We now have all three of the new Sony EXTRA BASS 2020 range – the SRS-XB23, SRS-XB33 and SRS-XB43. No, it is not a a case of good, better and best, but what they are good, better and best for as all three serve different niches.
For example, the XB23 is a direct competitor for Ultimate Ears and JBL. It has morphed into a drink can shape perfect for mono sound and to fit into the water bottle holder on the bike. But as a ‘one-up’, it can also be a stereo speaker or a stereo pair. This is most unusual for a round BT speaker.
The mid-sized XB33 is all that you should allow children to have as its capable of raising the roof in their bedroom. Terrific sound and a lovely light show.
And the XB43 – well its ‘party-perfect’ with good thumping bass, party lights and like its little siblings – damned tough with MIL-STD shock resistance and IP67 waterproofing.
So let’s explore the what is good, better and best options in the Sony EXTRA BASS 2020 range
Can be changed to 2.0 stereo LDAC mode via App (landscape recommended)
Portrait (mono) or Landscape (stereo)
BT 5.0 Codecs
SBC, AAC, LDAC
A2DP/AVRCP HSP/HFP (handsfree reduces frequency response) Stereo Pair (L+R) Max distance 30m
plus NFC connect
Clear Audio+ DSEE EXTRA BASS STAMINA MODE
Plus Live Sound for a wider and higher sound stage
Party up with up to 100 XB23/33/43 speakers or stereo pair
Battery life (claim) STAMINA =50% volume
12-hours STAMINA 10-hours at 31 EXTRABASS 3-hours at 50 (100%)
24-hours STAMINA 14-hours 35 EXTRA BASS 4-hours 50 (100%) Use of Lighting will reduce run-time
USB-A to USB-C cable Charger not supplied but recommends 5V/1.5A or more
Same Recommends 5V/1.5A or 3A charger. The later charges faster
5V/3A USB-C charger supplied.
Charge time Speaker off
Approx. 4 hours. Does not appear to support faster charging
Approx. 5 hours Same
Yes USB-A out 5V/1A
3.5mm Audio in
76 mm dia. X 218 mm (H) x 580g
246mmx97mmx106mm x 1.1kg
325mmx123mmx117mm x 2.95kg
IP67 and MIL-STD810H
Music Centre iOS or Android Party Connect to up to 100 XB23/33/43 speakers
Same plus FIESTABLE to control lights
Via a smartphone or smart speaker
Red, Blue, Taupe and Black
Same minus red
NFC and 3.5mm in
Download the Sony Music Centre App. You will need the Fiestable App to control the lights.
I am not going to go into it too much but the app finds the speakers, updates firmware and you are good to go – simple. Here are a few screenshots of the App features.
How does the Sony EXTRA BASS 2020 range sound? EXCEED!
Below are the various sound types, and you can read more about sound signatures in our guide. It is important to note that sound via the BT codecs SBC, AAC and LDAC will each sound entirely different We use SBC in our tests.
Warm and Sweet (bass/mids boosted, treble recessed)
Bright Vocal (Bass recessed, mids/treble boosted)
A portable BT speaker should aim for ‘warm and sweet‘ because it can then add more Bass or treble to go to Bass (as in EXTRA Bass) or Mid (Clearer voice). Sony succeeds with aplomb.
Sony EXTRA BASS 2020 range frequency response
Deep Bass: 20-40Hz
Middle Bass: 40-100Hz
Building slowly from 60Hz
Solid from 50Hz
Solid from 40Hz
High Bass: 100 to 200Hz
High Treble: 6-1kHz
Nice dip to reduce harshness
Nice dip to reduce harshness
Dog whistle: 10-20Hz
Slight decline to 16kHz
Slight decline to 18kHz
Flat to 18kHz
We tried it in mono and stereo mode and landscape and portrait. It has a mid-centric sound that can get a little harsh at maximum volume. But you can play with that in the EQ and back off the treble to move it closer to warm and sweet (nirvana).
As you would expect from a ‘tube’ speaker, it has lesser left/right/up/down sound stage. Music volume is great at 80dB, with virtually no distortion (a credit to the Sony Digital Signal Processor), but you know you are pushing this style of speaker.
BTW – handsfree was fine on all speakers despite only one mic. It was clear and loud enough.
Pro: Portable’ Coke can’ and one of the best sound signatures I have seen for this type. Perfect for personal use and as a bonus can be stereo.
It defaults to stereo landscape mode. It was louder again at 83dB with a beautiful, refined sound. This has a great wide and high sound stage as we tried it in both ExtraBass and Live Sound. The Light Show (defaults to Rave) added a fresh perspective and was not nearly as flashy as the 2010 range.
It has a warm and sweet sound signature – perfect for this device.
Pro: Plenty loud enough for a large room with a refined clear sound. The App allows so much flexibility via EQ. We tried some Dolby Atmos content, and the sound stage went out to over two metres so it may be a good BT speaker for a TV as well.
This is the mother of all and reached 86dB. Now, I previously suggested this was the party animal but its also very refined with smooth tones, and it is a delight to listen to. So Party Animal remains the Sony PG10 with drink holders we reviewed here. Let’s just say the SRS-XB43 is the Julio Iglesias to the PG10’s Tina Turner.
It too has warm and sweet with bass cutting in quite low and tighter control of the treble. Again, with very little EQ adjustment, you could make this your daily listen.
Pro: More refined than I expected, so it is good for a wide range of content. Those extra few dB don’t add any distortion either. Beautiful wide/high sound stage with gets even better with LDAC content.
GadgetGuy’s take – Sony EXTRA BASS 2020 has got it right
Now, comparisons with Ultimate Ears and JBL are inevitable. Frankly, these occupy different niches. First, it’s a Sony, and that counts. Next, these are, in my opinion, quite a step up from the 20190 range in terms of audio quality.
Sony has nailed the range and features, added much needed BT 5.0, and produced three different speakers for three different uses.
My wife and I find the Taupe (sand/beige) colour nicest (and no we are far from colourless people). It is the perfect colour to match most homes. The nice navy blue (which we think is the light blue colour on the website) is equally subdued.
Now by definition, these are Bluetooth rugged, portable speakers that charge via USB-C (and we tested USB-C PD chargers, and they work fine too). So, the ideal use is one calling for portability. Think – in the caravan or motorhome, when travelling to hotels to reinforce TV sound, to the beach or just to have in your lounge as a music speaker hooked to Spotify.
My only wish-list is that these were directly controllable by OK Google commands instead of pairing to a smartphone – but that would have required a Wi-Fi connection. You can cast to them via OK Google, and that opens up another world.
Rating is easy – as rugged portable BT speakers with enormous flexibility in the App and SBC, AAC (Apple) and LDAC (Sony Hi-Res) these are far better than the 2019 range. If we rate them within their capabilities and price brackets, they are almost perfect.
We would only say that these all exhibit an element of ‘manufactured’ music (like JBL, Bose, Ultimate Ears et al. all do) that you don’t get with audiophile standard gear. For example, casting to a Sonos Five presents the music as the maker intended it. Casting to an XB speaker adds loads of Bass (or whatever you set the EQ too).
The XB-43 just edges out my favourite JBL Xtreme 2 but to be fair, it is the use of BT 5.0 in the 2020 range that makes it better.