Sony SRS-XB402M review: Amazon Alexa drives the speaker with ‘premium’ sound

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New Delhi | Updated: October 4, 2019 12:14:12 PM

Sony SRS-XB402M speaker comes powered with Amazon Alexa that can do everything with just voice commands

Sony’s range of speakers comprises some of the best speakers you can find in the market. Of course, they bear a hefty price tag owing to brand’s shift in focus for the Indian market after it quit the smartphone business. Sony is also pushing for its smart devices, one of which is the new SRS-XB402M portable speaker. It’s another member of Sony’s range of wireless portable speakers but with more bells and whistles. The Sony SRS-XB402M is powered by Amazon Alexa, making it a smart device that you can use to control supported smart devices at your home, besides playing music.

Right off the bat, the Sony SRS-XB402M seems sturdy and well-built. Which is also why it is reasonably heavy considering it’s being marketed as a portable speaker. For example, you cannot hold it in your hand/on your palm for long time while the music is on. Despite being a little heavy, the speaker can fit into most places, including regular backpacks to carry it around when traveling.

It has a fabric mesh all around that houses 53mm angled satellite speakers. There are dual passive radiators that bring about bass to the music with resonance. There is a Y-shaped light stripe running across the speaker vertically on three sides. This is similar to the light pattern we have seen on SRS-XB32 speaker. There is a flap at the rear of the speaker that keeps all the ports hidden. It is a good-looking speaker and can blend in with different home interiors, but it is also meant to be used outside. On top, there are media control buttons, in addition to the power and the Sony’s signature ‘Live’ button.

Since it is a portable speaker, you will mostly connect it with your phone or laptop over Bluetooth. In my usage, I did not face any problem with the connection except for its limitation for one paired device at a time. Most speakers today support simultaneous connections with at least two sources, even if only one is to be used for sound output. It becomes a little annoying when some people at a party ask to play their music using their phone and the speaker needs to be reset to begin with Bluetooth pairing again.

Amazon Alexa is an integral component of this speaker, which can drive everything with a voice command. To be able to use Alexa on SRS-XB402M, a setup is need via Sony’s Music app. The Alexa extension needs to be linked to the user’s Amazon account for it to work subsequently. You can pretty much do everything with Alexa on this speaker as you would on an Amazon Echo device. However, I found the speaker is not as much prompt as the Echo speakers in identifying voice – given the microphones on the speaker are not designed for far-field sound reception. There is also a mute button to stop Alexa from apparently listening to the surroundings. Also, the speaker tends to lose the Bluetooth connection with the paired phone the moment Alexa is triggered, which is not convenient sometimes.

I travelled carrying the speaker with me, so it was not always possible to get a strong Wi-Fi connection. This is when I tried using my phone as a Wi-Fi hotspot to connect the speaker so Alexa can work, but, to my dismay, the speaker cannot connect with the same phone which is being used by Sony Music Center app. You need an external Wi-Fi hotspot to enable Alexa on the speaker. But on the brighter side, Spotify works seamlessly on the speaker via Spotify Connect.

The 53mm speakers on the Sony SRS-XB402M do a pretty decent job of handling the soundstage in a song. There is no overpowering bass added to songs, which is good, but, at the same time, the sound output leaves you wanting if you’re partying and need bass-laden music. The high frequencies, or treble, in music is belted out amply, along with mid-highs. For retro Bollywood songs, ghazals, and other classical music, SRS-XB402M comes with a LIVE SOUND mode that can amplify the vocals and subdued music in them. But, with regular music, the LIVE SOUND feature doesn’t really make any difference.

Sony SRS-XB402M comes with IP67 rating, which makes it splash and dust resistant to a certain degree, so even if you spill some drink over the speaker or keep it on dusty ground, it won’t necessarily be an issue. It is shock-proof up to 1.2 metres, thanks to the MIL-STD 810 G Method 516.7-Shock, which is quite impressive. Sony claims it can deliver a battery life of up to 11 hours on full charge, which is more or less the time I got from it. Which is also why the charging time is also high. When using the bundled AC charger, it takes around 4-5 hours to fully charge while a USB cable will charge it comparatively slowly.

At a price of Rs 24,990, the Sony SRS-XB402M may mostly be labelled ‘expensive’, especially considering the cheaper range of speakers with on par sound quality. You can find good speakers under Rs 10,000, including some from Sony. But, at the same time, you get Alexa onboard with the device, which somewhat justifies the pricing but not to an enticing level. If you want a speaker without smart capabilities, you can look for other options in a lower price bracket. If you are a Sony loyalist, you don’t need a reason to buy this speaker. And, if you are into an automated home setup, you may as well go for the Sony SRS-XB402M speaker.

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