sony xe300 bluetooth speaker review: good, but could be better

Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Sony is a household name when it comes to audio products, and I’ve been testing its latest rugged SRS-XE300 X-Series Bluetooth speaker since it was announced earlier this summer. For $199, I had moderately high expectations. And while it’s a decent speaker with booming bass and a rugged design, I have mixed feelings.

This portable Bluetooth speaker has all the makings for a great product. It’s rugged, water-resistant, has excellent controls, fast charging over USB-C, and even doubles as a speakerphone. But how does it sound, and should you buy it vs. the competition? Read on for our full review.

Here’s What We Like

  • Solid battery life
  • Durable and rugged
  • Stereo and multi-speaker pairing
  • USB-C Fast Charging

And What We Don’t

  • Bulky design
  • Narrow and uneven soundstage
  • Max volume struggles

Review Geek’s expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

What’s in the Box?

sony xe300 bluetooth speaker review: good, but could be better

Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Sony’s rugged new XE300 comes in a small, recyclable and unassuming box, and there isn’t much to it. On the inside, you’ll find a regular USB to USB-C cable for charging, the user manual, setup instructions, and that’s about it.

Keep in mind that it doesn’t come with a wall charger, just the cable, so you’ll have to plug it into something else to take advantage of the fast charging. Most of us have a wall plug these days, but it’s odd Sony chose to leave that out.

Build Quality & Design

sony xe300 bluetooth speaker review: good, but could be better

Cory Gunther / Review Geek

The new X-Series from Sony comes in three different sizes and models. There’s a small XE200, the XE300 we’re reviewing, and a bigger expensive XG300.

The Sony XE300 has excellent build quality overall and feels very solid. The company uses your typical fabric finish for the grill, with every other surface covered in a soft-touch rubberized silicone. As a result, it’s shockproof, IP67 dust and water-resistant, and a durable device. You can take it camping, outside during a BBQ, and it’ll fit right in by the pool. Sony says it’s water-resistant up to a meter of water for 30 minutes. It’s even salt water resistant. You’ll also find the USB-C charging port behind a big rubber flap, which is nice.

While I love this thing’s durability, the pentagon shape is a bit odd. The shape makes it pretty hard to hold with one hand compared to most speakers in this size and price range. It’s also pretty big. At first, I wasn’t sure if I should stand it up or lay it horizontally for listening. However, it’s designed as a stand-up speaker.

sony xe300 bluetooth speaker review: good, but could be better

Cory Gunther / Review Geek

I also wish the design had more fabric for sound output rather than almost the entire device covered in rubber. However, Sony says it doesn’t need a big grill thanks to its “Line-Shape Diffuser” technology that claims to deliver a wide listening area down the entire length of the speaker front and a full 180 degrees, but more on that in a minute.

Sony says the pentagon design makes it easy to “grab and go,” but it’s roughly twice the size and heavier than many cylinder Bluetooth portable speakers I’ve used over the years. It’ll take up a lot of room in your backpack or beach bag, that’s for sure.

How Does it Sound?

sony xe300 bluetooth speaker review: good, but could be better

Cory Gunther / Review Geek

Perhaps the most important aspect of any speaker is the audio quality. So, how does it sound? Well, it sounds pretty good, but it could certainly be better.

The Sony SRS-XE300 packs two non-circular “X-Balanced” speakers and dual passive radiators for less distortion and more sound pressure, which delivers plenty of bass and high-quality sound. And while the bass doesn’t boom or shake a table, it’s a good solid bass level. Sony explains the balanced speakers and its “Line-Shape Diffuser” technology this way:

“Inspired by the audio systems used at professional concerts, Sony’s unique Line-Shape Diffuser creates line source and distributes the sound energy evenly, across a wide sound front, to better fill your space with audio.”

