For $39.99 (£39, AU$48), it was an affordable entry point into portable audio with performance that was surprising for its size – but now that torch will now be carried by its successor, the all-new Sony SRS-XB13. It’s slightly more expensive at $59 (around £40, AU$80), however with better sound dispersion, Sony designed the speaker to offer 360-degree audio so that everyone at the party, beach or bonfire can hear the music wherever they sit.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it’s worth spending a bit more to get the genuinely great Sony SRS-XB23 from last year instead – it’s typically just $79.99 on sale and the sound quality is significantly better.
At the top of the speaker is a grille that guards a standard 1.5-inch driver while on the underside you’ve got a passive radiator for better bass response.
In fact, the design is pretty similar, but the Wonderboom moves the controls to the top and adds both a second driver and a second bass radiator. In an interview with us ahead of launch, Sony told us one of the big focuses for the development team this year was a flatter sound quality, and that definitely feels like the case.
Songs that typically have a distinctive left and right channel like Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower just sound flat on the SRS-XB13 if you don’t pair two of them together. Sony has improved it, but friends and family we spoke to said that we sounded incredibly distant and hardly audible, despite standing a few feet from the speaker.
In the box you’ll find a USB-C cable for charging, which is nice, and it plugs into the back of the speaker underneath a removable rubber flap. Of course, if you need to crank the volume up higher to fill a larger space, that total battery life might be closer to 12 or 13 hours, but it’s still more than enough for a day outside. Although it’s $60 (around £40, AU$80) at launch, we’re eventually going to see this drop down below $40 – and, at that point, it’s going to be one of the lowest-priced Bluetooth speakers from a name brand company, making it pretty appealing. Having a lower max volume isn’t always a bad thing – in fact, if you have easily upset neighbors, they might actually appreciate you buying the XB13 instead of something that has more power than you’ll actually use.
The low max volume won’t matter to folks who plan on sitting a few feet from the speaker but if this is your primary sound system for outdoor parties you’re probably not going to love it. Admittedly, we love the flatter EQ Sony’s using on the XB13 this year – but, because it’s only using a single driver, the sound quality is confined and not especially clear. The Sony SRS-XB23, the XB13’s bigger brother, hits the sweet spot for price and performance, offering more expansive and refined sound for only slightly more money.
Sony SRS-XB13 Review
It’s waterproof, has a removable strap, and delivers solid volume levels and decent bass depth for its size. The base of the speaker has rubber footing, ostensibly to prevent movement due to vibrations, but it danced across our desktop and wiggled dramatically with bass-heavy mixes—and even some not-so-bass-heavy tunes when the volume was pumped. The lower half of the speaker also packs in a passive radiator to bulk up the audio a bit, but most bass depth here is felt (and seen) more than heard. Of course, Bluetooth signal won’t work well underwater, but the point is the SRS-XB13 can get a little dirty and be rinsed off, dunked, and/or exposed to moderate water pressure without worry.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the SRS-XB13 handles the deep low frequencies pretty well—meaning, it flirts with distortion but never quite gets there. Thus, as mentioned, it would be wise to hang the speaker from something so that it doesn’t make contact with any resonant surfaces when pumping up the volume. Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the SRS-XB13’s general sound signature. The passive radiator does a good job in its supporting role, adding a sense of richness and resonance to the solo driver’s modest bass presence.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain its punchiness in the mix, while the sub-bass synth hits obviously lack any real subwoofer-like power, though they do get some added low-mid push that makes things sound a little more full. The drum loop also gets some low-mid boosting, make it sound a bit fuller and heavier, and the vocals on this track are delivered cleanly and clearly, with a smidge of sibilance added to the equation.
Sony SRS-XB43 Review
In addition to its rugged build and big sound, it features built-in LEDs for a fun light show, and adjustable EQ so you can dial in your audio preferences. It also fills a gap between tiny and massive portable models, earning it an Editors’ Choice for outdoor speakers.
The back of the speaker houses a covered compartment with connections for the included power adapter, a wall unit that terminates in USB-C. There’s also a 3.5mm aux input and a USB-A output for charging other devices with the SRS-XB43’s battery.
Callahan’s baritone vocals receive some added low-mid richness as well, but benefit from a high-mid and high-frequency presence that keeps things crisp.
If there’s a complaint here, it’s that the scooped-out sound signature favors bass and treble over mids, and will not appeal to those looking for an accurate portrayal of the mix—but the EQ can tame the sculpting somewhat. Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, definitely get more bass depth than purists will be looking for, but the overall result is still a balanced, crisp sound with solid low-frequency anchoring. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 8, we understood every word we recorded, and while there was a little bit of Bluetooth distortion around the edges, the mic signal was strong. The SRS-XB43’s excellent waterproof rating and powerful audio output are marks in its favor, and the LED lighting is a fun added bonus.
Sony SRS-XB43 4.0 Editors’ Choice See It $248.00 at Amazon MSRP $249.99 Pros Powerful audio performance with strong bass depth and sculpted highs Bulky The Bottom Line The Sony SRS-XB43 is a bass-forward Bluetooth speaker with an outdoor-friendly design, built-in LED lighting, and lots of power for the price.
