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Sony XB20 Review

Price:   $100 List
Pros:  Loud, good bass, water resistant, provides light show
Cons:  Mediocre battery life
Bottom line:  A good, relatively powerful speaker that is fairly inexpensive
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 
Manufacturer:   Sony

Our Verdict

While the Sony XB20 didn't earn an award in our review, it still carves out a fairly attractive niche for itself. It provides good sound quality, mostly due to its powerful yet crisp bass. It is also very loud for its size, making it great if you want something for small parties or to blast 'Playing with The Boys' at your next beach volleyball game. It is also water resistant, so it won't get ruined if it rains at said beach volleyball game. If you want something really durable, however, the JBL Flip 4 is just as loud and bassy and is completely waterproof. Overall we still think the Bose SoundLink Color is a better all-around value, but if you want to save $30 the XB20 isn't much of a step down.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Portable Bluetooth Speakers of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

Last Updated:
Tuesday
August 8, 2017

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The Sony XB20 boasts powerful bass and a lot of volume for a fairly low price. It's not the best speaker by any means, but it's a good choice if you want something with some power and don't want to spend top dollar.


Performance Comparison


As you can see in the table above, the Sony XB20 was at the upper end of our score sheet. In the following sections we discuss how it performed in all of the tests we used to determine the best Bluetooth speakers.

Sound Quality


Earning a 7 out of 10 in our sound quality testing, the Sony XB20 was above average but not exceptional. The most impressive component of its sound is the bass, which is powerful yet clear and defined without any muddled undertones. Flipping the 'extra bass' switch makes the bass even more powerful, and still kept things sounding crisp. The speaker also accentuates the bass with a built in light show that follows a beat. This is a somewhat entertaining feature, but it can easily be turned off once it gets annoying. It didn't produce as powerful bass in our testing as the Bose models and the Beats Pill+, but it was reasonably close. Plus, all of those models cost twice as much.

The XB20's treble and clarity were also quite impressive in our testing. While the top models were clearly superior in this regard, the XB20 was still able to create a full bodied sound that will please most listeners. If you're looking for something completely waterproof, the JBL Flip 4 produced a similarly bassy yet well rounded sound, and is IPX7 waterproof.

The XB20 produces powerful and clear bass.
The XB20 produces powerful and clear bass.

Portability


The XB20's is a mid sized model that earned a 7 out of 10 in our portability testing. With a weight of 21 ounces it is fairly average in terms of weight. This feels fairly light considering both the audio quality and sheer volume this model can produce, with only the JBL Flip 4 (19 ounces) and the Bose SoundLink Color II (19.8 ounces) comparable in that regard. The pill shape makes it easy to slide into a bag, and the IPX5 water resistance lets you tote it around no matter the forecast.

The XB20 is mid range in terms of size and weight.
The XB20 is mid range in terms of size and weight.

Volume


The XB20 is impressively loud, given its size. It earned an 8 out of 10 in this metric, falling behind only models that are significantly heavier. This speaker was easily able to cut through a large group of people talking in our testing apartment, and felt plenty loud enough for a small party. It's also loud enough to make you the center of attention at the beach.

The extra bass button noticeably ramps up the low end.
The extra bass button noticeably ramps up the low end.

Battery Life


The XB20 was average in our battery life testing, earning a 5 out of 10. It lasted 12 hours in our test, which was exactly what the manufacturer claimed. This is plenty of power for a day at the beach or by the lake, so most users won't find this limiting. However, there are some models that offer absurd battery lives, like the Anker SoundCore 2 (42 hours) and the JBL Charge 3 (30 hours) that make 12 hours sound kind of lame in comparison.


Value


With a list price of $100, the Sony XB20 provides quite a bit of performance per dollar. We still think the slightly better sound of the Bose SoundLink Color II makes it a better value, but it also costs $30 more. If you want to save $30, we doubt you'll be disappointed with the XB20.

Conclusion


The Sony XB20 is a loud, powerful speaker that costs only $100. If loud and powerful satisfies your checklist, you'll like this speaker.
Max Mutter and Steven Tata

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