Sony knows a thing or two about speakers and it has a speaker at practically every price point. The newest offering comes in the form of the Sony SRS-XB32, which is packed with features ranging from high-quality Bluetooth codecs to strobe lights (seriously).
With so many great speakers available now for under $100, is the Sony SRS-XB32 worth spending the extra cash on?
Editor’s note: this Sony SRS-XB32 review was updated on April 14, 2021, to include a content menu, technical details, information about the mobile app, and more.
Who should get the Sony SRS-XB32?
- Party people who want a semi-portable option should get this LED-outlined speaker.
- Beachgoers can enjoy this IP67-rated speaker which is resistant to both dust and water.
- Campers can gather around the campfire with this speaker. It will keep the party going, and light up the area at night. Plus, it gets loud, so it will scare away the bears (hopefully).
What’s it like to use the Sony SRS-XB32?
The Sony SRS-XB32 is one of the larger portable speakers you can buy, but don’t worry: it’s still fairly portable. If you’re a hardcore outdoorsy person who counts every gram, get the JBL Clip 3 or the UE WONDERBOOM 2.
The SRS-XB32 is made of hard plastic with a rough fabric that covers the speaker grill and dynamic drivers. It features dual 48mm full-range drivers along with dual passive radiators to get the most out of the low-end. Plus, you can give it a little extra oomph at your next get-together thanks to the extra bass feature. You can switch between live mode or Extra Bass mode which makes it easier to hear your music outside.
Sony placed the playback buttons on the top panel of the speaker and each button clicks easily so you get immediate feedback. A handful of inputs lie in the back beneath a protective waterproof flap. There’s also a USB output, so the speaker can double as an external battery pack and charge up your devices on the go (similar to the JBL Charge 4).
A colorful LED strip lines the speaker, and you can control it via the Fiestable app. This lets you choose what color you want and you can disable it to conserve battery. Two tiny strobe lights flash to the music because—well, why the hell not? The Sony SRS-XB32 also borrows a weird and unique feature from some other Sony speakers that lets you use it as an instrument. Enabling the “Party Booster” makes kick drums, snares, and cowbell sound just by tapping it to the beat. If you’re going to be having a party, all of these features take this speaker to the next level.
Doest the speaker stay connected?
The Sony SRS-XB32 uses Bluetooth 4.2 with a 9-meter range. When outside, I was able to get to around 15 meters before the connection hiccuped. You can connect via the standard Bluetooth procedure, or by tapping your smartphone to it (so long as NFC is enabled). However, if you have an iPhone you can’t use NFC with this device. Besides that, you can connect via a 3.5mm input if you want to hardwire in devices, but this input exposes the ports under the waterproof flap.
You can connect the SRS-XB32 to three source devices at once, and it will automatically register the current source device and make it the current output. This is a nifty feature and great if you have multiple friends who want to play DJ.
The Sony SRS-XB32 supports three Bluetooth codecs: SBC, AAC, and Sony’s own LDAC codec for high-quality streaming. While neither high-quality codec is perfect, they’re still higher quality than the standard SBC codec that all Bluetooth devices use, even if the highest LDAC setting does risk an unstable connection. Still, if you’re streaming music from a service like Apple Music or Spotify, none of this really matters anyway. I doubt anyone is going to tell you off at your next backyard rave because of the sound quality.
Should you download the Sony Music Center app?
To get the most out of this speaker, you should download the Sony Music Center app. You can use it to enable Party Booster mode or the Live Sound mode, which Sony claims will angle the sound to simulate a 3D experience. I found that it just made the music sound like it had a little more reverb. You can also daisy chain up to 100 of these wirelessly by pressing the Wireless Party Chain (WPC) button underneath the flap on the back.
What’s the battery life of the SRS-XB32?
Sony claims a battery life of 24 hours of constant playback, but that’s only if you turn off all of the lights and Extra Bass mode. All of those things are turned on by default, so I tested the battery life with everything enabled; Sony claims the speaker will last 14 hours under these conditions. In our testing, it lasted a respectable 11 hours, 5 minutes.
You have to use a microUSB cable to charge the speaker, which is a bummer. At least it has a USB-A output, so you can charge your devices on the go. When you use the speaker to charge your devices, it will drain the speaker’s remaining battery.
How does the speaker sound?
Usually, I expect good things from Sony products when it comes to sound quality, but that isn’t the case with their extra bass line of products. While they don’t sound bad, the extra emphasis on the lower notes is a bit much.
Bass notes completely overpower the other elements of a given track. While this could be a good thing for bassheads, it’s not for everyone. Then again, it does have a real benefit: the bass emphasis makes it easier to hear music outdoors. Lower notes tend to dissipate quicker into your surroundings if there’s a lot going on in your area, and that extra emphasis helps you hear them outside.
Vocals don’t come through very clearly because bass notes mask quieter midrange notes. Treble notes were similarly lacking in clarity with the cymbals and hi-hats in Generator ^ Second Floor by Freelance Whales. They sound slightly lower in volume than other instruments in the background.
Can you use the Sony SRS-XB32 for phone calls?
You can use the Sony SRS-XB32 for phone calls in a pinch, but it won’t suffice for professional calls. Listen to the audio sample below and please rate it, doing so really helps our other readers understand how the microphone performs across a wide array of devices.
Sony SRS-XB32 microphone demo:
Should you buy the Sony SRS-SB32?
While the Sony SRS-XB32 won’t be knocking anything off our best waterproof speakers list, it still has its place. Particularly if you like the idea of having a speaker that can party as you do when you go to the beach or to the pool this isn’t a bad option.
It’s a fun speaker that gets loud and can add some extra flair to your party. It’s not as large or as loud as the SRS-XB41, but it’s also not as expensive. The SRS-XB32 fills a certain niche for a certain kind of person and a certain use case. Unfortunately, that person isn’t me. I’d much rather save the extra money and pick up a tough little speaker that costs less. But if strong bass, flashing strobe lights, fun features, and a tough waterproof build is what you’re looking for then that person might be you.