There are many brands that make affordable wireless speakers, but Sony is one of the oldest and most established names in the segment. The company's Bluetooth personal audio products, including its headphones, earbuds and wireless speakers, are among the best you can buy, albeit often at relatively high prices. In a segment rife with competitors, are Sony's brand equity and reputation enough to justify those prices? I look forward to answering this question through the SRS-XB13 wireless speaker.
The compact Bluetooth speakers are easy to carry and are therefore especially useful for users who want to listen to music or take calls on the go or outdoors. The Sony SRS-XB13 fits the bill. This speaker is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance, which means that it should be able to withstand a fair amount of exposure to the elements, and you can even rinse it under a flowing faucet or submerge it in water for short periods of time.
Available in black, coral, dark blue, light blue, pink, lime or taupe, the cylindrical SRS-XB13 measures approx. 76 mm diameter × 95 mm high and weighs approx. 253 g. The 46 mm upward firing driver offers a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. It has respectable power, but relies primarily on portability and durability.
The base of the speaker has a rubber base, apparently to prevent it from moving due to vibration. The bottom half of the speaker also includes a passive radiator to boost the audio a bit, but for the most part the bass depth is felt (and seen) rather than heard. There's also a sturdy, sporty strap that can be removed; hanging it from the strap is probably a better option than placing it on a resonant surface.
Along the side panel, there are rubber buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, play/pause, and volume. Pressing the play/pause button twice skips forward one track, while pressing it three times navigates backward. The play/pause button also answers/ends incoming calls with the speakerphone function. Next to these controls, there is a covered USB-C port for the included USB-C to USB-A charging cable.
Its IP67 rating means it is completely safe to submerge in fresh water up to one meter deep for 30 minutes. Of course, the Bluetooth signal won't work well underwater, but the point is that the SRS-XB13 can get a little dirty and be rinsed, submerged and/or exposed to moderate water pressure without worry. There is no app, which is no surprise for such a simple speaker. The speaker is Bluetooth 4.2 compatible and supports AAC and SBC codecs.
The XB13 can be paired with a second Sony speaker to produce true stereo. You can separate them well to get a wider soundstage than normal (with a single stereo unit). Having Bluetooth 4.2 it connects quickly at a distance of up to 10 meters range offered by the technology.
The XB13 has only the features necessary for its function. There is no Wi-Fi connectivity, no voice assistant support, and the companion app does not work with this particular model. The ability to add the speakerphone in the Sony Music Centre app would have been incredibly handy for checking battery life and simplifying the pairing of two units for stereo capabilities.
A nice touch would have been for the speaker to support the Sony Music Centre app, if only to see the device's battery capacity. Fortunately, the device makes up for it with a long battery life and a dedicated LED indicator to show that it needs to charge.
That said, we consider the strap to be a feature in its own right, because it's really handy and allows you to creatively place the speaker in different spaces, making it incredibly versatile. In restricted spaces with little floor space, such as inside tents, the ability to hang the speaker is really useful, but this feature comes into play even indoors, where the speaker can easily be hung from a tripod in the center of the room (allowing the speaker to fill it) or from shelf handles or hooks near the ceiling (great for setting the mood). So even if you go out and decide to stay in a hotel, this is a handy and versatile travel speaker.
It also features Google's Fast Pair technology, which enables ultra-fast pairing with Android devices, using Bluetooth Low Energy. This works like magic on some compatible Android devices, where you get a notification on your device if the speaker is turned on anywhere nearby. Tap it once, and it will pair.
Unlike the SRS-XB12, the XB13 doesn't have an input for an audio jack, which we don't miss at all, but it does score the device lower in the features department. Having a line input is a big plus for an outdoor speaker, as hikers tend to use dedicated music players to conserve battery life on their smartphones.
Another notable feature offered by the speakerphone is a microphone that allows you to answer calls. The microphone is located below the control buttons, and does not work very well at a distance. It can be used at arm's length without raising your voice, but you will find yourself grabbing and speaking into the microphone to be clearer, so it's not really something one would prefer to use, but it is a functional alternative if your phone is charging elsewhere. The nice thing about using the speakers this way is how loud you can make the incoming voice, and it also allows a group of people to huddle around a device to converse.
