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Sony XB90 Speaker Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Jul 07, 2021 at 09:16 am
Sony XB90 Picture
6.9
Music
6.3
Videos/Movies
7.1
Podcasts
3.9
Voice Assistant
7.5
Outdoors
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
No
Speakerphone
Yes
Voice Assistant
Yes
Battery Powered
Yes

The Sony XB90 is a large, portable party speaker with customizable RGB lights. With its Extra Bass feature turned on, it has a boomy sound profile that adds punch to your audio, though it can struggle to reproduce higher-frequency sounds due to its underemphasized treble. Fortunately, there's a graphic EQ and presets so you can customize its sound. It also comes with ClearAudio+ that adjusts the speaker's sound according to the audio you're listening to. Unlike the Sony XB72, it's battery-powered, so you can take it outdoors with you without needing to worry about connecting it to an outlet. There are some compression artifacts at max volume that may affect the clarity of your audio during louder listening sessions. It also isn't rated for water resistance, and we don't test for this.

Our Verdict

6.9 Music

The Sony XB90 is alright for music. While it has a boomy sound profile with its Extra Bass feature enabled, it struggles to reproduce some low-bass, so you can't feel the deep rumble in bass-heavy music. Its balanced mid-range ensures vocals and lead instruments sound clear and present in the mix. However, the underemphasis in the treble range can make higher-pitched vocals and instruments sound dull and veiled. Thankfully, you can customize the speaker's sound to your liking using the graphic EQ and presets featured in its companion app. It can also get pretty loud, though there's some compression at max volume that can affect the clarity of your audio at louder volumes.

Pros
  • Graphic EQ and presets.
  • Can get loud.
  • Good soundstage performance.
Cons
  • Compression artifacts at max volume.
  • Underemphasized treble range.
  • Struggles to reproduce low-bass.
6.3 Videos/Movies

The Sony XB90 is passable for videos and movies. This speaker has low Bluetooth latency with Android and iOS devices, making it suitable for watching movies and videos, though some apps compensate for latency differently, and your experience may vary. Its directivity is also alright, resulting in a more open-sounding soundstage. That said, there are some compression artifacts at max volume, so your audio may not sound as clean during louder listening sessions.

Pros
  • Graphic EQ and presets.
  • Low Bluetooth latency with iOS and Android.
  • Good soundstage performance.
Cons
  • Compression artifacts at max volume.
  • Underemphasized treble range.
  • Struggles to reproduce low-bass.
7.1 Podcasts

The Sony XB90 is decent for podcasts. Its balanced mid-range ensures voices reproduce clearly, making it suitable for dialogue-centric audio content like audiobooks and podcasts. However, the underemphasized treble range can make higher-pitched voices sound dark. It also isn't very portable due to its weight and large design.

Pros
  • Graphic EQ and presets.
  • Can get loud.
  • Can be paired to up to three devices.
Cons
  • Compression artifacts at max volume.
  • Underemphasized treble range.
  • Not very portable.
3.9 Voice Assistant

The Sony XB90 is poor for voice assistants. It doesn't have any voice assistants built-in and uses those featured on your smartphone. While it struggled to understand our recorded commands during our tests, it's important to note that it could register commands from a normal speaking voice, though this isn't part of our testing methodology. That said, its directivity is alright, so you can clearly hear your assistants from most angles.

Pros
  • Can get loud.
Cons
  • Compression artifacts at max volume.
  • Bad far-field and ambient noise performances.
7.5 Outdoors

The Sony XB90 is good for outdoor use. This speaker has outstanding battery life that can last over 15 hours from a single charge, so you can take it outdoors with you without needing to connect it to a power source. It can also get loud, making it suitable to use at parties. Unfortunately, there's some compression at max volume, so your audio may not sound as clean at louder volumes. The Sony GTK-XB90 also isn't rated for water resistance, and we don't currently test for this.

