Sony SRS-XG300: two-minute review
Ah, Sony. The maker of the original Walkman is back with another X-Series Bluetooth speaker called the Sony XG300, so-named by the company because its X-prefixed speakers all feature Sony's non-circular and party-friendly X-Balanced Speaker Unit. There's also a new XG500, which is a little bigger, but we're focusing on the XG300 today.
The potential problem for the Sony XG300 is that while Sony, Ultimate Ears, JBL and Bose had been the frontrunners in our best Bluetooth speaker roundups for quite a few years, recently a few novelties and newbies struck gold – names such as Tribit and Earfun are gaining traction.
So, is Sony guilty of resting on its laurels? Has the Tokyo-based tech giant become drunk on its own successes and failed to notice that others are gaining? Well, the answer is no, this speaker categorically outdoes the rest, across the board – but its offerings do now stick out like sore thumbs for another reason and the XG300 is no exception. The Sony X-Series SRS-XG300 arrives looking particularly expensive given the swathes of talented new humble, budget-friendlier, best party speaker competition.
With a Sony-stoic price of $348 / £259 / AU$479, you can buy at least two similarly-sized cheap Bluetooth wireless speakers for this money. So the question is, should you? Or does the smart money stay right here, with Sony?
What we can tell you is that this is one talented beast of a speaker, bursting with extra features you may or may not need, and it somehow manages to play the party card in one moment and still look demure in your lounge the next, thanks to a few simple taps in Sony's exhaustive Music Center app.
The top-draw name on the spec-sheet is undoubtedly LDAC support, Sony's proprietary 'hi-res' codec. Why so? LDAC allows you to stream better-than-CD high-resolution audio up to 32-bit/96kHz over Bluetooth at up to 990kbps. According to Sony, it also permits around three times the amount of data to be streamed over Bluetooth thanks to the use of more efficient coding and “optimised packetization” of the data. To put those figures into perspective, SBC (the standard 'vanilla' Bluetooth codec) achieves a maximum data rate of just 328kbps, while Qualcomm's aptX HD can only stream at 576kbps. Impressive, then…
How does all of this translate into sound-per-pound performance? It translates very well indeed actually. The taut, grippy, agile and exciting bass you get from this thing has to be heard to be believed, and vocals are admirably textured and placed centrally in an expansive mix.
All in all, the Sony XG300's performance leaves us with no alternative but to conclude that it is a very, very good-sounding and extensively featured Bluetooth speaker. So if that is what you want and you've got the cash, splash it with our blessing. If, however, this all sounds a bit much and you just wanted something cheap and cheerful for the children to blast out tunes on in the garden, you might want to look at the JBL Flip 6 or Tribit Stormbox Micro 2. But don't misunderstand us, that's not to do the Sony XG300 down. Not at all…
Sony SRS-XG300 review: price and release date
- $348 / £259 / AU$479
- Released in July 2022
The Sony XG300 was released in July 2022 and it is available in black and a light gray colorway, both of which will set you back two dollars short of $350 in the US or nine pounds over over £250 if you reside in the UK. So, it's not the flippant "Yeah, add it to the cart why don't you?" purchase you may have come here looking for.
Offers and discounts? Unlikely. And while we wish there was something we could say or do to soften this and make it better, what we can tell you is that if you're ready to lay down such an amount of cash, Sony's proposition is emphatically worth it.
For reference, the recently reviewed and five-star Tribit Stormbox Blast is bigger and only $199 (around £163, U$290). But it's not better – it's cheaper and represents excellent value at the level, but the Sony is superior sound-wise.
It's tempting to think that what you're really paying for is the household name slapped across the rubberized top plate (which actually morphs into a handle) here, but that would be wrong. So, let's get into the whys and hows, shall we?
Sony SRS-XG300: design and features
- Classy build and finish
- Exhaustive features – some of which you may never need
- LDAC support for higher-quality streaming
The Sony XG300 comes in at just over 6lb or around 3kg, which feels quite heavy compared to other designs of similar size – on this, it's about the length of a bottle of wine but thicker; the circular enclosures which house the passive bass radiators and light show at either end are almost exactly the same size as CDs. Yes, we checked.
That said, toting it around using its nifty retractable rubber handle helps ease the load, and beneath it you'll find tastefully small and nicely tactile buttons on either side for power, pairing and Mega Bass on the left, and playback, volume and call-handling on the right.
