Sony XB23 vs. JBL Flip 6: A Clear Winner for Sound

Sony XB23 and JBL Flip 6 are similarly designed bluetooth speakers that are popular choices in the sub-$130 price range.

Flip 6 brings louder and clearer audio and is the obvious winner for sound. The design also looks much nicer, at least to my eye.

Sony XB23 still isn’t a bad choice, and it generally runs $20-30 cheaper than the Flip 6. So, for the budget-conscious shoppers, you could certainly do a lot worse.

The speakers are similar in appearance, durability, and software, so the choice really comes down to performance (Flip 6) versus cost-savings (XB23).


~~~ Check Price: Sony XB23 ~~~

~~~ Check Price: JBL Flip 6 ~~~


Sound

Any speaker comparison should, of course, begin by discussing sound quality.

Here, the Flip 6 is the clear winner. Flip 6 gets quite a bit louder than the XB23, which is a big benefit considering that neither of these speakers are large, booming speakers.

More important than the max volume is that Flip 6 also experiences less distortion at volumes above 50%. With the XB23, you can really hear the sound quality drop off a cliff as you approach maximum volume. And because the speaker isn’t especially loud, you often need to turn the volume up pretty high.

None of this is to say that the SRS-XB23 is a bad speaker, because it really isn’t. But there are definitely better sounding speakers in the sub-$150 price range, including the Bose SoundLink Flex, Soundcore Motion+, and the aforementioned Flip 6. (For our full, in-depth review of the Flip 6, click here).

Both speakers have a fairly balanced sound profile right out of the box. Some users complain that JBL’s sound is too treble-heavy, but much of this is just because we live in an era of exaggerated bass. So many of us expect every speaker to sound like a cheap, rattling subwoofer with bass at max levels all the time.

A great feature for both speakers is the adjustable equalizers available on the companion apps. We will discuss this later in the “Software” section, but each speaker has an easy-to-use adjustable EQ that allows you to fine-tune your audio experience. These are simple EQs that aren’t especially feature dense, but it is sure nice to have some customization available.

In the sub-$150 price range, I would rate Flip 6 as excellent sound quality, and XB23 as above-average.

Sound winner: Flip 6 (higher max volume with less distortion)

Design

Both speakers have a similar cylindrical design. The speakers are small and lightweight, weighing in at just over 1 pound.

Flip 6 is slightly smaller, but both of these speakers are portable and easy to carry with one hand. Additionally, they each include a well-built carrying strap that further increases the portability.

The tight-wrapped fabric gives both speakers a comfortable feel with an easy grip.

Neither device has an aux input, which sadly is par for the course with a modern bluetooth speaker. (For our list of the best bluetooth speakers with an aux input, click here). Thankfully, bluetooth on these speakers is excellent.

The next couple points are subjective.

To my eye, the Flip 6 looks quite a bit nicer. Although the designs are similar, the Flip 6 looks more modern and sleek, with some added visual interest. XB23 is well designed, but looks utilitarian and somewhat boring.

Next, the button configuration on Flip 6 is more user friendly. 

Flip 6 has a panel of controls at the bottom of the speaker that are mainly used during start-up (Power On/Off, Bluetooth pairing, as well as the charging port). The controls that you actually need while the speaker is playing (Volume, Change track, etc.) are located on the top of the device. The separation of these two control panels makes the device simple and easy to operate without having to hunt for a particular button.

The XB23, on the other hand, has every button on the same panel. This isn’t a terrible thing, but it took me longer to get used to, and I spent more time hunting for buttons.

Again, this is personal preference, so your experience may be different.

Although either device can be used in vertical or horizontal orientation, the XB23 is primarily vertical-only. Sony says you can use the speaker in either position, but none of the marketing material for the XB23 shows the speaker in a horizontal orientation, and using it horizontally makes the buttons challenging to access.

Flip 6 can easily be used vertically or horizontally, with almost no drop-off in performance or function.

XB23 has Bluetooth 5.0, while Flip 6 has the newer Bluetooth 5.1. However, the Flip 6 doesn’t function any better, so this isn’t worth worrying about.

