Hey everyone! Sony and JBL are my two favorite right now. As always full disclosure, I personally bought the Sony XB41 to review. It retails for $249, but, it’s on sale, I personally paid $200. As crazy as it sounds, on the date of this review, I’ve seen the Xb41 for $149! I hate it when I miss a sale. Lol.
Now with complete mesh around the entire speaker, similar to the JBL Xtreme 2 or UE MegaBoom. It feels more rugged but retains a clean look.
Keep in mind, the audio drivers are still forward facing and provides directional, front facing audio. To clarify, there’s no speakers on the side or on it’s rear so you’re not getting 360 degree audio.
Placing this in my bookbag rubbing against my work gear, traveling with the XB41, throwing this in the back of my car, I found it’s abrasion resistant and the speaker still looks damn good despite normal wear and tear.
Awesome Update: Although I checked and it’s shock resistant, I happened to drop the damn thing in the parking lot. Sad to report, he LED plastic is easily cracked. I redid the water test and water does seep in (of course) and blocks some of the LED’s from showing, but… the speaker still works 100% fine and… once the water drains and dries, all LED’s are visible again. I wouldn’t advise to purposely get this wet after a crack, but
wanted to give you my experience. How (or how not) durable the Sony XB41 is.
The bigger question… for those on the lake or at the deep end of the pool who can’t swim like me… if it drops in, does it float?? From my test, thank God it does.
The one other unique water resistant feature, Sony claims it’s also rust-proof which is a first for me. Bring this to the ocean and get salt-water on here, Sony claims it’s not a problem.
Looking at the buttons, they’re tactile and clicky with no issues from my testing. Two buttons worth mentioning. The First is Live Sound. This simulates 3D audio giving you a wider soundstage. I’ll get into the audio test later in this review.
The second button, it’s quite discreet but it’s Party Mode. You can tap either ends of the speaker, the top or bottom and the Sony XB41 creates a beat. You can tap or slap your Bluetooth speaker along with the beat and enjoy yourself in the mix. This is really subjective and seems gimmicky, but it sure does create some laughs if you’re willing to not be self-conscious. Up To you. =)
The problem I had with Party Mode, you have to tap it quite hard to have the sound effect be audible over your music. Light taps produces sound, but it’s minimal. Second, my palm hurts after awhile… and I’m not being funny here, after awhile, it’s not so fun. My hand is actually sore.
Moving to the back, this is not a big issue and as much as I love Sony Xtra Bass speakers, the additional buttons located behind the water resistant flap is a slight nuisance. Especially to check the battery level.
Yes, you can use the app to check, but if I have to physically turn on the speaker, then whip out my phone; it’s not intuitive… Not a deal breaker at all, but a button for battery life nearby would be very convenient. Better yet, why not have a visual battery level indicator.
The other buttons are not too bad, there’s WPC for Wireless Party Chain. You can pair over a hundred of these speakers together if you want to fill up a room or an event.
If your friend, neighbor, or someone that also owns the new Sony speakers, you can tap ADD to have Stereo separation. With the newer models (XB41, XB31, XB21) they worked fine. With the older models, this was tough since Sony support and Sony’s instruction manuals are horrible, but I did find a solution. I was indeed able to pair both my Sony XB20 and newer XB41 together… I’m happy to report, it works.
PHYSICAL CONNECTIONS (2 ways to charge!)
Finishing up the physical features, this is first for a Large Bluetooth speaker, at least to me… not only is there a wall adapter, which is another adapter I have to bring on a trip, it sucks… but now, there’s also a Micro-USB input to charge the speaker. That’s convenient.
Next up is a 3.5mm physical input and last is a traditional USB port to charge your phone or devices. Basically use the speaker like a power-bank.
BATTERY TEST RESULTS
On the topic of batteries, Sony claims upto 24hrs with the LED’s off which is best in class, beating out many of the mainstream competitors.
JBL Xtreme 2 : upto 15hrs
Bose Soundlink Revolve Plus: upto 16hrs
UE Megaboom : upto 20hrs
I did my test at 50% volume with the LED’s on and was able to achieve a total of 18hrs and 34minutes of straight continuous playing.
