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.
OK, the 2.1 channel XB501G has Sony’s Extra Bass, LED party lights, Bluetooth 4.2, IP65 rated, 16-hour battery, USB-C PD and adapter charge, Chromecast and Google Assistant. In my books that makes it the most versatile smart speaker on the planet.
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.
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
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.
And if you don’t need the bass, you can adjust turn it off (in
the app or via a push button) which gives it more of a mid-centric sound
signature that is great for vocals and clear voice.
We repeated the tests over BT (from a BT 5.0 device to the
BT 4.2 speaker). SBC slightly lessened the upper-mids and treble, and AAC
bought that back. LDAC was superb – thanks Sony.
App Modes – if you like Frankensound
The app allows you to select ClearAudio+, and that is what
we prefer. Sony says it is a special sound mode that detects the music track
that the user is currently playing, then selects the best sound field to
deliver the best possible sound listening experience. You may hear a different
sound effect whenever a track with a different audio format is played”.
But you can also set Extra Bass, Live sound or standard, or
play with a +/-6Db EQ. As far we can tell these modes are for both Wi-Fi and
Bluetooth and you can also play with the Google Home EQ as well.
In other words, the speakers allow you to create (within
+/-6Db limits) whatever sound you prefer. If you know what you are doing that
is fine – if not do not complain.
The speaker stores the setup, so it remembers them after power-down/up.
The only issue I have with the app is that it only supports
YouTube or Google Play music. Spotify comes via its own app or Google
RBG LEDs go around the speaker; there is a speaker light and
a flashing strobe. These can move with the music and are surprisingly astute at
matching colours with the pace and style of music.
Light patterns are rave, chill, hot, cool, strobe, random
flash and off. Chill is my preference.
IP 65 and rugged
IP 65 means 6 – no ingress of dust – complete protection
against contact (dust-tight). The 5 means Water projected by a nozzle
(6.3 mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful
effects. In short, you can take it most places (snow, worksites, beach etc.)
and the environment won’t hurt it. Rain for up to 15 minutes won’t kill it either
but don’t take it swimming as you need IP68 for that.
Build quality is excellent – it’s a Sony – and it looks as
if it can stand rough and tumble in the back of a ute. There is no information
on drop height – keep it to under a metre, and you should be fine.
Sony claims 16 hours with standard mode and lights off and
12 hours with Extra Bass and lights on.
Frankly, we could not test that properly but know Sony well
enough that it is not telling porkies. On a two-hour, 50% volume test with Extra
Bass and Lights it used 15% – pass.
Interestingly you can charge either from the barrel plug adaptor
(not water-resistant) or use your own USB-C PD charger with at least 15W, and
up to 65W so you can use with a USB-C PD compatible power banks – that’s great.
Google Assistant works well at mid-volume
It has two far-field mics that are completely ineffective at
high volume – as all Google Assistant speakers are. We tested at 50% volume (60dB),
and Google Assistant responded well to about 4 metres away.
GadgetGuy’s take – voluminous bass from the XB501G
As a party speaker, it’s perfect. Loud, lights, good sound
and an impressive sound stage that will fill an urban backyard. Extra bass does
not mean bone-shaking bass – you need a real sub-woofer for that, but it does
mean bass where few portable speakers dare to go.
As a home speaker, you probably could get better stereo sound
from a pair of Google Home Max speakers. Unfortunately, this speaker doesn’t
support True Wireless Stereo (although that tech only works over Bluetooth) and
Chromecast doesn’t support stereo.
Google Assistant is useful but remembers you need to be in
Wi-Fi range or tethered to your smartphone as a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Backyard filling, low distortion party sound
IP65, rugged and ¼” mount as well
Charge via adapter or USB-PD with power bank capabilities as well
Heaps of manual controls on the top panel
Wi-Fi dual-band, Bluetooth and NFC pairing
No AUX input
No stereo pairing