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Party & Sporty: Sony Targets The Young & Active With New Portable Audio

New speakers, ear buds all include some level of water protection

Sony officially announced a new splash-proof wireless in-ear bud with both active noise cancelation, along with a new series of behind-the-neck Bluetooth sport earphones and colorful portable Bluetooth/NFC speakers with flashing LED trim, all aimed squarely at the young and active.

All four of Sony’s 2018 horizontal SRS-XB Bluetooth speakers, including the top-of-the-line SRS-XB41 ($249), go on pre-sale tomorrow (March 21) with availability “soon.” All the earphones, including the WF-700N ($179) wireless bud, will start selling at the end of May. Sony’s current wireless in-ear bud, the WF-1000x, will remain in the line.

Sony’s new personal audio earphone and speaker designs are driven “by two underlying ideas: great audio performance and how this technology fits into our daily lives,” noted a Sony spokesperson. “That’s become a really important point for us.”

One way Sony’s new Bluetooth speakers and earphones fit into an active lifestyle is acknowledging both aesthetic considerations and physical environments. All the earphone and speaker models will be available in a variety of fashionable pastel colors, all include some level of water protection, and the speakers include controllable LED flash/strobe lighting trim.

Leading the Bluetooth speaker introductions is the SRS-XB41. Available in black, white, blue fabric, the XB41 is IP67 waterproof (submersible up to 30 feet, even in salt water, for a minute), and offers a whopping 24 hour battery life. It can not only be recharged via AC or DC, but also provides charging for USB-connected devices such as smartphones.

On the audio side, the XB41 features twin 58mm drivers and a passive radiator; the drivers are angled slightly to enable a wider “live sound mode” soundstage designed to add a DSP at-the-venue feeling. While the XB41, like all these new speakers, is mono, two can be paired to create stereo, and up to 100 can be linked together.

The XB41 also features a “party booster” mode; tapping varying spots on the speaker produces up to 13 different programmable sounds including bongo, drums, bass — even a cowbell.

See: 10 Headphones That Want To Give Beats A Run For Its Money

Sony’s other three new SBS Bluetooth speakers — the XB31 ($149), XB21 ($99.99) and the tubular ($59.99) — each include a diminishing number of the XB41’s bells and whistles, and each available in a variety of colors.

All three speaker models, however, include flash/strobe, colorful LED light trim around the edges and even around the speaker drivers. Both the music and the lights can be controlled from Sony’s Music Center app, while the LED colors are controllable only from Sony’s Fiestable home audio app.

Sporty Splash-proof Ear Buds

Sony claimed its new sport WF-SP700N in-ear wireless buds, part of the company’s Extra Bass line, is the world’s first featuring both splash-proof (IPX4) design and active noise canceling.

Includes with the buds are two sizes of “arc support” in-lobe wings and four sizes of silicon tips to ensure a secure workout-proof fit, along with two “ambient sound” modes, one to emphasize “normal” surrounding environmental noise and one to emphasize voice. With a connection to a compatible Android smartphone, the buds also enable voice-access to Google Assistant.

The SP700N supply three hours of listening, and the charging case supplies two additional three-hour charges. A 15-minute quick charge supplies 70 minutes of playback.

For those with longer continual listening needs, the more traditional behind-the-neck WI-SP600N ($149) offers all the aforementioned SP700N features, but with six hours of playback, while the similar SP500 ($79.99) provides eight hours of playback by eliminating the active noise cancellation, deep bass and ambient sound modes.

All three of these models are available in black, pink/rose, yellow and white.