The unique non-cylindrical design and small speaker grills are by choice, but I’m not sure I’m sold on that. For me, the speaker has a pretty narrow sound, and you can hear a big difference in sound quality as you walk past the speaker. Honestly, it sounds a bit flat, without much soundstage, unless you’re standing right in front of the speaker.

That said, as long as you’re not standing behind it, you’ll still enjoy the sound experience. The XE300 delivers excellent bass for the size, solid mids, and highs, and it has a pretty balanced sound profile out of the box. Then, you can customize everything in the app, tone down the treble, adjust EQ levels, or enable the ClearAudio+ feature that adjusts the output to its surroundings.

The speaker sounds best as long as you don’t go over about 75-80% volume. On the high end, things start to struggle, there’s some audio compression, and the experience suffers. That wouldn’t be a problem normally, but I find myself cranking the volume nearly to the max whenever I use it.

While the XE300 gets decently loud for a small room, my aging Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 I bought in 2018 gets louder and sounds better at the top, too.

Music Controls, Battery Life, and Charging

sony xe300 bluetooth speaker review: good, but could be better

Cory Gunther / Review Geek

My favorite aspect of the XE300 is the easy-to-use textured buttons on the side. There are LED indicator lights for all the crucial bits, a button that’ll tell you the remaining battery life, and a microphone mute switch. That said, I wish the volume up/down buttons were larger or at the top, as I’ve accidentally hit the wrong button on several occasions, even if they are clearly marked.

The third button serves multiple functions. You can pause/play music, answer a phone call, double-tap to skip a song, and even press and hold to activate the Google Assistant. I really like the LED lights that blink when pairing to Bluetooth, the power button flashes when you reach full volume, and you’ll get a blinking light when the battery is running low.

I didn’t read the manual, naturally, but by accident, I found a “stamina mode” if you press and hold the battery level button. This will reduce the bass and extend battery life. Speaking of battery life, Sony promises up to 24 hours from a single charge.

Of course, battery life will vary depending on listening levels, and I used it for several hours three days in a row during a long weekend and still had 46% battery remaining. If you blast it around 75% volume, crank up the EQ, and add more bass with the Sony Music Center app, don’t expect it to last over 20 hours. Still, that’s better than many others at this price point.

Thanks to USB-C quick charging, you’ll get 70-minutes of playback after 10 minutes on the charger, which is great for last-minute adventures. I’m just glad more speakers are finally coming with USB-C charging.

Should You Buy One?

sony xe300 bluetooth speaker review: good, but could be better

The Sony XE300 is pretty big Cory Gunther / Review Geek

The Sony XE300 is no doubt a solid portable Bluetooth speaker, but it could be better. For example, my four-year-old Ultimate Ears Megaboom 3 (pictured above) has a higher max volume, sounds better at those higher levels, and can easily fill a room with sound. The Sony does, too, just not as well. My old speaker is also smaller, easier to carry, and has massive volume controls that are easy to press.

However, the Megaboom 3 doesn’t last quite as long and has an awful Micro-USB charging port that’s angled, and most cables don’t fit. Despite that fact, it’s still my favorite speaker. Honestly, if I had to choose a speaker for the day, I’ll be grabbing the Boom 3 or my JBL Charge 5 over the XE300.

Bluetooth speakers at this price point have a lot of competition. There are tons of excellent options if you’re looking to spend upwards of $200 on a portable Bluetooth speaker. At the end of the day, the Sony SRS-XE300 is relatively small and features a rugged design that can handle just about everything while still sounding pretty good. It’ll be a great option if you can catch it on sale.

That said, the Sony XE200 delivers a similar experience that’s smaller and more affordable, so you might be better off grabbing it instead.

Here’s What We Like

  • Solid battery life
  • Durable and rugged
  • Stereo and multi-speaker pairing
  • USB-C Fast Charging

And What We Don’t

  • Bulky design
  • Narrow and uneven soundstage
  • Max volume struggles

Keyword: Sony XE300 Bluetooth Speaker Review: Good, but Could Be Better

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