A Deep Dive into Sony’s GTK-XB90 Speaker

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Sony got into the audiophile segment of the speaker market and had a brief success in this area with its limited distribution Voce line. However, the company sought to focus its attention on other areas, and subsequently the name Sony has not been strongly associated with stereo speakers.

In recent years, that trend changed and Sony has been making a range of audio speaker products, from serious large full-performance systems to bookshelf systems. They are now developing quite a reputation for quality audio products and make audio systems that touch on nearly every area of the consumer market.

Here, we will review a full-sized speaker system that is not targeted to audiophiles. It is decidedly a party system, that’s its intended purpose and that’s what you do with it: Party.

Introducing the GTK-XB90.

A Deep Dive into Sony’s GTK-XB90 Speaker

The GTK-XB90 speaker (we say speaker not speakers because they are sold individually) is a Bluetooth-enabled, battery-operated, portable loudspeaker that is networkable with other Bluetooth-enabled devices and can form up to a 10-speaker network. The speaker can be remotely controlled by smartphone apps and is intended for portable entertainment.

It does weigh quite a bit, coming in at just under 31 pounds, so the portable part is relative. However, the weight is mainly due to its prodigious battery, which has an excellent playtime.

Who’s It For?

This speaker is solely intended for parties, outdoors or indoors. The GTK-XB90 is made for portability and networking with other devices, such as smartphones, laptops, or tablets.

If you want to throw some awesome parties out in a park or your backyard and need a sound system that you can take there, this one is it. That is what you do with it.

Maybe you think that the GTK-XB90 would look very nice in your tastefully-decorated living room. Perhaps you should acquire a pair to have a delightful evening listening to Rachmaninoff with friends over tea.

Eh… no. This speaker is a banger and you feed it techno, reggae, trance, metal, rap. It has dance lights on it, for crying out loud!

Set up is easy and device pairing for syncing-in your playlist is extremely simple. Besides going the Bluetooth menu pairing route, the GTK-XB90’s have an NFC logo on the speaker top that you can target with your cell phone and automatically negotiate a hook-up.

Easy as pie.

What We Like About Sony’s GTK-XB90 Speaker

Well, first let us say they are loud. Really, really loud.

Like, holy mackerel, loosen the fillings in your teeth loud. That is the kind of volume you need if you intend to use these speakers in an outdoor setting.

The networking options are awesome. Besides the whole Bluetooth pairing thing we mean wireless connections with other speakers: you can link up to 10!

The use of an NFC logo on top to help Android phones login and sync-up is a really nice touch. The lighting can run from subtle to overpowering and makes for an outstanding party atmosphere.

These speakers, for being portable, are heavy but that is because they have a big battery with a lot of legs. You can go nuts and crank these bad boys up to the max with enough lights to generate seizures for 3 solid hours before the batteries go kaput.

That’s saying something and rates highly in our book of party speakers. The apps available also allow for a lot of control in music output, equalizer preset choice, light patterning, and one (Fiestable) allows you to throw in DJ effects whenever you want.

Cool.

What We Don’t Like About Sony’s GTK-XB90 Speaker

The fact that you need more than one app to manage music, settings, and lights is kind of funky. It is really not too much of a downside, we just feel that Sony should be able to put out a do-it-all app for their product.

The mid-range tones on these speakers tend to get a little lost in the bass mix and there does not seem to be a great balance between the bass woofers and treble tweeters, but you can make some bass adjustments and get nearly the full sound range.

PROS

  • Good bass and loudness
  • Portability
  • Lighting is outstanding
  • Rapid NFC and Bluetooth device pairing
  • Battery-saving setting (Stamina Mode)
  • Can form up to a 10-speaker network for big parties
  • Microphone input: acts as a PA system
  • Affordable

CONS

  • Speaker grille dents
  • Highs and mid-tones are not clear
  • No universal control app (have to use two)

What’s Included?

GTX-XB90 speaker (1)
Battery (built-in)
A/C cord
Operating manual
Instruction manual
Quick set-up guide

Overview Of Features

We will detail out the specifications for you here and give you our take on the overall build quality, the utility of the GTK-XB-90, and go over the sound quality of the speaker. We will attempt to give you an overview of all that you can do with the speaker and describe every facet of its features and design.

Specifications:
Build and dimensions: Black or azure blue plastic cabinet with a wire mesh grille. 13.23-inch-wide face x 26.38 inches tall x 13.19 inches deep (33.6 x 67 x 33.5 cm)
Weight: 30.86 lbs.
Case: Sealed case (no bass relief)
Drivers (each speaker): Woofer (two 7.09-inch; 18.01 cm), tweeter (three 2.36-inch; 5.99 cm)
Amplifier power: 360 W RMS (root mean square)
Ports: All front (woofers, tweeters)
Wired connections: RCA (1), USB Type-A (1), RCA output (1), 1.4” microphone jack
Power use: 0.5 W (on standby)
Battery life: 16 h (lights off, volume at 17), 3 h (lights on, volume at maximum)
Wireless connections: Bluetooth (A2DP 1.2, AVRCP 1.3, SPP 1.2)
Supported file formats: MP3, WAV, WMA
Supported audio codecs: AAC, LDAC

Design
The case design of the GTK-XB90 is a sealed case bass cabinet (as opposed to a bass-reflex cabinet). Although bass-reflex cabinets have advantages in providing flatter bass response across the frequency range, Sony opted for a sealed system since these speakers will often be used outdoors and a ported design would allow dirt and debris into the case.

