Sony SRS-XB32 Bluetooth Speaker Review (2019 version)
What’s New in 2019?
So what’s new with the 2019’s Sony SRS-XB32 compared to 2018’s Sony SRS-XB31?
- Exterior: The XB31 had a fabric coating covering the entire unit. The XB32 only has fabric on the front where the drivers are located. The rest of the unit is a rubberized plastic. The “Sony” logo was also moved from the front of the speaker (XB31) to the top.
- Lights: The lighting features are basically the same, except on the XB-32 the LED strips come together into one line on the side. The colors and white LED flashes are still the same.
- Dedicated “LIVE” button: The “Live Sound” feature is more easily accessible on the XB-32 thanks to a button dedicated to the feature.
- Sound Quality? The sound quality is essentially unchanged from last year.
The rest of this review may look very similar to the XB31, since they are essentially the same speaker.
You’re likely most interested in the sound quality of the Sony SRS-XB32. If you love bass, it definitely does not disappoint. Highs and mids come through clear and bass has some kick to it (more on that in a second). Streaming music from Apple Music and Pandora both sounded great, but the speaker does tend to over emphasize low frequencies and can sound “muddy” at time, expecially with the “Extra Bass” feature on (which is enabled by default).
There is a dedicated “Live” button on the top of the unit for the “Live Sound” feature (this feature was somewhat hidden in last year’s model). When the LED light above the button is “white”, the feature is on. Sony states that the “Live Sound” feature will provide a more realistic, 3D experience with “festival vibes.” Well, I’m not sure about the festival vibes, but what I found is that it does is maintain the bass of the “Extra Bass” mode while increasing the volume and enhancing some of the mids. It definitely sounds good and I actually prefer it over the “Extra Bass” feature alone, so I’m glad they’ve added a dedicated button for it.
Confused by these different sound modes and how to tell when they’re on? Me too. This table breaks it down.
|Sound Mode||LED color above the LIVE button||LED color above the POWER button||How to toggle this feature|
|Standard||Off||Off||Hold Volume Down + Play for 3 seconds|
|Extra Bass||Off||White||Hold Volume Down + Play for 3 seconds|
|Live Sound (+ Extra Bass)||White||White||Press the “LIVE” button|
Sony’s Bluetooth speakers tend to be bass heavy and that’s definitely the case with the SRS-XB32. There’s no dedicated “EXTRA BASS” button as there was on the XB30. You can turn the Extra Bass feature on and off using the Sony Music Center app, or by holding down the Volume Down and Play buttons for 3 seconds, until the power indicator changes colors.
- Lights: This is one of my favorite features of the speakers, although some people may find it gimmicky. There is the outer ring that surrounds the speaker on the front and the sides that changes different colors. There are also two white LED “strobe” lights on either side. You can set the lights to dance with the music, set a more calming lighting effect or turn off the lights completely by using the Sony Music Center app. The lights really do add a bit of a party atmosphere and helps this speaker stand out from other brands. If you don’t like the lights, you can hold down the BATT/LIGHT button inside the cap on the rear side of the speaker for about 3 seconds.
- Party Booster: You can add some sound effects to the music that you’re playing on the speaker by tapping it in different places. Depending where you smack it, you can add a snare scratch, kick drum or cowbell. The harder you hit it, the louder the sound. You can turn this feature on/off by holding the the volume + and – buttons for 3 seconds.
- Rustproof, Waterproof, Dustproof: The IP67 rating means you can take it to the beach and not worry about salt water ruining the speaker. So you take the party virtually anywhere.
- Wireless Party Chain: You can sync this speaker with other compatible models to play the same music simultaneously (but not in stereo sound). Works with SRS-XB22, SRS-XB32, SRS-XB21, SRS-XB31, SRS-XB41, SRS-XB20, SRS-XB30, SRS-XB40, GTK-XB60, GTK-XB90. More details on this feature below.
- Stereo Mode: You can pair the SRS-XB32 with another exact SRS-XB32 model for stereo sound. Please note that the speaker must be another XB-32 for stereo sound (it will not work with earlier models like XB-31 and XB-30).
- Micro USB charging input: My biggest complaint of 2017’s SRS-XB30 was that it used a proprietary charging cable. Both this year’s SRS-XB32 and last year’s SRS-XB31 solve that issue with a standard Micro USB input (although, USB-C would have maybe future-proofed this speaker a little more).
- USB charging port: If your phone runs low on power, you can grab your phone’s charging cable and plug it into the full-sized USB port on this speaker. The speaker then serves as a power bank for your phone (but reduces the runtime of the speaker).
- Phone and Siri support: This feature has come in handy while the speaker was poolside and my phone was tucked away in my bag. You can answer a call on the speaker by tapping the Play button. You can also access Siri or Google Assistant by holding down the Play button for about 3 seconds and you hear the activation sound. You then use the speaker’s built-in mic to talk to the caller or Siri.
Pairing/Linking Instructions for Non-Stereo Sound (Wireless Party Chain)
You can link the SRS-XB32 with any of the following speakers for Wireless Party Chain (not stereo sound): SRS-XB22, SRS-XB32, SRS-XB21, SRS-XB31, SRS-XB41, SRS-XB20, SRS-XB30, SRS-XB40, GTK-XB60, GTK-XB90
- With the XB32 paired to your phone, lift the flap on the back and tap the WPC button. You’ll hear a beep, then about 6 seconds later you’ll hear another beep. The Bluetooth LED should flash.
- On the other speaker, press the “WPC” button (if you don’t have this button, hold down the ADD and Volume + buttons for about 3 seconds) until you hear a beep.
- Wait about 6-10 seconds and the two speakers should find each other and link together. Start playing music on your phone and you should hear it on both speakers.
The SRS-XB32 gives you up to 24 hours with the lights off and with the sound mode set to “Standard”. However, with the lights on and the Extra Bass feature enabled, you can expect less than half of that. So definitely keep that in mind if you’re trying to plan an all-nighter.
You can check the battery status in the Sony Music Center app on by tapping the “BATT” button under the flap. Oddly, unlike many Bluetooth speaker, the battery status does not show in the status bar of iOS.
Overall, the Sony SRS-XB32 delivers great sound along with a great light show. If you already have last year's model (the XB31), then there is really no reason to upgrade as the changes seem to be cosmetic only. There is also no stereo pairing compatibility between the XB32 and XB31, although you can link the two models together to play non-stereo sound ("Wireless Party Change").
- Great bass performance
- Built-in light show
- Micro USB charging
- App sometimes doesn't connect
- Short battery life with lights on
- Not many changes from 2018