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Sony Vs. JBL: Who Makes the Best Cheap and Rugged Bluetooth Speaker?

The Sony SRS-XB13 and JBL Go 3 are two of the best cheap, rugged and ultra-portable speakers. But which is best for you?

sony and jbl speakers
Tucker Bowe

Shopping for a portable Bluetooth speaker can be, well, overwhelming. There are so many options out there – and they come in all sorts of different sizes and shapes, with various features and abilities, and prices that range from $300 to $30. So unless you know exactly what you want or you have a strong brand loyalty, it's tough to know where to start.

One of my favorite sub-categories of portable Bluetooth speakers is the "ultra-portables." These are portable Bluetooth speakers that are super-small, super-tough and super-cheap. They're great because you can take them basically anywhere (be it the beach, golf course or shower).If you're like me, you'll use them all the time. Plus, they make great gifts.

Two of the best ultra-portable Bluetooth speakers are the Sony SRS-XB13 ($50) and the JBL Go 3 ($50). Both are quite different, though, as you'll see.

The Contenders for Best Ultra-Portable Bluetooth Speaker:

Sony SRS-XB13

sony srs xb13
Sony

Weight: 0.56 pounds
Water resistance: IP67
Charging: USB-C

Released in 2021, the SRS-XB13 is the smallest and most affordable portable Bluetooth speaker Sony makes. The cylindrical-shaped speaker is about half the size of a soda can. It's available in several different colors.

JBL Go 3

jbl go 3
JBL

Weight: 0.46 pounds
Water resistance: IP67
Charging: USB-C

Released in fall 2020, the JBL Go 3 is the company's smallest and most affordable portable Bluetooth speaker. It's a small rectangular speaker that's wrapped in fabric and weighs less than half a pound. Available in several different colors.

Both speakers charge via USB-C, thankfully.

sony and jbl speakers
Both of these tiny speakers charge via USB-C.
Tucker Bowe

It's still pretty common for portable Bluetooth speakers to have a micro-USB port...which sucks, because it's slow to charge, and very few other gadgets have it these days. Thankfully, both the Sony SRS-XB13 and JBL Go 3 both are equipped with a USB-C port, meaning you can use the same cable to charge it as you would your computer. It's very convenient.

Both speakers are virtually waterproof.

sony and jbl speakers
An IP67 rating means both these speakers don’t mind getting wet.
Tucker Bowe

Both the Sony SRS-XB13 and the JBL Go 3 have an IP67 water-resistant rating, which is super high for a portable Bluetooth speaker. It means that you can submerge the speaker in a meter of water for up to 30 minutes and it'll still survive. If you want to listen to some tunes in the shower, both these bad boys are more than up for it.

Both speakers have lanyards.

sony speaker
I prefer the lanyard (strap) on the Sony SRS-XB13 speaker because it’s more versatile and allows you to hang/attach the speaker to more things.
Tucker Bowe

The two speaker both have a type of lanyard attached for them, which are designed to allow you to attach them to things (such as a backpack or a bike) as well as just making the speakers easier to carry.

That said, these lanyards are quite different. The JBL Go 3 has a small, thick and non-adjustable loop; it's really handy for carrying the speaker, but not so much for attaching it to things like bags or furniture. The Sony SRS-XB13's lanyard is more of a strap, and you can actually remove it completely if you don't like it; but because it's detachable and adjustable, it also makes it easy to attach the speaker to bags or even hang from a chair or table. It's more versatile.

The JBL Go 3 is the more pocketable speaker.

jbl speaker
The soft fabric and its rectangular shape mean that the JBL Go 3 is nicer to hold. It’s more pocketable, too.
Tucker Bowe

The two speakers are similar in size, but not shape. The JBL Go 3 is a rectangular-shaped speaker; due to that, it's much easier to slip into a pants pocket. It's also mostly covered in fabric and it feels very natural to hold it. All in all, it feels like the more portable of the two speakers.

The Sony SRS-XB13 wins on sound quality (but not volume).

sony and jbl speakers
Both speakers have on-body controls for playback, power and pairing. They’re very straightforward to use.
Tucker Bowe

The two speakers actually sound quite different. The JBL Go 3 is a front-firing speaker, while the Sony SRS-XB13 is much more of a 360-degree speaker — it's actually upward-firing — that plays sound more omni-directionally. And while both speakers sound surprisingly good for their size, the Sony XB13 sounds cleaner, crisper and doesn't distort as much when you're playing music at max volume. That said, while the JBL Go 3 doesn't have the breath and realism as Sony's speaker, it does get a little louder.

The Verdict: Sony SRS-XB13 vs JBL Go 3

sony and jbl speakers
Shower buds.
Tucker Bowe

Both the Sony SRS-XB13 and JBL Go 3 are solid ultra-portable speaker options. And while they are both super affordable, rugged and pretty straightforward speakers, they're also quite different. The Sony SRS-XB13 doesn't get as loud, but also sounds more dynamic and clean. It's also much easier to attach to (and hand from) things. On the flip side, the JBL Go 3 gets louder and is more conducive to being handled and handheld. So it really comes down to how you plan on listening to (or carrying) your new little speaker.

Honestly, the Sony SRS-XB13 is my favorite ultra-portable speaker in terms of sound quality and design; it's bespoke and minimalist, which is what I like in a speaker. On the downside, its size and shape make it difficult to slip into your pocket. And if you feel like you're going to be handling the speaker a lot, or if you simply want the louder-sounding option, go ("three") the JBL.

Best sounding ultraportable speaker

Sony SRS-XB13

amazon.com
$56.95
JBL
Most pocketable ultraportable speaker

JBL Go 3

amazon.com
$49.95
$39.95 (20% off)

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