Sony SRS-XE200 portable speaker test: a new acoustic architecture struggling to prove itself

The fruit of the latest series of Bluetooth speakers from Sony, together with the SRS-XE300 and SRS-XG300, the SRS-XE200 completes the range of portable speakers from the Japanese manufacturer. Like its big sister SRS-XE300, it adopts an atypical design and is equipped with a completely new diffusion system called Line-Shape Diffuser, which would allow a more homogeneous sound distribution over a wide area.

The SRS-XE family reunited.

Intended to be carried almost anywhere, the SRS-XE200 relies heavily on its robustness and its waterproof design, but also on the number of built-in features (integrated microphone, multipoint Bluetooth, Party Connect pairing protocol, etc.).

The SRS-XE200 was released in July 2022 for €150. It is tested with firmware version 3400 and Sony Music Center app version 6.5.0.

Editor's rating: 4 out of 5

Manufacturing

The SRS-XE200 adopts a rather unique design in the form of a pentagonal prism, which stands out from the very common cylinder or simple brick. With its dimensions of 9 x 20.8 x 9.4 cm and its weight of 800 g, the SRS-XE200 is particularly massive for a portable speaker, but it remains below the kilogram bar, which we consider to be the boundary between portable speaker and portable. Its transport is therefore carried out without much difficulty, in a bag or in the hand, especially thanks to its integrated wrist strap.

Comparison with a UE Boom 2.

Comparison with a UE Boom 2.

In addition to its atypical shape, the SRS-XE200 differs from its competitors in that it is almost completely covered in silicone and plastic sheets. Only one side edge and those of the prism bottoms are covered with net fabric so as not to hinder sound propagation. This rather aesthetic set left us with a very good impression of solidity and robustness both against shocks and scratches. The SRS-XE200 is also IP67 certified and can therefore be fully submerged in water, even salt water, and resist dust or sand. It is therefore ready to face all kinds of bad weather and can be used without risk in damp or dusty environments.

Comparison with its big sister, the SRS-XE300.

Comparison with its big sister, the SRS-XE300.

On one of the side surfaces is a large panel of physical buttons used to control the speaker. Another side houses a small hatch that hides the USB-C port for charging. A USB-A to USB-C cable of about fifty centimeters is also supplied with the speaker.

Editor's rating: 4 out of 5

User experience

The experience that this SRS-XE200 offers is just like what Sony has accustomed us to with its portable speakers: simple, complete and intuitive. In fact, the most essential functions can be controlled thanks to the buttons located on the cabinet. Power on, pairing, playback and call control, volume control, endurance mode, mute microphone, nothing missing. Some of these commands are accompanied by indicator lights, various tones or voice messages (in English only) so that the user can easily understand the action performed. A short press on the button with the name “BATT” gives e.g. possibility to obtain the remaining battery level.

We experienced some connection issues (crackling sound, microcuts) during our testing of two different products.

We experienced some connection issues (crackling sound, microcuts) during our testing of two different products.

The Sony Music Center app (available on Android and iOS) quite strictly allows for further customization, particularly by adjusting certain power settings or by pairing one or more other compatible speakers using the Party Connect protocol. The app also includes some settings to customize the sound reproduction, such as a three-band equalizer or the ability to configure the speaker in mono or stereo mode. Finally, the app also provides access to the phone’s local music library as well as a rather rudimentary player.

Editor's rating: 3 out of 5

Sound

With this SRS-XE200, Sony inaugurates a completely new diffusion system called Line Shape Diffuser (slim diffuser in French). According to the brand, it would allow sound waves to be redirected over a wider and deeper field than a conventional acoustic architecture. In fact, it works quite well when the speaker is in a vertical position: the dispersion is indeed quite homogeneous over a relatively wide listening field, but no more so than with other speakers devoid of such architecture. However, this system is completely ineffective when the cabinet is placed horizontally. The sound stage is then limited to the speaker’s physical limits, which requires that you be well positioned in front of it to enjoy an acceptable listening experience.

Measurement of frequency response (calibration at 79 dB SPL, at 1 kHz, at 1 m).  Speaker vertical, microphone in front of speaker (black curve), microphone at 45° (purple curve), Stamina mode enabled (green curve).

Measurement of frequency response (calibration at 79 dB SPL, at 1 kHz, at 1 m). Speaker vertical, microphone in front of speaker (black curve), microphone at 45° (purple curve), Stamina mode enabled (green curve).

But even placed vertically or in an ideal listening position, the speaker is far from convincing us in terms of sound. Indeed, the SRS-XE200 lacks strong foundation, its extension in the low frequencies is very limited. Thus, the cabinet is devoid of the heat that Sony and its SRS-XB33 and SRS-XB43 had accustomed us to. This shyness can probably be explained by the obstruction of passive radiators, which have only a vulgar opening to express themselves. The SRS-XE200 is also far from a devil of precision in the low frequencies: the instruments operating in the bass range are difficult to distinguish from each other. The speaker also handles volume increases rather poorly, losing significantly in seating and precision once the 50% maximum volume bar has been crossed. Exceeding this limit also implies a certain crushing of the dynamics.

Frequency response measurement.  Calibration at 79 dB SPL (black curve), calibration at 85 dB SPL (orange curve), calibration at 73 dB SPL (blue curve).

Frequency response measurement. Calibration at 79 dB SPL (black curve), calibration at 85 dB SPL (orange curve), calibration at 73 dB SPL (blue curve).

This reset of the bass has the effect of placing the low mids on a pedestal. These partially encroach on the midrange, giving the sound reproduction an unflattering boomy aspect. However, the timbres are respected and the voices stand out properly from the rest of the instruments.

Measurement of the harmonic distortion rate (calibration at 79 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1 m).

Measurement of the harmonic distortion rate (calibration at 79 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1 m).

The distortion rate measurement curve could indicate a catastrophic treble reproduction, but this is not the case. These are never aggressive, benefit from a nice extension in the extreme highs and are fairly well transcribed, although they are very far from examples of precision. When we listen, the total loss of control that we observe on the curve results in a leakage of the treble at the ends of the cabinet. A behavior that is probably due to the slim diffuser and the slanted shape of the speakers.

The SRS-XE200 can be configured in mono or stereo mode according to the user’s preferences. Suffice it to say that the stereo mode is of little interest as the speaker is designed to be used vertically. However, even in the horizontal position, the SRS-XE200 fails to reproduce a convincing stereophonic stage unless it is in close proximity to the unit.

Strong points

  • Relative balance of sound reproduction.

  • Easy to handle, many controls on the cabinet.

  • Good autonomy.

  • Powerful built-in microphone.

Weak points

  • Narrow soundstage in horizontal position.

  • Extremely limited bass extension.

  • Inhomogeneous distribution of treble.

  • Limited usable volume.

  • High latency in Bluetooth communication.

Conclusion

Global brand

Editor's rating: 3 out of 5

How does grading work?

The SRS-XE200 is a robust, durable and extremely easy to handle portable speaker. However, its sound performance unfortunately has shortcomings that prevent it from being a highly recommendable portable speaker. The new acoustic architecture it benefits from brings more concerns than benefits, such as the limited bass extension and the dangerous behavior of the treble. In fact, the SRS-XE200 will inevitably remain in the shadow of the excellent SRS-XB33.

Leave a Comment