Sony SRS-XB501G review
The Bluetooth speaker market is flooded with great options, so companies are finding niches to fill.
Among these niche markets is the party speaker where users want a speaker that can play loudly without distortion, last all day, and stand up to dust and water. Sony’s SRS-XB501G fills this exact niche, but it has one more trick up its sleeve with the inclusion of Google Assistant.
A big speaker with a big sound, a light show, tripod mount, and Google Assistant, the SRS-XB501G offers all of those features. This is the kind of speaker you can take on the go or use at home after a night out. With its loud sound and 16-hour battery life, the speaker is excellent to take along while traveling. The dated design and average voice detection make it less useful at home than dedicated speakers.
Sony’s SRS-XB501G speaker weighs 6 lbs (2.72kg), making it one of the heaviest speakers on the market. As soon as you unbox it, you will feel the weight. Sony anticipated the problem ahead of time and added a carrying handle to make it a bit easier to tote around.
With the grille open, you can see two tweeters and one woofer. The frame looks like a large round rock. Its exterior is strikingly similar to the shape of a boombox speaker, which is a stark contrast to the trend of cloth and wood-covered speakers that are popular today.
It’s nice to see that all of the speaker’s major functions can be controlled by the physical buttons… you do have to download two apps in order to use the smart functionality of the speaker: the Google Home app to set up the voice assistant and Sony’s Music Center app.
While Google Home is self-explanatory, Sony’s Music Center app allows you to tweak the light show and access sound tweaks like Extra Bass, though it is very bare-bones and hard to use.
The speaker’s USB-C port and charging barrel plug are hidden behind a waterproof flap on the back. You can charge the speaker via the USB-C port or with the barrel plug that comes with it. Unless you have a Power Delivery USB-C charger, you’ll need to use the included charger. You can’t use your legacy devices with the 3.5mm aux jack.
The Sony SRS-XB501G supports Bluetooth 4.2 and Google Cast if you intend to use it wirelessly.
Sony’s Extra Bass speakers, such as the Sony SRS-XB40, haven’t impressed us with their bloated bass response in the past. Thankfully, the SRS-XB501G offers a nice balance and does not distort when played loudly.
Although we preferred the speaker in the “Live” mode, which makes music sound much wider, the Extra Bass option in the app does exactly what it promises, but we found the tonal balance too warm and the bass too loose. Alternatively, you can create your own custom EQ, but we recommend you leave it in Live mode and move on.
There is one quirk with the SRS-XB501G, in that it doesn’t respond to music. There are instead several “moods,” such as “Chill,” “Hot,” or “Rave,” which simply alter the color and cadence of the pulsing.
Without the music, the light show is much less interesting to watch. Furthermore, the lights simply surround the perimeter and highlight the woofer rather than covering the entire speaker. Other speakers do a much better job of integrating with the music and displaying the design.
Google Assistant-enabled speakers are simply average in the XB501G. If the music is playing loudly, you’ll have to shout at the speaker to be heard. Our voice detection is comparable to that of the JBL Link 300. Besides the average voice detection, the speaker works just like any other Google Home speaker.
Battery life on the go is rated at 16-hours (12 hours with Extra Bass and lighting) and we had no trouble hitting that number when playing at medium volume. Having said that, if you plan on using this outside at your next soiree, expect to cut the play-time by a few hours if you like your music loud. It takes several hours for the speaker to charge, so charge it the night before taking it with you.
|Physical buttons for controls||Subpar app experience|
|Good battery life||Average voice detection|
|Powerful, spacious sound|
Sony’s SRS-XB501G is an interesting product, bridging the gap between party speakers and home speakers. With its spacious, balanced sound, long battery life, and IP65 water resistance, it’s a great portable speaker. Despite this, its dated styling and average voice detection make it feel out of place inside a home.
Competitors like LG’s PK7 have a better sound quality and have a light show that responds to your music, but it does not include Google Assistant. It is a good choice if you’re looking for an actual portable speaker that fits in a bag and is also compatible with Google Assistant. The bass isn’t as powerful, and the soundstage isn’t as wide either.
In that sense, the XB501G is a good all-around compromise that serves multiple purposes. Neither the best wireless speaker nor the best smart speaker, but it’s a solid entry in both categories and one of a select few to exist in both.