If you are looking for a portable(-ish) party speaker that brings bass, volume, and party lighting, JBL PartyBox 300 and Sony XB90 (also called GTK-XB90) should be on your list.
PartyBox 300 is easier to find available for purchase, and also has a superior sound profile. However, the XB90 is a solid speaker in its own right. So if you can find it selling for a large discount it is still worthy of consideration.
Only the Sony XB90 is app-compatible, so this may sway some users. But if your goal is overall performance and sound quality, PartyBox 300 is your best bet.
Both speakers have “party speaker” sound profiles. If you are expecting a hi-fi speaker, you will be disappointed. But if you want a speaker with lots of volume and powerful bass, either the PartyBox 300 or XB90 should impress you.
During testing, we preferred the sound of PartyBox 300. Both speakers provide serious bass, but the PartyBox 300 has more clarity in mid-ranges. Treble is lacking on both speakers, and is over-powered by the bass at times.
The XB90 felt too bass-heavy, leaving mid-ranges hollow and lacking in clarity. This is also true when using the microphone input for karaoke or using it as a loudspeaker.
XB90 scores points for having an equalizer, but Sony’s equalizer doesn’t function as well as you would expect. For better customization of sound, you should download a third-party equalizer rather than using the stock Sony EQ.
The sound quality isn’t wildly better on PartyBox 300 than XB90, but the difference is still significant.
Sound winner: JBL PartyBox 300 (lacks EQ, but better mids and clarity)
Both speakers are similarly designed.
The XB90 is slightly larger, but actually weighs less. The XB90 weighs just over 30 pounds, while the PartyBox 300 tips the scales at slightly more than 35 pounds. Both products have a handle to increase portability.
Both speakers are sturdy and well-designed, despite being largely constructed of plastic. These are large, floor-standing speakers with RGB lights that accompany the audio. Either speaker can be played in a horizontal or vertical orientation.
Both PartyBox 300 and XB90 feature bluetooth compatibility and a USB port. And each includes a microphone input. Only the PartyBox 300 has a 3.5 mm aux input.
Both PartyBox 300 and XB90 have a power bank feature, which allows you to charge a cell phone or other device from the stored battery on the speaker.
Neither the PartyBox 300 or the XB90 is waterproof, or even splash-proof to any degree. Many portable speakers have waterproofing, which is admittedly a nice feature to have. But for 30+ pound speakers, you probably won’t want to take these speakers out on the boat or in the pool with you anyway. So, to me, it really isn’t a deal-breaker.
Design winner: Sony XB90 (slightly — just for better cosmetics and more modern design)
JBL PartyBox 300 and Sony XB90 are sturdy and well-built. But, they are still plastic construction and very heavy. So they aren’t bulletproof by any means.
Neither device has a waterproof or dust-proof rating. Many competitor’s products are IPX7 (waterproof) or IP67 (waterproof + dustproof) rated. In fact, an IP waterproof rating has become something of an “industry standard” for portable speakers. So XB90 and PartyBox 300 are lacking in this category.
In terms of both waterproofing and shock-resistance, the speakers’ large size works to their advantage. Because the speakers are so large, you probably won’t be using these speakers poolside or on a boat, anyway. And since they are so heavy, you won’t have to worry about dropping them during on-the-go use.
Both products have a 1 year warranty from the manufacturer. Obviously, at this price range, you expect to get much more than 12 months’ worth of life from the speaker. Realistically, you should get 3-5 years of use from these speakers, if not more. Battery drain is a common cause of device failure, with many users reporting that the speakers need to remain plugged in constantly after a couple years of use.
Durability winner: Tie (well-built but lacking in waterproofing)
Both options have impressive battery longevity.
PartyBox 300 is rated for 18 hours of battery life, while XB90 is rated for 16 hours. And, surprisingly, testing each speaker showed the battery estimates to be quite accurate. However, these estimates assume a couple things: moderate volume and no lighting.
If you play the speakers at max volume, you won’t get 15+ hours from either speaker. And if you have the lighting turned on, your battery life will be shortened also.
The XB90 has a “stamina” button that extends battery life when the battery is running low. This button works by turning down bass and volume, so it definitely reduces the performance of the speaker. However, we still give Sony some points for including this feature. It is a clever idea and the concept makes a lot of sense.
At maximum volume with lights turned on, the XB90 is pretty weak when it comes to battery life. You can expect to get more than 4 hours, but probably less than 6. On the other hand, PartyBox 300 should be good for 6+ hours with the volume cranked up and the lights on.
Both devices function as a power bank. This is a great feature to have and allows you to carry fewer chargers. With the power bank feature, you can charge your phone, MP3 player, or other device using the speaker’s built-in battery.
Battery winner: JBL PartyBox 300 (longer battery life, but XB90 has stamina mode)
Neither device has perfect software, but Sony is a pretty clear winner.
XB90 has a customizable equalizer with included presets. JBL, as we have written about previously, has no equalizer on most of their products.
With Bluetooth 4.2, these speakers function pretty well wirelessly, even though it isn’t the “latest and greatest” version of bluetooth.
Either device gives you “party lighting” alongside the music. This is a great feature to have, especially for an oversized party speaker. It just amplifies the audio experience to have some flashing lights added.
The party lighting on PartyBox 300 is a better attention-grabber. XB90 has an “infinity mirror” which is supposed to add some excitement to the lighting, but I still thought the lighting was nicer on PartyBox 300.
PartyBox has TWS (true wireless stereo) which, as the name implies, allows you to connect two compatible speakers together. But the speaker is not app-enabled, so you really don’t have much flexibility or functionality from a software standpoint.
XB90, on the other hand, uses the Sony Music Center app for controls. So you can use your phone to adjust songs, lighting, and features. And rather than being limited to pairing only 2 PartyBox 300s, the Sony XB90 can party chain up to 10 speakers.
Software winner: Sony XB90 (app-enabled with adjustable EQ)
Right out of the box, PartyBox 300 has higher sound quality and less distortion than XB90. But if an adjustable EQ or app-compatibility matters, only the Sony GTK-XB90 can provide either.
Both speakers have impressive battery life (plus a power bank) but lack any waterproofing. And the PartyBox 300 (as well as other speakers in the PartyBox series) is easier to find, whereas the XB90 is typically sold out.
If you are willing to spend a few hundred dollars on a bulky party speaker, either option is worth considering. The volume these speakers bring is far beyond the typical bluetooth speaker, and the built-in lighting is a pretty cool feature for parties and dances as well.