In this article, I am going to review and compare three very popular and cool speakers: Sony SRS XB41 vs XB31 vs XB21. All are made by Sony and are very similar. But which one of them is the best for the money? Let’s find out.
All Sony XB Portable Wireless speakers look very similar, the only difference is the size. They have lights on the front part and on the sides, and they are not 360 degrees. They provide only directional audio. So if you are looking for a 360-degree device you’d better buy Bose SoundLink Revolve + or similar speaker.
Some people may prefer the directional audio because it’s usually more powerful. All the speakers inside are faced in the same direction and make the sound stronger. But there is also a negative side: if you place it in the center of the room, the sound behind the speaker will be not so strong.
All three have the LED stripes at the front side. The stripes pulsate with the music. There are also two strobe lights. But unfortunately, the customization is limited. You can switch between lighting modes only.
The most important thing you should know is that all thee models Sony SRS XB41, XB31 and XB21 differ in size, weight and battery life. XB21 also doesn't have USB charging port. All other technical features are the same. Here are all the differences between them:
|SRS XB41||SRS XB31||SRS XB21|
|Speaker diameter||58mm (2 speakers)||48mm (2 speakers)||42mm (2 speakers)|
|Battery life||24 hours||24 hours||12 hours|
|USB charging port||Yes||Yes||No|
All three Sony SRS XB speakers are IP67 certified and have waterproof and dust resistance. Do you know what that means? That means you can literally place the device into the water (up to 1 meter deep) and it will continue working after being there for up to 30 minutes! It’s protected from both fresh and salt water. That’s amazing. Such protection makes this speaker very good for using near the pools or at the beach. Neither water no sand can damage it. Pay attention that SRS XB10 is IPX5 splash-proof only!
I have seen a review where a guy placed XB31 into the water and it was just floating above the water surface. He tried to sink it but without any success. And after this, he just took it out, switched it on and everything was ok.
The controls are located at the top. They are tactile and clicky. They allow not only change the volume but also switch between different sound profiles. Sony has 3 different profiles: Standard, Xtra Bass, and Live Sound. But you can activate only the first two using the controls on the device. If you want to activate Live sound you have to do it in the app. For me, that’s not a big deal because I am not going to change them often. But anyway, that’s a strange thing… The manufacturer could also let users select the third profile using the above controls.
There is one more issue: there is no dedicated button for switching between profiles. You need to hold Play and Volume Down button for 3 seconds to switch. Not very comfortable. A separate extra button would be much better.
Other control buttons for switching lights, checking battery life, USB, micro-USB, audio in are located at the back side under a waterproof cover.
There is another cool feature called WPC (Wireless Party Chain) which allows you to connect over 100 Sony speakers together and have them play the same music. It’s great for open-air events.
You can also pair 2 Sony XB speakers and get the full stereo sound with left and right audio channels.
There is a USB port for charging your devices so you can use the speaker as a power bank. Pay attention that this USB port is available in SRS XB41 and SRS XB31. SRS XB21 doesn't have it.
There is a Bluetooth 4.2 which is fine for most of the users. The signal is strong and works at more than 50 linear feet distance.
The manufacturer tells that the first two devices can play for up to 24 hours without recharging with the LED turned off. The tests show that they work about 10 hours with LED on and 50% volume.
All new XB Sony speakers have a very cool feature. It’s called Party Booster. You need to chop the back side of the speaker and then tap on the front. You will hear a bass! You can make different beats by tapping the front, side, up and bottom parts. This feature is fun.
All 3 speakers have a different diameter of the speakers meaning they output different sound.
- Sony SRS-XB41 is the strongest. It's good for large rooms and open air. It is the loudest among all tree and if you are looking for a speaker for a large room then you probably should buy it.
- Sony SRS-XB31 is good for small and middle-sized rooms. The sound is rather strong.
- Sony SRS-XB21 is the weakest one. It's good for smaller rooms only.
But if you are thinking about buying SRS-XB41 don't rush! You can buy two XB31 instead if there is a discount, pair them and place in different parts of the room to get a better fill. With this scheme, you will get 4x48mm speakers instead of 2x58mm. That’s a very good solution, in my opinion, maybe even better than buying single XB-41.
The sound quality is good but if you set the volume above 90% you may hear a slight rasp.
As I have mentioned earlier there are 3 sound profiles and you need to install a special app to switch to the Live Audio mode. Some of you may think that it’s not necessary but I definitely recommend this mode because it makes the sound better.
The bass is good for this size speaker. It’s strong and it beats the other mid-size speakers at the similar price level.
The price of the largest one is about $240. The middle model costs 2 times less: about $150 but you may get it for $120 if you are lucky enough. When this review was written, the price was at the level of 120. Check Amazon for the most updated prices.
$120 - $150 price range is popular and many other manufacturers have something to offer for the customer. For example, you can buy the Bose Sound Link Revolve or Ultimate Ears BLAST if you add $30. You can buy JBL Charge 3 at the same cost. So this is not the only product for that price.
Which one of all three is the best? In my opinion, Sony SRS-XB31 wireless speaker wins this race. It has the best price to quality ratio. You can also buy two of them and this combination will beat Sony SRS-XB41 and will give stereo sound. I would definitely recommend it. I like the sound and the waterproof feature. LED lights make it cool looking and Party Booster feature is very fun. The bass is also very good for the price.