On the back of the speaker, a rubber cap protects your electrical ports: a USB-C charging port, a 5V USB-A out which you can use to charge other devices and a 3.5mm in for wired listening. You also get two buttons here – one to turn off the ambient lights (more on this later) and a battery button. This particularly nice addition can be pressed once to get a quick vocal announcement on battery percentage remaining in your XG300, or long-pressed to initiate battery care mode.
You know how folk always tell you not to leave your phone or desktop plugged in for long periods of time because it damages the battery? This is all to do with that – it stops the speaker charging beyond 90% and thus helps prolong the life of the product. Given its price tag, it's nice to know that this portable speaker should at least work to its full capacity for a long time thanks to features such as this.
Sony's XG300 supports Bluetooth 5.2 and Google fast-pair, so if you own an Android device the setup is quick and easy. But it's easy for iPhone owners too, we paired easily – and you also get multi-point connectivity, so if you're hosting a party, two of you can cue up tracks from two simultaneously paired devices.
Battery life is up to 25 hours on a full charge, which is ideal (although note that if you regularly crank your listening gear up to max volume, you'll see a marked drop in stamina) and quick-charging means that a 10-minute juice will give you 70 minutes of playtime. It's also IP67 dust- and waterproof, so is fine for the pool or beach. There's a mic with echo-canceling tech for speakerphone duties, and in case we haven't mentioned it enough, there are customizable ambient lights on either side of the speaker, radiating out from those passive bass radiators.
Under the premium fabric hood is a two-way system comprising one 20mm tweeter and a 61 x 68mm woofer on the left and right channels. Non-circular diaphragms, you cry? Yes, and this is what Sony calls its X-Balanced Speaker Unit – a non-circular driver which realises more sound pressure to boast high-quality sound. JBL has called its non-circular techniques "racetrack-shaped" drivers before, and we like it in both instances.
Sony's Music Center app is probably the most fully-featured proposition we've ever seen. For starters, it's true to its name in that it actually pulls through a list of whichever streaming apps you've installed on your phone, for much easier access.
Honestly, there are so many useful, weird and downright bizarre ways to augment or change your speaker here that it puts other options to shame. There's a shortlist of EQ presets to try, or there's a three-band equalizer if you prefer to do it yourself. There's also a selection of words (including "DELIGHTFUL" and "CUTE") to choose from in terms of the light show – but that's far from the end of the story.
Get this speaker, and you're also encouraged to download the Fiestable app, which opens the door to several "DJ Control" options such as an isolator and a flanger – which, although fun initially, most of us will forget about fairly soon after hearing their heavy vocoder-style production even once.
What is quite useful in the Fiestable app (which can be accessed from Sony's Music Center) is the option to actually select the color of the lights you might want to see, and Motion Control. This allows you to alter playback with various movements of your phone. Make your phone 'nod' at you, for example, and you can pause playback. Turn it to the left or right (as if you're making it shake its head) and you can send volume down or up, and make it move like a car windscreen wiper to skip tracks forward or back.
You can also make your phone a color-matching light source to amp up the party in the Party Light tab, or use the Voice Control section (no Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri needed) to turn the lights off – or even say "Let's Party!" and Sony will give you its very best efforts with whatever you're playing.
Again, some of these features you may never use, but it's all underpinned by Sony's proprietary LDAC codec so, if you've got the files, you can actually stream in better-than-CD high-resolution audio up to 32-bit/96kHz over Bluetooth at up to 990kbps.
- Design and features score: 5/5
Sony SRS-XG300 review: sound quality
- Gives a sonic masterclass to cheaper Bluetooth speakers
- Taught, agile and grippy through the bass
- Difficult to muddy or distort – even at higher volumes
Often, we advise listeners to leave 'bass-boost' or 'X-Bass' buttons well alone, but here you can deploy Mega Bass freely, or not, and know that the extra oddles of low-end clout delivered will almost never never bloat, distort, lag or become muddy. Simply put, this speaker sounds great across a plethora of content.
Streaming The Kid LAROI's snappy STAY is a joy in terms of head-nodding musicality, as the Sony celebrates each passing blip, sample or vocal lick with care and seemingly undivided attention, in a detailed and cohesive mix. As the playlist continues to WITHOUT YOU the Sony tells us how good it is with textured, emotive vocals too, which are delivered with zeal and indomitable energy.
The treble is clear, distinct and soaring through tracks such as Ghett's Mozambique, but never to the detriment of a neutral and pleasing mix. The motorbike at the outset of Motley Crue's Girls, Girls, Girls feels three-dimensional and realistic (a relatively good litmus test when trialling the upper mids in such a design) and Gordon MacRae's beautiful high baritone belt in the Soliloquy from the original motion picture recording of the musical Carousel is engaging and well-weighted even as the song builds to its tumultuous conclusion.
