Sony Extra Bass SRS-XB40 – powerful bass and a light show (review)

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Sony’s EXTRA BASS portable Bluetooth speaker gives a punchy bass response, and its mood-altering light show is pretty good too.

The SRS-XB range comes in XB40, XB30 and XB20 and they don’t mind showing off – replete with coloured light lines and the top model has flashing strobes as well.

EXTRA BASS means just that – a button to reinforce of the lower 20Hz plus band. It is not like a subwoofer that moves massive volumes of air to push out thumping bass but more laying on layers of bass that emanate from the front/rear bass port.

Sony is synonymous with quality gear, and this is no exception – a durable, rubberised coating on the exterior, and a smooth metal grill on the front. It has staying power.

The external housing, depending on the model, is available in red, blue, white, green, and black.

Specifications –  Sony Extra Bass SRS-XB40

Sony seems to be following the trend of not publishing comprehensive specifications. There is a lack of Watts RMS, THD, Battery mAh, etc. Gadget Guy needs these to give an objective review!

  • Speaker: 2 x 61mm (2.45”) drivers for Left and Right 2.0 stereo
  • EXTRA BASS: from a passive radiator port on front and rear – in the middle
  • Handsfree phone: Yes, as well as potentially OK Google, Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Skype when app updates are released
  • Top controls: Play/Pause, Power/pairing, volume +/-, speaker pair/party chain, play/pause, handsfree, EXTRA BASS/Light control
  • Comms: 3.5mm AUX in
  • Charger: Dedicated 9.5V/2.2A charger plus a USB-A port to charge a smart device
  • Battery: 24-hour battery life (estimate with lights turned off). Tested with lights at 15 hours
  • Frequency response: claimed 20Hz – 20,000 Hz (44.1 kHz sampling)
  • Size/Weight: 279 x 100 x 105mm (W x H x D) x 1.5kg
  • IP Rating: IPX5 – splash proof
  • Bluetooth: 4.2 with NFC pairing to iOS, Android, Windows or MacOS. EDR LDAC lossless audio streaming to 10 metres and supports A2DP/AVRCP/HSP/HFP profiles
  • Lights: RGB LED light syncs to the music – outer band changes hues, and the inner lights flash to the beat
  • Stereo: it is a stereo speaker or add a second speaker for added separation or “party chain” up to 10 speakers in mono
  • Colours: Red, Blue, Black
  • Price: $299

The app

The Android SongPal app allows you to fine-tune the audio. SongPal is used for many Sony music products as well as the newer USB-C to 3.5mm dongles with a DAC.

For example, there is an Equaliser that gives granular +/- 10 settings for Bass, Mid, and Treble. You can pre-set for flat or EXTRA BASS, there is a DJ effect, Illumination mode (Rave, Chill. Random Flash, Hot, Cool). It can stream directly from Google Play.

iPhone app was not tested.

Sony lights up my life

The XB20 has lights around the edge, the XB30 has additional strobes, while the XB40 adds LED on the speaker cone itself.

The Fiestable app allows you to set the LED band to a custom colour, or to put it in Party Flash mode (or turn it off completely).

The lights can be intense – dual bright LEDs on either side of the grille take turns flashing on and off, while the colourful outer band switches hues to the beat, and the drivers illuminate. There is some logic to matching the beat to the lights, and you can play with this in the Fiestable app.

How does it sound?

Before we start let’s go over “Sound Signature 101”: There are only six basic sound signatures that describe the natural state of a speaker. Of course, you can have a combination of two or more, and many devices have an equaliser (EQ) and sound profile (pre-sets or apps) that can change the signature entirely. The signatures are:

  1. Analytical: (bass/mids recessed, treble boosted)
  2. Balanced: (bass boosted, mids recessed, treble boosted)
  3. Bass: (bass boosted, mids/treble recessed)
  4. Warm and Sweet (bass/mids boosted, treble recessed)
  5. Mid: (bass recessed, mids boosted, treble recessed)
  6. Bright Vocal (bass recessed, mids/treble boosted)

Look at the graphic below for possible combinations.

Without EXTRA BASS turned on it provides an Analytical sound signature. This is as good as it gets for a Bluetooth speaker because you can use the SongPal app to bring up the treble even further (to verge on Bright Vocal) or add a bit more bass for a more Balanced sound – perfect. This is what all Bluetooth speakers should aim for.

I found it needed a tad more mid and treble, and the speaker turned to Bright Vocal which is great for Beach Boys but not so good for a Beethoven Concerto. For that, you need to recess treble and increase mid and bass (Warm and Sweet).

But here is the Catch 22. If you play with the settings and mix in EXTRA BASS, you can get very poor sound. Let me explain.

Sony has invented EXTRA BASS to address the criticism levelled at 99.9% of smaller Bluetooth speakers – not enough bass for heavy music tracks. That may suit heavy metal and dance party music, but it loses too much in the clarity and crispness stakes. With EXTRA BASS enabled you can get a “thick” sound because the bass boost is at the expense of diminished mids and treble.

My advice is to use EXTRA BASS sparingly when you the music style suits.

Pros

  • Lots of volume
  • Good EXTRA bass when you have content that needs it
  • NFC Android pairing to up to three devices
  • Pairing with another for stereo or up to 10 for a party chain
  • Will charge a smartphone as well as play music
  • IPX5 Water resistant

Cons

  • EXTRA BASS is not like a sub-woofer bass and seems to recess mids and treble
  • Speakerphone average
  • Non-standard charger

Gadget Guy’s take

“It is a Sony” means something – quality and innovation to be sure. While I see where it is coming from, I would have preferred the EXTRA BASS button to also cycle through pre-sets as it would have been easier than going via the app.

Throw in IPX5 rating and a solid build, and it is a keeper. Certainly, the flashiest Bluetooth speaker you will see.

Rating

Overall: 4.3 out 5
Features: 5 out of 5 – Bluetooth, Extra Bass, psychedelic light show and power bank!
Value for money: 4 out of 5 – Hey it’s a Sony, Nuff said
Performance: 5 out of 5 – All the volume you need with low total harmonic distortion
Ease of Use: 3.5 out of 5 – Extra Bass can be tricky to master – use it sparingly
Design: 4 out of 5 – it is well made, but the simple rubber finish is not “lounge room.”

Price

$299 – expensive but value for what you get. Shop around as I have seen it for close to $200 and at that price, it is a bargain.

Overall
Features
Value for money
Performance
Ease of Use
Design
Reader Rating0 Votes
Great volume, extra bass when you need it and interesting light show
Use Extra Bass sparingly - needs the right content
4.3