The structure of the case is made from high-impact ABS plastic in either black (actually, a charcoal grey) or azure blue. The top profile is trapezoidal with the widest part toward the speaker’s face.

The facing of the speaker is covered in a metal mesh grille. Drivers include two woofers (7.09-inch) positioned over and under, with three tweeters (2.36-inch) set in three of the four corners (two top, one bottom on the left).

Each speaker has its own speaker light. Surrounding the woofer speakers is an oval line light that rings the woofers together.

The lights can go through phase transitions from blue to green to purple, which is completely programmable and can also be set to automatically adjust in response to the music.

In addition to these lights is a strobe flash and infinity mirror lighting, the latter of which bounces light back and forth, giving the illusion of many more lights than present.

There is a flush Sony branding logo across the top. On the sides, Sony branding is vertical and recessed in large letters.

The bottom has four rubber feet, which are also present on the right side so that the speakers can be laid down sideways. Recessed hand holds top and bottom are facing front to enable the speaker to be carried with one or two hands.

On the speaker top, there are several buttons: Power button, play/pause button that also receives and ends phone calls, bass booster button, and volume controls (treble, bass).

The Stamina Mode button allows for longer playtimes (up to 5 hours) and can be engaged when the battery strength diminishes (it sets the volume to a cap or 70% and shuts off the lights; the button can also be held down to have the speaker report battery power remaining). The function button cycles through the audio input sources and also functions to permit Bluetooth device pairing.

There is an Add button to link up an additional GTK-XB90 and a Party Chain button that permits the addition of up to 10 compatible speakers (either wired or wireless). The Party Chain button also changes the light options on the speaker front.

The top center is an NFC (near-field communication) logo for quick and easy Android phone pairing. Pairing can also be done through the standard Bluetooth menu on a smartphone.

On the speaker back is a second Party Chain button, a USB connector (for a stick with your playlist), a microphone jack and microphone sound level knob, RCA (L/R) Line In and Line Out sockets, and an A/C power jack for power and charging.

Although these are for outdoor use, keep in mind that the GTK-XB90 is not waterproof, so keep it out of the rain and away from the slip-n-slide and jello wrestling ring.

Accessories
There are no real accessories with the GTK-XB-90 apart from an A/C power cord and three manuals (operating, instructional, and quick set-up). That’s it since everything else is built-in.

Utility
These are battery-operated and completely self-contained and portable. They are also Bluetooth-enabled, so hooking up a Bluetooth device with a playlist is no problem.

You have the option for iAP over Bluetooth if you have an iPhone or use standard SPP with Android phones. There is equalizer presets for mixing frequencies in the following music genres: EDM (electronic dance music), hip-hop, R&B, Pop, Rock, Country, Jazz, Salsa, Flat.

The GTK-XB90 also has a flanger (feeds some of the output back into the input on a time delay, boosting bass attack. Besides all this, the speakers come with their own lights that are programmable by a couple of different apps: Sony Music Center and Fiestable.

The electronics of the GTK-XB90 includes DSEE (digital sound enhancement engine), which improves the fidelity of compressed audio files. It also includes LDAC codec software, which allows higher quality streaming through Bluetooth.

There is also Sony’s proprietary Clear Audio+ sound enhancement system that performs an automatic sound adjustment to improve the quality of output. The must-have apps, Music Center and Fiestable can also control the audio source, sound output, and light display.

Sony Music Center does better at the control of equalizers, audio source, and type of light output as well as power monitoring, whereas Fiestable is focused more on DJ and lighting options during playback (you can manually add in drums, scratches, audience cheers, voices, phaser sounds, reggae horn, and rhythm tracks on the fly).

Anyone say, portable party?

Sound Quality

Loud. Really loud.

The bass is extremely deep and punchy and the extra bass setting thumps. Tweeters are loud, sharp, and clear.

The mid-tones tend to get lost between the heavy bass and the sharp tweeters, however. The emphasis with these speakers is loudness and bass, with an emphasis on the subs.

These are not audiophile speakers for hearing the finer aspects of an orchestral piece, these are party speakers. Instrument separation is not really all that great and the sound stage is narrow.

Vocals at certain frequencies can be drowned out. But they can do the job they are intended to do very, very well.

Take this example: there is a sports sedan, a minivan, and a pickup truck. The outdoorsman says that he cannot pull a fishing boat with the sedan, so it’s worthless.

The suburbanite says the pickup truck does not have enough room to carry lots of people. The performance enthusiast says that the truck and the minivan are duds.

Use the right tool for the job. If you want party speakers, these are it.

They may muddy some of the midrange tones, but people listening to these probably will not notice while they are dancing. Using the Add or Party Chain buttons, you can add in up to 10 compatible speakers for some serious sound.

If you use wireless speaker networking, speaker spacing should be within 3 feet. Otherwise, you can space them out as much as you want by using RCA cabling, which can go out to 100 feet without a signal extender if you use really high-quality component RCA cables.

Review Summary

So, what do we think of the GTK-XB90 speaker? We definitely, definitely love it.

This is a speaker that does what it is supposed to do. Party.

It is portable and, although it does weigh a ton, these speakers have a large battery which makes for enough juice to last an entire party. Throw in the on-board lights and microphone jack and you have the ultimate party and karaoke machine.

David M
 

David M Foster is an award-winning sound engineer with over 13 years in the sound industry. He now works as a freelance sound engineer. He uses his insider knowledge and vast experience of the industry to shed more light on sound systems. He is a family man and the head content at Speakerchampion. Learn more about us.

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