Sony SRS-XE200 review: sweet sound from a small and hard speaker

Sony SRS-XE200 review: sweet sound from a small and hard speaker

MSRP $130.00

“Versatile, tough, and able to powering a small party.”


  • Solid, durable construct
  • Great sound quality
  • Good app support
  • Stereo and multi-speaker pairing
  • Good battery life


  • Sound dispersion is more linear
  • Limited audio customization
  • Phone calls aren’t great

Searching for a small, portable wireless Bluetooth speaker? Sony’s $130 SRS-XE200 — one in all the corporate’s newest and smallest speakers — looks prefer it matches that Goldilocks zone: small and lightweight enough to go in all places, tough enough to handle almost any conditions, and it even works as a speakerphone, something that’s getting harder to seek out on Bluetooth speakers. But is that enough? And most significantly, how does it sound? We put all that to the test.

What’s within the box

Sony packs the XE200 in a box with recyclable materials, which is good to see. Inside, you get a USB-C charging cable and quick-start guide. The cable is USB-A to USB-C, and there’s no wall charger within the box, so you could possibly plug into every other charger you have already got.


Sony SRS-XE200 standing upright hero.Ted Kritsonis / Digital Trends

Sony designed the XE200 to be an upright speaker, firstly. You may lay it horizontally for optional stereo sound, when you want, nevertheless it’s been tuned to deliver its best performance when standing up. It’s trimmed in fabric, whereas the remainder of the body is a rubberized silicone that provides the unit a few of the IP67 protection it enjoys as a more ruggedized speaker.

It’s going to fit right in on the beach, by the pool, or close by in a bath or jacuzzi. You may dunk it in water, though watch out for sand and saltwater stepping into the crevices of the material. Although Sony says it built the speaker to withstand salt, a superb rinse in clear water is smart to clean all of it away.

The important consideration is where the sound is definitely coming from, and that fabric sliver makes that very clear.[/pullqoute]

The speakers are underneath the material sliver running down the center, while the button controls are arrayed on the side, and the port cover for the USB-C charging port is on the rear. It doesn’t have “feet” at any a part of the pentagonal body, suggesting there isn’t a “this side up” orientation to contemplate at any time when you place it down somewhere, unless you utilize the buttons as a guide. Sony doesn’t specify any particular orientation when placing it horizontally, but when I used to be to make use of its own product photos as a clue, I’d err on the side of the Sony logo being to your right. Regardless of the case, the important consideration is where the sound is definitely coming from, and that fabric sliver makes that very clear.

Sony uses what’s called a Line-Shape Diffuser that it says was inspired by concert audio setups whereby the speakers push audio out over a wider area, as in the complete 180-degrees of the XE200’s front sliver. The increased sound pressure on the output is imagined to spread sound out wider and further. It’s the corporate’s X-Balanced technology and non-circular diaphragms that produce the upper pressure, enabling the speaker to push audio out wider than it otherwise might.

At 1.76 kilos, the XE200 isn’t all that heavy, though by portable speaker standards, it does have some heft to it. The scale are also slightly fatter at 3.54 x 8.19 x 3.7 inches in comparison with something just like the Marshall Emberton II, though not thick enough that you just couldn’t just take it with you on a visit or while lounging around at home, indoors or outdoors. The included lanyard — or strap, when you take a look at it that way — lets you keep it close or hang it somewhere if you must position it that way.

Sony SRS-XE200 buttons.Ted Kritsonis / Digital Trends

The control layout is pretty easy to work out. The facility button is at the highest, followed by Bluetooth, playback/calls, volume up, volume down, battery, and mute. The short-start guide points out some extras you need to note, like how double-pressing the playback button will skip forward to the subsequent track, while triple-pressing skips back. Press the battery button and a voice will pipe as much as inform you how much you might have left. Press and hold it, and the speaker activates Stamina mode to preserve battery.

By default, the XE200 is in Ambient Noise Sensing mode, which is more useful in outdoor settings since it uses the onboard microphone to listen for ambient sounds which may affect audio quality and makes adjustments without sapping an excessive amount of battery life. I’m undecided I heard an enormous difference with it on or off, nevertheless it’s there in any case.

