Sony’s latest XB40 speakers stand out amongst other Bluetooth speakers mainly because the box shows off two main things; crazy colorful LED lights and the large Extra bass logo Sony are famous for. Oh, this is going to be exciting 😀
Those are the first things I saw, but I was more intrigued by what the XB40 can do because I have a killer comparison to make. Very recently I purchased a budget Bluetooth speaker from Anker which I use on a daily basis and at the time of this review is priced at 1/4th the price of the XB40!
Unboxing the quite large box (probably the most substantial portable speaker box I have seen), you are greeted by a lot of nicely wrapped equipment.
There is not a lot that is in the box actually, just the speaker, manuals, and the power adaptor with multiple plug-points for different regions.
Dimensions and weight
The XB40 measures at 27.9cm x 10.5cm x 10cm (width, depth, height) and weighs in at approximately 1.5kgs.
Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC connectivity
Full range speaker – Satellite speaker – 61mm
Supported codecs – SBC / AAC / LDAC
Frequency transmission – 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz sampling)
24-hour battery life from a 5400mAh rechargeable battery
Extra bass – enhanced punch and deeper sound
Multicolored LED lights
IPx5 water resistance
Wireless party chain
Input – Stereo Mini Jack, power port
Output – USB-A
The XB40 has a lot of features you may find in other Bluetooth speakers and a few that are truly unique.
At the top of the XB40 sits a series of rubberized buttons that provide all the controls you need. Here is the controls list:
- Power on/off button with secondary function of Bluetooth pairing
- Volume controls
- “Add” button to add another XB40 speaker for a left and right audio split
- Play/Pause button
- Voice assistance button (Google Assistance/Siri) with secondary function of battery status (audible)
- Extra bass button with secondary function of LED light control
Beyond the physical controls, if you are connecting the speakers to your smartphone, you can download the Sony app, which allows you to control the LED lights, pairing with up to 10 speakers and a lot more customizable options. Worth noting that the LED lights, while the party piece here, can be set based on presets and cannot be customizable.
That being said, you have the option of selecting the type of music you want the LED lights to flow to, a mood lighting mode where colors fade into each other, a solid color, or off.
The primary connection to this device is Bluetooth, and the device has a fantastic setup of Bluetooth 4.2. It may not be the latest but when paired with my phone, gave me a clear and uninterrupted range of about 45 feet.
You also can tap the speaker with your NFC enabled smartphone for a super seamless connection. While all this wireless business is nice, at times, you may need to connect with a cable, and they’ve got a little waterproof backdoor that has a 3.5mm headphone jack as an input.
There is a USB port, but that is output to charge another device, like your smartphone.
The device states an estimated 24-hour battery life which is longer than any party you surely will have, but in my tests, I have managed to get up to 14 hours. While this is still quite a lot, the difference between estimated and actual was too much. Perhaps you’ll get closer to 24 hours if the LED lights and Extra bass are off, but that defeats the purpose.
Still, I would say that if they had claimed 14 hours, with Extra bass and LED lights, that would be very good.
IPx5 water resistance
The XB40 has the special party piece offering the best peace of mind, IPx5 water resistance! This means you can take the speaker with you to the pool, or when its raining and you do not have to worry if anything gets splashed on the speaker. Hooray!
Sound and Extra bass
In simple terms, fantastic. The sound out of the XB40 is phenomenal, especially considering it is a portable Bluetooth speaker.
You get very nice crisp, clear and detailed mid-range audio through the entire volume band, the soundstage is surprisingly well in a device of this size and limited speaker dimension; you can really sense the foreground and background in your audio, especially with vocals popping up ahead of the background music.
There is a definitive depth in the audio, and when the Extra bass is enabled, the bass gets quite punchy – not too punchy, but just the right amount of extra punch you need out of those audio files. There is a slight vibration to consider when near max volume, and there have been no ratings for XB40 drops, so I would just be extra careful.
Sony has used the word “party” a few times around its press release and website, so they are hoping this device can be used in that setting. I would have to be honest to say, yes it is party-able, but would be a lot better if paired up with another XB40. While the sound is excellent, the volume sufficient for a medium size room of about 10-14 people, it will sound slightly one-directional when sitting across the room.
If you’re having a small house party, need some music around the pool or in your backyard, this is going to be fantastic, and the LED lights will give you the effects you need to feel like a party, but it will not be a proper speaker replacement unless you have more than one.
Living with it
Buying a device like this means there are characteristics you have to live with, so here are the key characteristics of the XB40.
At 1.5kg, the XB50 are portable but are not speakers you would forget in your backpack or car. The weight, along with the size, means that you have to plan on carrying this with you – which I feel could be an issue.
Portability is very important for Bluetooth speakers as you’d like to just chuck them in your backpack or so without taking too much space, yet giving you that on-demand speaker utility.
Sony used awesome materials on the XB40, and it is covered in a very soft-touch rubberized plastic and the front grille is a hardened plastic. This gives the speaker good protection, grip when holding it, and looks fabulous.
The only issue is that this material is very susceptive to dirt, finger oils, and grease, which means it will get really dirty in a party.
Things I wish it did better
While the XB40 is a great Bluetooth speaker, there are a few features I wish it did better…
- Have a battery indicator
- Be USB-C powered instead of their proprietary adaptor
- Have a smaller form-factor – or have two small versions in one box for the proper party experience
- Have customizable LED options
- Have less dirt and fingerprint-attracting materials such as a matte plastic instead of rubberized
How does it compare to mine?
Regardless of price, the two speakers are similar, but I wouldn’t recommend just going for the cheaper speaker as it all goes back to your requirements, and finding the best speaker for them.
The XB40 surely beats the Anker Soundcore 2 in many things, including LED lighting, sound quality, volume, and connectivity. But, the Soundcore 2 is a better choice for me because I use these speakers as a Laptop Speaker replacement, and my focus is mid-to-low volume quality, battery life and portability and Anker wins at in a direct comparison. If I took my Anker to a party, it would be music for 1. Sony has done a great job on the XB40 and is definitely one of the top Bluetooth Speakers on sale today.