Sony XB21 Review

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Just like the Sony XB31, the Sony 21 is a refined version of the previous XB20. I really like the new design and durability improvements found on the XB31 and XB41. But unfortunately, I don’t think the new design langue carried over very well to the XB21. Don’t get me wrong… its still good, but I prefer the looks of the XB20 over the XB21. 

The Sony XB21 is the smallest and most affordable speaker in Sony’s newest portable bluetooth speaker line up. It currently retails for $99.99 and it comes in 4 color ways black blue red or white. The older Sony XB20 is now going for as low as 70 bucks. If you want to pick up either of these speakers I’ll have a link in the description below and if you use the link it really helps out the channel. Personally I would pick up an XB20 before they’re gone and I highly suggest you check out the XB21 cause sony products routinely go on sale so you never know. 

Under the hood, the Sony XB21 is rocking very similar internals to the Sony XB20. They’re both using bluetooth 4.2, they both charge via a micro USB cable, and they both have an AUX jack. They both also have 1.65 inch diameter transducers and dual passive radiators that shoot out the front and out the back. Both of these speakers also feature a light feature on the front, but they look and perform very differently. Both the light features on the Sony XB31 and XB41 have been improved from their previous generations, they’re much more vibrant and they look much better. But on the other hand, I feel the light feature on the XB21 doesn’t look nearly as good as the XB20. The light feature on the XB20 is much easier to see and it much more dramatic. 

Just like the XB31 and XB41, the XB21 now has a fabric outer shell. But I don’t think the XB21 looks as good as its larger brothers, due to its proportions and how visible the light strip is… it kind of looks like a rectangular baseball to me. Personally I prefer the pill shaped industrial look the XB20 has with its exposed speakers, painted metal grill on the front, and soft touch body. I know looks are completely subjective so comment down below with which design you prefer. But the XB21’s new shape does give it the ability to stand up straight while the XB20 can only be laid flat. 

Ok, now that I’ve ranted about the XB21’s design lets talk about its improvements over the XB20. In general, Sony’s new speakers are way more durable than its older speakers. The Sony XB20 is just IPX5 rated so a splash over water here and there isn’t going to be a problem. But you should still take it easy on the XB20… you shouldn’t submerge it and I would try to avoid getting sand in it. The XB21 on the other hand is IP67 rated, so its dust proof, its water proof and it also floats and sony also claims that its shock proof as well now. Having all of this extra durability is always a very welcomed feature for small portable speakers. 

Battery life is also pretty much the same between these two speakers. Both of these speakers advertise a battery life of 12 hours but only expect to achieve that if you’re playing music at 50% and with the light feature turned off. Real work use with the light feature turned on and with the volume set at 80% I was able to get 6 hours of battery life before the speakers started interrupting the music by saying please charge every 30 seconds… ok lets get the sound test going!

Unlike the Sony XB30 and Sony XB31 which sound exactly the same in their default settings, I actually think the Sony XB20 sounds better than the XB21 when they both have the extra bass feature turned on. Both of these speakers have the same amount of bass, but I feel the sound is much fuller and the mids and vocalist are much more pronounced on the XB20 than on the XB21. 

And for those who might not be familiar with Sony’s Extra Bass line up, these speakers are on the warmer side so they’re going to be better for hip hop, rap or EDM cause they put a lot of emphasis on the bass. If you listen to pop, rock, or anything that has an emphasis on vocals then you might think these speakers sound muddy. 

But if you head over to Sony’s music center app you will find a sound mode called live sound. And live sound is different from just having the extra bass feature turned off. With live sound on turned on the Bass on the XB21 is lowered a little bit, mids and vocalists get pushed to the front and the treble is increased a little bit. This is the setting you want to use if you’re not listening to a lot of rap. Unfortunately the XB20 doesn’t have this setting but you can always just change the equalizer settings on either of these speakers through the App.

When listening to a podcast  I usually like to turn off the extra bass feature on the XB20. And it super easy you literally just press the extra bass button. The XB21 doesn’t have a dedicated Extra bass button anymore but you can still turn the feature off by pressing and holding the Play and Minus button at the same until the power indicator light turns green. And to turn the extra bass feature back on all you have to do is press and hold the Play and minus button again until the light turns white again. 

Regarding connectivity both of these speakers have the same wireless range of about 50 feet and they both have surprisingly very little latency when watching video. Now you can connect up to 100 sony speakers which sony calls wireless party chain, anything from the XB20 all the way up to the XB90 and they’ll all play in sync… and the newer XB21 connects to the XB20 with no problems. If you want to learn how to pair these speakers up watch my tutorial. But if you want to get left and right stereo sound going then you need to have 2 of the same speakers. Unfortunately the XB20 and XB21 wont play in stereo mode, only in sync. 

Sony’s app also allows you to play around with the light feature found on both of these speakers and you have the same three options. Theres Rave where the lights will flash to the beat of your music, theres chill where the lights will gradually blink on and off and theres strobe. But unlike the larger Sony speakers, the light feature on the XB20 and XB21 doesn’t change colors. And like I mentioned earlier… I feel the light feature on the older XB20 looks much better than the one on the XB21. 

Personally, I still like the XB20 more than the XB21. I feel it looks much better than the XB21 and I think it sounds slightly better than the XB21 right out of the box. But the XB21 is much more durable than the XB20 which was kind of its achilles heel when comparing it to the JBL Flip 4. The XB21 is ok but I think you’re better off getting the XB20 before they’re gone or spend the extra 50 bucks and get the XB31, you cant go wrong with the XB31.