Sony SRS-XB32, SRS-XB22 review: Strong bass, stunning lighting make for solid party starters
When it comes to portable Bluetooth speakers, Sony rules the market with an exciting range of speakers. While other manufacturers boast of great audio quality, Sony leads the way with its Extra Bass range of speakers. Not long ago, I reviewed Sony's SRS-XB12 Bluetooth speaker and it left me stunned with its performance, especially considering its small size. However, Sony wasn't done and it came up with two additional models in its Extra Bass range of speakers.
The SRS-XB22 offers a dual driver setup along with a passive bass radiator and is priced at Rs 7,490. For those who want more punchy audio performance, the SRS-XB32 offers bigger speakers and battery with an advanced light show thrown in the mix - this sells for Rs 10,990. As with all current Sony Bluetooth speakers, both of these come in chic colours and both promise IP67 water and dust resistance.
If you are in the market for a proper portable speaker setup that can host mini-parties, these Sony Extra Bass models promise superior audio performance. I picked both of these for a few weeks to see how these fare in reality and whether they are worth choosing over other similarly priced speakers.
Looks funky yet portable enough to carry around
Bluetooth speakers these days try to appeal to consumers with appealing designs. You will either find most of these going for the funky look or trying to replicate a retro design. Sony has gone for the funky designs it is known for in the market and offers an identical design that was previously seen in the last generation models. And that's not a bad thing considering Sony's speaker designs stand out from the rest with unique party lighting. Compared to SRS-XB21 and SRS-XB31, the design has been improved slightly to offer a more glam look.
Let's starts with the SRS-XB22. This is almost as big as 500ml beverage bottle and is fairly light to carry around. I got the black variant with me and the plastic body of the speaker had rubberized surface that makes it grippy - this is good for those situations when you are partying alongside the pool. The speaker grille is surrounded by a white strip of LED lighting. The lighting good while you are playing music but there are only two light sources that make it boring after a while. At the back, there's a waterproof flap that houses all the ports - AUX and micro USB and some buttons. There's also a massive grille for the bass radiator. On the top, you will also find a set of soft-touch buttons on the top that control playback, volume, the LIVE mode and power. There's also an NFC patch that can be used to pair phones with the speakers.
The SRS-XB32 looks like a bigger version of the SRS-XB22. However, this has got one major tweaking that's crucial to kick start a party - it's gorgeous LED light strip. Unlike the SRS-XB22, the SRS-XB32 gets an RGB KED light strip with multiple light sources and an interesting looking lens layout. The lighting patterns can be customised via the official Sony app. However, I left it in the default setting and let it be itself in the dark - my bedroom filled up with an almost party-like ambience. Moreover, two strobe lights on either edge of the speaker also add to the party mood. The lighting system is enough in my opinion to create the mood for a mini disco session indoors. Hey Sony, hats off to your designers!
However, there's more to the SRS-XB32 than its lights. Sony has put in a massive battery of an unspecified capacity that it says can act as a power bank to your smartphone. There's a USB-port under the flap that can be used to power up your phone or other mobile devices. And since I had two SRS series speakers, I was able to pair them for a more enhanced party effect with true stereo effect.
Classic Sony performance with breathtaking bass
Sony's audio products are known for focusing more on bass instead of a balanced audio profile. The Extra Bass speakers are always happy to smack you in the face with deep bass and these two speakers don't change anything. Both the SRS-XB22 and SRS-XB32 are capable of delivering heart-thumping bass without shedding sweat. The massive bass radiator in both the models can amplify the low-end frequencies impressively and if you are a bass lover like me, this will get you excited. Songs such as Apna Time Aayega from Gully Boy, Chitta-Ve from Udta Punjab, Senorita by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello sound great with the thumping drum beats and low-end frequencies.
However, Sony speakers are not only about bass - the overall audio performance is quite good. The mids sound great while highs are clear even at higher volumes. The voice is clear and the speaker manages to put up an overall balance that's just right for the parties. There's also a LIVE mode that adjusts the equaliser based on the genre of the music - this is good for audiophiles who want overall balanced audio instead of heart-thumping bass. I love bass and hence, I mostly kept the LIVE mode switched off.
These speakers are all about parting and in order to test how load can these go outdoors, I placed them in open field and cranked the volume to max. The XB22 seemed loud enough for a small gathering whereas the XB32 was loud enough for a small party. Indoors, I could hardly max out both of these speakers so as not to wake up the angry neighbours. So, if you are worried about volume, these speakers are plenty loud. And they never compromise on audio quality while being loud.
Battery: Fill it, shut it, forget it
For some weird reason, Sony won't specify how big the batteries are in the SRS-XB22 and SRS-XB32. However, the company is happy to quote 12-hour and 24-hour battery stamina for SRS-XB22 and SRS-XB32 respectively. And I am surprised to see that these speakers as long as Sony claims.
The SRS-XB22 on an average of two-hour usage per day with the lighting enabled and medium volume lasts up to five days at a stretch. The SRS-XB32 is hard to kill within a week even with three hours of average usage per day with the lighting enabled and medium volume. While the battery life is great, Sony should have given fast charging options to fill up the battery - the SRS-SB32 takes up to five hours to be fully recharged.
Let's not beat around the bush - the Sony SRS-XB22 and SRS-XB32 are simply great. Both of these impress with an overall good audio performance. However, the thumpy bass is unparalleled, especially on the SRS-XB32. If you love good bass, these speakers will make you go weak in the knees on most audio tracks. What I love even more is that while delivering that impressive bass, the speakers manage all the other frequencies really well. On top of that, the stunning lighting on the SRS-XB32 is simply mind-blowing - it can literally create a mood for the party.
To sum it up, if you love bass and frequently do a lot of small parties indoors, both the SRS-XB22 and SRS-XB32 will put a massive smile on your face and make you move your hands to the beats. Go ahead and buy it if you want that, although I would suggest spend extra over the SRS-XB22 and get the SRS-XB32 - those party