Sony’s new Bluetooth speaker line gets a welcome refresh

The SRS-XB23, SRS-XB33 and XB43 Extra Bass portable wireless speakers range in price from $100 to $250.

Sony regularly releases new portable Bluetooth speakers each year and this year we get three new models, the least expensive of which, the SRS-XB23 ($100), is a completely new design — for Sony anyway. They’re available today for preorder and will ship in the next few weeks. 

Available in multiple color options, all the models are IP67 waterproof (as well as dustproof and rustproof) and the larger SRS-XB33 ($150) and SRS-XB43 ($250) retain the integrated “party” lighting of previous Sony Bluetooth speakers, though they leave off the strobe effect (the lights are programmable via Sony’s Fiestable app for iOS and Android). Sony says its newly developed X-Balanced Speaker Unit has a noncircular shape that maximizes the speaker diaphragm area, increasing sound pressure for punchier bass while reducing distortion at higher volumes. The company notes that when compared to its predecessor, (the XB32), the XB33’s level of sound pressure has increased by around 30% and its distortion rate has decreased by around 25%. UK and Australian prices were not announced, but $100 is about £80 or AU$155.

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I didn’t get to try the XB33 or XB43, but I did have a listen to the XB23. With its new canister-like design, perfectly sized to fit in a chair cup holder, Sony has created a portable speaker that has a design that consumers are familiar with from popular speakers like the UE Boom and JBL Flip, which have been upgraded over the years with improved bass and battery life. 

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I’ll have a full review of the SRS-XB23 in the coming weeks, but the quick take on it is that it looks and sounds better than a lot of the cheaper generic Bluetooth speakers you can find on Amazon in the $40-$70 range on Amazon. I put it up against the Earfun UBoom ($55), for example, and the Sony is clearly superior.

Anker’s Soundcore Motion Plus, however, which also sells for $100, delivered bigger sound with more bass. Granted, it’s a bit bigger than the XB23 (it’s closer in size to the XB33), but the point is you can find some speakers out there that sound better for the price. Still, the Sony is a worthy contender in its size class and will be more enticing should it get discounted during the holiday buying season, closer to $80.

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Here’s a quick look at the new speakers’ highlights.

David Carnoy/CNET

The SRS-XB23 comes in five different color options: black, taupe, coral red, light blue and olive green. Equipped with two new full-range drivers and passive bass radiator, it delivers 12 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels and is waterproof, dustproof, rustproof and shockproof with an IP67 rating. It has USB-C charging and can connect with up to 100 other Sony speakers using Sony’s Party Connect feature.

Sony

The SRS-XB33 comes in four different colors: black, taupe, red and blue. Equipped with two new full-range drivers and two new side-firing passive bass radiators, it delivers up to 24 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels and is waterproof, dustproof, rustproof and shockproof with an IP67 rating. It has USB-C charging and Sony’s Party Connect. It has programmable line and speaker lights, and a USB-out port for charging devices.

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Sony

The SRS-XB43 comes in three colors — black, taupe and blue — and has newly designed drivers for punchier bass, as well as a newly added tweeter for better clarity. It delivers up to 24 hours of battery life at moderate volume levels and is waterproof, dustproof and rustproof with an IP67 rating (it’s not shockproof like the other two speakers in the line). It too has USB-C charging and Party Connect. It has programmable line, speaker and tweeter lights and a USB-out port for charging devices.

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