Pros
  • Graphic EQ and presets.
  • Can get loud.
  • Good soundstage performance.
Cons
  • Not very portable.
  • Isn't water resistant.
  • 6.9 Music
  • 6.3 Videos/Movies
  • 7.1 Podcasts
  • 3.9 Voice Assistant
  • 7.5 Outdoors
  1. Updated Jul 07, 2021: Review published.
  2. Updated Jul 01, 2021: Early access published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
RGB Lights Yes

The Sony GTK-XB90 is a large party speaker with customizable RGB lights, and you can place it vertically or horizontally. There are built-in handles on either side of the speaker to carry it, and mirrors advertised to help enhance the speaker's visual effects by bouncing the light off of them.

5.7
Design
Portability
Volume
5,004 inยณ (82,008 cmยณ)
Weight
30.6 lbs (13.9 kg)
Power Source
AC & Battery
One-Hand Carry
Yes

The Sony GTK-XB90 isn't very portable. Unlike the Sony XB72, this speaker is battery-powered, so you can transport it with you without needing to look for an outlet. There are also built-in handles to help with transporting it. However, this large speaker can be pretty bulky and could be too heavy to carry for some users. If you're looking for a smaller and more portable speaker with party features, check out the Sony XG500 that also features its very own mic/guitar input, and customizable RGB lights.

6.4
Design
Build Quality
Material Quality
Good
Water Resistance
No
Dust Resistance
No
Impact Resistance
Unspecified
Floats In Water
No

The Sony GTK-XB90 has passable build quality. Its body is mostly solid matte plastic, and there are rubber feet on two of its sides so you can place it horizontally or vertically. Its drivers are protected by a metal grille, and there are carrying handles built into the speaker to help with transporting it.

Much like the Sony XB72, the Sony XB90 isn't rated for water or dust resistance, and we don't test for this. Sony warns not to splash water onto the speaker or place it in extremely hot, cold, dusty, dirty, or humid environments. They also warn against placing it in an inclined position, under direct sunlight, or under lighting equipment. For a party speaker with an IPX4 rating for water resistance, check out the Sony XP700.

7.9
Design
Controls
Ease Of Use
Good
Feedback
Great
Music Play/Pause
Yes (Physical)
Call Answer/End
Yes (Physical)
Volume Up/Down
Yes (Physical)
Track Next/Previous
Yes
Microphone On/Off
No
Additional Controls
Yes

The Sony GTK-XB90's controls are very good and are similar to those of the Sony XB72. You can use the play/pause buttons to answer and reject phone calls, activate voice assistants, and skip tracks. You can pair the speaker to your device via Bluetooth by holding the Function button, which triggers audible feedback from the speaker and causes the Bluetooth indicator light to flash rapidly. To turn the lights on the speaker on and off, you can press and hold the 'W. PARTY CHAIN' button. You can also use this button to wirelessly daisy chain the speaker to other compatible speakers.

On the rear of the speaker, you can find a mic input with its own volume knob, a Party Chain button, and In/Out ports you can use when you want to daisy chain speakers using audio cables, as well as a USB port you can use to playback your files.

Design
In The Box

  • Sony XB90 speaker
  • Polarized power cable
  • Operating instructions

Sound
6.6
Sound
Frequency Response Accuracy
Slope
-1.86
Std. Err.
4.12 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
49.7 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
5.0 kHz

The Sony GTK-XB90 has a fair frequency response accuracy. It has a boomy sound profile overall, so you can feel the punch in bass-heavy music, though this may also overwhelm some listeners. It has a somewhat well-balanced mid-range that ensures vocals and lead instruments sound clear and present in the mix. However, the underemphasis in the treble range can make higher-pitched voices and instruments sound dark. The GTK-XB90 also struggles to reproduce some low-bass, making it difficult to feel the deep rumble in bass-heavy music. Fortunately, you can use the graphic EQ and presets available in its companion app to tweak its sound to your liking.

