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Sony springs into summer with new line of party-friendly portable speakers

As a menacing snowstorm descends upon the Northeast region of the U.S. on the first day of spring, Sony hopes to turn our attention to fairer days filled with fun in the sun.  On Tuesday, March 20, the company previewed its new line of athlete-friendly wireless earphones as well as a heated up version of its popular portable Bluetooth speaker lineup.

The new Extra Bass Bluetooth speakers come in four colorful sizes/models, all sporting some level of flashing light show to pair with equally attention-getting sound, and are all IP67 rated, meaning they can take a dunk in water up to 1 meter for up to 30-minutes.

The SRS-XB41 is the largest of the group, followed by the SRS-XB31, SRS-XB21, and the tiny, tote-able XB10. As you move through the line, the prices go down with the size of the speaker, but each is surprisingly feature-rich and ready to rock with an impressive 24-hour battery life.

At $250, the XB41 is the largest, loudest, and flashiest speaker in Sony’s 2018 lineup. Armed with NFC for easy pairing to compatible devices, the XB41 features two active drivers with a passive radiator in the center to help support its Extra Bass feature, which is designed to offer party-ready sound, whether in the backyard, by the pool, or at the beach.

If one speaker won’t do it, the XB41 can be paired with up to 100 more speakers through Sony’s proprietary Wireless Party Chain feature. Pair two for stereo, or more for several rooms full of the same music. Sony has also introduced a new Live Sound Mode, which aims to deliver the ambiance of a live concert by reducing the directionality of the sound. The result is a speaker that sounds much bigger than it really is, taking on an omnipresent feel, no matter where you place it.

To charge the speakers, you can plug them into the wall as you would any other portable speaker, but this year Sony adds the ability to charge using a micro-USB cable so you don’t need to carry a wall-wart power plug around. This means the speaker can be charged in the car, or with any other portable power source such as a portable charging battery. The Sony XB41, along with the XB31, will also charge your devices via USB, while the smallest XB21 leaves out this feature to maintain its 24-hour playtime.

For what Sony hopes will be an engaging visual experience, the XB speaker lineup touts a multi-colored LED light array, with the Sony XB41 sporting not only a wrap-around light bar but illuminated drivers and two strobe lights. The visual impact is much more impressive in person that we were expecting. Color can be controlled using Sony’s free app, which also adds EQ and other speaker controls.

Among those other controls is Sony’s new Party Booster option, which allows users to add various sound effect to music as it is playing, be it a cowbell, reggae horn, or various percussion instruments. This fits in well with Sony’s efforts to fold a DJ experience into the XB speaker series. Sound a little gimmicky? Perhaps so, but kids are going to love it, and with these flashy options, Sony has a speaker series that really stands out in a saturated market.

For those who value sound above all else, all of these speakers are LDAC compatible — Sony’s  proprietary sound processing which is likes to refer to as “near high-res.” Android Oreo will soon support LDAC by default, with Android P support expected when the new OS is released later in 2018.

The SRS-XB41 comes in at $250, the XB31 at $150, and the XB21 at $100. A much smaller XB10 is $60 with a shorter 12-hour battery life but is still IP67. The entire XB speaker lineup will be available for purchase on April 1.

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