STEREO GUIDE verdict
+ Amazingly rich, punchy bass for its size, even at higher listening levels
+ clearly marked operating keys
+ Stereo pairing of two SRS-XB100 possible
+ Large carrying strap
+ plays together with the Sony Music Center app
- No equalizer despite app
Sound. Bass / Dynamics5.4
Practice / Connectivity8.5
Sound: naturalness / transparency6.8
With the new Sony SRS-XB100 , the Japanese consumer electronics giant presents a kind of successor to the Sony SRS-XB13. Although it is very close to the round mini Bluetooth speaker we reviewed a while ago in terms of shape and dimensions. But the newcomer does not replace him directly. Sony is simply lowering its price to 50 Euros and is currently offering it alongside the XB100, whose recommended price is 5 Euros higher than the 60 Euros that the XB13 was originally priced at.
This shows how much the designers trust their new speaker, because a price difference of 15 Euros is a world away for many buyers in this class. One important criterion for the decision is immediately apparent: Sony’s official battery life of 16 hours gives the XB100 the same operating time as the XB13. And there are only four colors to choose from (light blue, black, gray and orange) instead of six. However, with its fluted case and the vertically embossed Sony logo, the new one, which uses many recycled plastics according to the manufacturer, looks a lot better than the old one. It also feels better to the touch thanks to a silky matt, rubberized surface.
The basic concept remained unchanged: An upward radiating full-range speaker sits under a convex grille. Lateral oval openings in the lower section serve as air outlet openings, because the full range driver gets support in the bass from a passive radiator with a flat diaphragm.
Proven concept, refined in detail
As in the predecessor, the color-contrasting buttons are located on the right side, which are hidden under a protective rubber cover. Finally, Sony designed it to be water and dust resistant according to protection class IP67, just like its predecessor. A rubber flap also protects the USB-C port, which can be used to charge the Sony SRS-XB100 from a 5V power source with a USB-A plug using its included short adapter cable.
Before we get to the most interesting new feature, we should mention the carrying strap adopted from the predecessor, which can be easily attached to backpacks or bags thanks to a buckle. According to Sony, it also consists of a high proportion of recycled plastics.
But now: The Sony SRS-XB100 not only connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth 5.2 instead of 4.6. It can be used with the Sony Music Center app. In times when even toothbrushes like the Braun IO come with a Bluetooth app, this might be the most striking progress compared to the predecessor, which should make many willingly dig a bit deeper into their pockets than with the still offered XB13. However, you should not set your expectations too high for the software, which is offered free of charge for iOS and Android. In combination with the Sony SRS-XB100, the tried and tested app does not offer a fraction of the functions that we know from the review of the XV800.
Good app, but meager feature set for the Mini
The Music Center app lets you access the songs and playlists stored on your smartphone. When selected directly within the app, you can see the cover and control playback. And you can read the battery charge level conveniently. But these are already the most useful functions. Streaming services like Spotify or Amazon Music are displayed, but nothing else can be done with them in Sony’s app. Clicking on the corresponding music streaming service redirects you to the corresponding provider’s own app. And that’s it. With Spotify & Co., neither the name nor the album cover of the current track is displayed in the Music Center, nor can you influence the playback with the exception of the volume.
At least we could pause and resume Spotify playback and skip to the next track with the easily recognizable buttons on the SRS-XB100’s casing. Thus, Sony’s new mini Bluetooth speaker does quite well, but it lags behind the Tribit Stormbox Micro 2, whose app even offers a usable equalizer.
So small and already stereo
A tiny stereo system can be set up with two Sony SRS-XB100s. To do this, you have to move both speakers at least one meter together and press the Bluetooth pairing button on both simultaneously for 2 seconds each. The predecessor also allowed stereo pairing – but like the XB100 – only with an identical partner. So, if you still own an XB13, you can forget about pairing it with the successor.
Before we get to the listening test, we should mention a useful feature inherited from the predecessor: You can accept calls via the Bluetooth speaker and make calls in decent quality via its hands-free microphone with echo cancelling – as the now also color-highlighted telephone receiver icon above the play/pause button promises.
Sound: Sony took care of the upper end of the frequency band
In the listening test, the Sony SRS-XB100 could process from the iPhone in Apple’s typical AAC format without conversion for Bluetooth transmission. Android users have to make do with the standard SBC codec. However, aptX would almost be wasteful luxury in view of the limited prerequisites of a full-range speaker that is not even 5 centimeters in diameter in a tiny casing. Despite all the limitations of a mini Bluetooth speaker, the new Sony produced a surprisingly fresh, clear sound after a short break-in period for its two membranes. It’s hard to believe how much effort was put into trying to reproduce natural voices or even something like bass just a few years ago.
The XB13 was already beyond the usual “plop” in the bass range. However, it still reproduced mids and trebles in a rather muffled manner, especially compared to the SRS-XB100. Sony now goes a whole step further here. The XB100 reproduces trebles with fine resolution and even makes the well-tuned Tribit Stormbox Micro 2 look a bit pale. The mids also increased significantly compared to the predecessor and can now easily keep up with the Trib. Depending on the piece of music, the Sony’s very concise trebles can make the sound seem a bit cool or also more lively.
The right level shapes the sound
When evaluating the sound, you should never lose sight of the volume, especially in the class of mini Bluetooth speakers. Finally, DSP chips ensure that the tiny speakers do not totally distort and cut the bass above a certain level. This usually causes the sound to tip into the aggressive range somewhere between 70 and 80 percent. This practice is also used for larger Bluetooth boxes. Unsurprisingly, this effect hits the smallest the hardest. Against this backdrop, it is remarkable what manufacturers like Tribit or Sony deliver here at all for the price.
With the SRS-XB100, Sony closes the gap to the competition and delivers an ultra-compact speaker that can play really loud and still remains surprisingly balanced. Not even ten years ago, that would have been almost unthinkable – at least at that price. The DSP is less susceptible to pumping defects than the Tribit, which gives it a slight advantage especially at levels beyond 50% of the control range.
Conclusion and alternatives to the Sony SRS-XB100
Even the first few beats had little in common with its somewhat hungover predecessor, the SRS-XB13, which drew its appeal primarily from an astounding bass for its diminutive dimensions. Now comes a very clear midrange and treble reproduction with very decent resolution. To appreciate the Sony properly, you have to give its speaker drivers, which are pushed to the limit, some break-in time, otherwise the bass seems richly thin and insubstantial. But what the Sony SRS-XB100 then delivers is truly remarkable for its size.
The Japanese have really done a great job here under the surface of its higher-quality looking case. With this mini, you can really enjoy music in proper, for example, placed next to you at the desk when you are typing the review. Thus, there is an interesting alternative to the Tribit Stormbox Micro 2 at a comparable price. If you like it warmer, fuller, it’s best to go for the angular solution. Those who like it fresher, more transparent and dynamic, to the round Bluetooth speaker. The XB100 is also a well-rounded device in terms of sound.