Sony XB23 and Bose Soundlink Flex are mid-price, portable Bluetooth speakers.
The Sony XB23 is less expensive than the Bose Soundlink Flex, but both speakers are highly portable, provide good sound quality, and are available for a retail price of less than $150.
The Bose Soundlink Flex is definitely targeted towards customers who want a speaker to take outside. The speaker’s website shows videos of groups of people taking the speaker on hikes and paddleboard outings.
Its durability is also a big focus of the marketing — it’s constantly being dropped in the muddle, water, and anything else we try to keep electronics away from.
Sony’s landing page for the XB23 is focused more on just having a good speaker to have on hand. It has a similar durability rating to that of the Soundlink Flex, but it isn’t the focus of the product.
For whatever reason, electronics companies love depicting bluetooth speakers being used in the most extreme, outdoor environments possible. Rarely do they depict a portable speaker sitting on a sofa next to someone who is eating chocolate and scrolling through his phone — even though this is the primary use of my trusty JBL Flip 6.
Most reviewers consider the Sony XB23 a solid-to-good speaker for the price, and the Bose SoundLink Flex an excellent speaker for the price. Spoiler alert: after our testing, we largely agree with this sentiment.
The Bose speaker is the better product all around, but is it worth the price difference?
Considering the improved durability and the better sound, the Bose Soundlink Flex is a good option for the extra $40.
If durability isn’t a concern, then the Sony XB23 is a good option for the slightly lower price — especially if you can snag it on sale for under $100.
Both speakers offer great sound options, but most customers on Amazon rate the Bose Soundlink Flex better for the sound. The Bose speaker scores excellent marks on its sound, and the Sony is considered somewhere between fair and good.
The Bose Soundlink Flex beats out the Sony XB23 in terms of sound — it really is as simple as that.
PositionIQ technology in the Bose speaker automatically adjusts the speaker audio to the position the speaker is in (lying down, standing upright, or hanging from the back of a backpack). This makes the speaker a dynamic product able to accompany you on a variety of adventures.
Generally, I am skeptical of these “smart” features that are advertised vaguely and without an explanation of the mechanism. But although the PositionIQ sounds a bit hokey, there is no denying that the speaker sounds great in any orientation.
This is important for a speaker that markets itself as being a go-to outdoors musical companion.
The Sony XB23 speaker also gets good reviews and has a quality audio performance, albeit not at the level of the SoundLink Flex. The Sony speaker offers an EXTRA BASS mode, which deepens the low notes in the audio at the cost of lowering the battery life by a few hours.
Both speakers are small, portable Bluetooth speakers. The Sony XB23 weighs 1.26 pounds and is 4.06 x 4.06 x 9.09 inches in size.
The Bose Soundlink Flex is 1.3 pounds and is 2.06 x 7.93 x 3.56 inches in size. The Bose is slightly heavier, but it’s slightly smaller if space is a concern.
Comparing the shape of the XB23 vs. SoundLink Flex, the Sony XB23 has an attractive cylindrical shape. The Bose SoundLink Flex has a more gentle, brick-ish rectangular shape, which lends to its branding as a durable, on-the-go type speaker.
Both the Sony and Bose speakers offer a built-in microphone to connect calls or for connecting the device’s voice-activated service.
Both speakers come in a variety of colors aside from the standard black.
The Sony speaker really only has one way to stand, which is straight up. The Soundlink Flex can stand upright or in a laying down position (hence the PositionIQ technology).
Both speakers have straps that you can use to hook to a bag, boat, or backpack. This strap is removable if that is not a concern.
Neither uses an AUX port, and both use a USB-C charging port.
Sony XB23 boosts a non-circular diaphragm. According to Sony’s description of the product, the non-circular diaphragm increases sound pressure and makes the bass “punchy”. The non-circular design also increased the surface area of the diaphragm.