Each speaker charges via USB-C, which is nearly standard for modern bluetooth speakers.

Lastly, only the XB23 has a built-in microphone. Honestly, I didn’t test this feature at all, because there just isn’t much benefit (in my opinion). However, reputable tech reviewers have stated that the microphone quality is poor.

Flip 6 doesn’t have a microphone, but again I don’t see this as a huge disadvantage.

Design winner: Tie (although I prefer the esthetics and controls on Flip 6, your experience may be different)

Durability

Both speakers are IP67 rated, meaning they are dustproof and waterproof.

The speakers are well-built, sturdy, and the fabric wrapping makes them comfortable to hold. Because the fabric is tightly wrapped, there isn’t much concern with ripping or tearing.

Because these speakers are lightweight and compact, each should hold up to drops better than the average speaker.

The XB23 feels like a lower build quality, but there isn’t a significant difference here. Part of it may be due to the plastic exterior looking cheap, rather than actually lacking in durability.

Durability winner: Tie

Battery

Both speakers are rated for 12 hours per the manufacturer, but our testing yielded different results. 

Sony XB23 gets 8+ hours on a charge, whereas Flip 6 gets closer to 6 hours. Because Flip 6 is louder and more powerful, it makes sense that the battery will run down quicker.

Both speakers have a power save mode that turns them off after a period of inactivity, but XB23 goes a step further by adding a “stamina mode.” Basically, the stamina mode is just a button you can press to extend the battery life. However, this mainly functions by decreasing the bass, so sound quality will drop off when using this feature.

Each device charges via USB-C, which is the gold standard for portable speakers. 

Neither of these speakers has a power bank like you would find on a JBL Charge. This power bank feature would allow you to use your speaker’s battery to charge a cell phone or other device. 

Because the batteries on both devices are small and not especially high-capacity, Sony and JBL probably decided to save on battery life by not including a power bank. Adding the power bank feature would further reduce an already short battery life.

It is easy to gripe about the “short” battery life on these speakers, but you have to remember that these speakers are built for lightweight portability. If a longer battery life, or a power bank, matters to you, consider larger JBL portables like the Charge 5 or Xtreme 3.

Battery winner: XB23 (~2 hours additional battery life)

Software

Both speakers have simple apps that function pretty well. 

The JBL Portable app doesn’t have many features, but it is reliable and easy to use. And the Flip 6 finally has the adjustable EQ we have long been clamoring for

Sony Music Center brings a few extra features, but there isn’t a big enough difference between apps to lead us to purchase one speaker rather than the other.

As mentioned previously, XB23 has Bluetooth 5.0 while Flip 6 has the newer Bluetooth 5.1. In our testing, both performed great. Connecting the speakers to bluetooth devices is quick and simple. Other reputable reviewers have found that the older Bluetooth 5.0 on XB23 actually outperforms the newer version on Flip 6.

Both speakers have party modes that allow you to (theoretically) connect up to 100 speakers. Needless to say, I haven’t tested the limits of this feature.

XB23 has a built-in microphone, so it can be used as a speakerphone. As mentioned above, the quality of this microphone is pretty poor. Neither device has a power bank or many premium features worth noting.

The equalizers on each device are rudimentary, but still great to have. Compared to many competitors which lack an EQ, we give Sony and JBL points in this category.

My biggest software complaint with both devices is that they are somewhat lacking in “smarts.” But each scores well for simplicity and ease-of-use.

Software winner: Tie

Final thoughts

If you need a quality bluetooth speaker under $130, the JBL Flip 6 is tough to beat. But if you want to save $20 or $30, the Sony XB23 is a solid option to consider.

Flip 6 provides better sound quality and maximum volume, which tips the scales in its favor.

Most other features are similar, with both speakers featuring an adjustable EQ, companion app, IP67 waterproofing, USB-C charging, and a lightweight portable design.

XB23 outperforms Flip 6 in battery life (~8 hours vs. ~6 hours) and also includes a built-in microphone. But if sound quality is the most important factor, I would spend the extra money and get the Flip 6.

~~~ Check Price: Sony XB23 ~~~

~~~ Check Price: JBL Flip 6 ~~~