The voice assistant capabilities of the Sony SRS-XB13 are very poor. Since it doesn't have any built-in voice assistant, it uses the ones available on the smartphone. We tested the speaker's voice assistant capabilities using recorded voice commands as part of our testing methodology. Unfortunately, like the XB12 and other Sony speakers, the XB13 does not record or respond to these commands in all scenarios even when ambient noise is not an issue.
There's not much you can do to produce bass when the length of the air chamber inside a speaker is less than the wavelength you want to produce. Sony claims the SRS-XB13 has a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz; however, there will be a huge drop-off around the 100 Hz mark if you graph that. Caveat aside, while the Extra Bass moniker may be a bit misleading, the XB13 produces more bass than any other speaker of its size I've tested.
So, not quite sub-woofer, but the sound of this little speaker is as good as you can find in the category. It is not excessively loud, but naturalists will thank you. It is not a party speaker. The mids are well defined and there is enough treble so that nothing sounds drowned out. At least, if you point the top speaker towards you.
The sound from this little speaker is as good as you'll find in this category. It is not excessively loud, but naturalists will thank you for it. This is not a party speaker. The mids are very well defined and the treble is sufficient so that nothing sounds drowned out. At least, if you point the top speaker at you.
Given that the speaker is not much bigger than a soda can and that most of the sound comes from a single 1.5-inch transducer, the speaker can only do so much with its sound quality. It may be one of the best-sounding ultra-portable speakers, but as far as sound quality goes, the bar is set pretty low.
True, the new sound diffusion processor helps distribute the sound over a 360-degree radius, but you won't get much clarity or presence anywhere you sit, nor is the audio that loud. It's enough to fill a small room or entertain people around a small campfire, but it certainly doesn't fill large rooms or broadcast very far. We were only able to get about 20 feet away from the speaker before it started to lose its vibrancy. If you're looking for room-filling sound, you'll have to switch to one of Sony's new party speakers.
The worst aspect of the speaker, however, is the built-in microphone. Sony has improved it, but friends and family we spoke with told us that it sounded incredibly distant and barely audible, despite being a few feet away from the speaker. If you plan to use a portable speaker for this purpose, we recommend getting another speaker instead.
The frequency response accuracy of the Sony XB13 is passable. It has a somewhat boomy sound profile that adds a bit more bass to the mix. Its balanced midrange ensures that vocals and lead instruments are reproduced clearly and accurately in the mix. That said, while it can produce deeper bass than the XB12, like most speakers of its size, it struggles to reproduce bass, so you don't feel the thump and rumble in bass-heavy music. Unfortunately, there's no graphic equalizer or presets to adjust the sound to your liking.
The soundstage of this speaker is good. It has fantastic directivity, resulting in a wide and natural sound stage. Unfortunately, you have to reduce stereo content to mono to reproduce it, which doesn't sound as immersive. That said, you can connect it to another compatible speaker to create a stereo pair when you want to listen to stereo content.
The dynamic performance of this speaker is not bad. Although it can't reach very high volume, there is little compression artifacts present at maximum volume, so the audio sounds clean at the highest volume settings.
Out of the box, be prepared to charge the Sony SRS-XB13 for four hours at a time to fully charge. In the box you'll find a USB-C cable for charging, which is fine, and connects to the back of the speaker under a removable rubber flap.
Admittedly, the standby time is long, but fortunately the speaker can play for about 16 hours per charge. Of course, if you need to turn up the volume to fill a larger space, the total battery life might be closer to 12 or 13 hours, but it's still more than enough for a day outdoors.
Aside from the long battery life, however, there's nothing else special about the speaker: it can't charge your phone, for example, nor does it charge wirelessly, so you'll have to have a USB-C cable handy.
JBL Clip 4
The Sony SRS-XB13 is a better speaker than the JBL Clip 4. The Sony speaker has a more balanced sound profile that can produce deeper bass than the JBL. It can go louder with less compression artifacts at maximum volume, resulting in cleaner audio at higher volumes, and has a wider soundstage than the JBL. However, the JBL is better built and comes with a built-in carabiner hook that can be useful when you're on the move.