Sony essentially used the identical design and features for the larger XE300. Aside from its larger body and louder sound, it looks and seems like an even bigger brother to the XE200. You get 4 color options with the XE200: black, light gray, blue, and orange. My review unit felt more like charcoal than black to me, personally.

Setup and app controls

Google Fast Pair will get the XE200 going with Android devices in little time. It’s similar with iOS devices, save for the very fact you might have to pair within the Bluetooth menu first. After that, Sony’s Music Center app is the place to go to regulate what this speaker can do. It lists shortcuts to music and audio streaming service apps you might have in your phone, in addition to “My Library,” which provide you with access to any audio files you’ve stored in your phone.

The settings menu isn’t all that versatile, though some features do prove useful. Under Sound, you’ll be able to adjust the bass, mids, and treble using EQ sliders to tune the sound the best way you wish. When you try this, nevertheless, it turns off Sony’s own ClearAudio+ sound tuning, which is the key sauce that delivers the relative balance you get out of the XE200 out of the box. You may at all times turn it back on, though.

There’s also an option to modify from mono to stereo — making the XE200 one in all the one speakers on this class to supply each sound modes. In mono, Sony’s diffuser tech comes out more prominently. Set it down horizontally, toggle stereo on, and also you get some stereo separation. There’s a slight difference, though I’m undecided it was all that significant for a lot of the music I used to be listening to. You get slightly more verve out of the highs and mids in stereo, together with a more pronounced resonance at higher volumes, however the vertical orientation in mono felt more spacious to my ears.

Under Power Option, it’s possible you’ll need to toggle on Battery Care to limit charges to 90% full, which could help to increase the useful lifetime of the battery. Bluetooth Standby applies when you might have the speaker plugged in to charge and you must access it at any time when you’re able to play audio again. Turn it on within the app, and the facility button is imagined to turn orange to suggest it’s in that mode. I never got this to work properly in my testing, so I ultimately ignored it. The remainder of the alternatives are pretty self-explanatory.

Due to Sony’s Party Connect feature, it’s possible to stereo pair two XE200s for separate left and right channels. I wasn’t in a position to test that, but I could test the grouping feature with each the XE300 and bigger XG300, where all three could connect and play the identical content concurrently. It’s easy to establish in Music Center and works with a wide range of Sony speakers — principally anyone that works with Party Connect is sweet to go.

Sound quality

Sony SRS-XE200 view from the top.Ted Kritsonis / Digital Trends

Just like the XE300 and XG300, the XE200 supports SBC, AAC, and Sony’s own LDAC codec for hi-res playback when and wherever available from devices that also support it. This isn’t the form of speaker where you’ll be able to tell nuanced differences from one codec to a different, to be honest. Personally, I wasn’t sure if I actually discerned any improvement when playing AAC tracks from an iPhone or LDAC ones from an Android phone.

That’s to not say you won’t get stellar sound out of it since you definitely can. Sony opted for a more moderate level of bass from the outset. It’s there, just without skewing too far on the expense of the mids and highs, so what you begin out with is a balanced sound profile that comes through impressively. There is healthier fidelity within the mids within the larger XE300, which I fully expected, however the XE200 holds its own because the smaller of the 2.

The Music Center app enables you to adjust the EQ when you want more bass, mids, or treble, and I believe it’s well price tinkering with those sliders to gauge whether you get more of what your ears want out of this speaker. Regardless, the clarity is just as easy to understand since it doesn’t suddenly drop off at louder volumes. I tested this out by going as much as 80%, and while I did detect slight distortion, together with a touch of sibilance at 90%, I got here away liking that music didn’t sound like a muddied and muffled mess while doing so.

Sony SRS-XE200 laying flat in stereo mode.Ted Kritsonis / Digital Trends

The hot button is placement. Unlike other cylindrical Bluetooth speakers attempting to spread sound out spatially in a method or one other, the XE200 doesn’t really try this. Are you able to hear it from behind? Sure, but move to inside a 45-degree angle of the front and also you hear the difference. For that reason, it’s not the form of speaker I’d plop down in the midst of a table. I’d slightly place it on an end with the front facing everyone as an alternative.

In actual fact, if you might have somewhere to put it down away from a table facing a small group, you’ll still get great sound anyway. Even when you place it off to the side, like on an evening table, for example, it’ll still sound good. It’s whenever you veer away from that invisible semicircle coming out the front that you just lose something.

