Sony SRS-XE200 portable speaker review: A new acoustic architecture struggling to prove itself

Sony SRS-XE200 portable speaker review: A new acoustic architecture struggling to prove itself

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

The SRS-XE family reunited.

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

The SRS-XE200 was launched in July 2022 for €150. It has been tested with firmware version 3400 and Sony Music Center application version 6.5.0.

Editor rating: 4 out of 5

Manufacturing

The SRS-XE200 adopts a rather unique pentagonal prism shape design, 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 large for a portable speaker, but remains below the kilogram bar that we consider to be the limit between a portable speaker and transportable. Therefore, its transport is carried out without great difficulties, in a bag or by hand, in particular thanks to its integrated wrist strap.

Comparison with a UE Boom 2.

Comparison with a UE Boom 2.

Beyond its unusual shape, the SRS-XE200 differs from its competitors in that it is almost completely covered with silicone and plastic plates. Only one lateral edge and those of the bases of the prism are covered with mesh fabric so as not to hinder the diffusion of sound. This quite aesthetic set left us with a very good impression of solidity and robustness both against bumps and scratches. The SRS-XE200 is also IP67 certified and therefore can be completely submerged in water, even salt water, and resist dust or sand. Therefore, it is prepared to face all kinds of inclement weather and can be used without risk in humid or dusty environments.

Comparison with its big brother, the SRS-XE300.

Comparison with its big brother, the SRS-XE300.

On one of the side faces there is a large panel of physical buttons that are 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 rating: 4 out of 5

user experience

The experience offered by this SRS-XE200 is as Sony has accustomed us with its portable speakers: simple, complete and intuitive. In fact, the most essential functions can be controlled thanks to the buttons placed on the casing. Power, pairing, playback and call control, volume management, Stamina mode activation, microphone deactivation, nothing is missing. Some of these commands are accompanied by indicator lights, different tones or voice prompts (only in English) that allow the user to easily understand the action performed. A short press on the button labeled “BATT” allows, for example, to obtain the remaining battery level.

We experienced some connection issues (crackling sound, micro-cuts) during our test, on two different products.

We experienced some connection issues (crackling sound, micro-cuts) during our test, on two different products.

Fairly frugal, the Sony Music Center app (available on Android and iOS) allows for further customization, notably by adjusting certain power options or pairing one or more compatible speakers using the Party Connect protocol. The app also contains some settings to customize sound playback, such as a three-band equalizer or the ability to set the speaker to mono or stereo mode. Finally, the app also provides access to the phone’s local music library, as well as a fairly rudimentary player.

Sony SRS-XE200 portable speaker: a new acoustic architecture struggling to prove its worth

Editor Rating: 3 out of 5

Audio

With this SRS-XE200, Sony introduces a new diffusion system called Line Shape Diffuser (thin diffuser in French). According to the brand, it would allow sound waves to be redirected over a broader and deeper field than conventional acoustic architecture. In fact, it works quite well when the speaker is in a vertical position: the diffusion is fairly even over a relatively wide listening field, but no more so than with other speakers without such an architecture. However, this system is completely ineffective when the enclosure is placed horizontally. The soundstage is then limited to the physical limits of the loudspeaker, requiring proper positioning in front of it for an acceptable listening experience.

Frequency response measurement (calibration at 79 dB SPL, at 1 kHz, at 1 m).  Vertical speaker, microphone in front of the speaker (black curve), microphone at 45° (purple curve), Stamina mode activated (green curve).

Frequency response measurement (calibration at 79 dB SPL, at 1 kHz, at 1 m). Vertical speaker, microphone in front of the speaker (black curve), microphone at 45° (purple curve), Stamina mode activated (green curve).

But even placed upright or in an ideal listening position, the speaker is far from convincing us in terms of sound performance. In fact, the SRS-XE200 lacks substance, its extension in the low frequencies is very limited. Thus, the enclosure is devoid of the heat to which Sony and its SRS-XB33 and SRS-XB43 had accustomed us. This shyness is probably explained by the obstruction of passive radiators that only have a common opening to express themselves. The SRS-XE200 is also far from being a precision devil in the low frequencies: the instruments that officiate in the bass register are difficult to distinguish from one another. The loudspeaker also manages the volume increase quite poorly and loses a lot of seat and precision once the bar of 50% of the maximum volume is exceeded. 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 kickback of the bass has the effect of putting the lower mids on a pedestal. These partially encroach on the mids, giving sound reproduction an unflattering, boomy look. However, the timbres are well respected and the voices stand out properly from the rest of the instruments.

Harmonic distortion rate measurement (calibration at 79 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1 m).

Harmonic distortion rate measurement (calibration at 79 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1 m).

The distortion rate measurement curve might suggest catastrophic treble reproduction, but this is not the case. These are never aggressive, enjoy good extension in the extreme highs, and are fairly well transcribed, although they are far from being examples of precision. When listening, the total loss of control that we observe in the curve translates into a leakage of the treble in the extremes of the cabinet. A behavior probably due to the slim diffuser and the beveled shape of the speakers.

The SRS-XE200 can be configured in mono or stereo mode depending on the user’s wishes. Suffice it to say that stereo mode is of little interest given that the speaker was designed to be used vertically. But even in a horizontal position, the SRS-XE200 fails to reproduce a convincing stereo scene, unless you are in close proximity to the device.

Strengths

  • Relative balance of sound reproduction.

  • Easy to operate, many controls on the enclosure.

  • Good autonomy.

  • Built-in powerful microphone.

Weak points

  • Narrow sound stage in horizontal position.

  • Extremely limited bass extension.

  • Inhomogeneous distribution of treble.

  • Limited usable sound power.

  • High latency in Bluetooth communication.

conclusion

global brand

Editor Rating: 3 out of 5

How does the rating work?

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

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