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Sony Subwoofer Review: The Largest Sound Possible in A Miniature Space

sony subwoofer

Sony’s original idea for recreating the renowned Mobile ES series of devices featured four standard speaker sizes and a high-performance subwoofer designated as the XS-W104ES. This 10-inch subwoofer stands out from the competition with its unique design and performance capabilities. So, let’s have a look at the features that set this subwoofer apart.

Sony Mobile ES Subwoofer

For starters, the XS-W104ES chassis is built on a five-spoke, heavy-gauge stamped steel frame that was designed specifically for this vehicle. The spokes and the magnet are hidden from view by a high-quality injection-molded plastic cover that encloses the basket.

The stamped design incorporates a substantial mounting ledge for the enormous progressive-roll spider. There is no need for spacers, which can drive up the BOM cost, or for a cupped spider design, which can cause distortion.

Below the lip, a network of vents allows hot air to be released from the motor unit. Extra ventilation for the motor assembly is provided via the shroud’s vent ports and cutouts surrounding the magnet bottom plate.

Sony refers to this fan as the Dynamic Air Diffuser to keep you cool. The motor assembly is helped along in this regard by a cooling vent that extends upward through the pole piece.

The subwoofer’s wiring is made simple by two gold-plated, spring-loaded binding posts. Cables with a gauge of 12 AWG should fit through the post holes with care.

In order to ensure that the tinsel leads can flex easily, even at high excursion levels, they are sewn to the spider in four different places, and the loops between each point are quite broad. The voice coil is round and 2 inches in diameter.

Sony’s third-generation Mica-Reinforced Cellular material is used to form the curved cone atop the subwoofer. You can think of MRC as a pressed pulp paper with mica added to improve heat stability and aramid fibers added to increase strength. The end result is a stiff, well-damped material that can absorb vibrations with little to no distortion from resonance.

Sony’s unique Separated Notch Edge Surround design is incorporated into the rubber ring that secures the cone to the top of the basket. By allowing the surround to compress and stretch at high excursion levels, these notches also help to dampen resonances that may otherwise influence the sound of the driver.

To complement the five-beam frame style of the basket, the woofer’s aluminum dust cover is encircled by a gold ring with five accents. In order to conceal the screw holes on the top of the driver’s mounting, Sony provides a firm plastic trim ring. Sony and Mobile ES logos can be found on opposite ends of the trim. The eight mounting screws are clearly visible through the trim.

XS-W104ES Specifications

Based on the ANSI/CTA-2015 standard, Sony claims that the driver has a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and can handle up to 450 watts of power. The maximum power it can handle is 1,400 watts. An efficiency of 89 dB at 2.83 volts is claimed, with a margin of error of 2 dB.

Once I’ve broken in the driver and taken its Thiele/Small characteristics, I’ll be able to confirm that figure. The maximum allowed distance, Xmax, is 6.5 mm. After some break-in time, I’ll be able to confirm whether or not this is a unidirectional measurement.

There are two suggested enclosure layouts on the user manual leaflet that comes with the subwoofer. Even though the specified measurements would result in an enclosure with a volume of 0.77 cubic feet, the recommended sealed enclosure asks for a net volume of 1.01 cubic feet.

The same can be said about the bass reflex enclosure. The specifications result in a net volume of 1.14 cubic feet for the enclosure, but the sheet asks for 1.44 cubic feet.

After running simulations in BassBox Pro 6, I settled on the 1.14 cubic foot design as the more compact option that nevertheless provided adequate low-frequency extension.

So that’s the box I built, but I rounded the corners of the 4-inch-diameter vent opening to a much more comfortable 1.5 inches. Even at such high air velocities, distortion can be reduced by adding a radius to the edge of a vent.

This huge vent should only generate an air velocity of 26.5 meters per second at a drive level of 450 watts or roughly 39 Hz. Our software modeling suggests that at a -3 dB level, the system will output a frequency of 36.4 Hz when the vent-tuning frequency is 42 Hz. This single 10-inch subwoofer has an increase of over 3 dB at 53 dB, which should make listening to bass rather enjoyable.

Sony Subwoofer on The Test Bench

During the break-in period, I find that I can learn a lot about my subwoofer. If I turn up the sub’s power, any noise or non-linearities caused by the cooling system become more audible. I can also gauge the driver’s excursion capability.

