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We tried Sony’s SRS-XB33 portable speaker that promises to light up the party

We try out the audio brand’s new speaker, which is designed for front room party animals 

David RS Taylor
Tuesday 16 March 2021 16:49
<p>The in-built LED system pulses and dances to any track you care to play, reacting to the beat and other subtle nuances of the audio</p>

The in-built LED system pulses and dances to any track you care to play, reacting to the beat and other subtle nuances of the audio

Among many uncertainties, there are a few safe bets. It’ll rain during Wimbledon; Mr. Brightside by The Killers will be playing somewhere at 4am; a Sony product will do a good job.

Sony creates solid products, with a roster of quality, including a wide array of speakers. However, this doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement, and so it’s proven with the XB range.

Last year, in need of a refresh in the wireless speaker department, Sony redeveloped its “extra bass” line-up, with a new design and extra oomph under the fabric grille. 

There haven’t been many opportunities for parties in the last year, but we’re looking for any chance we can get, including front room raves – there are very few portable speakers seemingly more geared towards that end than the XB range.

The XB33, Sony’s mid-range portable speaker, promises a lot of fun while retaining the necessary quality. But, does it deliver the killer blow?

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Sony SRS-XB33

Frequency: 20 Hz - 20 kHz

Weight: approx. 1.1kg

Wireless options: Bluetooth 5.0

Battery life: up to 24 hours on stamina mode, 14 hours EXTRA BASS mode

Anything else: in-built microphone for calls, hands-free function

Buy now £150, Sony.co.uk

Design

The SRS stands for “sturdy, really sturdy”. It doesn’t, but it might as well. The speaker feels strong and firmly-built, and Sony guarantees that the XB33 has been through rigorous testing to make it shockproof, in case it flies out of your hand during a particularly energetic moment. The XB33 has an impressive IP67 rating, making it dustproof and saltwater resistant, so it’s perfect for taking to the beach or presumably protecting against any drinks spillages.

The design itself is pretty standard, with some nice soft lines and a generally pleasing profile. If that were it, we would be slightly disappointed. However, don’t judge a book – or speaker – by its cover, as once the XB33 is set up and playing, it comes into its own. The in-built LED system pulses and dances to any track you care to play, reacting to the beat and other subtle nuances of the audio to create unique colour patterns. Along with the speaker’s bass capabilities, the light show is the main draw here: bright enough to grab the attention of the room or provide added ambience to an outdoor gathering. The Sony Music Center app also gives you the ability to control the LED patterns, with a number of preset shows to choose from, depending on your mood.

Sound

The XB33 is all about that bass. It makes sense, seeing as the speaker has been marketed as party-ready, and the deep sound certainly goes hand-in-hand with that image (and the LED light show). Sony’s EXTRA BASS series of speakers have been designed to produce as powerful a lower frequency as possible for their size, and the XB33 has done the trick. The woofers on each side are productive and give the speaker a slight look of a mini boombox. The bass can begin to overpower the subtleties of the treble in some tracks – but chances are, you’re not looking to hear the subtleties of the treble while you’re dancing in your living room. There’s also a “live sound” mode, which boosts audio to give more of a party impression.

The shape of the speaker isn’t a random design choice: the non-circular shape adds extra surface area to the speaker diaphragm, increasing sound pressure. Apparently, compared to the previous model, sound pressure on the XB33 has increased by 30 per cent, with distortion down by 25 per cent. This basically means that Sony has been able to keep the speaker as compact as it is while boosting the audio – the XB33 definitely sounds richer than other speakers of a similar size. For more exacting standards, the partner app also gives users the option of manually adjusting the XB33’s EQ.

The verdict: Sony SRS-XB33

This is the party bus of portable Bluetooth speakers. At first sight, it’s pretty average, unassuming and safe. However, turn on the lights and get the engine running, and you have something fun, loud and guaranteed to add to the atmosphere. The audio technology is focussed on the lower frequencies, with the mid-range and treble suffering slightly during more bass-heavy tracks, but this is a deliberate choice from Sony that pays off when the woofers start to vibrate and the beat drops.

The LED show is one of the best features on the market and seems to react more smartly to the music than other speakers with a similar angle. It’s a simple, sturdy, booming little speaker, that can fill a room handily and show off in front of everyone. It’s a solid choice for anyone looking to add some fun to their listening.

For more tech reviews read our write up of Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd gen Bluetooth speaker to see if it is worth the price tag?

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.

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