One of the best-sounding monophonic personal speakers I’ve come across is Sony’s $60 SRS-XB13 tiny Bluetooth speaker. Of course, with its small size and single speaker, there’s only so much you can do, but Sony appears to have maximized the audio reproduction capabilities. It’s also IP67 rated, which means it’s water and dust-resistant.
Design and features of Sony SRS-XB13
With a diameter of roughly 2.75 inches, the SRS-XB13 stands just under four inches tall. Because low-frequency waves are far longer than the inside of the speaker, this frequently results in a significant absence of bass. Sony compensates for this by adding a passive driver to the 1.8-inch top-firing driver that sends waves outside ports towards the bottom of the unit. Other methods may be used, but the result is a speaker with extremely loud bass—at least for this little speaker.
The Sony SRS-control XB13’s are as follows: A passive driver sits just behind and above the openings, matching the lower frequencies produced by the top-firing main speaker. A rubbery plug covers the USB-C charging connector to the right of the controls.
The normal Bluetooth speaker controls are included and a microphone for use with your voice assistant and during phone calls, as shown above. The power button does exactly what it says on the tin. The Bluetooth button is used to pair with phones, tablets, and other Bluetooth devices (short press) or to pair with another Sony speaker as a stereo pair (long press).
The plus and minus buttons have a single function—raising and lowering the volume—while the play/pause button has numerous capabilities, including answering/ending a phone call and calling Google Assistant (Android) or Siri (iPhone) via long press.
Because the supplied operation instructions seem hell-bent on proving that a picture isn’t always worth a thousand words, I went into great length about the button functionality. There is also an online Help Guide that goes over these aspects.
The SRS-XB13 is available in a variety of colors, including coral pink, lemon yellow, light blue, taupe, black, and powder blue, for $60. Sony didn’t specify the wattage of the unit, but based on the volume it produced, I’d estimate it to be approximately 5-10 watts. The battery’s claimed run duration is 16 hours, and I noticed 6 of those before putting this piece to bed.
Sound and run time
When the length of the air chamber within a speaker is smaller than the wave frequency you want to produce, there’s only so much you can do to produce bass. The SRS-XB13’s frequency response is said to be 20Hz to 20,000Hz, but if you graph it, there will be a significant dip at the 100Hz line.
Although the Extra Bass label is a little deceptive, the SRS-XB13 generates more bass than any other speaker of its size I’ve ever tested.
So it’s not really a subwoofer, but the sound quality from this little speaker is on par with the best in the category. It’s not too loud, but the naturalists will appreciate it. It isn’t a speaker for a party. The middle is well defined, and there’s enough high-end to prevent anything from sounding suffocated or choked. At least if you point the top speaker in your direction.
The SRS-XB13 can be paired with a second Sony speaker for genuine stereo sound, but Sony didn’t send me one to test. I’m sure the improvement would be noticeable based on previous experience. Especially since you may place them far apart for a soundstage that is larger than a standard (single-unit stereo) soundstage. In addition, I’ve never heard a stereo version that I didn’t prefer to the mono version.
In my hands-on, the SRS-XB13 connected immediately thanks to Bluetooth 4.2. In my tricky flat with its chicken-wire-laden walls, I also managed approximately 7 to 8 of the 10-meter range offered by the technology. With the SRS-XB13 still running strong, I was at six hours of playtime (Sony claims sixteen hours of run time) and counting in my listening tests.
As long as you understand the sound limitations of monophonic speakers of this size, the SRS-XB13 is as excellent as or better than anything else available. I wish I could tell you how they sounded in stereo, but you’ll have to figure that out on your own.