Cleaning the speakers, if that is ever a concern, is easy for both because they’re both waterproof and covered in soft-touch silicon. Although a rinse under water is an effective way to clean dirt and debris, a microfiber cloth is an easy way to clean both speakers if you don’t want to put the “waterproof” feature to the test. The dust-repellant nature of both is also a benefit to having clean, fresh-looking speakers at all times.
Both speakers meet a durability rating of IP67, but the Bose has the slight edge due to a sturdier build quality and more solid design. The Bose even floats — a cool feature that makes it perfect for outdoor use.
The SoundLink Flex is made from a soft silicone material that protects it from dust and rust. The USB-C port will continue to work even if submerged or gets dust inside.
Speaking of dust, both products report good resistance against dust.
The Sony is waterproof and shockproof to IP67 standards as well, but most reviews (and marketing, honestly) don’t focus on the durability of the product as much as the Bose Soundlink Flex. If you’re looking for a durable speaker, the Bose Soundlink Flex is your best bet.
Both the Sony XB23 and the Bose Soundlink Flex have 12 hours of battery life. The Sony XB23 will have a shorter battery life if the EXTRA BASS mode is activated.
Reputable tech reviewers generally find that the Bose has a slightly better battery life than Sony. On this, too, we won’t disagree.
Of course, the battery life of electronics is always a sore point in customer reviews. The battery life of a wireless speaker is never a hard guarantee, as it always changes with factors like what features are activated (like EXTRA BASS) and how loud the music is playing.
In general, analyzing the XB23 vs. SoundLink Flex in terms of battery life, the Bose speaker tends to stick with the 12-hour battery life and doesn’t lose its capabilities as much. The Sony speaker’s battery life appears to not stick with the acclaimed 12 hours as much, and its battery loses quality with time.
The Sony also has the battery-draining EXTRA BASS feature, which will of course be used by consumers and drops the predicted battery life by 2 hours (from 12 to 10).
The Sony XB23 uses the Sony Music Center app to download updates and sync devices. The Bose SoundLink Flex uses the Bose Music app for the same purpose. However, some users report the Bose Music app is unstable.
Party Connect in the Sony XB23 speaker allows up to 100 speakers to sync to the same audio source. This allows for quite the surround sound set-up and has a clear advantage over the Bose Soundlink Flex.
Bose Soundlink Flex does offer a similar feature called Party Mode, which can connect up to 2 speakers. This is a drastic difference from 100 to 2 speakers. This feature is set up in the Bose app, which also keeps the speaker’s software up to date.
The Bose Soundlink Flex uses Bluetooth 4.2 with a maximum range of 9 meters. The Sony XB23 uses Bluetooth 5.0. This, and the more reliable app, is a great benefit the Sony speaker has over the Bose speaker.
Now for a final summary of the benefits of the XB23 vs. SoundLink Flex.
The Bose SoundLink Flex is the pricier option, but you get what you pay for. It is more durable and the sound and battery are slightly better. If you’re into bumping tunes in the shower or taking music into the outdoors, then the Bose SoundLink Flex is the speaker for you.
The Bose Soundlink Flex is a more adaptable speaker for whatever you choose to do with it. Even if it’s just connecting two speakers and having a nice indoor surround sound setup, the SoundLink Flex is a good option because of its adaptability and durability.
If those features of the Bose aren’t important to you and you want to save a little, then the Sony XB23 is a good option for a little bit less money.
The Sony XB23 also has a more reliable app to help you connect and sync different speakers, or generally engage with the XB23. It also uses a more up-to-date version of Bluetooth.
In addition, the amount of speakers you can sync at once is an impressive feature of the XB23. It doesn’t have to just be a bunch of XB23 speakers synced at once, either — a few of Sony’s speaker products share the sync feature so you can have music playing all over the house.
That being said, the Bose speaker’s sound quality makes it a more attractive product overall, in addition to the durability aspects.
If you’re looking to sync 100 speakers and jam out all around the house, or you want one speaker and want to save $40, the Sony XB23 will work fine. (For an even more budget friendly option, don’t forget about the XB13, either).
If you want a more reliable speaker with better sound and durability, the Bose SoundLink Flex is worth the money.