When Meghan Trainor sang “I’m all about that bass”, I suspect she wasn’t actually referring to Sony’s 2016 portable speaker. However, this diminutive green beastie does indeed pack quite a punch.
Weighing in at just shy of half a kilo and measuring 161mm wide by 62mm high and 65mm deep, this Bluetooth speaker will fit comfortably into most luggage while also not looking out of place anywhere from the living room to pool side. Sony claims it has a water resistant design, but the mesh covering the 2 speakers does not look to me as though it would take much splashing. The line-in, USB connector and reset switch on the back are covered by a rubberised flap, but that seems to be the only visible attempt to prevent water ingress. The controls on the top for pairing, volume, answering the phone and boosting the bass to truly anti-social levels don’t seem particularly well protected but again – only water resistance is claimed, not water proofing. So no dunking.
The finish of the product is good, feeling solid despite the relatively light weight, with good quality materials used in manufacture. Rubberised feet should stop the SRS-XB2 rattling on the surface when the bass is cranked up. The device comes in a range of colours, from the slightly alarming green of the product I am testing through to black, red and blue.
Other exterior features are a button to connect to another SRS-XB2 to really upset the neighbours and NFC for quick pairing (although I found the Bluetooth connectivity very painless to use.) There are no navigation controls on the speaker to, for example, skip tracks, which is a shame. Having to fish out a mobile phone to bypass a poorly chosen song in a playlist could be risky in the outdoor situations envisaged for this device.
Having had some poor experiences with external speakers in the past, I wasn’t expecting too much from the little Sony. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the SRS-XB2. Playing Pink Floyd’s ‘Time’ showed great depth in the bass, with the early alarm section sounding crisp and clear. Hitting the extra bass button increased the depth noticeably. With just 2 small active speakers and a passive radiator, this is impressive performance. Ramping up the volume did not result in distortion, although some of the vocals did begin to sound strained. At the time of writing, I’ve not heard better from speakers this size – although going one size up to the XB3 does give a noticeable improvement in performance (as well as size and cost.)
Bluetooth and Battery
Pairing is as straightforward as all Bluetooth devices should be these days. Telephone connectivity is supported, although other than as a speakerphone, I can’t say I recommend it. The battery itself is non-removable and charged from the USB connector. Sony claim 12 hours use, but this is very dependent on how you use the speaker – line-in versus Bluetooth and the use of volume and the ‘Extra Bass’ function. As with all things battery-related: your mileage may vary.
At less than £50 if you shop around the usual retailers, the Sony SRS-XB2 is an excellent option for the budget-conscious travel speaker buyer who does not want to compromise too much on bass. And considering the time of year, I would not be surprised if many end up being found playing upbeat Christmas classics in the living room, drowning out the traditional festive family row.