Note: Our sound tests were performed with the speaker placed vertically. We used its default 'EDM' EQ preset and turned the 'Extra Bass' on. When enabling the Extra Bass feature, Sony ClearAudio+ is enabled, which is the recommended sound setting for music listening.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
Binaural Recording @ 1m
Binaural Recording @ 2m
7.5
Sound
Soundstage
Directivity Index
4.68 dB
Stereo
Yes

The Sony GTK-XB90 has a good soundstage. It has a built-in sensor that senses the speaker's orientation automatically. This means it can play stereo content without downmixing it to mono when placed horizontally and vertically. Its directivity is also alright, so you can hear your audio clearly from most angles.

7.3
Sound
Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
98.3 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
3.76 dB

The Sony GTK-XB90 has decent dynamics. While it doesn't get as loud as the SOUNDBOKS (Gen. 3), it can still get quite loud, making it fit to use at large parties. However, there are compression artifacts at max volume that can affect the clarity of your audio when listening at louder volumes.

Active Features
9.0
Active Features
Battery
Battery Life
15.3 hrs
Charge Time
2.8 hrs
Power Saving
Yes
Charging Port
AC

The Sony GTK-XB90 has a remarkable battery performance. This speaker can last over 15 hours from a single charge, though battery performance can vary depending on your usage, and your real-world experience may vary. There's also a handy power-saving feature that shuts the speaker off after 15 minutes of inactivity. You can enable and disable this feature in the Sony Music Center app.

1.7
Active Features
Voice Assistant
Alexa
No
Google Assistant
Yes (Requires Smartphone)
Siri
Yes (Requires Smartphone)
Voice Activation
No
Microphone Mute
No
Far-Field Performance
Bad
Ambient Noise Performance
Bad

The Sony GTK-XB90 has a terrible voice assistant performance. Since it doesn't have any voice assistants built-in, it uses the voice assistants on your smartphone. To test the speaker's voice assistant performance, we use recorded voice commands. Unfortunately, the Sony GTK-XB90 struggled to register these commands, even without any ambient noise present. That said, like the Sony XB72 and the Sony SRS-XB33, it could register commands from a normal speaking voice, though this isn't part of our methodology.

7.9
Active Features
App
App Name
Sony Music Center
iOS
Yes
Android
Yes
EQ
Graphic + Presets
Stereo Pair Mode
Yes
Party Mode
Yes
Multi-Room
No

The Sony GTK-XB90's companion app is very good. The Sony Music Center app features a graphic EQ and EQ presets, so you can customize the speaker's sound to your liking. It features shortcuts to music service apps like Spotify, as well as the 'Fiestable' app that allows you to access and customize multiple extra party features. You can also use Sony Music Center to customize the speaker's lights, pair multiple compatible speakers to create a stereo pair, and daisy chain speakers together. Additionally, if you want to play your audio from a USB key, you can connect it to the speaker's USB port and use the app's USB function to control the media you want to play.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Wired
Aux Input
No
USB Audio
No
Other Ports
Yes

Much like the Sony XB72, the Sony GTK-XB90 features In and Out RCA ports you can use to daisy chain speakers together, as well as a mic input with its own volume knob. There's also a USB key playback port that supports mp3, WMA, WAV, and ACC audio formats. That said, it doesn't support USB Audio.

To daisy chain multiple speakers together, you can use the function button to set the input on your speaker to either USB or Bluetooth and connect your compatible speakers using audio cables, though these don't come in the box. That said, the first and last speakers of the chain need to be connected. If you want to daisy chain your speakers wirelessly, you can do so via the 'W. PARTY CHAIN' and Function buttons on your speakers.

9.3
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
4.2
Bluetooth iOS Latency
74 ms
Bluetooth Android Latency
49 ms
Bluetooth Range
211.6 ft (64.5 m)
Multi-Device Pairing
3 Devices

The Sony GTK-XB90 has fantastic Bluetooth performance. You can pair up to three separate devices to this speaker at once, so you can quickly and easily switch between audio sources. That said, when more than one phone connects to the speaker, it won't receive and answer phone calls. The Sony GTK-XB90 also has low latency with Android and iOS devices, making it suitable for watching movies and videos, though some apps compensate for latency differently, and your experience may vary. Additionally, if you have an NFC-capable device, you can tap it to the speaker to quickly pair it to it.

