Sony SRS XB12 Review: Powerful Little Speaker Packed With Features
Enjoy enhanced bass tones from a speaker that's easy to carry from one place to another.
By Bryan Keegan I Jan 11, 2021
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Our Score: 7.7
+ Powerful audio performance
+ Pretty loud for its size
+ Portable, comes with a strap
+ Great battery life
+ IP67 waterproof build
+ Tactile buttons
+ Auto power off
- Low end is too strong for few
- Sub-par microphone
- Long charging time
- Bluetooth 4.2
- Little on the heavier side
- No aptX codec support
Sony has been advancing the space of portable speakers with various products, including the inexpensive XB01 EXTRA BASS, the popular XB22 EXTRA BASS and the premium XB402G EXTRA BASS with built-in Google Assistant. The Sony SRS XB12 is an affordable and compact speaker with waterproof construction and comes in various color options, retails for $59 USD and includes speakerphone capabilities.
We have been using the speaker for some time now and really impressed with its capabilities. The Sony SRS-XB12 is pretty much the speaker to get if you're looking for a portable speaker for small parties or meetings with excellent sound quality.
Release date: April 2019
Regular price: $59 USD
What’s included in the box?
User manual - Click to open
Who should get the Sony SRS-XB12 speaker?
People who like to listen to music at a high volume. It may not be the best sounding speaker, but the Sony SRS-XB12 still gets plenty loud.
People who prefer bass-heavy music. At moderate to high volumes, the drums sound a bit loud, which is no mean feat for a speaker of this size.
People who like to go to the beach on weekends. The Sony SRS-XB32 is waterproof and even dustproof thanks to the IP67 rating. This is a great option to take to the beach with you.
How’s the build and design of Sony SRS-XB12 speaker?
The design of the Sony SRS-XB12 is firmly from the pages of the Bluetooth Speaker Designer Guide. It has a matte rubbery texture body with metal grille on top, which feels quite strong and durable. The bottom panel is also made of the same non-slippery rubber plastic as the rest of the exterior.
The speaker is available in a total of five color options, coupled with a similarly colored strap that helps the speaker hold on to the backpack or bike handle.
The SRS-XB12 is compact, wireless and made to go with you anywhere. With a detachable strap you can easily hang it up and keep your music going on the move! – Sony
Overall, it's small enough that it can be put in a bag or even a large coat with deep pockets and perfect for anyone looking to get a speaker they can carry around for casual music sessions in college or on beach trips.
Product height: 92 mm
Product width: 74 mm
Product depth: 74 mm
Product weight: 243 g
Compared to other compact speakers, Sony SRS-XB12 feels significantly heavy with its 243 grams of weight. According to Sony, it is intentionally designed to be "travel-proof", but you'll definitely feel its weight when carrying it around.
Will water splashes ruin the Sony SRS-XB12 speaker?
The SRS-XB12 has IP67 protection, which makes the speaker both dustproof and waterproof, and its solid rubberized plastic structure is drop-proof.
From the protection point of view, Sony has left nothing to complain about and the speaker can definitely withstand rain or water splashes easily.
You can even immerse it in up to a meter of water for up to 30 minutes. This makes it perfect for parties at the pool or on the beach, it won't die on you if you drop it into the pool as well.
IP rating: IP67
Maximum depth of water resistance: 1 m of water for 30 minutes
Drop proof: Yes
Manufacturer's warranty – Speaker: 1 year limited
Manufacturer's warranty – Labor: 1 year limited
You should be careful when using the speaker at pool or beach parties. To ensure the safety of the speaker, make sure that the rubber lid protecting the ports must be closed.
How to connect the Sony SRS-XB12 speaker?
The Sony SRS-XB12 pairing process is quite straightforward. Press and hold the power/pairing button until you hear the voice indication, and the Bluetooth indicator starts flashing quickly in blue. This brings the speaker in pairing mode. Follow the pairing instructions on your smartphone to discover the speaker.
Under the covered panel, there are connections for the included micro-USB charging cable and an AUX-in port in case you want to connect the speaker with a 3.5mm audio cable.
Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth
Pair speakers to Party Up: Yes
Hands-free function: Yes
Wireless multi-room audio: No
Input & output terminals: Stereo mini jack (IN)
Power input: Micro USB
In terms of connectivity, the SRS-XB12 comes with Bluetooth v4.2 on board (there's also 3.5mm aux-in) and takes just 3 seconds to connect to the audio source. During our test, we found that it stays connected wirelessly up to 10 meters, which is really good for this little speaker.
A big advantage of Sony SRS-XB12 is that you can join two speakers wirelessly to augment the sound or create a stereo pair for better, louder, more vibrant sound output. This feature can be activated using the 'Add' button on the right side of the play/pause button.
Bluetooth version: 4.2
No. of devices to be paired: 7
No. of devices can connect simultaneously: 1
Power output: Class 1
Supported content protection: SCMS-T
Bluetooth range: Up to 10 m
Compatible profiles: A2DP, AVRCP, HFP, HSP
There is no NFC for easy pairing and no multi device connectivity due to Bluetooth v4.2 instead of latest v5.0 (which can allow you to connect the speaker to two or more audio sources at the same time).
To clear up the memory, the speaker also needs to be reset as soon as the device paired list goes beyond 5-6. Otherwise, the speaker becomes difficult to detect.
What can the controls on Sony SRS XB12 do?
There are 5 different buttons on the base of the speaker for power, volume up/down, the multifunction button for play/pause music, skip songs in multiple clicks and receive phone calls. A long press launches the voice assistant of the phone: Siri on iPhone and Google Assistant on Android smartphones. Then there is the "Add" button on the right that allows you to pair it with another Sony speaker.