It’s, in some ways, the form of speaker you’ll be able to sit back with as much because it is one to entertain a small group, and it doesn’t matter when you’re outside or indoors.

I liked the XE200 more standing up in mono than laid out horizontally in stereo, including within the scenarios and use cases I noted here. The sweet spot for the perfect sound is fairly wide at between 50% and 80% volume, covering your individual personal space on the lower end of that scale, and boisterously filling a room at the upper end. It’s, in some ways, the form of speaker you’ll be able to sit back with as much because it is one to entertain a small group, and it doesn’t matter when you’re outside or indoors.

There’s no Aux-In port, leaving you no recourse if Bluetooth isn’t working for whatever reason. I like Aux-In connections to plug into speakers when watching shows or movies outside on a deck or patio, and in lieu of that, I as an alternative tried streaming the audio via Bluetooth. The shortage of a low-latency codec like aptX does show, as I did detect a slight lag along the best way — not enough to make content unwatchable, but not in total sync either.

Phone calls are also a mixed bag. You’ll hear callers just fantastic, but for them to listen to your voice, that you must situate yourself closer to the speaker, and ideally, with the front facing you. It’s not superb at picking up voices from a distance, despite Sony’s assertions on the contrary, and it particularly struggles when you’re each further away from and behind it. For a speaker that features a feature to sense ambient noise, I expected higher results when it comes call quality.

Battery life

Sony SRS-XE200 port cover open.Ted Kritsonis / Digital Trends

Sony rates the XE200 at as much as 16 hours per charge, assuming you don’t raise the quantity and leave all default settings as is. Once you begin making adjustments, including Battery Care, which limits a full charge to 90%, in addition to increasing the bass within the EQ, plus the general volume, you begin knocking that down a peg or two. At 60% to 70% volume, with a V-curve within the EQ to boost the bass and treble, I managed to hit as much as 12 hours — still very respectable for a speaker this size. Stamina mode can at all times extend things further, but you lose out on a whole lot of the bass, so unless you’re cranking some classical music or listening to a podcast, you most likely won’t like the way it sounds with it enabled.

If you happen to’re in a rush for some tunes, plug in for 10 minutes and stand up to 70 minutes to play them. Again, the identical parameters apply, so when you’re pumping up the quantity, it won’t make it that far.

Our take

Sony proves that the XE200’s design and engineering isn’t a shot at the hours of darkness, putting out excellent audio quality from a well-built speaker. Its $130 price tag isn’t unreasonable for what you get, just because you’ll be able to take it with you and luxuriate in what and the way it plays in a wide range of situations.

Is there a greater alternative?

Bluetooth speakers at this level face stiff competition. If you happen to spend a bit more, you’ll be able to get a pleasant bump in sound quality and battery life. Throughout the family, which means Sony’s own XE300, a taller and heavier alternative that costs $200, nevertheless it does go louder and offers higher clarity within the midrange.

Moving on to something more the XE200’s size, the $170 Marshall Emberton II is definitely smaller, yet pumps out excellent sound with almost double the battery life. It also has the identical level of durability and offers a solution to stereo pair or group along with other Marshall speakers.

At $130, the JBL Flip 6 is the closest competitor it terms of price. It gets plenty loud and may take a beating doing it. Clearly one in all the corporate’s best wireless speakers, it won’t allow you to consult with anyone because there’s no speakerphone, but you’ll be able to stereo pair with other Flip 6 speakers, or group it with other compatible JBL speakers. The battery also won’t last as long per charge, though the JBL app’s EQ does no less than provide you with greater flexibility to tune things your way.

How long will it last?

Sony built this speaker to face up to some punishment courtesy of the IP67 protection, but don’t start throwing it around like a football. It’s got a shockproof body, albeit without the rubberized bumpers on the edges that other speakers have. You may rejoice with it within the sand or water, so long as you rinse it clean each time afterward. Sony’s one-year warranty only covers malfunctions, not water damage, so keep that in mind whenever you bring it out.

Do you have to buy it?

Yes. It could lack the LEDs and flashy looks of Sony’s larger portable speakers, nevertheless it’s sufficiently small and rugged enough to go anywhere, and it doesn’t sacrifice sound quality to do it.

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