The Sony SRS-XB20 wireless portable speaker has been a real treat to use. As someone who usually prefers wired headphones and speakers, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and feel of the speaker. At its price point, it definitely packs a punch in terms of both sound and aesthetics and could easily cost more than it does.
Physically, the speaker is fairly compact, roughly six inches in length and it has a decent amount of weight to it considering its small size, though not obtrusively so. Furthermore, it has a slight smooth texture and although what looks like plastic, it almost has a slight rubber feel to it. It is definitely a beauty to hold and is in no way cheap at all. Given this, I was quite impressed. On the top you will note your standard buttons such as power, volume control, play/pause, as well as a phone button for voice recognition. In addition, there is also an extra bass toggle as well as an add button for adding another speaker in a daisy chain. There is also a Bluetooth LED light that will remain solid when it is connected to a device and it will blink when it is not paired with anything. Furthermore, on the back there is a micro USB plug for charging, a 3.5mm audio in jack as an alternative to Bluetooth. Lastly, there is a reset button in between the USB and audio jack. One slight inconvenience was the documentation that came with it. Instructions are mostly pictures, which might annoy some people. For me though setup was straightforward so this wasn't too much of an issue.
The first thing I noticed when I paired this with my Sony Xperia Z3+ was the sheer loudness of the speaker. This thing is LOUD and it completely took me by surprise! At about half volume, this thing fills the room with sound! Naturally, for other Bluetooth accessories, such as in my car, you have to max out the volume on my phone, then adjust the actual volume knob on the car stereo. This is not the case at all with the XB20; it really moves at low volume settings. However, I will mention that when the battery gets extremely low, you will need to increase the volume on your device. This is not a con at all but worth to note. Another impressive aspect of the XB20 was the bass. The bass is actually really impressive; on loud bass oriented tracks, it really rumbled quite well. With the Extra Bass button enabled, I could at least tell a slight difference than before. Given its size, it is insane that it reproduced what it did and you could actually feel some of the bass. The lights are also a nice added touch, and can be disabled by holding the extra bass button down.
Another thing I would like to mention is that if you pair this with a Sony Xperia phone (excluding XA and XA Ultra), the phone will automatically detect this speaker as LDAC compatible. You will be given a choice on how it connects either by preferring sound quality or focusing on maintaining the connection. Essentially, LDAC enables the phone to stream the audio data at a higher bit rate over the Bluetooth connection (990 Kbps according to their website). Everything worked flawlessly, however, keep in mind here that if your music is not lossless (FLAC/WAVE/ALAC/AIFF), it would be best to leave the setting to maintaining the connection as you will not benefit since your music is missing sound that this was intended to reproduce. Granted, I am still bit of a skeptic even with my lossless audio collection since I do not have a way to fully verify that it is reproducing every nuance sound. Regardless, I will say it is still a feature definitely worth having; my classical and jazz collection at 96 KHZ/24 Bit sounded wonderful. Nonetheless, I am excited that Sony pays attention to the Hi-Res aspect of music both in their speakers and phones. I was able to pair my Z4 tablet, our X Compact as well as the Xperia X that we have in our household. All worked flawlessly and sounded amazing.
Lastly, I would like to mention their application that pairs with this speaker, Sony Music Center (Songpal). I would like to mention that this provided some extra control over the speaker, allowing you pair it with a device or add an additional speaker, adjust the light modes, and lastly help manage the speaker when an audio cable is connected. You can also manage sleep settings as well as monitor battery level of the speaker (you can also hold down the phone button). In addition, it allows you to play your music on it. It is a bit redundant in this regard as you probably have another application to play your music but it does indeed work in case you do not. While I was fiddling with the application, I discovered that when you plug in an audio cable in, regardless if it is connected to Bluetooth, it will automatically switch to the audio cable. At this point, you can then increase audio in volume. Also, when I switch to the default music player and increased the volume on the side of my phone, I did not have to turn it up very loud. The speaker is really amazing volume wise. One last note I would like to mention. If you connected your audio cable while Bluetooth was on, and then connect your device via the cable and then disable Bluetooth afterwards, you will receive an error telling you that it does not have access to the device any more. This wasn't too much of a problem; however, I just removed the cable from my phone and enabled it. You might have to clear the application from your phone's memory if it hangs up. This was just a minor issue, and I was able to fix it.
Overall, I would strongly recommend the SRS-XB20 for anyone who needs a high quality wireless speaker that is compact and portable enough to carry around. Physically, it is sturdy enough and weighs just right. Sound quality is top notch as well, providing loud sound at very low volume settings including punchy bass given its size. Sony has a winner on its hands, and I have no doubt everyone will be quite satisfied with this speaker.