Interface: Physical buttons
Controls: Power on/off, Volume, Play/Pause, Bluetooth pairing, Answer calls, Skip tracks, Connect to 2nd speaker
Voice assistant: Google Assistant, Siri
Microphone: Omni directional
The rubberized control panel is completely sealed and provides great tactile feedback like any other Sony Bluetooth speaker.
What are the options available in Sony App?
The SRS XB12 features a dedicated companion app available in both the iOS and Android app stores. You can receive notifications about firmware updates and view various support materials, including manuals and Q&A.
App name: Support by Sony app
Platforms: iOS and Android
Customizable EQ: No
To be honest, the companion app only serves as a user's guide, nothing more. There are no options to change settings, EQ adjustments, or create audio profiles for a personalized listening experience. It's better to use your smartphone to make sound adjustments.
How long does the Sony SRS XB12 speaker battery last?
The Sony SRS XB12 has a fairly good battery life and can last up to 16 hours, but results vary with volume levels. It is really impressive and can easily last for four to five days with an average daily usage of about 3 hours. There is also an LED indicator on the right side to let you know about the low battery and charging status.
Battery type: Li-polymer battery
Battery capacity: 1400 mAh
Music playtime: Up to 16 hrs
Standby mode: NA
Auto-power off: Yes
Power adapter: 5V DC
Battery charge time: 4.5 hrs
USB charge out: No
The SRS-XB12 still charges via an outdated micro-USB charging cable, but we really wish there was a USB Type-C port, which has been standard on all new Android smartphones.
Some users may have a problem because the speaker takes a long time to fully charge. Charging from 0% to full takes well over 4 hours and can get annoying if you're in a hurry.
How does the Sony SRS-XB12 speaker sound?
A design that you can comfortably take anywhere is only useful if the speaker offers an audio output that you will actually want to listen to. Fortunately, on this front, the Sony SRS-XB12 ticks most of the right boxes.
The SRS-XB12 comes with a monaural speaker that fires upward so that the output is distributed 360 degrees from every possible angle, and there is a passive bass radiator at the bottom for an additional thump on bass-heavy songs.
Sony's Extra Bass series has always been about the bass, and the SRS-XB12 has remained true to its ‘XB’ moniker. At moderate to high volumes, the drums sound a bit loud, which is no mean feat for a speaker of this size. This makes the speaker ideal for the bass lovers.
Absolutely no complaint about the sound quality of the speaker, given its price and support for all the major codecs you might want. The highs and lows are clear, the mids are well balanced thanks to the DSP (Digital Signal Processing), which thins the lows a little to avoid any distortions.
Speaker type: Full range
Drivers: 46 mm sound driver
RMS power: 10 Watts
Impedance: 4 ohms
Total Harmonic Distortion: <= 1%
Minimum Frequency Response: 20 Hz
Maximum Frequency Response: 20,000 Hz
Supported codec: SBC, AAC
The only major drawback of this speaker is the lack of support for a superior aptX audio codec.
The aptX codec is supported by most high-end smartphones, which provides better connection stability and less latency. Somehow, Sony skipped it.
How is the microphone of the Sony XB12 speaker?
We weren't so impressed with the built-in microphone for phone calls or voice assistants. In our voice recordings there was a lot of Bluetooth distortion. Even during phone calls, people at the other end of calls struggle to hear my voice clearly. Sony is certainly not the only one to make bad Bluetooth speaker microphones, but we were hoping for better.
Should you buy the Sony SRS-XB12 speaker?
If you like the idea of having a portable Bluetooth speaker that can party as you do when you go to the beach or to the pool, then Sony XB12 is an option worth considering. It’s not as large or as loud as bigger wireless speakers, but it’s also not as expensive.
A fun speaker with strong bass, portability with the strap, good battery life and a tough waterproof build is what you’re looking for then the SRS-XB12 will not let you down.
What are some alternatives to Sony SRS-XB12 speaker?
JBL Clip 3
JBL Clip 3 is one of the most popular waterproof travel speakers. It weighs only 7.5 ounces, can be easily inserted into the back pocket of most jeans, has a built-in carabiner so that it can be easily hung from a backpack or belt loop.
It delivers exceptionally good sound output in such a compact size. The Bluetooth connection is flawless and the battery can easily last for up to 10 hours on a single charge. With the IPX7 waterproofing rating, you don't have to worry about rain or spills, you can even immerse the speaker in water as well.
Thanks to the integrated noise and echo cancelling speakerphone, you can easily answer crystal clear calls from your speaker at the touch of a button.
JBL FLIP 4
The JBL Flip 4 is a robust, affordable Bluetooth speaker that delivers surprisingly powerful stereo sound and great battery life, as well as full waterproofing. Its rough, tough design makes it perfect as a portable speaker to accompany all aspects of your life.
You can easily access Siri or Google Assistant with a single button press. It can wirelessly connect up to 2 smartphones or tablets at the same time and has a built-in noise and echo cancelling speakerphone for crystal clear conference calls.
It is also equipped with JBL Connect+ technology that can wirelessly link more than 100 JBL Connect+ enabled speakers together to amplify the listening experience.
Soundcore Flare Mini
Soundcore's Flare Mini, a brand of Anchor, is the great-sounding budget speaker we've ever tested. It is a high-quality portable Bluetooth speaker with premium features at a very affordable price of $49 USD.
The speaker won't take up too much space in your luggage and it's loud enough for a party in a hotel room. Being small, light and compact, the Flare Mini is an excellent speaker for nomads and travelers.
The IPX7 rating of the speaker means you don't have to worry about getting wet, and it's a great poolside companion for some background rhythms.