Portable speakers come in a wonderful array of sizes, shapes and colours, while also wide variance of audio quality. Sony’s latest portable bluetooth speaker is the SRS-XB41 which offers performance, simple connectivity and resilience in harsh environments.
Design & Sound
The largest of the 3 speaker’s in Sony’s new lineup, the SRS-XB41 offers dual 58mm speakers, packed inside a body that weighs 1.5kg and measures 29.1cm x 10.4cm x 105cm. The speakers are made using a rigid, lightweight speaker cone with large displacement, known as Mica Reinforced Cellular (MRC). With a long history in Audio Visual, you’d expect nothing else than great sound from Sony and the Extra Bass is definitely on offer.
This speaker is designed to be taken anywhere, including outdoors and the fairly rugged body is not only waterproof (IP67 rated), its also totally rustproof and dustproof and able to withstand drops from up to 1.2 meters (like off the end of a table).
The front speaker is wrapped in a mesh grill with the face surrounded by a multi-coloured led strip known as a ‘line light’. Behind the face, lives additional lights (speaker and flashing strobe lights) that react and respond to the content (usually music) playing on the speaker. Thankfully you also have the option to take control of these lights if you grab the Fiestable mobile app, made by Sony video & Sound Product for Android or iOS. Just remember, you have to grab the Sony Music Center (SongPal) app which integrates with the Fiestable mobile app. This is fun for a few minutes, but I was generally happy enough to let the music control the lights.
The back features a fold out rubberised panel that reveals connectivity like audio in and USB charging ports. The top however offers convenient access to playback and volume controls.
The top of the speaker houses an NFC target to simplify the connection of new devices. Simply enable NFC on your phone, then tap the back of your phone to the top of the speaker and it’ll establish a Bluetooth connection. From that point it’s simply a matter of firing up a music app and hitting play on your favourite playlist.
Live Sound is a pseudo surround mode that changes the way the sound is emitted from the device. It sounds much more like an omni, rather than directional sound. This is achieved by pressing the LIVE button on the top of the speaker. Unless this is on the table in the middle of a party, I think I’d prefer the speaker to be directional and with more bass than the treble-focused surround simulation.
Sony imagine you’ll use this speakers during parties and if you party hard, you’ll actually need multiple speakers. Thankfully Sony has created Wireless Party Chain that means you can connect up to 100 of these via Bluetooth and the music and lights sync up. While I highly doubt anyone will actually have 100 of these, the sync between devices is a big technical challenge that is impressive Sony was able to pull off.
24 hour battery life is potentially on offer, but that’s dramatically reduced if you have lighting on, so firing those LEDs every few seconds or tenth of a second is rather expensive. When you need to charge again, you can do so by connecting the speaker to the power adapter by AC or USB.
Price and Availbility
The Sony SRS-XB41 Speaker is available now at the price of A$269.00. If that price is a little steep, you can always check out the smaller versions like the SRS-XB21/31 which basically offers the same functionality in a smaller package, they start at just A$149.00.
In terms of colours, ours was the white version, which actually comes off as more of a sparkling silver, but the speaker is also available in red, blue and black.
I think many people will forget about the disco lights and actually buy this speaker for its robustness and ability to survive dusty and/or wet environments. If you find yourself in an environment where the speakers on your smartphone aren’t adequate, then this is certainly a good option. I do however wish there was a simple hardware button to disable the lights.
It feels weird in 2018 to have just a straight bluetooth speaker, with no voice assistant on board. Given others do at this price point, I’d strongly consider how much you need the robustness and party lights before parting with your cash on this one. For the right person this will fit a need, however it remains to be seen if this has mainstream appeal.
- Sound (non LIVE)
- 2-step mobile app