When it comes to portable, durable, party-ready speakers, very few models boast the extra whistles, bells, inputs and features of a Sony option – not even the best Bluetooth speakers. And the brand new SRS XB800 is no exception.
What is it? A big speaker with Bluetooth 5.3 (but no LDAC), five tweeters and Sony’s dual not-round-not-square, more curved rectangle X-Balanced speaker units. Two of those tweeters sit on the top, near the touch-control panel, one at the base, and two at the rear of the speaker. You also get an ambient light show, a sensor to detect its orientation and thus better tailor the omnidirectional sound, a karaoke input (read: microphone) and another one you might use for a guitar, an optical-in for Sony’s unique TV Sound Booster mode and a USB port to read files locally.
There’s a Mega Bass button (this is Sony gear, after all) a 25-hour battery claim and Party Connect support, which means you can daisy-chain up to 100 Party Connect enabled speakers to seriously beef up the audio (and the light show).
Oh, and Sony says that if you’re in a karaoke kinda mood, there’s even a double-track voice mode to help flesh out your dulcet tones.
Any limitations? While you can stereo pair two XB800s when using Bluetooth for a party or your favorite playlists (it has an IPX4 rating so it’ll survive a healthy dose of mother nature), since the TV Mode is via optical, you can’t create a set of stereo speakers for the TV.
Opinion: whether or not you like its wheels, this Sony beast does look ready to party
I’ll be honest: it kind of looks like what Brits call a wheelie bin (we take them outside on trash night for the ‘bin men’ to empty. Then, we wheel ’em back into our yards) – an aesthetic not helped by its handle and actual wheels. But that’s where I stop knocking it. Because on paper, I really like the SRS XB800.
True, Sony’s Bluetooth speaker output never seems to achieve the heady success of its WH-1000XM5 and WH-1000XM4 over-ears or WF-C700N and WF-1000XM4 earbuds, I was truly impressed when testing the classy and sonically stellar Sony SRS XG300 last year.
And like most Sony Bluetooth speakers, the SRS XB800 comes with support for not one but two apps – the Sony Music Center and Fiestable. I don’t have the word-count to go into all the extra perks and double-take inducing features you’ll find between the two of these for this speaker, but they’ll give you several fun afternoons – think color swatches for your ideal party lighting, DJ sound effects, Motion Control (to alter playback with various movements of your phone) and karaoke features such as echoes and voice changers, for starters.
Where other speakers have a rudimentary app which might just as well say ‘Here it is, here’s a picture of it – oh, you’re connected’ and be done, Sony’s speakers boast features squirrelled away which you may never find or need, but I like knowing they’re there. And for a wealth of connectivity and unfussy placement, this thing is already scoring big.
How does it sound? Can’t say yet. But I can still see it being wheeled in at a party near you soon…