Sony SRS-XB31 Portable Wireless Bluetooth Speaker, Black (SRSXB31/B)
JBL Charge 3 JBLCHARGE3BLKAM Waterproof Portable Bluetooth Speaker (Black)
Bose SoundLink Revolve Portable Bluetooth 360 Speaker, Triple Black
Here are two heavy weights in the mid-tier speaker category. The new Sony XB31 Xtra Bass Bluetooth Speaker and the JBL Charge 3.
Let’s go through the run down and see who’s better..
The Sony XB31 updated it’s build with similar, if not the same fabric mesh grill. Both speakers are water proof, both can float in water, both are stain resistant.
The difference appearance wise, the Sony has beautiful LED lights while JBL only has lights for certain buttons.
Sony XB31 claims to have drop resistance while the JBL Charge 3 doesn’t.
WHO WINS PHYSICAL :
Which one is more durable? I give it to the JBL Charge 3. Although this speaker has the exposed bass radiators, it’s quite hard to break them or destroy them. (I’ve pressed on them several times already)
As for the XB31, although it’s drop resistance from 4feet high, the clear plastic for the LED cracks very easily. It’s also easier to get scuffed and by either damaging methods, water eventually gets in.
I had this happen on my Sony XB41 – which uses the same plastics – and the speaker would retain water/moisture in there. The LED’s surprisingly still worked and audio was perfectly fine, but imagine dropping this in your town’s lake that might not be the “freshest” water out there. Either or, the speaker still functions, and once the water drains out, the LED’s were perfectly intact. JBL simply gave more more piece of mind.
Both speakers are really catching up with each other. Sony now offers the multi-speaker connection performance. You can pair over 100 Sony XB Bluetooth speakers together and have them all play at the same time.
JBL offers the same through their JBL Connect Plus feature.
If you only have two speakers of each brand, they can also pair with each other, and instead of playing in-sync, you can have stereo separation.
Sony simply offers more.
Aside from the flashing lights and Party Mode – which lets you tap different areas of the speaker to create a beat – the XB31 includes three different sound profiles.
Standard – Audio doesn’t not have bass boost on.
Xtra Bass – Bass …
Live Sound – Sound stage/Sound openness increases
Although with the JBL speaker, if you have an equalizer, you can bump up the bass a bit, but Live Sound was quite impressive. We’ll talk about this more in the audio comparison.
Compared to the JBL Charge 3, I disliked the buttons on the XB31.
They were more recessed or harder to find. And the remaining buttons were stowed away behind the water resistant flap.
I did like that JBL had battery level indicator lights right on the front of the speaker. Sony didn’t.
As for connections, both speakers featured a Charge Out port so you can connect your phone or device and have them charged… just like a powerbank. Both features 3.5mm inputs and last, both charge with a micro-usb cable.
JBL claims upto 20hrs of use. I tested this at 50% volume and got 20hrs and 48minutes
Sony claims up to 24hrs of use. I tested this at 50% volume with LED’s on and Xtra Bass on, similar to what most average users would use (and how it came stock from the factory)
My result was a low 10hrs and 15minutes.
With a test without LED’s on and Xtrabass off, I got : xxx (Results pending)
Sony XB41 : Bluetooth 4.2. Range Result : 68 linear feet.
JBL Charge 3 : Bluetooth 4.1 Range Result : 40 linear feet.
WHO WINS BLUETOOTH:
This time around, Sony has definitely altered it’s audio… Last year, (The Xb30) sounded neck to neck with the Charge 3. With the XB31, it’s louder and much more alive. Is it better? Let’s see.
Listen to the quick audio sample from here. Be sure to use headphones/earphones to hear BINAURAL microphones.
No question, Sony takes the cake on this one. Those into EDM, Hip-hop and Pop music will appreciate the Xtra Bass mode which is on by default. It’s resonating, thumping, kicking and what have you over JBL.
The one advantage JBL has over the XB31 is it’s leveled performance across the audio frequencies. While Sony in general has more bass, there are times on certain songs the bass flutters and sounds distorted at high volume. Very noticeable when you’re within 5 to maybe 8 feet of the speaker. The JBL holds itself together a bit better regardless of volume and regardless of distance.
As for the mid-range, the XB31 sounded viceral compared to the Charge 3. It’s just that much more in the forefront. Even on standard mode, the Sony was just “bam” in your face.
This doesn’t mean the Charge 3 is boring, it’s still engaging and forward as well, but simply, not as much. There is a bit more clarity and a natural mid-range for JBL though.
Both thankfully were not tinging or ear piercing from my experience. Both speakers are within reason with the Sony being again at the forefront of being audible. The JBL does need a little more treble.
Hands down, the Sony does better. With Live Sound on, it’s VERY expansive and sounds very open. But even turning it down to Xtra Bass mode only, the Xb31 still did better over the Charge 3.
Sony simply sounded airier, spacious, open and wider. Of all my reviews so far in this price range, this is possibly the best Bluetooth speaker for sound stage.
MOVIE WATCHING – Syncing:
As a side note, I tested both speakers on my Samsung S8+ with Netflix, and both synced properly with the scenes.
WHO WINS IN AUDIO?
Ah, it’s so tough. My inner self likes the JBL Charge 3 more-so as it sounds more refined, cleaner with just enough bass boost. It’s a great speaker!
But the Sony XB31, it’s so much more colorful, alive, bassy for my type of music and entertainment… although I do acknowledge, there are times when quality is sacrificed for bass.
Keep that in mind: If you value bass, anticipate distortion at times. JBL is going to be a bit more mellow or subdued compared to Sony, but the quality of audio is better all around.
As an everyday speaker just for casual listening, fun, and movie watching, I’d go with Sony XB31 for the LED’s, bass and sound stage.
If I’m more critical solely for my music, I’d go with JBL Charge 3 for less distortion.
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