Sony SRS-XB13 Bluetooth speaker review: Sonic goodness on your wrist
Of course, there’s only so much you can do with its diminutive dimensions and a single speaker, but Sony seems to have maximized the potential in terms of audio reproduction. This is usually a recipe for a severe lack of bass, as low-frequency waves are far longer than the interior of the speaker. As you can see above, the standard Bluetooth speaker controls are present, as well as a microphone for use during phone calls and with your voice assistant. The reason I dove into such detail about the button functionality is that the included operation guide seems bent on proving that a picture is not always worth a thousand words.
So, it’s not very sub-wooferish, but the sound from this tiny speaker is as good as you’ll find in the category. The SRS-XB13 can be pair with a second Sony speaker to produce true stereo, but the company didn’t send me a second to test that.
I also managed about 7 to 8 of the 10-meter range offered by the technology in my challenging apartment with its chicken-wire laden walls. As long as you’re aware of the sonic limits of monophonic speakers of this size, then the SRS-XB13 is as good or better than anything similar that’s out there.
Sony SRS-XB13 Wireless Speaker Review: Punches Above Its Weight
There are plenty of brands making affordable wireless speakers, but Sony is among the oldest and most established names in the segment. The company’s Bluetooth personal audio products, including its headphones, earphones, and wireless speakers, are among the best you can buy, albeit often at relatively high prices. 3,990, the Sony SRS-XB13 is a compact wireless Bluetooth speaker with IP67 dust and water resistance, and it promises big sound for a device of its size. Most wireless speakers of this size offer a sound that is usually tuned and focused for small spaces – essentially just one or two people sitting near the device itself.
2,499 Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker, the SRS-XB13 comes close in terms of loudness and sound quality, in a much smaller and more convenient form factor. The Sony SRS-XB13 can still easily fill up a small space with clear, precise sound, offering a good combination of bass, treble, and mid-range detail.
Listening to Hot Like Dimes by Pretty Lights with the Sony SRS-XB13 at my work desk, the sound was impressive, clean, detailed, and punchy at moderate to high volumes. The synthesised samples, bass-heavy beat, and electronic highs all sounded distinct and sharp, at a quality level that far exceeds anything else of this size that I’ve heard.
Turning the volume up to high levels didn’t cause the XB13 any trouble at all; the sound remained free of distortion while maintaining its balanced and attacking sonic signature and overall cohesiveness. The Mi Portable Bluetooth Speaker (16W) is bigger, louder, and sounds nearly as good at a much lower price, so it might be worth looking at other options as well in this crowded and competitive space.
Sony SRS-XB33 review
While lifestyle images on the company’s website show the Sony SRS-XB33 portable speaker set against white sands and sun-drenched swimming pools, its rugged exterior and waterproof features mean it should keep going in any weather – ideal for winters as well as summers, then. It’s dustproof, so sand, soil and dried mud are of little concern, and it has undergone extensive shock testing for knocks, bumps and scrapes, meaning you can drop it and it’ll keep working.
Those include some flashing lights – controlled via the Sony Music Center and Fiestable apps – which can also dance in sync with up to 99 other compatible wireless speakers thanks to Party Connect. You’ll notice the Extra Bass advertising, which nods to this speaker’s dual passive radiators, but it’s the main driver units that are most interesting. Sony calls this its X-Balanced Speaker Unit, where non-circular diaphragms make for a maximised surface area, and an increase in sound pressure aims for punchier bass. Not that this Bluetooth speaker needs the extra help; we connect our smartphone (NFC is available) and immediately the party starts, the SRS-XB33 throwing its voice across the room with real energy and verve. This might be a speaker built to shout across busy rooms and fill a space in the infinite outdoors, but we’d still appreciate a little greater subtlety and maturity that would hold our interest better when not in party mode ourselves. There are speakers around this price, such as the Audio Pro Addon C3, that combine expert rhythm and sensitive dynamics with striking richness and clarity, but these are only built to be portable in the sense they needn’t constantly be plugged in.
Sony SRS-XB32 review
The newest offering comes in the form of the Sony SRS-XB32, which is packed with features ranging from high-quality Bluetooth codecs to strobe lights (seriously). Editor’s note: this Sony SRS-XB32 review was updated on April 14, 2021, to include a content menu, technical details, information about the mobile app, and more.
If you’re a hardcore outdoorsy person who counts every gram, get the JBL Clip 3 or the UE WONDERBOOM 2.
The SRS-XB32 is made of hard plastic with a rough fabric that covers the speaker grill and dynamic drivers.
A colorful LED strip lines the speaker, and you can control it via the Fiestable app. Enabling the “Party Booster” makes kick drums, snares, and cowbell sound just by tapping it to the beat.
You can connect via the standard Bluetooth procedure, or by tapping your smartphone to it (so long as NFC is enabled). Sony claims a battery life of 24 hours of constant playback, but that’s only if you turn off all of the lights and Extra Bass mode. All of those things are turned on by default, so I tested the battery life with everything enabled; Sony claims the speaker will last 14 hours under these conditions. Then again, it does have a real benefit: the bass emphasis makes it easier to hear music outdoors.
Lower notes tend to dissipate quicker into your surroundings if there’s a lot going on in your area, and that extra emphasis helps you hear them outside. Treble notes were similarly lacking in clarity with the cymbals and hi-hats in Generator ^ Second Floor by Freelance Whales.
Listen to the audio sample below and please rate it, doing so really helps our other readers understand how the microphone performs across a wide array of devices. Particularly if you like the idea of having a speaker that can party as you do when you go to the beach or to the pool this isn’t a bad option. But if strong bass, flashing strobe lights, fun features, and a tough waterproof build is what you’re looking for then that person might be you.