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July 12, 2022
235 x 100 x 115mm
The waterproof wireless speaker landscape is one dominated by names like JBL and Ultimate Ears (UE), but Sony’s been trying to make a dent for a while now. The Sony SRS-XE300 is one of the company’s latest attempts, with a lot going for it. This simple Bluetooth speaker ditches the gimmicks, instead aiming to be your new reliable party-park-hike-pool speaker.
People looking for a rugged speaker to take to the beach or leave by the pool should pay attention to the XE300. People who already have Sony Bluetooth speakers will also like having another one to link up to.
What you need to know about the Sony SRS-XE300
- Sony SRS-XE300: $199.99 USD / €199
The Sony SRS-XE300 isn’t a speaker to put wherever you like and forget about it. This Bluetooth speaker uses a directional, “Line Shape Diffuser” over dual teardrop-shaped dynamic drivers to output sound—it’s the fabric strip that runs the length of the device. These work in combination with a pair of passive radiators, one at each end. This is the middle tier of a trio of Sony speakers released in July (in between the SRS-XE200 and SRS-XG300), a pentagonal cylinder with an almost entirely rubberized exterior, aimed at portability, but the kind of portability you stuff in a bag, rather than strap to something. It’s available in Blue, Light Grey, and Black.
The speaker is IP67 rated, which means it’s both dust- and water-resistant, with sound coming through fabric-covered strips along the edges of its design. The speaker features rubberized buttons for controlling playback and volume, as well as checking the battery life and pairing via Bluetooth. There’s also a microphone array for taking calls.
Speaking of Bluetooth, this uses Bluetooth 5.2 for wireless connections, and supports the default SBC and AAC codecs (both required as of Bluetooth 5) and Sony’s “Hi-Res” LDAC. The speaker charges via a USB-C port with a sealed flap, but it doesn’t support any sort of wired audio input.
The XE300 uses two apps for its features— Sony Music Center and Fiestable. Sony Music Center is your standard audio app—you can change the speaker’s EQ profile, link it with other Sony speakers (you can link up to 100) for either stereo pairing or party playback, access your locally saved music, as well as your music libraries in Spotify and YouTube Music. The app is also where you can get firmware updates for the Sony SRS-XE300.
Fiestable is a wholly different beast. This app is based on the idea of spicing up your party playlist with touches you might find in a live DJ set. You can throw a record scratch in or the sound of a cheering crowd. There are many different sound options, but that’s pretty much all there is to it.
There’s not much in the box with the speaker. You get a manual and a USB-A-to-USB-C charging cable.
What’s good about the Sony SRS-XE300?
Pretty much from the jump, the Sony SRS-XE300 is very easy to use. Pairing to devices is easy with Google Fast Pair, and the multipoint works without issue (most of the time). The speakers’ controls have a satisfying click, and they’re prominent and straightforwardly laid out.
The speaker can also get quite loud, plenty for filling a room. Like most speakers, it sounds best when it’s pointed at wherever you are, but that line-shaped diffuser does help disperse the acoustic output more evenly, so off-axis, it doesn’t sound half bad. There’s an adequate amount of low-end indoors, and outdoors, while it does a pretty good job, things start to drop off when you start getting more than a few feet away.
The microphone sounds decent for phone calls, and even when speaking around 4.5 meters (15ft) away indoors, voices sound pretty clear. All bets are off outside, but you shouldn’t have any issues taking calls on this in an office or a living room. It’s pretty rare to see a microphone on portable speakers these days, so this is a nice touch.
It’s nice that this is IP67-rated, and the mostly rubberized exterior means that getting waterlogged isn’t an issue—this isn’t the case with many Bluetooth speakers. The fabric that covers the drivers absorbs water when the speaker gets wet, but it doesn’t seem to change how it sounds at all.
What’s not so good about the Sony SRS-XE300?
There are a few not-so-great things about the Sony SRS-XE300—for starters, the price. At $798 at Amazon, this is around $50 USD more expensive than its nearest competitors like the JBL Charge 5 or the UE BOOM 3, and it doesn’t really sport any features to justify that cost increase. The Fiestable app is probably the most distinguishing factor, and that is frankly a gimmick. Most people probably won’t feel it’s worth the time it takes to install—adding an airhorn sound or record scratch to your music is fun once, maybe.
While the speaker gets loud, it doesn’t always sound perfect either. Listening to a song like Planisphere Pt. 1, the speaker struggles a little bit with high-end sound (higher-pitched synths and strings) when the bass is really pumping, but for an outdoor Bluetooth speaker that’s pretty typical. This is a little disappointing, given the XE300 supports LDAC.
When it comes to the XE300’s build quality, I don’t have any substantial complaints. The rubberized texture picks up scratches and dirt pretty easily, but otherwise, it’s great. However, one substantive issue is the battery life. Sony claims 24 hours of battery life, but it barely cracks half that.
In our testing, which consists of constant real music playback peaking at 75dB(SPL) measured at 1m, the XE300 lasted 11 hours, 40 minutes. This is pretty average for a Bluetooth speaker, but a far cry from what’s advertised. If you listen at a much quieter volume, you may do better. At least there’s fast charging (10 minutes plugged in nets 70 minutes of playback)
Sony SRS-XE300 specs
The Sony SRS-XE300 is meant to be simple to use, and it is, but there are still a number of things to keep track of.
|SONY SRS XE-300|
235 x 100 x 115 mm
2x full range drivers (Line-Shape Diffuser), 2x passive radiators
Wireless audio connection
Bluetooth 5.2; SBC, AAC, LDAC
Sony Music Center (iOS/Android)
Sony Fiestable (iOS/Android)
11 hours, 40 min
Yes: 10-minute charge = 70 minutes playback
Sony SRS-XE300 review: Should you buy it?
It’s hard to imagine feeling disappointed by using the Sony SRS-XE300 most of the time. The battery life is a letdown, but otherwise, this is a pretty reliable Bluetooth speaker. It’s easy to use, it sounds pretty good, and the IP67 rating means it can really roll with the punches. However, that’s all true of most of the speaker’s competitors, and mainstays like the JBL Charge 5 ($159.95 at Amazon) and UE Boom 3 ($149.18 at Amazon) are both cheaper. Basically, you’re spending that little bit of extra cash for the Sony name here. Whether that’s worth it is ultimately a personal choice, but know it’s not hard to save some money and get something that does all the same stuff.
Frequently asked questions about the Sony SRS-XE300
Unfortunately, the only option for linking the Sony SRS-XE300 to other speakers is through the Sony Music Center app, using a feature specific to the company’s speakers. They don’t all have to be the same model, but they definitely have to be Sony.