At a glanceExpert’s Rating
ProsLightweight and compactGreat soundLong battery lifeMic for callsConsSound varies depending where it’s satCould be louderOur Verdict
Lovely little speaker that can kick out some great audio, so long as you place it on the right surface.
Sony has a solid track record when it comes to compact Bluetooth speakers. I’ve owned a few myself over the years, so when the company announced a new model it immediately went to the top of my review list. The not-so-catchy named SRS-XB100.
But, does this little speaker have what it takes to receive the composer’s baton from its predecessors? Time to crank it and find out.
Design & Build
Nice chunky buttons
IP67 water and dust rating
Uses sustainable materials
When you first take the SRS-XB100 out of its packaging, which is non-plastic for a welcome change, the immediate surprise is that the speaker itself is so light in the hand. At 274g, it’s not much more than most smartphones, so you can definitely see how this is the kind of device you can throw in a bag or even the pocket of a jacket if you want to take it with you.
The 75 x 95mm cylindrical shape also makes it easy to hold in the hand if you prefer to carry it that way, with the textured plastic giving a good grip. Sony includes a detachable wrist strap so you won’t have to worry about dropping it in the pool during those summer BBQs or any clumsy mishaps with hard floors.
Should the former happen, then the XB100’s IP67 waterproof rating means you will be able to fish it out once more without missing a beat. The waterproofing is helpful in another way, as the body does have a tendency to pick up marks from the oils in hands and fingers, which can take a bit of effort to remove.
The design is simple and somewhat utilitarian, at least in the darker liveries, but looks modern and tidy
The top of the XB100 is home to the speaker unit and grill, while the lower section has cutouts to allow the passive radiator to emit its tones. Above this is a selection of controls, including power on/off, Bluetooth pairing, play/pause, and volume. They’re all raised symbols that give a satisfying clicky response and are large enough to make sure you find the right one quickly.
At the end of the controls is a covered panel that houses the USB-C charging port. The box includes a cable, but no adapter, so you’ll need to use the one from your smartphone or otherwise.
The design is simple and somewhat utilitarian, at least in the darker liveries, but looks modern and tidy. The XB100 comes in Orange, Blue, Light Grey and Black, so you can add a bit of sparkle with the lighter tones if that’s more your thing.
Sony also claims that the XB100 is partially made from sustainable materials, so that’s a good thing or rather a partially good thing.
Sound Quality & Features
Sound diffusion processor
Passive radiator for bass
Microphone for hands-free calls
For such a small and light device, you’d be well within your rights to expect a sound that was a little thin. That’s certainly not the case with the XB100, although there is some context to understand.
The way the unit is built, you have the main speaker firing out of the top, aided by a sound diffusion processor to balance the output frequencies. At the bottom, there is a passive radiator. Basically, this works by reverberating to the sounds kicked out by the speaker, which it amplifies by transferring that energy into the surface underneath.
It’s a design that’s been around for a while, but the upshot is that the tones that come out of the XB100 are heavily influenced by what it’s sat on. For example, when I listened to the speaker with it on my wooden table in the living room, the bass really rumbled. This was because the passive radiator pushed the energy down into the wooden top, which then traveled down the legs into the slate floor.
This resulted in crazy levels of bass at times, and I could feel a gentle throb in the floor itself. Should I pick up the XB100 and hold it in my hand, nearly all of the low frequencies disappeared as they had little to work with.
So, you will find that you can fine-tune or tame the frequencies that the speaker puts out by simply moving it to another surface. This is good, as there are no EQ controls or sound profiles available, even in the accompanying app that Sony offers.
In general use, the speaker can sound very good, depending on the music you choose (and the surface it’s on). Interestingly, I found that modern rock tracks, which usually are quite compressed across the mix, sounded quieter and less rich than singer-songwriter or classic jazz tunes.
For example, the new Nita Strauss album with its guitar gymnastics and hard-driving songs, actually felt a little smaller than the latest Elephant Revival album with its gentle harmonies and folkish instrumentals.
I’m guessing this is because there’s more space between the frequencies, which is easier to handle with the single speaker setup in the XB100. If you want a more powerful and wider frequency scope, then I’d recommend trying a larger unit with an array of speakers for higher and lower frequencies.
That’s not to say you can’t listen to modern mixes on the Sony SRS-XB100. They do sound decent, but I definitely feel that the unit offers more spacious and rewarding audio when dealing with less busy songs.
There is the option of buying two XB100s and then pairing them for a stereo setup. This might be a good idea if you and a friend were each considering picking one up, otherwise a single, but better speaker would make more sense.
As a portable speaker, it’s a great little device to have in your bag. You won’t be able to power a party with it, as the sounds don’t really carry that well outdoors. But, if you’re sitting around with friends having a picnic or drink in the garden, then the XB100 can add some good-sounding background music without annoying the neighbours.
It’s also a great option for those who enjoy, as I do, audiobooks and podcasts but want bigger volumes than those offered by a smartphone. There’s also a microphone built-in, so you can take calls hands-free while using the speaker. In my tests, the recipients said it all sounded good, which is all you can hope for with this kind of feature.
Thankfully, you won’t have to charge the XB100 too often, as the 16-hour battery life will get you through quite a few albums before it runs dry. Charging time is around three hours, so you’ll want to plug it in well before you intend to pack for a day out.
Price & Availability
Sony offers the SRS-XB100 for $59.99/£54.99/€64.99 and you can also purchase it through various retailers including Sony, Amazon, Currys and Argos in the UK.
In the US you can buy it from Sony, Amazon, Adorama, BestBuy, Dell and B&H Photo.
At the time of writing, these prices had been dropped by the company to around the $40/£40/€40 mark, so it looks like this might be the real price on the street. For that money, you’re getting a lovely little travel companion that is capable of some great sounds.
Alternatively, you might try the cool JBL Clip 4, which costs around $50/£50/€50, is compact, sounds good but doesn’t have a built-in mic for hands-free calls. There’s also the Edifier MP100 Plus which is another highly portable speaker that’s waterproof and can spin a good tune for around the same price as the Sony XB100.
Don’t forget to check out our best cheap bluetooth speakers for more ideas.
Should you buy the Sony SRS-XB100?
As a portable speaker that you can take on holiday, around the house or out into the garden, the Sony XB100 is a very nice option.
Sound quality is good (although you’ll need to be careful where you place it) and the easy pairing and battery life mean you can just get on with listening to your audio without any faff.
An EQ setting would have been nice, as would more volume for use outside, but this little speaker remains a fine choice for those who want a compact and well-built way to listen on the move without breaking the bank.
Full range, off-centre diaphragm speaker
Sound Diffusion Processor
Supports SBC and AAC codecs
A2DP, AVRCP, HFP compatible profiles
20Hz – 20,000Hz frequency transmission range (sampling frequency 44.1kHz)
2.4GHz frequency range
USB-C charging port
Included wrist strap
76mm x 95mm