If you’re looking for a flashy, colorful graduation or birthday gift for the teen(s) or young adult in your family, Sony has some new literally bright and flashy Bluetooth speakers and in-ear earphones.
Brightest and flashiest of all is Sony’s new SRS-XB41 ($249.99) Bluetooth/NFC horizontal, now on pre-sale with full availability “soon after,” according to a Sony spokesperson.
The foot-plus long, 3-pound horizontal and triangular speaker is available in rather pedantic blue, black or white fabric, but is ringed by LED lights whose strobe or flashing, as are the speaker drivers, can be programmed via the company’s Music Center app, and whose colors can be shaded via the Fiestable app – yes, two apps to control the lights. That’s Fiestable as in “Fiesta” and “able” to party.
Sound-wise, Sony didn’t want to say how much power the XB41 puts out, but in the demo we received, it seemed to produce some deafening results. In addition to tunes, however, the speaker also features a “party mode” sure to annoy parents and pets. Tapping specific parts of the speaker produces up to 13 different “beat” sounds such as bongos, other drums, a bass, even a cowbell.
For the more aurally particular, Sony has a “live sound mode,” which uses the angled 58mm drivers and DSP to produce a wider soundstage designed to mimic a club or venue environment. In the demo in a mammoth room, I managed to detect only a minor difference, but the effect may be more audible in a smaller space. And while the XP41 is mono, two can be paired to create stereo, and up to 100 “compatible speakers” (presumably other Sony Bluetooth models) can be linked to create a Wireless Party Chain.
Sony also wanted to make sure the XB41 travels well as well. You’ll get 24 hours of battery life, it can be charged via AC or DC (i.e. a car), and can also re-charge a USB-connected smartphone. Best of all for beach season, the XB41 is IP67 waterproof, submersible up to 30 feet, even in salt water, for up to a minute, as well as sand- and dust-proof.
For the more penurious, you could opt for the slightly less endowed (no “live sound mode”) – and slightly less expensive XB31 ($149.99), XB21 ($99.99, just 12-hour battery life, no flashing LEDs) or the tubular XB10 ($59.99, 16-hour battery, no lights), each available in black, white, blue, red.
Earbuds for Workouts
To look fashionable while working out, Sony also announced three new Bluetooth earbud models, including the WF-SP700N ($179.99), which the company claims is the world’s first wireless in-ear bud equipped with both splash-proof (IPX4) protection and active noise canceling (ANC).
Like most wireless buds – earbuds like Apple’s AirPods, the SP700N come with a charging case. By themselves, the buds with play for three hours, and the case will recharge them twice for a total of nine hours of playback. A 15-minute quick charge provides 70 minutes of usage.
To make sure the buds stay put during even the roughest workout, the SP700N include two different-size “arc support” wings that stabilize the fit inside your lobes, and four different-sized silicon ear canal tips that match the matte pastel colors the buds come in. They’re also IPX4 splash/sweat-proof, including the mic.
With a connection to a compatible Android smartphone, the buds also enable voice-access to Google Assistant.
Aurally, not only do you get active noise canceling but two ambient sound modes, one so you can hear normal environmental noise and one tuned for voices. In the short demo, I found the buds sounded clear and bright with plenty of bass, but I couldn’t discern much noise suppression or difference between the ambient modes. However, the phones we demo’d were pre-production units, so I’ll reserve judgment until I get my hands on a production pair.
For the less OCD fearful of losing one of those expensive little wireless buds, Sony announced more traditional behind-the-neck wired Bluetooth earbud models: the WI-P600N (pictured here $149.99), equipped with the same ANC and ambient sound modes as the SP700N but supplies a hardier six hours of continuous playback, and the less-endowed WI-SP500 ($79.99) – no ANC or ambient sound modes – which provides eight hours of listening.
All three earbud models will come in muted matt black, rose/pink, yellow and white, and will go on sale in late May.