Price (RRP): $399
We christen the XB501G the Sherman tank of Google Assistant speakers. Not because it is built like one (it is) but because it makes enough sound to scare anyone on the battlefield.
It’s very loud, 85+dB and almost no ‘appreciable’ distortion at 100% volume – perfect for backyard filling, annoy the neighbours, music.
We took the 2.72kg Sherman tank for a test drive, and it is the victor in the water-resistant Google Assistant race. It just edges out the JBL Link 300 as my favourite big bass speaker.
$399 – street price is similar
In the box
- Charger 12V/1.5A (18W) with barrel plug
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This is very ‘tradie’ like – functional, big and bold. Teenagers would love it – no faux woodgrain in sight.
It is big, squat, lights up, has a carry handle and a tripod mount. What more could you want?
You first must set this up via Google Home before you try Bluetooth/NFC. It should have been easy – and it was.
But as it the case with early review units – it needed firmware updates, and that took a few goes to get right. And it supports 2.4 and 5Ghz Wi-Fi and did not like the smart band aggregation of our reference D-Link AC5300 router (so we turned that off and separated the channels). We still had issues, so we turned off mobile data (probably the culprit), and it all worked.
Then to prove a point we removed the speaker from Google Home, put the router back to aggregated bands and reset the speaker. Voila – it installed perfectly as it should. This is not really Sony or Google’s fault – as we have learned this trick over many smart devices.
Once you set up Google Assistant, then you can nominate music and video streaming services and set it up as part of a multi-speaker/room Chromecast. Then, and only then can you connect it as a Bluetooth speaker.
Let’s get right into the sound
It is 2.1 meaning stereo. It has 2 x 45mm satellite speakers angled to provide a left/right sound stage and reasonable separation – more so with the Live sound digital signal processor (DSP) feature on. We are divided if Live is best – some like bass and some like separation. I guess it depends on the room or outdoors placement.
It takes sound over Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth with SBC and AAC codecs. The Samsung Note9 has Sony LDAC output as well, and the app recognises that as the default.
Being big means, you can have a big 125mm sub-woofer and some resonance from the air volume inside the case – most Google Assistant speakers, only have passive radiators. This means bass kicks in from around 50Hz, and it is strong, fulsome even right up to high-mids and low treble. Sony has nailed warm and sweet for music here.