Sony SRS-XB32 Review
Pros: Good sound quality, waterproof, long battery life
Cons: Large and heavy
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Sony SRS-XB32 sounds good, is relatively loud, and is waterproof, but it's quite heavy and doesn't excel enough in any other category to make it feel worth lugging around the extra weight.
The first hurdle for a Bluetooth speaker to clear is to make you forget you're listening to music on a relatively small and portable speaker. The Sony SRS-XB32 clears that hurdle with aplomb. It's higher ranges sound reasonably clear and lack any of that tinniness you'd fear from a small speaker. Its bass is also defined and deep enough to make the music feel well anchored and rounded. This is probably plenty of sound quality for 99% of those looking to listen to music away from outlets.
The next bar for one of these speakers to pass would be adding some impressive clarity, nuance, and balance to the music. Basically, to make you feel like you were listening to a proper speaker that must be plugged into a wall. The Sony SRS-XB32 stops a bit short here, as it lacks that over-the-top clarity and bass punch that the top-tier speakers have. We wouldn't call this a shortcoming, however, it's just that the Sony SRS-XB32's listening experience falls a bit below premium.
If you're a bass lover, the Sony SRS-XB32 does have a bass boost mode that provides noticeably more low end. However, that extra power is a bit muddled, so we preferred the sound with this feature turned off.
This is where the Sony SRS-XB32 lost some favor in our books. While it is IP67 fully waterproof, it weighs a whopping 32 ounces (that's a full 2 pounds). That weight is well above average, and is definitely noticeable in a bag or pack. Unless we weren't straying far from our car, we were pretty reluctant to tote the Sony SRS-XB32 along with us.
It should be noted that a lot of that additional heft likely comes from this speaker's "party" features — namely some LEDs that flash along with the music, and the ability to smack the speaker in certain spots to elicit electronic drum noises (a feature we found so laggy that it will likely offend anyone with a decent sense of rhythm). To each their own, but we found these features to be a bit gimmicky. They certainly didn't add anything to our musical experience, so we would have much preferred to do without them if it meant the speaker could be a bit slimmer.
The Sony SRS-XB32 is quite loud. It has plenty of power to fill a large apartment with sound or keep a campfire dance party raging. However, given its size we expected it to be a bit louder. We've run into much smaller speakers that can produce as much volume, and similarly sized speakers that can produce more sound, so this wouldn't be our first choice for those that place a premium on maximum volume.
In our testing the Sony SRS-XB32 lasted a full 24 hours, plenty for a weekend at the cabin or campsite.
The Sony SRS-XB32's price is a bit above average. Its balance of attributes doesn't fit any specific use case scenarios as many other speakers we've found that cost the same or less. Therefore, we feel that most people will be able to find better ways to spend their speaker money.
Unfortunately, the Sony SRS-XB32 doesn't have any points strong enough to counterbalance its hefty size and weight, so we rarely found ourselves reaching for it anytime we had need for a portable speaker.
— Max Mutter and Michelle Powell