Before we get to our Sony SRS-XB41 Review, let’s start by remembering that it was a Dutchman, Jaap Hartsen, working in Copenhagen for Ericsson that gave us Bluetooth. He named it after a Scandinavian king from the 10th Century. It is one of those creations; we won’t say inventions, that has changed a lot of things. Especially about the way we listen to and control our music.
We don’t call it an invention because the science was already all around us. But his genius harnessed it and organized it and made it work.
A great many things these days are Bluetooth compatible. To the extent where we can buy a speaker, and it will connect us to our music. It might introduce us to new music and even allow us to take and make phone calls. For many, it is an essential communications tool.
For some, the first question they ask when buying something is ‘is it Bluetooth compatible?’ That is what we are going to look at here. A speaker with Bluetooth. But it is quite a bit more than that. But before we do, who are these Sony people?
If you have been with Pink Floyd on the Dark Side of the Moon for the last 75 years, it is possible that the name Sony might be new to you. But even then, we doubt you wouldn’t have heard of them even there. We aren’t going to bother with the history. They are probably the most important entertainment conglomerate in the world.
They are into everything, and they do it all well, working at all levels, from entry-level products through to high-end professional equipment. And they also operate at all the price points. How have they achieved this status they enjoy? They are good, very good.
So, let’s take a look at one of their more ‘fun-based’ items in our Sony SRS-XB41 Review…
The design and build quality of this speaker tells us that it is intended for one occupation – party time. It is the latest release and an upgrade on its predecessor, the XB40. Externally it has a new style, but internally it is very similar. That will be good news for those that like their XB40. But, if you like the ‘40’ then you are really going to like the ‘41’.
There are a couple of less than subtle clues. Flashing LED lights, a strobe light built-in, and thumping bottom end. Sony are giving themselves clues with this. It is fun, and to make sure that the party goes on all night, there is enormous battery life. Sony has not made this for the critical ear to discuss the sound quality. They have made it for a whole different idea.
So, let’s have a closer look…
The most obvious change to the speaker from its forerunner is that the XB41 is covered in a fabric material. The basic material underneath is still plastic, but it now has a protective covering. It covers all of the speaker, except for the LED lighting strips, which have a rubber coating.
Prepared for the elements you might think. You would be quite right. The XB41 has a rating of IP67. This means it is waterproof and dustproof. In fact, very waterproof, you can submerge it in water up to three meters for a period of time. Party time for the fish as well.
Dustproof is a good idea as it will protect it from the sand on the beach. However, anyone that has had something that is fabric knows it is not easy to keep it clean. We suspect that might be the case after a few beach visits with this speaker. But it is protected, which is the most important thing.
Inside there are two 58mm drivers. They have a frequency range of 20 Hz – 20,000 Hz. This is not small, just put it in a bag unit. It weighs three and a half pounds and measures 12.70 by 5.30 by 7.40 inches.
The built-in lighting system is undoubtedly one of this speaker’s highlights. The drivers are lit up and pulse in time with the music. On the sides of the drivers are more lights that flash in a steady rhythm. There is also a strobe light built-in.
Maybe the biggest contributor to the light show is the light strips. The speaker has a rounded edge design, and the light strips follow the shape. It is a nice idea and gives the speaker a sleek and impressive look. The addition of the original Sony logo in the front center is a simple idea. It brings you out of the near ‘space-age’ look of the speaker and reminds you who is behind it.
The inputs and some of the buttons are protected underneath a rubber flap on the back.
If there is one thing you don’t want at a beach or anywhere else, party, it’s dead batteries. You won’t have that problem here. Sony claims 24 hours of battery life when used without the lighting. In reality, it may well last even longer than that, depending on how loud you have it.
The lighting, though, will drain the power out of it. But it should still be quite adequate. It takes a full five hours to recharge it fully; it is a big battery after all.
The lights can be turned off when they are not necessary. They are really only practical at night, so daytime use will give you plenty of power. It is supplied with an AC adapter. The unit can be used while it is being charged.
We certainly can’t argue with the build quality or the design. It is functional and attractive with plenty of good aesthetics. It is made at a Sony factory in China.
Probably the first thing to say about this speaker is that the sound quality was not high on Sony’s priority list. They have not built this speaker for critical listening at all. This is for fun by the pool or down by the beach. Nothing wrong with that. But if you are expecting top-notch Sony quality sound, you might be disappointed.
With two 58mm drivers, it is also not going to be the loudest out there. This is strange because you do need a bit of volume at parties.
The basic sound is best described as ok. But there are a couple of options. You have an ‘extra bass’ control. This does exactly what it says and gives you a bit more oomph at the bottom end. The result is that the bass is suddenly in your face a bit. And it does tend to crowd out the vocals in the mid ranges. The sound then becomes a little blurred and feels unbalanced.
