Summer is the perfect time to source out a new Bluetooth speaker. And ahead of nearly every summer season, Sony releases new versions of it’s uber-popular Extra Bass lineup of wireless speakers. This year I had the opportunity to get hands-on with the newest iterations: the Sony SRS-XB23, Sony SRS-XB33 and Sony SRS-XB43. I’ll tell you all about them, what they can do, how they sound and whether you might want to pick one up not just for summer but to bring the party with you all year.
Review of the Sony SRS-XB23, Sony SRS-XB33 & Sony SRS-XB43
There are three speakers in this series; each a bit different from the other. Naturally, as they step up in size and power, they also step up in price too.
These are often billed as ‘party speakers’ thanks to their power, portability and—on the larger two—built in LED lighting effects.
Similar but different
The three speakers in this line are similar but different. The two larger ones, the Sony SRS-XB33 and Sony SRS-XB43 can be used standing on their ends or lying on their sides. They have a flat front and flat base. The Sony SRS-XB23 is a cylinder. Each has a rubber door protecting other buttons and connectors in the back.
Not surprisingly these speakers step up in wattage and volume as they get bigger. Sony doesn’t make finding sound specs easy for the 23 or 33—I couldn’t find anything but the SRS-XB43 sound specs which are: 2 x 16 watts, 2 x 0.79” woofers, 20mm tweeters.
Waterproof/Dustproof IP rating
The Sony SRS-XB23, the SRS-XB33 and the full sized SRS-XB44 are all rated against water and dirt penetration. They have the rating IP67, which means each is fully protected from dirt and dust and can withstand water and even salt water.
Lighting effects of the Sony SRS-XB23, Sony SRS-XB33 & Sony SRS-XB43
The larger two speakers have built in lighting effects that will flash and pulse to the beat of what’s playing. The SRS-XB33 has two behind-the grill lights and LED colour-changing banding around the edges. The SRS-XB43 has four lights under the grill and the same LED colour changing banding. The XB22 has no lighting options (unlike the original XB21).
Sony Music Centre and Sony Fiestable apps
Why there’s two, I don’t know. To get the most out of these speakers, you’ll need not one but two apps: the Sony Music Centre app allows you to adjust some settings and check detailed battery levels, etc. But if you want control over the lighting on the XB 33 and 43, you’ll also need the Sony Fiestable app. There’s a bunch of different colour options, flashing effects and more which you can set or play with live. This is definitely fun and will be even more so for younger users.
Oddly, it seems to me these features all used to be available in the Music Centre app, and why Sony is splitting this function up is beyond me.
Sound quality of the Sony SRS-XB23, Sony SRS-XB33 & Sony SRS-XB43
Let’s get down to sound: these speakers sound excellent. Not surprisingly the power and overall audio quality steps up as you go up the line, with the XB43 the biggest, baddest and most powerful of all.
Even so, each of them, even the wallet-friendlier and more compact XB23 sounds good. My preference was definitely for the XB43. I thought it sounded bigger, louder, more resonant, deeper and more detailed, with substantially more bass. The XB33 by comparison sounded a bit thinner. No, you probably wouldn’t notice this unless you had them both side by side switching between them. But if audio quality is paramount, you’ll want to go big here.
There’s obviously a lot of bass and you can feel it in a table or surface. I had the XB43 camping with me and used it extensively outside and it was easily able to fill our area with sound.
Vocals sound clear on each of the speakers, and the overall sound is well balanced. Only high fives here when it comes to audio quality of these speakers.
Common features in the SRS-XB lineup
Though there are some differences between each speaker, they do each have some common features.
Sony Extra Bass
Sony’s Extra Bass technology is the key feature of these speakers; it’s what they’re named for, and what the “XB” in the name stands for.
EXTRA BASS technology essentially lets you get more bass out of your music. The Sony EXTRA BASS headphones and speakers use what’s called an Electro Bass Booster to make the lower tones of bass lines more prominent. This battery-powered enhancer digitally improves lower end frequencies in the music and that in turn boosts bass. The feature can be turned on or off to suit your music or mood.
Live Sound is another feature of the XB-33 and 43 portable speakers. Activating this function is done with the touch of a button on the top of the speakers. Live Mode is apparently supposed to give you a more live and in person sound. I wouldn’t say it enhanced the sound, but it did change it, making the music less bass-heavy and leaned it more towards the high end. For me personally this setting did nothing for me.
In case you’re keeping score, a previous option that allowed you to smack the speakers and get crazy sound effects, Party Booster, appears to no longer be available on these speakers.
Party Connect/Party Chain
These speakers have a feature called Party Connect (formerly Party Chain), which essentially lets you connect and group multiple speakers to the same source. With compatible Sony devices, you can connect up to 100 (100!!) speakers in the chain. Not only will the music play across devices but the lights match up too.
I’ve got full instructions here, but the gist of it is you turn on one speaker, (this will become your main speaker) press the ‘Party’ button, then turn on the next speaker, press the button and so on down the chain. I tried this out and am happy to report it was easy.
To de-connect them, push and hold the party button on any of the speakers that’s not the main one.
You can also pair two speakers to create a stereo pair. The full instructions are here, but I couldn’t get this to work after about half a dozen attempts. The steps are rather finicky and after each try, my phone would become disconnected and wouldn’t reconnect while the stereo pairing lights were on. I tried using the app to make the stereo pairing connection and just got constant error messages. During my testing period I was unable to make stereo pairing work correctly. Hopefully Sony will have this patched in a future app or firmware update.
USB charging/power bank
There’s built in USB charging on all three models so you can keep your phone juiced up.
Battery life of the Sony SRS-XB23, Sony SRS-XB33 & Sony SRS-XB43
The battery life in these speakers is decent, but hasn’t improved at all since I first reviewed this lineup about 2-3 years ago.
Setting up the Sony XB speakers
Setting the speakers up is super simple. Power on by pushing and holding the power button. That will put it into pairing mode for your first use, which will be confirmed with a verbal prompt. And flashing blue LED light. Go to your phone or device’s Bluetooth menu, select the speaker and tap to connect. I went through this numerous times with several speakers and it worked perfectly every time. If you need to re-enable pairing, just push the Bluetooth button.
Overall review of the Sony SRS-XB23, Sony SRS-XB33 & Sony SRS-XB43
Overall, these are great speakers. They sound great, they’re a breeze to set up and use too (and even getting the party chin feature going was easy). If there are any downsides, it’s with little things like the need for two apps to control both settings and lighting effects.