Review: 808 Audio XS Sport Rugged Wireless Speaker
It's tough for $100-and-cheaper Bluetooth speakers to stand out these days in a crowded market, but 808 Audio has added another option to the mix with its new XS Sport. Not that 808 Audio hasn't already had some success in the low-price range: as we've noted before in our review of the company's Canz XL, 808 claims its cheap Canz speaker is "the number one selling Bluetooth speaker under $50." The $80 XS Sport is a dust-resistant, water-resistant stereo speaker that uses two drivers and a passive radiator to deliver its sound. 808 claims the rugged XS Sport gets up to 8 hours of playtime before needing a recharge. The speaker comes with a carabiner, and a micro-USB cable for recharging.
XS Sport looks vaguely like any other number of black matte Bluetooth speakers we’ve seen in recent years. It’s 7.75” x 3.3” x 1.25” and weighs a bit less than a pound. The back of the speaker has a power button, EQ bass boost button, volume controls, and a small rubber-sealed section which protects the micro-USB charging port and an aux port. We expected full waterproofing at first glance, but XS Sport is only splashproof. XS Sport has two drivers facing forward, and its passive radiator is facing the speaker’s rear. The speaker’s shock-resistant outer frame is reminiscent of the suspension frame found in Lunatik’s Seismik iPhone case, and it’s the only visually interesting aspect of an otherwise straightforward rectangular design.
Sub-$100 Bluetooth speakers have improved in recent years, but XS Sport is a throwback to a time of lesser quality. The speaker is plagued by clear and obvious distortion on many tracks, often starting in the mid volume level and obviously getting more evident as the speaker gets louder. XS Sport gets fairly loud for its size, but with the distortion getting so distracting, you probably won’t want to push it too often. Distortion isn’t the only problem, either, as XS Sport is characterized by a thin sound. While particularly bass-heavy songs can deliver a slight thump from the radiator, on most songs, the bass seems to get lost completely. The EQ bass boost button only has a minimal effect. Competing speakers — in both size and price range — can deliver much better sound with improved balance and bass.
Even at $80, XS Sport is directly competing with both larger and better speakers, and it doesn’t measure up. It’s a forgettable, lackluster product in a crowded market.