Written by Cheryl Tan
There are plenty of Bluetooth speakers, but it’s pretty much segmented into portable rugged speakers that can survive a drop in water or speakers that look nice but are more suited to staying on your desk in fear of water or dust. The Sony SRS-XB32 melds both of those together into a sleek, fun package.
You get a triangular speaker that’s covered in a matte rubber coating that feels soft to the hand and resists scratches pretty well. There’s also a LED light strip that runs along the top and bottom lengths of the speaker. To add onto those, there are two white strobe lights under the speaker mesh which flash along to the beat. I highly recommend downloading the Sony Music Center and Fiestable apps since that’s the only way to control the lights.
For people who might have epilepsy, the two strobe lights are definitely something you need to turn off. It’s definitely fun if you’re having a party, but if you’re just listening to music on it, the strobes do get a bit irritating. The light strip, however, is a nice feature which I think adds a bit of that fun factor without being too obnoxious. There are nice patterns that allow the lights to just fade in and out slowly while switching shades and more.
On the top right, you get a row of buttons controlling power, pairing, track playback and volume control. There’s also a button that switches between Extra Bass mode (which is the default) and Live mode, which seems to add a bit more reverb to the sound and is supposed to make it feel like you’re listening to a live music show.
There are four small rubber feet on the bottom propping the speaker up and preventing it from sliding around. Another cool feature is the NFC compatibility. Just tap your NFC-enabled phone on the top left of the speaker where the NFC tag is and the speaker will auto-pair to your phone for easy setup.
The ports are all hidden behind a rubber flap on the back of the speaker, thus allowing for IP67 water and dust resistance. This means that you can bring this to campfires, poolside parties and more without worrying about accidentally knocking drinks over the speaker or getting water splashed onto it.
As for sound quality, the bass is the most prominent aspect here. You get such an emphasis on the low end, that occasionally, the bass ends up getting a bit boomy and starts to bleed into the low mids. This isn’t always a bad thing, especially since you need that bump in the low end when you’re playing music in loud environments like this was meant to. It does mean that if you’re just listening to this in a quiet home setting though, you might want to tweak the EQ slightly to try and bring that bass down.
The mids are surprisingly full, instead of being recessed like I originally expected. They retain the typical Sony sound and are warm and full-bodied. The highs are slightly disadvantaged due to the emphasis on the bass, with clarity being compromised here. This speaker definitely wasn’t meant for listening to classical music, with string instruments slightly lower in volume and not as airy as they should be.
Vocals do get slightly pushed down by the bass, but there’s plenty of energy overall. If you’re using this at a party, nobody would complain. In fact, these speakers can get LOUD even if they’re only at 50% volume. The complaints you get would probably be from your neighbours asking you to keep your music down.
The battery life is rated at 24 hours if you don’t turn on the lights or turn on Extra Bass mode, but once the lights are on and you’re using Extra Bass mode, it drops to 14 hours depending on the volume you’re playing your music at.
A gripe I have is that the connection on these aren’t the best since they’re running on Bluetooth 4.2. If you walk away with your phone in your pocket, the speaker starts cutting out once you get more than two metres away from it. It’s a bit tough to always keep your phone close to the speaker, especially if you’re at a party, so this is something that Sony should look into fixing with their next iteration of the Extra Bass speakers.
Overall, this isn’t a speaker you should get if you’re looking for a balanced, neutral sound. But it’s a great speaker for bringing to the beach, the pool or down to the barbecue pit for a party. Just make sure you turn those strobe lights off.
More information and purchase options for the Sony SRS-XB32 can be found on Sony’s website.