Bluetooth speakers aren’t always host to innovation. Apart from cursory upgrades around hardware (usually, audio driver changes to deliver incrementally better audio) and battery life. That is why the Sony XE300 is very much a deviation from routine. One needs to look closely to appreciate the attempt. The mission, perhaps made easier by the fact that Sony otherwise has a fairly wide (and dynamic) bluetooth speaker range in and around the XE300.

Strange is perhaps one of the words to describe what Sony has attempted here. Certainly, courageous will be the other. Not exactly a budget wireless speaker at 19,990 (there is a 3,000 cashback offer as well, for now), yet the Sony XE300 can be a very viable alternative to the Sonos Roam (that’s priced around 21,000). Albeit you would be compromising on Apple AirPlay 2 as a connectivity choice.

It isn’t easy to describe what the XE300 looks like. It is taller and thicker than a typical beer can, but there is very much the pentagon element that cannot be ignored. Nicely rounded edges and a rubberized finish for the interactive elements contrasting the fabric lined grille. To be honest, you shouldn’t get confused by the colour choices. Blue must be at the top of your list, because black and silver just don’t have the same visual impact as this sits in the room.

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The atypical design is the start point for what Sony has done with the innards. It might be perplexing to see the thinning of the grille at the front (that’s when the speaker is placed vertically), as well as the sides (if you place this horizontally). We’ve tested many “360-degree” speakers, but this remains a perplexing still. It isn’t immediately clear where the audio emerges from (till we inevitably landed on an x-ray; the audio drivers face forward).

And that’s where the difference in approach becomes clear. This is not a 360 speaker, though you may keep feeling like it is. In fact, the sound emerges from the front via extensively chiseled vents, which Sony calls the Line-Shape Diffuser. The idea being similar to 360 speakers though – also make audio better distributed on the sides as well, not just the front.

How does Sony intend to achieve this? By narrowing the aperture through which the sound travels, the sound pressure gets increased which means it emerges with a pent-up energy that would allow it to spread further and wider in the room. This is in complete contrast to how most other speakers want to achieve the same objective – the common method is to open things up and place audio drivers within the speaker which don’t just look forward.

It is perhaps a derivation of subjectivity, but our observations tackle the results of these attempts in two parts. In terms of wider sound, the narrowing of the aperture to lay emphasis on the pressure, has had the opposite impact of what Sony wanted. The sound from the XE300 sounds more from a point. Even without looking, it is easy to identify the direction of the sound, correctly.

Yet, there is no denying this is definitely loud. At least that part of the attempt, focusing on increasing sound pressure, is truest to the effort.

The third piece, following the design of the speaker and the amplification of the sound pressure, is the design of the audio driver itself. Sony’s evolution of the X-Balanced speaker isn’t new. We’ve seen it before as well, and there are no adverse observations either regarding audio quality or the intent to achieve wider sound. In particular, true for the soundbars.

Audio drivers, at least in mass market products, tend to be close to perfect circles. That’s the convention. In varying dimensions, of course. In that sense, the shape has changed. Think of the audio drivers inside the Sony XE300 having the same design as the earcups on some headphones. Far from the perfect circle. Sony insist this allows for a slightly larger diaphragm.

For your notes – each speaker is 2.7-inch x 1.9-inch in size. They’re stacked vertically or placed side by side, depending on the orientation of the speaker. Curious choice by Sony, but we noticed in the companion app (it is called Music Center; is a must download) that the stereo sound needs to be manually toggled to on. If you don’t do that, the XE300 is set for mono sound.

There are also dual passive radiators at either end of the speaker. That’s for the lower frequencies. The response will depend largely on how (and where) you place the XE300.

The XE300 is one of those speakers which makes more of a difference depending on how you’ve kept it. Most of Sony’s guidance urges users to keep this speaker vertically. In our experience, a horizontal placement actually results in better (and slightly wider) sound. This can get really loud, and retains details well, even at higher volumes. The pronounced mids help with detailing of the details that may otherwise have been lost. This is one of those speakers which makes the difference between ‘Lossless’ and the music that isn’t, very apparent.

Even with the default equalizer settings (ClearAudio feature is enabled, and no bass boost configured), the Sony XE300 will appeal to those who prefer a more pronounced treatment of the lower frequencies. It is just the nature of the tuning, but that isn’t to say vocals get lost. The signature is flexible enough to keep things crisp and detailed for mid frequencies and vocals. Podcasts won’t feel out of place.

This certainly has a bit more energy, an excitement to the sound, which the comparatively warm(er) Sonos sound signature didn’t betray in the Roam. That adds to the versatility. Yet, it is the way this is tuned, will make you play more of the up-tempo playlists in your library. The sort of music you’d find in the trance and dance genres.

The Sony XE300 is surprisingly easy fit in the living room, bedroom, your study and even outdoors near the pool.

Ruggedness is a helpful add-on to have. The XE300’s IP67 water and dust resistance means it’s well protected against the elements, even if you intend to use this outdoors. Be warned though, the soft-feel finish (the panels aside from the fabric) does catch a fair amount of dust which isn’t always easy to dislodge (wet-wipes are useful).

Back to the sound for a moment. To get the most accurate sound, we would recommend turning off the Ambient Noise Sensing option in the app – this uses the mics to detect ambient sound, and the noisier it is, the more it’ll simply chop off frequencies it feels will be inaudible. Stamina Mode is another setting to turn off.

It is good to see Sony attempt something fairly radical, at least by the mundane standards set by the bluetooth speaker category over the years. We are certainly not convinced that everything works, particularly the unconventional driver setup which delivers on some promises but not so much on the sound separation aspect. Don’t get too swayed by that, and this will suddenly feel like money well spent.

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