STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ well-balanced sound
+ crisp, quite deep bass
+ Many functions with or without app
- not the most refined and gripping sound
- somewhat unwieldy for its performance
Sound: Tonal balance / transparency7.4
Sound: Bass / Dynamics7.4
Ease-of-use / Connectivity8.2
Price / Performance9
The Sony SRS-XB33, coming in at just a bit more than one kilogram, shows a certain tendency towards its more elegant sybling SRS-XB23 (which we have reviewed already) in terms of size and price. Despite from that it looks pretty much like a smaller version of the bigger Sony SRS-XB43´s concept, which got a pretty review some time ago. This applies to both the outdoor-compatible housing with Water and dust ingress protection according to IP67 , as well as the built-in party lighting console around the illuminated drivers.
Next to the two fullrange drivers some multi-coloured LEDs are located creating a decent light effect in a variety of colours. But – everything nice comes at a cost! That´s usually battery runtime when it comes to lights. But we got plenty of reserve in both cases with or without lights: spec sheet is promising a whopping 24 hours without and a maximum of 14 hours with effects.
The Sony SRS-XB33 is positioned as kind of a hybrid for a variety of situations, may it be living room or garden parties. Besides the obligatory black, there is also beige, red and blue option to choose from. Its shape makes it look more compact than it actually is, and at a good kilo and just under 25 centimetres long, you might find some space in your backpack for this Sony but you´ll notice it later. The slanted shape also offers clearly the advantage of a secure position in horizontal operation with the drivers facing slightly upwards in some kind of wedge monitor style.
Two fullrangers instead of 2-way
Instead of four drivers with enlarged frequency range handling plus wide directivity pattern as in the XB43, however, just two oval-shaped full-range drivers form kind of a virtual stereo mode. So we might expect a slightly narrower directivity pattern and would not put too much of hope into the virtual stereo arrangement as the two drivers sit close to each other usually resulting in a somewhat limited ambience.
Two passive compound drivers hidden behind the protective rings on the sides reinforce the lower bass region. However,upright operation of the Sony SRS-XB33 is at least possible if the surface is even and rigid, since the rings offer a slight recess.
Light, enclosre and app
The built-in lighting effects illuminate both speaker drivers as well as one side ring each. It clearly delivers a bit of party atmosphere, even if there is no lighting. Finally, Party Connect mode allows you to wirelessly daisy-chain up to 100 units of the same type together and then have them lights pulsating in synchronicity. HiFi fans might be tempted to enable stereo pairing when owning two units which is clearly recommended if you expect any imaging or ambience. Both options can be enabled with or without the app by just pressing the dedicated buttons on the back.
The Sony SRS-XB33 connects easily to Sony´s Music Center app plus the Sony Fiestable app, and also offers various sound effects like a 3D processor. Connecting it to voice recognition such as Siri or Google’s voice assistant in the connected phone also works smoothly.
Operating and connecting Sony´s SRS-XB33
The rubber keys on top of the case are mostly self-explanatory. Besides volume control, the play/pause button, the power button and the Bluetooth pairing key, there is also a live button for flipping modes. Besides the aforementioned 3D function, it offers an extra bass and an energy-saving mode that cuts a portion of the lower bass. The promised battery life is extremely long, but shrinks noticeably at high levels and full bass power.
Charging the internal battery takes a surprisingly long time. An additional USB-A output on the other hand offers pretty much of juice to any external device such as a smartphone. Bluetooth version 5.0 having various profiles and codecs invluded ( AAC and LDAC) as well as NFC for easy connection setup remains the main source for the Sony SRS-XB33.
How does our mini PA system sounds?
Considering its compact dimensions and the pretty tiny full-range drivers, Sony´s XB33 offered a surprisingly rich, fat bass and quite a dynamic performance. Especially for small or medium-sized rooms not expecting too much in terms of bass pressure, we would call it quite a party-worthy performance within the bounds of what was expected. At least when the energy-saving mode was not activated, because in this case the overall tonality tilted towards slim and small.
The trebles was kind of brilliant, although not overly finely resolved and sometimes clearly dependent on the listening angle. Bass was rich, voices mostly natural with a tendency to distance. In terms of impulses and max SPL, the Sony managed to reach to top of its 2-pound class, but was not the most playful and dynamic we could imagine. However, the sound staging and imaging remained compact, with “Live Sound” switched on, it was wider, but with considerably less definition and a certain phasiness and a somewhat whobbly bass. The “Extra Bass”, on the other hand, did what you might expect from it without any side effects.
Alternatives to the Sony SRS-XB33
The Sony is a somewhat of a hybrid: portable Bluetooth speaker and tiny party system, but no one is likely to buy it because of the mostly dimmed light effects alone. There is almost insurmountable competition in its class: The sound of the JBL Charge 5 is much more refined and fast-forward, even if the Sony sounds a bit more fundamental at higher SPLs and currently costs less. The Aiwa Exos-3 offers better sound and greater dynamic reserves, but it is also a bit less handy.
Specifications Sony SRS-XB33
- Retail price: 150 approx. dollars/pounds/euros
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 24.5 x 10.6 x 9.7 cm
- Weight: 1.1 kg
- Battery life up to 24 hours (economy mode without light)
- Special features: water/dustproof according to IP67 ingress protection class, extra bass, energy-saving mode, party mode with light effect synchronization
- More at: www.sony.com