- Solid audio performance with rich bass response and crisp highs.
- Water-resistant design.
- Built-in speakerphone.
- Can be linked with another SRS-XB10 to form stereo pair.
- Can distort on tracks with deep bass.
- Sony’s wireless, outdoor-friendly SRS-XB10 speaker delivers some surprising bass depth for its size and price.
Despite advances in passive bass radiators and overall streaming quality, the number of high-quality, affordably priced Bluetooth speakers is pretty low. We can now add another product to the short list, however—the Sony SRS-XB10. At $49.99, the tiny, water-resistant SRS-XB10 delivers solid audio, with surprisingly rich bass response, for its size and price. The mono SRS-XB10 can also be linked with another unit to form a stereo pair. Is it the absolute best offering in this price range? No—that distinction still belongs to the JBL Clip 2—but the SRS-XB10 is a solid runner-up, and worth a look.
The cylindrical SRS-XB10, available in black, blue, red, and white, measures roughly 3.5 by 2.9 inches (HW) and weighs in at 9.2 ounces. It’s IPX5 rating means you can get it wet, but it’s not a good idea to submerge the speaker underwater. With a rubberized body and base, the top panel is speaker grille only, with a single 1.8-inch driver firing upward. At the base, there are small cutaways that allow air to escape—the speaker also utilizes a passive bass radiator, located internally, just above these cutouts.
The outer panel has a built-in lanyard with a rubberized loop, so you can hang the lightweight SRS-XB10 on hooks or whatever else is around. There’s a control panel along the base with buttons for play/pause, add (for linking another SRS-XB10 and creating a stereo pair), plus/minus (for volume), and power. This area also houses status LEDs for the battery, power/Bluetooth, and left/right speaker (if you choose to add another SRS-XB10 to the equation).
Nearby, there’s a micro USB port for the included charging cable, a 3.5mm aux input for wired listening (no cable is included, however), and a reset button. This section is covered by a cap, which is vital for the speaker to retain its water resistance.
The built-in speakerphone offers so-so intelligibility. Using the Voice Memos app on an iPhone 6s, we were able to understand every word we recorded, but the overall sound quality was fuzzy and a little quiet, like a weak cell phone connection. This is basically par for the course when it comes to Bluetooth speaker mics, though, particularly on models priced below $50. It’s a still solid included feature for the price, and its sound quality doesn’t diminish its usefulness.
Unlike many Sony Bluetooth speakers, the SRS-XB10 doesn’t use an app, which is surprising only because of its ability to be linked as a stereo pair. But Sony seems has done a solid job of making the stereo pairing process as simple as possible, making an app unnecessary.
Battery life is estimated to be roughly 16 hours, but your results will vary with your volume levels and your mix of wireless and wired playback.
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the SRS-XB10 delivers a solid sense of deep bass. At top volumes on this challenging track, it’s no surprise there’s distortion—the powerful sub-bass and even lows and low-mids on this track will make most sub-$50 speakers, and most speakers this size, distort. But at more moderate volume levels, the distortion disappears and the speaker still provides a surprising sense of bass—as well as a palpable thump, thanks to the passive bass radiator.
Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the SRS-XB10’s sound signature. The drums on this track often sound too heavy and thunderous on bass-forward speakers; through the SRS-XB10, they sound fairly natural. The bass isn’t boosted enough to push the drums into unnatural territory—in fact, Callahan’s vocals are far more boosted than the drums—a sign that the main boosting here is in the lows and low-mids, not the sub-bass realm. The drums on this track therefore sound full but not huge, as it’s the sub-bass being boosted that sends them into the thunder realm. Generally speaking, this track sounds rich, with a crisp high-mid/highs presence that doesn’t distort at top volumes.
On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop gets plenty of high-mid presence, allowing its attack to retain its sharpness and slice through the layers of the mix. The sub-bass synth hits that punctuate this track are more implied than delivered—we get the raspy top notes more so than the deep lows. The big bass sound comes from the drum loop itself again—the SRS-XB10 boosts the lows and low-mids, which in turn adds some notable thump to the drum loop’s sustain. At top volumes, this track manages to avoid distortion, and at moderate volumes there’s still a strong bass push. The vocals get a solid high-mid presence, as well, and although there’s a little added sibilance to them at times, the crispness is welcome.
Orchestral tracks, like the opening scene in John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, sound slightly richer than normal through the SRS-XB10 at top volumes. At moderate volumes the bass presence on the lower register strings takes a step back, but no matter what volume level, the higher register brass, strings, and vocals rule the mix—they are bright and crisp naturally, and so they maintain their place in the spotlight quite nicely here.
For $50, the Sony SRS-XB10 delivers a solid overall audio experience, with crisp highs and rich lows for its price and size. There’s little to complain about, though the SRS-XB10 doesn’t quite unseat our favorite compact $50 Bluetooth speaker, the aforementioned JBL Clip 2. If you have more room in your budget, the EcoXGear EcoCarbon and JBL Flip 4 are both great-sounding, outdoor-friendly wireless alternatives, and if you’re looking to spend as little as possible, the Polk Boom Swimmer Jr. delivers a solid, waterproof experience for a budget price.