The first thing I can say about the XS-W104ES is that the advertised Xmax of 6.5 mm doesn’t square with my experience with it. When the driver exceeded one inch of excursion, severe undesirable harmonic distortion was introduced. This sub is in the same league as those with a minimum of 12–14 mm of one-way excursion, in my opinion.

It’s also worth mentioning that the pole piece vent and the spider vents, which are both part of the integrated cooling systems, don’t make a lot of noise while they do their jobs.

Just before I broke in, I measured a few Thiele–Small parameters. Whenever I operate at a high excursion level for an extended period of time, I wonder if the specs shift noticeably. In the table below, you’ll find the specifications “before the break-in.” The spider was stretched (if necessary) by using a test tone of 20 volts and 28 hertz, and I then moved on to testing the next product in line for my Test Drive Review.

The graph displays a decrease in the resonance frequency (Fs) from just under 40 Hz to slightly over 33 Hz. This is because the spider’s compliance dropped from roughly 23 liters to just over 33 liters.

So, what does this entail? The suspension loosened up, so the cone may move with less resistance. That’s why Fs is lower, but Qts are reduced from a lofty 0.86 to a more reasonable 0.43 as a result. An increase from 84.3 dB at 1W/1M in calculated efficiency to an astounding 89.1 dB is seen, which is in line with the specifications.

These advancements are particularly useful in terms of increasing the output at very low frequencies. Unfortunately, this means you’ll be listening to the subtitles for a while. True, but that’s why we have them.

The impedance and reactance measurements show that the subwoofer is well behaved up to 1 kHz, after which the reactance response exhibits a tiny bump. If there is a resonance somewhere in the system, such as the cone, dust cap, or surround, then you’ll notice a bump.

At 3.5 kHz, a second signal can be found. This is impressive because it is above the subwoofer’s operating range. The practical advantages of the MRC cone and Separated Notch Edge Surround are demonstrated here.

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Sony Mobile ES Subwoofer Listening Evaluation

I built the enclosure and broke in the driver, then installed the subwoofer in my listening area. My new subwoofer testing amplifier can put out up to 900 watts into a 4-ohm load, so I can turn up the volume without worrying about clipping.

I set up the subwoofer with an 18 dB/octave filter so that it only plays at 63 Hz, and the bookshelf speakers so that they only play at 80 Hz, with the same slope.

Since the underlap is already in place, I can crank up the volume on the subwoofers to an appropriate level for an in-car system. Before listening, I always make sure that the subwoofer is oriented correctly in relation to the tower speakers.

I may have gone a bit far with the enclosure’s build, but that’s beside the point. Although I think it will sound great unfinished in raw MDF with the big flared port, my buddy Andrew Davison asked me how I planned to complete it. Because of the domino effect, things may have gone out of hand. You should know that the Mobile ES logo in yellow on black isn’t the recommended color scheme. For that, I need some yellow plastic.

In memory of Dusty Hill, ZZ Top’s “Rough Boy” served as the opening tune. The start of the song features good strong energy that peaks at 40 Hz with an extension down to 30. It’s one of those musical moments that put a smile on your face when played loudly. The bass line was very well resolved by the XS-W104ES. The rhythms were steady and unforced, and the articulation was excellent.

The Chemical Brothers’ “Block Rockin’ Beats” came next. At 1 minute and six seconds in, there is a substantial energy decrease at 30 hertz in the rolling bass drop. More than dynamic talents, linearity is being tested here. It was again a breeze for the Mobile ES submarine. The room shook with the bass, and the waves of sound penetrated the couch.

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Conclusions on The Sony Mobile ES Car Audio Subwoofer

For a worldwide firm like Sony, the difficulty of creating automotive audio equipment is not trivial. It’s fantastic that you were able to strike a balance between the performance requirements of the North American, European, and Asian markets and come up with a solution that hits home runs in all categories, including price. The new XS-W104ES subwoofer from Sony is a fantastic piece of equipment that manages to sound terrific at high volumes without sacrificing melody or detail.

Visit the Sony Mobile ES page on to locate an authorized Sony Mobile ES retailer in your area. Keep up with Sony Electronics’ outstanding Mobile ES range expansion by following them on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

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