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. In a segment flooded with competitors, are Sony's brand value and reputation enough to justify such pricing? I'm hoping to answer that question for the product I'm reviewing today, the Sony SRS-XB13 wireless speaker.
Priced at Rs. 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. However, competition such as the Mi Outdoor Bluetooth Speaker offer similar specifications and features, but at a much lower price. Is the Sony SRS-XB13 still worth buying? Find out in this review.
A prominent Sony logo on the side of the SRS-XB13 gives this speaker a distinct look
The Sony SRS-XB13 can safely be used outdoors
Compact Bluetooth speakers are easy to carry, and therefore come in particularly handy for users who want to listen to music or take calls on the go or outdoors. The Sony SRS-XB13 fits the bill here. This speaker is IP67 rated for dust and water resistance, which means it should be able to take a fair amount of exposure to the elements, and you can even rinse it under a flowing tap or submerge it in water for short periods of time.
Other features in the design also make it convenient to use both indoors and outdoors, including a detachable and adjustable fabric strap, a soft rubber base for grip, rubber buttons, and a sealing flap that covers the charging port to protect it from water damage. The top of the speaker has a metal grille covering the driver, and there are bass vents at the bottom. A prominent Sony logo is on the side, and I quite liked the overall look and feel of the SRS-XB13.
The controls of the speaker are on the side. There are buttons for power, Bluetooth pairing, playback, and volume. The Bluetooth button is used for pairing to source devices as well as setting up wireless stereo pairing if you have two Sony SRS-XB13 speakers. The playback button plays, pauses, and skips tracks, and can also be used to answer calls. The microphone of the SRS-XB13 is right below these buttons, and the device can be used as a hands-free unit for calls.
The microphone on the Sony SRS-XB13 is just below the buttons, and lets you use it for hands-free calls
The Sony SRS-XB13 speaker has a single 46mm driver and weighs 253g. For connectivity, the speaker uses Bluetooth 4.2, with support for the SBC and AAC codecs. It has a USB Type-C port for charging. Included in the sales package are a short charging cable and some instruction and safety pamphlets. The speaker is available in six colour options — Black, Light Blue, Pink, Powder Blue, Taupe, and Yellow.
Battery life on the Sony SRS-XB13 is decent for a speaker of its size, and matches what I've experienced with other similar speakers in this price range. It ran for over 13 hours on a single charge at moderate to high volumes, and took around two hours to fully charge from empty when plugged into a 5W charging adapter.
Big sound for such a small device with the Sony SRS-XB13
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. The Sony SRS-XB13 though is loud, and sounds pretty good, compared to other similar-sized wireless speakers.
The single, 46mm top-firing driver of the speaker is protected by a metal grille
Although not as loud as the Rs. 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. Of course, at high volumes, you'll want to put some distance between yourself and the speaker for a pleasant sound; the sharpness can get fatiguing from up close.
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 top-firing driver meant that it didn't matter how the speaker was placed; the sound was very good anywhere within a reasonable listening radius. 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.
The lively Get Lucky by Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams sounded beautiful on the Sony SRS-XB13, with both Pharrell's soulful voice and Daft Punk's signature digitally processed words sounding detailed and clear. 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.
You can use the Sony SRS-XB13 as a hands-free device for calls, and it's quite convenient. Performance is decent as long as you have the microphone (just under the playback button) facing towards you. Although music-focused in its approach to sound quality, the Sony SRS-XB13 is a decent all-rounder of a wireless speaker.
Sony has a reputation for good wireless personal audio products, and the SRS-XB13 wireless speaker lives up to that. The SRS-XB13 punches considerably above its weight and its sound matches up to what you might expect from much larger wireless speakers.
However, at Rs. 3,990, it's among the more expensive options of its size and output. The SRS-XB13 is definitely worth considering for its excellent sound quality and compactness, but the competition is fierce. 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.
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