Saturday 7 July 2018

Sony SRS-XB3

There's a danger that this Bluetooth Speaker Addiction will get out of hand! I have a slightly different outlook to most here, though, with my plans to hit the road soon. I'll have to leave my lovely Ruark 2 in safe hands along with my LPs and have been finding ways to 'downsize' but retain the ability to really enjoy my music and (stereo) media consumption.

So here we have the latest attempt! As regular readers of my buffoonery will know, I love Sony stuff (apart from their Android phones!) and will generate towards their gear when I can. I know there are cheaper options out there, but in my view, they don't produce the same quality as I've found here - along with ready-hooking-up to produce stereo. So, to the criteria...

1. Long battery life - probably the most important criteria in my case. These speakers will run for 24-hours on a full charge. Each! That, to me, is where bluetooth speakers should be pitched. There's a huge number of cheaper and smaller models which do 5-10 hours. No good to me!

2. Great Sound - This is always going to be subjective and beauty is in the ear of the beholder(!), but these speakers provide boomsound as far as I'm concerned with their 48mm 30W speakers. They are a part of Sony's Extra Bass range and come supplied with a button for the purpose. The only time I've felt the need to turn that on is in a big room. The sound that comes out of these is staggering!

3. Equalisation - It seems that the days of on-device equalisation are probably gone, sadly. The answer to this is to ensure that your music player has an equaliser function so you can do it at point of source. But actually, most of the time, the 'flat' sound of the speakers seems just right to me.

4. Stereo - Yes, so that's a bit of a tricky one! Get two! The system works with a series of button-presses, you Pair the first one then assign right or left channel to it, more button presses, hook it up to the other one, assign the other channel to the second speaker. You don't have to do that - if you want the same coming out of both, you can do (though I can't imagine why you would). The setting has the be turned off when you don't want to use it and it'll only lose that from memory if the batteries are depleted. So when you go back to the set up, you just turn one speaker on, the other one picks up on this and turns on too and plays at last-known-setting. Works brilliantly. Really good stereo separation, controlled by where you place them of course. And they can also be stood on-end without looking daft, like some.

5. Easy Charging - Ah. I had to give up on this one, I'm afraid. It would have been nice to have MicroUSB/USB-C for charging from a powerbank, but you'd need a mighty big unit to fully charge these big Li-Ion batteries in any case. So this is a task to be reserved for mains power and to be organised with, OffGrid. The power-brick is not too big and you can, of course, just carry one as they're the same for each.

6. Audio-In - Yes, a short 3.5mm M-M dongle thingie (I use the dinky one from the ChromeCast Audio which is sat in a drawer!) and Bluetooth Battery Battery is no longer an issue! The stereo still works across the two, as if it's bluetooth. So chuck out your Moto Z and other phones with no 3.5mm socket here!

7. Emergency Charging of other devices - clearly a bonus here of course, but is now included on many bluetooth speakers. Present on both, of course, so potential to use the stored power for devices on the road other than the speakers if needed.

8. Small enough for Mobile Life - Well, I think that they are. They fit nicely on small shelves, tables, small bookcases found in motorhomes and caravans. As I say, then can be placed horizontally or vertically, so very versatile. Measurements are 211 x 80 x 83mm.

9. No Auto-Power-Off - Certainly on-the-road this is less of an issue, but when powered up I personally prefer the option to have the speakers always-on always-ready on mains power. Simply because you don't have to get up and turn them on every time you want to use them. Pure laziness! But also they can be attached to, say, a TV and when you turn on the TV, it just works. Anyway, as I say, less important OffGrid anyway.

10. Well Made - Well, you'd expect that with Sony. They certainly are. They're made of very solid hard plastic. They're not light at 930g each! Substantial! The buttons are just the right 'sponginess' to the touch and it feel like, as with most Sony stuff, they will outlast the user! They are 'water resistant' so splash but don't chuck in the pool!

11. Communication - Yes indeed, easy pairing with NFC built-in if you want to use it and Phonecall button support for using the microphone and speaker with a mobile phone. Seems to work fine.

So, there. I'm sold on it as a solution for me personally. I'm sure others will have their own preferences and be more particular about the way in which certain speakers sound, but I think it works really well. And so to cut to the chase and tell you that they're not cheap, but I think you tend to get what you pay for. Compared to other cheaper units I have, these sound much better, louder and with more bass. £89 each from AmazonUK (though I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time and didn't have to pay anything like that - I was just lucky) and I think they're worth it. The setup cost for two would be significant, but reckon that the addiction could take a back-seat for a while afterwards! Various colours available. Also other models up and down the price-range in this line-up, some with silly flashing lights, some floor-standing, some near-pocketable. Thoroughly recommended.

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