Any downsides? If we're being really picky, and we mean really picky, this speaker is all of the energy and room-filling accuracy, but it could occasionally offer a little more delicacy – that rise and fall through the dynamics that makes your music come to life. We don't want to overstate this, because it's such a small issue in an otherwise top-class Bluetooth speaker; but it's our job to notice – and when Billy whispers, he still sounds a tad further forward in the mix than we might have expected.
- Sound quality score: 4.5/5
Sony XG300 review: value
- Expensive – but it's worth it
- Recommended, if you've got the budget
As we hope we've stated throughout this review, the Sony XG300 is a comparatively expensive Bluetooth speaker. It won't be making its way into our best cheap Bluetooth speakers roundup – but that doesn't mean we dislike it. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. Probably its closest comparison in terms of size is JBL's Xtreme 2, but this product launched at £199 / $220 – albeit in 2019 and with a much stripped-back feature set.
The thing is, this speaker offers so, so much more. As with JBL's PartyBoost, you can daisy-chain up to a hundred of other compatible Sony speakers with the XG300 to really bring the party or create a stereo pair with two XG300s, but this is so much easier with Sony's Music Center app. And while we're on the subject, this app is one of the most exhaustive options on the market yet still the most intuitive and helpful.
Also, the Sony XG300 somehow looks like a party speaker and something for your lounge on a Sunday morning all at once, and the sound is zealous, truly enjoyable and appropriate in either scenario.
If you don't want to spend this much on something fun that's not bothered by a bit of a spell in the rain, do consult our best waterproof speaker guide. But if you've got the money, the Sony still represents unparalleled value.
- Value score: 5/5
Sony XG300 review: should you buy it?
|Design and features||Looks fit any scenario and the feature-set is seriously impressive||5/5|
|Sound quality||Energetic, bass-conscious and zealous across the frequencies||4.5/5|
|Value||A great buy – unless you want something cheap and cheerful||5/5|
Buy it if…
You want the best-sounding portable speaker
This is up there with the very very best in terms of sonic performance – and LDAC support means higher-resolution streaming is very much on the menu.
You're considering a Sony multi-room setup
You can seriously amp up the sound here, either by creating a talented stereo set (if you can stretch to two) or up to 100 other compatible Sony speakers could make for a rocking party.
You like a party aesthetic – and also a chilled vibe
Unlike other party-centric speakers, the light shows here are hidden behind passive bass radiators and can also lean on your phone for added drama. It's the best of both worlds.
Don't buy it if…
You want a cheap and cheerful music box
Sony is serious about these talented and tech-filled speakers – and you will have to pay for that. If you wanted something with a two-figure price-tag, this will never be that.
You're easily scared off by apps
The Sony Music Center and Fiestable apps offer a plethora of features and perks – so to get the most out of this speaker you will want to download them both. But if you'd prefer to just hit the Bluetooth pairing button and forget phone-gazing to control your music, you may be better served elsewhere.
You were hoping to hit your speaker for added lighting
Older-generation Sony Bluetooth speakers have encouraged you to strike them to create special light shows, which we never encouraged because hitting your hi-fi doesn't sit well with us, however durable the product is. Thankfully, Sony has dropped this here.
Think the Sony XG300 might be a little rich for the blood? That's cool, here are three alternative Bluetooth speakers that could offer just the design, feature-set and sound quality you're looking for.
JBL Charge 5
A little smaller (but still win-bottle shaped), this is more of a throw-and-go option that boasts a talented sound and it still has the Sony XG300's power bank capabilities to charge your phone – and it sounds very good for the money.
Tribit Stormbox Blast
This thing screams 'party', right? And it's both affordable and waterproof so if someone spills a drink on it that's no biggie. At 5.45kg, it's heavier than the Sony (at 3kg) so possibly not one to tote if you're heading across town, and you can't turn those lights off completely – although you can make it so they only pop up when you're switching the volume levels.
Earfun UBoom L
A Spring 2022 launch from a little-known brand with a standard price of just $99/£99 (which is around AU$173), but we've already seen the EarFun UBoom L Speaker available for $79.99/£79.99… again, it's a little smaller than the Sony XG300, but maybe you don't need something so large (or expensive).
- First reviewed: July 2022
- How we test: explore TechRadar's review guarantee