Even the smallest of Bluetooth audio system can show to be an enormous worth. Over the previous couple of weeks, I’ve been testing Sony’s $59.99 XB100, which is essentially the most transportable choice within the firm’s lineup. It’s sufficiently small to slot in a automobile cup holder. It’s shorter than a soda can and light-weight to the purpose that it’ll barely add any noticeable heft to your backpack or tote bag. And regardless of that tiny footprint, the XB100 manages to provide crisp sound that’s wealthy in bass — precisely the place you’d count on it would wrestle.
The general design carefully takes after Sony’s prior XB13, however a textured outer end and meant Sony emblem make it simpler to grip and look classier than the final mannequin. The detachable material strap lends some versatility to the speaker and offers you loads of choices for hanging it someplace, securely hooking it onto bike handlebars, and so forth. Sony is providing some putting colours, just like the blue unit I reviewed and a daring orange model. It’s also possible to go for black or a lightweight grey in case your soul is void of enjoyable. The included USB-C charging cable is on the brief facet — a couple of foot lengthy — however by now, you probably have an extended twine round the home for different gadgets.
The XB100 will get as much as 16 hours of steady battery life, and it’s rated IP67 in opposition to mud and water. The USB-C charging port is protected with a rubber flap, and to the left of that flap are 5 buttons for energy, Bluetooth pairing, play / pause, and quantity controls. The buttons press in with a pleasant click on, so it’s not possible you’ll hit any of them unintentionally. Sony additionally says the speaker has a UV coating to additional defend it in opposition to the weather (and hopefully forestall these vibrant colours from fading over time). Sony additionally helps Quick Pair for Android gadgets, which is a pleasant little trick to have for the value.
Contained in the speaker is an off-center diaphragm designed to boost readability throughout the quantity vary. And there’s a “sound diffusion processor” that the corporate claims might help unfold the XB100’s audio past its meager dimensions. The interior structure is pretty easy; Sony pairs a passive radiator with a mono speaker. In contrast to the corporate’s extra premium Bluetooth gadgets, you’ll be able to’t do any EQ customization with the $60 XB100 from the Sony Music cellular app. But it surely’s such a compact speaker that I’m undecided twiddling with EQ would make a lot of a distinction; you’re both going to love the default sound profile or not.
In my case, I used to be pleasantly stunned by what this tiny factor can do. You’ll hear the very best bass response with the XB100 seated on a desk, however even when hung from a fence at an out of doors celebration, the speaker preserved a pleasant quantity of low-end thump and by no means sounded skinny or sterile. It’s a pint-size mono driver, so you’ll be able to hear the standard artifacts of stereo tracks being mushed collectively; some parts of a music may come by way of quieter, and there’s not a lot room for instrumentation to breathe. However these are simply the realities of physics, and for its diminutive measurement, the XB100 no less than focuses on readability and a pleasing sound signature.
It will get loud sufficient for small gatherings or filling a house workplace with music, however clearly, Sony’s tiny speaker is not any match for greater, extra dynamic rivals. For those who’ve acquired a JBL Cost 5, Bose SoundLink Flex, or one thing just like the Sonos Roam, there’s no comparability. There’s no less than the choice of pairing two XB100s for stereo playback and larger separation than a lone unit is able to, and conveniently, this may be accomplished straight from the gadget with none assist from Sony’s app.
It’s baffling to me that so many Bluetooth audio system proceed to lack speakerphone performance — even the costly ones. However the XB100 has it, and Sony even added some echo cancellation algorithms to maintain conversations intelligible even when folks converse over one another. It’s a genuinely useful choice having the ability to chat with callers even when your cellphone is tucked right into a bag at an out of doors picnic or if it’s charging in one other room. As long as you’re conscious about maintaining the built-in mic going through you, the speakerphone works very properly.
For those who’re on the hunt for a easy journey / lodge room Bluetooth speaker that’s assured to sound nicer than your cellphone, the XB100 is a straightforward advice. It’s sturdy sufficient to tag alongside virtually anyplace you go, so hikers needn’t fear. The battery life is greater than sufficient for any chill park outing or a day studying within the yard. I wouldn’t wish to spend $100 on one thing like this. However $59.99 strikes me as proper on the cash for what the XB100 delivers. For those who improve to a much bigger, extra highly effective (and smarter) Bluetooth speaker down the road, I’m certain you’ll discover methods to maintain utilizing this charming toddler.
Pictures by Chris Welch / The Verge