The output of this speaker is only about 15 watts. You are possibly then in volume level problems if you have a few people there and need a bit of extra power.
There is a further sound option by way of a ‘Live’ button. We think the idea of this was to try and create an outdoor concert feel to the music. In our opinion, that was never going to be possible, especially from such a relatively small unit. Not a feature most people will probably use because of the very apparent deterioration of the sound quality.
The volume level is probably adequate for a small gathering outside but not much more. However, you can link more than one of these speakers together. Maybe that was Sony’s idea? If you like your bass, you will be pleased with the sound. But we have to admit to being a little disappointed overall.
Sony does work at the budget end of the market as well as the middle and higher ends. They do, therefore, have some units where the sound is not so great. This sits in the middle price-wise, and we were rather expecting a little more. Sony has seemingly done well with the design and build quality. They have put in some really quite nice lighting effects.
But then they seem to have ignored the sound quality a bit. Strange, because that is Sony’s forte. We are not saying it is bad; it isn’t and will suit some people. It is just a little under-powered for an outside party in our view. And the sound stage is rather bass-heavy when extra bass is used. It will, though, suit some people’s tastes.
The operating controls are all located on the top and the back of the speaker, and these include the music controls for volume as well as play and pause. You can also skip tracks by tapping the play button. Also positioned here is the Bluetooth pairing button.
There are also the ‘Live’ and ‘Extra bass’ buttons we have already discussed. Controls are as sometimes can be the case, a little lacking in explanation. They are all rubber-based, which is understandable in case it does go in the water.
On the back is the rubber flap covered section we discussed before. This contains a micro-USB port and a DC input for charging. You can use either socket to charge it, but the micro-USB takes a longer time to give you a full charge, as you would expect. There is also a 3.5mm input as well as a USB if you want to charge your devices.
At the top of this small section are three buttons. One acts as a battery level indicator and also turns off the lighting. There is the facility to link more than one speaker together via Bluetooth on the second. The final button turns the sound into left or right channels if you are using two speakers. We cannot say that we think they will get an awful lot of use.
This speaker is Bluetooth 4.2 enabled and is also AAC and LDAC compatible. It also benefits from NFC, Near Field Communication, which gives you quick pairing with other compatible devices. This is a simple tap of the logo initiation.
Sony says that you can connect up to 100 speakers using Bluetooth, which to us, seems a rather pointless statistic. You can though, control the music at a party or gathering via Bluetooth using your phone. Either by using your own playlists or on streaming sites. You can also make and receive phone calls.
You will have access to two Sony apps Festival and Music Center. They allow you to add things like DJ sounds, and there is even the option to add some drum sounds. It is a nice idea, but unfortunately, the apps are not that easy to use.
Their operation is not very functional, and it seems like they may have been thrown together quite quickly to satisfy a commercial demand. Not usually the Sony style at all. Maybe that is a bit unfair, but they just don’t work particularly well.
Sony SRS-XB41 Pros & Cons
- Lots of bass.
- Durable and waterproof.
- 24-hour battery life.
- DJ and Party features plus fun lighting options.
- Good Bluetooth range.
- USB port for smartphone charging.
- Lacks volume.
- Sound quality is average at best.
- App needs improvement.
- Lots of bass!!!
More Superb Speaker Options
Looking for more great options? No problem, simply check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Wireless Outdoor Speakers, the Best Party Speakers, the Best Bluetooth Speakers with Radio, the Best Tailgate Speakers, and the Best Solar Powered Bluetooth Speakers currently available.
What We Think
So let’s get down to what we really think. We are great fans of Sony, but there are just one or two issues with this speaker that we were a little disappointed with. However, it is quite easy to recommend it, and in many ways, we do.
The lights are a great asset and really make it a great party unit, and the battery life is exceptional. It has that all-important water and dust rating. It is a great little speaker for a small gathering in the back garden. The overall design is nice, and it is certainly a tough little cookie.
It seems to have been fitted with features that are a little irrelevant. The ‘Live’ button for us is a disaster for the sound and does nothing at all. ‘Extra bass’ control will be an asset for some who like their music bottom heavy. However, it does disturb the overall frequency balance, and the mids, with vocals, of course, become crowded out.
Aso, it hasn’t been given a 360 degree sound performance like some speakers have, which to us is also rather limiting. The functionality of the associated apps needs a little work to make them operative easily, but that is a side issue, really.
Given the light show and its design being with the party in mind, it doesn’t carry an awful lot of volume. It is going to be fine in some situations, but we can easily envisage where it might be underpowered.
The price point isn’t cheap though it could hardly be called expensive. It carries a few very good features which will justify the price tag.
If you want a tough speaker to take to the beach with a few friends or have in the backyard for smaller parties, it is fine. Despite a few misgivings, we think it is still a decent buy with a great light show and a good build for the right environment.