Mike Andronico/CNN Underscored

The Sony XB13 has long been our best Bluetooth speaker pick for traveling, packing big sound, great battery life and a road-ready cloth strap into a tiny cylinder that you can take anywhere. Its successor, the new XB100, is largely more of the same — and depending on who you are, that’s not a bad thing.

Sony’s latest pint-sized speaker delivers a slightly refined design, refreshed color options and improved audio, complete with all of the features we already loved about the XB13 (including the handy ability to pair two of them together for immersive stereo sound). Existing XB13 owners don’t have much reason to upgrade, but what about those looking to pick up a travel-friendly speaker for the first time? Here’s what I think after a week of rocking out with Sony’s latest.

The Sony XB100 improves on our favorite travel speaker with bigger sound and a slicker design. If you're looking to spend less than $60 on a small, great-sounding speaker you can take anywhere, it's a no-brainer.

What we liked about it

An attractive, portable design

The XB100 doesn’t mess with what already worked on the XB13. Sony’s latest mini speaker looks a lot like its predecessor, with a 3.7-inch tall, 0.6-pound design that fit easily into the palm of my hand as well as a handy cloth strap for attaching the XB100 to your backpack, bike or pretty much anything else you’d like to have a Bluetooth speaker hanging off of.

That said, Sony did make some subtle, smart changes to this year’s model, starting with a new textured soft-touch outer shell that makes the speaker even easier to grip. The Sony logo now comes etched in the speaker rather than protruding out of it in big white text, which makes for a slightly cleaner, more minimalist look.

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The colors are all slight alterations of the previous model, with bold blue and orange (I tested the latter, and it’s gorgeous) alongside more subdued gray and charcoal options. The XB100’s rubber onboard controls proved reliable and snappy in my testing, as I had no problem pausing, playing and skipping tracks or adjusting volume on the fly. There’s a flap that covers up the USB-C charging port, which is a useful thing to have on a speaker that might get splashed on by the pool or at the beach.

Speaking of which, the XB100 is IP67-rated, which means it’s fully protected against dust and sand and can survive being dunked in about 3 feet of water. I completely soaked the XB100 via running water in my sink on several occasions, and it kept on jamming out just fine afterwards.

Great sound for the size — if you like lots of bass

Like the XB13 before it, the XB100 pumps out impressively loud sound for a speaker that’s shorter than a soda can. Sony’s portable noise-maker had no problem filling my bedroom and living room with crisp sound that — for better or worse — goes especially big on bass.

Seriously, this thing’s low end is booming, to the point where I could physically feel the thump of the kick drum whenever I had it sitting on my kitchen counter or office desk. That satisfying bass helped elevate pop tracks like Muna’s “One That Got Away” or Shallow Pools’ “IHYK,” which burst out of Sony’s small cylinder with a head-bopping fury. The XB13 also handled vocals well, from boygenius’ layered three-part harmonies to the punky snarl of Say Anything’s Max Bemis. When I flipped on a podcast, the hosts’ voices were so clear that they may as well have been in the room with me. However, that thick bass was sometimes a downside, as it would occasionally drown out the rest of the track during guitar-driven rock songs. I didn’t notice a huge difference between XB100 and XB13 when listening to the two side by side, though songs were noticeably crisper and louder on the new speaker.

Overall, this is a fantastic-sounding speaker for $60, but fans of electronic music, hip-hop or anything bass-heavy will likely get the most out of it — especially since there’s no companion app for customizing things. If you want more immersive stereo sound (and are willing to pay for two speakers), you can pair two XB100s together, which is a nice extra touch.

The XB100 is just as good at picking up voices as it is at pumping them out, as my friends noted how clear I sounded during phone calls. Same goes for when I used the speaker to summon my iPhone’s Siri assistant, which responded accurately to my voice commands.

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Very good battery life

A portable speaker is no good if it’s going to die halfway through your trip. Fortunately, you won’t have to worry about that much with the XB100. Sony’s latest speaker is rated for 16 hours of battery life, which largely lines up with my anecdotal testing — I was able to get through nearly five days of heavy on-and-off use (including long hours of music and a few calls) before the speaker’s low battery indicator even lit up.

I do wish the speaker itself provided a better idea of how much charge you have left (the charging icon simply blinks orange when you’re running low), though I was able to keep tabs on the XB100’s remaining battery via my iPhone. Overall though, the XB100’s strong endurance largely matches up with that of its excellent predecessor, and should get you through a road trip or a long day at the beach just fine.

What we didn’t like about it

A tiny charging cable

The USB-C cable that comes with the XB100 is only about a foot long, and you don’t get a power brick in the box. This is fairly common for this type of speaker, and chances are you have plenty of USB-C cables and chargers lying around, but it still might prove frustrating if you need to juice up in a pinch. If you’re taking this speaker on the road, your best bet is to bring a portable charger along with it.

It’s more of the same

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There’s no need to fix what isn’t broken, but existing XB13 owners hoping for something fresh and new won’t find a lot of that here. This is largely the same speaker as the previous generation, just with some slight design tweaks and marginally improved audio and call quality. It’s also a bummer that the stereo pair feature only works between identical models, meaning you can’t pair an XB100 with XB13 for more immersive sound.

How it compares

Size and weight 3.7 x 2.9 in., 0.6 lbs.
Stereo pairing Yes
Connectivity Bluetooth
Battery life (rated) 16 hours
Travel strap Yes
Price $60
Size and weight 3.7 x 2.9 in., 0.6 lbs.
Stereo pairing Yes
Connectivity Bluetooth
Battery life (rated) 16 hours
Travel strap Yes
Price $58
Size and weight 2.7 x 2.6 in., 0.44 lbs.
Stereo pairing No
Connectivity Bluetooth, 3.5mm aux port, microSD, FM tuner
Battery life (rated) 15 hours
Travel strap No
Price $25

Bottom line

Mike Andronico/CNN Underscored

The Sony XB100 refines what was already our favorite travel speaker, pumping out excellent sound and big battery for its small size — all while looking good doing so. If you’re looking to spend no more than $60 on a tiny speaker you can stick onto your bag or bike, it’s a no-brainer.

If you’re on an extra-tight budget, the $25 Anker Soundcore Mini is a compelling alternative that has a few unique perks not found on Sony’s speaker, including a microSD card slot, an aux port for wired audio and even an FM tuner for picking up local radio. But if you’re willing to spring for better sound quality and durability, the XB100 is as good as it gets for $60.