JBL GO 3
The Sony SRS-XB13 is a better speaker than the JBL GO 3 overall. The Sony can produce deeper bass than the JBL and has better directivity, resulting in a wider soundstage. It also has a longer battery life, although this depends on your usage, and your experience may vary. It also has less compression at maximum volume, resulting in a cleaner sound. That said, the JBL is slightly smaller than the Sony, so it is a bit more portable. It can also become slightly louder than the Sony.
JBL Flip 5
The Sony SRS-XB13 is a better speaker than the JBL Flip 5. The Sony is smaller and better built, with an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, so it's completely dust-tight and can be submerged in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. It can get louder than the JBL with less compression present at maximum volume and has a wider, more open sound stage. It also has a longer-lasting battery that lasts over 11 hours, although this may vary depending on usage. That said, the JBL can produce more extended bass and can be paired with other JBL speakers compatible with PartyBoost.
The Sony SRS-XB13 is a slightly better speaker than the Sony SRS-XB12, although they are very similar. The XB13 can produce deeper bass and has a more balanced sound profile than the XB12. Mind you, the XB12 comes with an AUX port that you can use to connect your devices to the speaker. It can also get slightly louder with slightly less compression artifacts at max volume.
Anker Soundcore 2
The Sony SRS-XB13 is a better speaker than the Anker Soundcore 2. The Sony offers a more balanced sound profile that can produce more extended bass than the Anker, and its soundstage feels wider and more open. It's also better built, with an IP67 rating for dust and water resistance, certifying that it's completely dust-tight and can be submerged in up to one meter of water for 30 minutes. Mind you, the Anker can play content in stereo without the need to mix it into mono, which is more immersive. It can also increase the volume and has a battery life of up to 15 hours on a single charge. Mind you, battery life may vary depending on how you use it, and your experience may be different.
JBL Charge 5
The JBL Charge 5 is a better speaker than the Sony SRS-XB13. The JBL can produce more extended bass and can get louder than the Sony. Its battery life is more than 14 hours, though it can vary depending on how you use it. You can connect it to PartyBoost-compatible JBL speakers to create a stereo pair or amplify audio in a large space. The Sony is smaller, making it more portable and offering a wider, more natural soundstage.
Should you buy the Sony SRS-XB13?
Considering the quality of the device, it seems fairly priced, but we wish Sony would make a sweeter deal for those who want to get their hands on a pair. The speakers are available in six colors, and those who like camouflage will like the Taupe.
The Sony SRS-XB13 is a small, lightweight but rugged speaker intended for outdoor use. With surprisingly loud sound in a small form factor, an extra boost in the lower frequencies via a passive radiator, and an exceptionally long battery life, this speaker is just right for its intended use, ultra-portability without a lot of paraphernalia.
Specifications Sony SRS-XB13
|Speaker Size||Diameter of Speaker Unit(Mono Speaker): 46mm|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||Approx. 76mm dia.×95mm|
|Communication System||Version 4.2|
|Max. Communication Range||10m|
|Supported Codecs||SBC, AAC|
|Frequency Transmission Range||20 Hz - 20,000 Hz (Sampling frequency 44.1 kHz)|
|Input and Output Terminals||USB Type-C®|
|Battery Life||Approx. 16H|
|Power Supply||Internal rechargeable battery|
The Sony SRS-XB13 is a small and affordable portable speaker. It's the next generation of the Sony SRS-XB12 and, like its predecessor, comes with a carrying strap so you can easily take it with you when you're on the go. While it can't get too loud, there are few compression artifacts at maximum volume, so the audio sounds clean at higher volumes. It also has a wide soundstage and a somewhat boomy sound profile that adds some extra bass to the mix. However, it struggles to reproduce bass, so you can't feel the punch and rumble in bass-heavy music, such as hip-hop.
- Low compression at maximum volume
- Fantastic directivity
- Low latency with iOS and Android
- IP67 rating for dust and water resistance
- Relatively affordable
- Balanced sound quality
- 16-hour battery life
- Plenty of volume for its modest size
- Rugged construction
- No stereo separation
- Low maximum volume
- Four hour charging time
- Horrible microphone
- Not compatible with Sony Music Center application
- Need to be careful with loose sand