BLUETOOTH TEST RESULTS
The Sony XB41 offers Bluetooth 4.2, which is perfectly fine for most average users. Testing this with my Samsung S8+, I’m able to get a range of 84 linear feet with two walls in between my phone and speaker before the audio started to crackle.
LIGHTS / LEDS
Last but not least, let’s talk about the LED’s. I think they look really good, and it’s nice to see some lighting on it’s side p
rofile. It’s not as abundant as the JBL Pulse 3, but compared to most Bluetooth speakers out there, Sony and JBL appears to be the only two companies really pushing RGB lighting. You can always turn them off if you want. The colors are bright enough and gives a nice glow and transition.
The customization is done through Sony’s Fiestable app and accessed through Music Center. It’s an “ok” experience, simply offering different color choices to choose from, but nothing like having the lights scroll in a direction or pulstate exactly the way that I want it to. In the end, I stuck with the presets offered and the quality of the lights was enough for me.
Alright folks, enough of the physical stuff. Let’s get into some quick audio tests. Be sure to put on your headphones or earphones as I’ll be using binaural microphones, offering you some of the best audio tests out there. And before I start, be sure to comment down below!! Would love to hear your thoughts or requests.
Here we go…
VOLUME – LOUDNESS
First up, the Sony XB41 is fitting for small dorm rooms to midsize apartments. At 50% volume, it was comfortable and still loud enough to be enjoyable.
Pushing it upto 70% and higher, this will surely fill large areas. If your price limit is $200 to $250, the XB41 is your best choice right now beating the competition in regards to price to volume and portability.
Now, if you’re needing something for outdoor use or a super big room or event… getting two Sony XB31’s for the same price and pairing them… or the bigger but older XB60 for the price of $250 is the way to go if loudness is your priority.
Jumping into bass, if you’re into genres of EDM, hip-hop, anything bassy, the Sony XB41 sounds damn good most of the time.
For the Large Bluetooth Speaker category, comparing to the likes of the JBL Xtreme, UE Megablast, Bose Soundlink Revolve+, the XB41 is bassier, thumping, you can practically hear the bass in the next room.
I particularly like it and I know most average consumers out there will enjoy this too. My reviews do target the average consumer, so I’m not trying to be an audio snob, but the only issue I noticed, when you do turn this up to fill those large rooms, when volume is super high, the quality slightly diminishes with vocals becoming slightly recessed. The vocals are not as strong.
Segwaying in to the mid-range frequencies, I do wish the mid-range was slightly brighter for us to interpret a bit more detail, having the vocal work be a bit more forward.
This can be improved though if you are using an equalizer… Overall for the mid-range, most people will find this speaker perfectly fine and sounding amazing, but those more peculiar will hear the nuances.
With my testing, my assessment, it’s not a deal breaker, for most people, this speaker will still sound amazing.
High-hats, cymbal crashes and such had a good bit of roll-off preventing that sharp and tinging experience with very high-frequency. It could use a bit more sparkle uptop but overall, we don’t get ear-piercing audio and I personally didn’t have any listening fatigue whatsoever.
As for the soundstage, like most Bluetooth speakers, it’s lacking in this department. I was expecting Life Mode to enhance it, but man, I think that was a dud. Some may like it and yes, it does give a more spacial audio experience, further separating it’s audio, but vocals, the mid-range in general loses so much detail and forwardness, it sounds not good quality.
I personally liked it on it’s regular/stock setting from the factory.
So do I recommend this speaker? Hell yeah. Despite the cheesy Party Mode which won’t help me socially, the now offered waterproofing and knowing it floats, the extra Micro-USB port to charge for convenience on the go anywhere, the newly updated style is a huge plus for me all around, and damn, if you like bass, this is the way to go. But, how does it compare to the JBL Xtreme 2 and possibly others. I’ll have it up there shortly.
Be sure to light this comment section with fire emojis and follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I’ll see you guys later. Bye.
– Jimmy Luong