0
Connectivity
Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Version
No Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi Frequency Band
No Wi-Fi
Apple AirPlay
No
AirPlay Latency
N/A
Google Chromecast
No
Chromecast Latency
N/A

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Sony XB90 comes in only one color, Black, and you can find the label for the model we tested here

Let us know in the discussions if you come across any other variants, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Speakers

The Sony XB90 is a large party speaker that, like most Sony speakers we've tested, comes with ClearAudio+, which adjusts the speaker's sound according to your audio when enabled. This speaker is more portable than the Sony XB72 since it's battery-powered, though it doesn't have any radio capabilities. Its Sony Music Center companion app also features a graphic EQ and EQ presets you can use to customize its sound to your liking, unlike the JBL PartyBox 310.

Check out our recommendations for the best Bluetooth speakers, the best Bluetooth speakers for bass, and the best waterproof speakers.

JBL PartyBox 310

The JBL PartyBox 310 is a better speaker than the Sony XB90. The JBL has a better-balanced sound profile that can produce a deeper low-bass than the Sony. It can also get louder with fewer compression artifacts at max volume and is better-built with an IPX4 rating for water resistance, though we don't test for this. The Sony is more customizable thanks to the graphic EQ and presets featured on its Sony Music Center and Fiestable apps. It also offers a wider-sounding soundstage than that of the JBL.

Sony XB72

The Sony XB72 and the Sony XB90 are similarly-performing speakers with different strengths. Unlike the XB90, the XB72 comes with a built-in antenna for its radio capabilities, so you can use it to listen to your favorite radio channels. That said, the XB90 is more portable since it's battery-powered and doesn't need to plug into a power source to work.

JBL PartyBox 300

The Sony XB90 is a slightly better speaker than the JBL PartyBox 300, though they have different strengths. The Sony is more customizable than the JBL, thanks to the graphic EQ and presets available on its companion apps. It also has a more natural-sounding soundstage and can be paired to three devices at once, so you can easily switch between your audio sources. That said, the JBL has a better-balanced sound profile and can get louder than the Sony with less compression at max volume. 

JBL Boombox 2

The JBL Boombox 2 and the Sony XB90 have different strengths. The JBL is smaller and more portable than the Sony. It also has a better-balanced sound profile out-of-the-box, and is better-built, with an IPX7 rating for water resistance, though we don't test for this. However, the Sony is a large party speaker with multiple party features like customizable RGB lights and a microphone input. It has a more customizable sound profile thanks to the graphic EQ and presets featured on its companion app.

JBL PartyBox 100

The JBL PartyBox 100 and the Sony XB90 are similar speakers with different strengths. The JBL has a better-balanced sound profile and can get louder than the sony with fewer artifacts present at max volume. It's also smaller and more portable than the Sony. The Sony comes with a graphic EQ and EQ presets you can use to tweak its sound to your liking. Also, you can pair it to three devices at once, making it easy to switch between audio sources. It also supports voice assistants through your smartphone, though its performance isn't very good.

Sony XP700

The Sony XP700 is a somewhat better speaker than the Sony XB90 overall. The XP700 has a better-balanced sound profile and can get slightly louder than the XB90, with slightly less compression at max volume. It's better built, with an IPX4 rating for water resistance, though we don't currently test for this. It can also last almost 17 hours from a single charge, though this depends on your usage. That said, the XB90 has better directivity, resulting in a more open-sounding soundstage.

SOUNDBOKS (Gen. 3)

Depending on your preferences, you may prefer either The Sony XB90 or the SOUNDBOKS (Gen. 3). The SOUNDBOKS can get much louder and can produce deeper bass than the Sony. It also has an outstanding battery life and can last over 43 hours from a single charge, though this can depend on your usage. The Sony has fewer compression artifacts present at max volume and can play stereo content without downmixing it to mono. It also has customizable RGB lights and is compatible with the Fiestable app, which allows you to control extra party features of this speaker.

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