test out the SRS-XB21 as we did on the WH-1000XM3.
As in that review, all the songs are all in FLAC.
- The Touch (Rock, Stan Bush)
- Cherry Pie (Hard Rock, Warrant)
- Die for Metal (Power Metal, Manowar)
- Reise, Reise (Industrial Metal, Rammstein)
- X Gon’ Give It To Ya (Rap, DMX)
- Gangster’s Paradise (Hip Hop, Coolio)
- Moonlight Sonata (Classical, Beethoven)
- One-Winged Angel – Final Fantasy VII (Instrumental, Nobuo Uematsu)
- Prayer – Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Vocal, Michiru Yamane)
- Change the World – (J-Pop, V6)
While the music quality was decent, and the bass certainly palpable, the singer’s voice reproduction left us underwhelmed.
Voices felt a bit flat, particularly in Prayer (which is mainly a vocal-only track). Still, there’s no distortion, even at high volume, which is a plus point for any speaker, especially one at the SRS-XB21’s price point.
The SRS-XB21 is designed to overwhelm your senses with its loud volume and tremendous bass and it’s here that it fulfills its calling. The speaker definitely has ample volume and sounds fuller than other speakers in its price range, though it still can’t touch Sony’s high end offerings.
While Sony claims that the device can last up to 12 hours (10 with Extra Boss and lighting effects enabled), our review unit last just shy of 8 hours on a full charge. We had it lighted, but Extra Bass was turned off and it was hooked via a 3.5mm aux cable to the Sony MP-CD1 projector.
Looking at it objectively, 8 hours is still a decently long time. So while, your party might last longer, you can keep the speaker going by just charging it with a power outlet or a power bank.
It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s certainly one that’s feasible, even if you’re using it outdoors. Still, it’s a bit disappointing that the unit doesn’t live up to Sony’s battery life claim, though we weren’t that much surprised.
Small and portable.
At least the device’s small and portable nature means you can carry it around with relative ease. Shaped like a pill, it’s relatively easy to slide into bags and carrying cases.
In fact, in my Timbuk2 bag, it comfortably fits in to the water bottle holding area. I reckon it’ll do the same for you if you have a similar bag too. It’s not going to be a trouble at all to put it in your bag and lug it around to parties, even if you have multiple units.
Plus, the speaker’s rated IP67, which means it’s waterproof and sealed against dust. That’s great because the outer mesh that the speaker’s wrapped in is a magnet for lint and dirt.
Even in our testing, we had to constantly pick out hair (human and cat) and other stray material that got caught up in the speaker’s outer material. If you’re having a pool party, knowing that the speaker’s waterproof should definitely set you at ease. At the very least, it’ll survive a dip in the pool or splash with water (or drink).
Weirdly, the speaker comes with a function called Party Booster, which allows you to make different sounds depending on where you hit the speaker. It’s a really questionable addition simply because I couldn’t for the life of me see how (or why) it’d useful. The sound reproduction is a tad laggy and sensitive too; sometimes it’d register, other times it’d not. We suggest ignoring this function completely.
The bottom line.
Disappointing battery life aside, there’s not much reason to dislike the SRS-XB21. Its price is agreeable enough, its sound output is decent enough and it’s certainly portable and durable enough for outdoor usage.
Of course, you won’t get awesome sound reproduction on the device, even with HD audio, but that’s not the point of the speakers.
Like Sony’s marketing says, these babies are for parties, to be blasted out loud and proud. That’s not to say they won’t be good used for other purposes, but you could probably do better if you’re looking for TV speakers in a similar range.
The battery life isn’t that impressive, but nearly everything else is. From the sound, the size to the build, the SRS-XB21 is a great portable speaker for its price. There certainly are better options out there, but they’ll definitely be priced much higher. If you’re on a budget, definitely consider getting them.
– Great sound quality.
– Budget pricing.
– Easy to carry around.
– Can link multiple speakers together.
– Dust and waterproof
– Battery life.
– Material attracts lint and dust.
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