The button is simple, almost plain. A flat black circle, simple dye-sublimated letters, and a small LED pinprick to let you know that it’s on. “EXTRA BASS,” it declares in tall, bold capitals. For indeed, the EXTRA BASS button only does one blindingly obvious thing: it adds extra bass.
The speaker in question here is a Sony XB90 Extra Bass High Power Audio System. It is a product without pretension, without guile or duplicity. It has Extra Bass in the name, and the eponymous button is a microcosm of the device, a thing that encapsulates the form and function in a neat, tidy shorthand.
This is not a speaker for listening to soft sonatas of Mozart or enjoying the sonic subtleties of a rare acoustic studio recording. It is a party speaker, with emphasis on the “party,” and if you don’t happen to have a party handy, it will happily create one in seconds with thudding, ear-rattling sound.
The Sony XB90 Extra Bass High Power Audio System is the size of a beer cooler and is destined to sit alongside one — its intended resting place a dingy basement of a college apartment, a backyard pool party, or a raucous tailgate. (Sony, in fact, sells a different model with cupholders built in.) It is liberally festooned with LED lights and offers a variety of useful input methods (including Bluetooth, an aux cable, and a USB-A port for charging and playing music from a newer phone that might not have a headphone jack). You can daisy chain more of the 26-pound speakers together, too, should you own more than one.
The EXTRA BASS button is the natural culmination of the XB7. “Parties are good,” the XB7 practically says merely by existing. “Loud, thumping bass makes parties better. But what if the bass was… EXTRA BASS?”
Pressing the EXTRA BASS button doesn’t, at first, translate the impact of what you’re doing. The button itself is ordinary looking, the mechanical click is the same as any other button on the XB7. But its impact can be felt (literally, depending on the track and how high you’ve cranked the volume) almost immediately. The EXTRA does exactly what it promises: it boosts up the bass to almost comically distorted levels, ensuring that whatever you’re listening to will be given the deep, body-rattling sound it deserves.
The almost pedestrian nature of the EXTRA BASS button is its biggest flaw. Other party speakers, like the regrettably discontinued Philips Nitro Speaker, gives the bass-boosting button the visual splendor it deserves: a glowing red, caution-tape-ringed “NX BASS” button that gives the impression that pressing may also inadvertently launch a missile in addition to making sure that partygoers feel the bass line of Daft Punk’s “Around the World” vibrating in their bones.
The EXTRA BASS button dreams to imagine a world that can be more. What if the party never had to end? What if the night could go on forever? What if the bass was just a little bit more extra?
On any other product, an EXTRA BASS button would be a ridiculous thing to exist. But in the Natty-Light soaked world of the XB90, the EXTRA BASS button turns not just logical but almost necessary — and when faced with a tool designed and implemented with such bespoke perfection for the task it’s meant for, it’s hard not to appreciate the beauty of it.