Sony SRS-XG500 Review — A modern take on the traditional boombox
Shubham Raheja/Business Insider India
- The Sony SRS-XG500 is a cylindrical speaker covered in a high-quality mesh fabric.
- It packs two subwoofers, two passive radiators and two tweeters.
- Priced at ₹32,990, it goes up against the JBL Boombox 2.
Powered by two subwoofers, two passive radiators and two tweeters, the SRS-XG500 seems to be tuned specifically for high-energy house parties that require a ton of bass. It goes up against the JBL Boombox 2 in terms of features, but is a little pricey, at ₹32,990. So what justifies the premium? Find out in this review.
Built like a tank
AdvertisementOne of the biggest highlights of the SRS-XG500 is its design and build quality. It is a cylindrical speaker covered in a high-quality mesh fabric and reinforced with a sturdy matte finish plastic frame, it is built to last. The front of the speaker hosts a bunch of buttons that let you turn it on and off, toggle the Bluetooth pairing mode, skip, play and pause tracks and also enable the Mega Bass mode. That’s it, no digital display or any bells and whistles — just simple tactile buttons with great feedback that get the job done easily without thinking or looking twice.
The speaker is IP66 certified, which ensures it’s dust and water-resistant. Additionally, it has a thick cover on the back to protect the buttons and connectivity ports — including two USB ports, an audio-in jack and a quarter-inch port. Here, you’ll also find the ‘Battery’ button at the back that summons the lady in the speaker to tell you how much battery percentage you have left, as well as the Party Connect button that lets you connect to other compatible Sony Speakers for a stereo experience. In the same enclosure, you’ll find the Guitar button that’ll let you mute or unmute the quarter-inch input and a Light button that’ll let you toggle the LED lights on or off.
The two USB ports can charge devices but only one of them can actually connect to a storage device and play music. On the downside, it misses a USB Type-C port, which for me is a tradeoff as many smartphones these days ship with Type-C to Type-C or Type-C to Lightning cables, so it just makes sense.
Calling the speaker portable would be a stretch, as it weighs 5.5 kg; so heavy that you can easily do weights with it. To make things easier for you, it has a massive handle on the top that merges with the frame around the passive radiators. Honestly, it was because of this handle that I had the confidence to move the speaker around to different rooms in my house when I wanted to listen to music while doing chores.
Two apps, double the confusion
When you first connect to the speaker using an iOS device, you’ll be prompted to download the accompanying Sony Sound Centre app. The app lets you control various aspects of the speaker, including sound profile, music source, power options, lighting and mostly childish DJ effects, but the problem is it can get a little too overwhelming at times. I found myself using the app mostly to change the equaliser options, the source of the audio and sometimes to turn on the battery saver mode.
AdvertisementSony has its own profiles (Mega Bass and Live Sound) that can be used once you turn on the ClearAudio+ mode. You can also make your own adjustments to the EQ by selecting the custom option in the Sound Settings, but your scope is limited to only three broad frequencies of Bass, Middle and Treble. We recommend using the DJ effects (flanger and isolator) only when the party in the house reaches its peak — trying these among fully functioning people may get you the moniker of the most annoying person in your group. Just in case you want to take things up a notch, you can try the Fiestable app for even more DJ effects — yes, here you get the ability to control flanger and isolator effects using your phone’s motion sensor, which is honestly clumsier than a monkey riding a bike. The lighting effects in the app are fun, but since you’ll mostly be seeing the speaker straight up, the accents on the sides would barely ever be noticed by you.
All about that bass
As I mentioned before, the SRS-XG500 packs great hardware — two subwoofers, two passive radiators and two tweeters, all of which produce good quality sound. In terms of codecs, it supports SBC, AAC and Sony’s own LDAC.
AdvertisementI listened to a variety of songs on the speaker, from Bollywood bangers to high-energy EDM songs and even had a mini weekend party to get a sense of what it’s capable of.
In its most ‘organic’ settings, with all the fancy equalisation turned off, it’s a very balanced and capable speaker. One thing I’ve observed with several speakers with passive radiators is that the high frequencies or the treble kind of get lost in the quest for bone-shaking bass. But that’s not the case here. The frequencies are separated very nicely and the bass doesn’t overpower the mids and the highs. The voice of an artist isn’t veiled by other sounds and more importantly, a lot of times you can figure out the way a certain song was intended to be heard by the music producer.
For instance, the ambient sounds of a street in Tom Misch’s rendition of Isn’t She Lovely were so well reproduced that I had to pause for a moment to appreciate it. This airy atmosphere is something that several Bluetooth speakers struggle to reproduce.
AdvertisementLive performances too can be enjoyed very well with these. I tried out John Mayer’s magnum opus concert Where The Light Is Live at LA and it delivered. Since the concert has three different sets (acoustic, rock trio and a full orchestral band), I could put the speaker’s spatial resolution to its limits. Here, the SRS-XG500 did have its limitations as a standalone speaker, but it was able to give a good sense of which instrument was making what sound and from where.
If you are hoping to get a good soundstage, you may have to pair this up with another compatible Sony speaker.
But where this speaker really feels at home is playing upbeat, high tempo, bass-heavy music. Cranking that MegaBass mode on a club-banger does take the party to a different level. This is more pronounced at higher volumes, as the passive radiators can be unleashed then.
AdvertisementI played a variety of songs in a mini house party by artists including (but not limited to) Doja Cat, Kanye West, Drake, BTS, Sean Paul, Lil Nas X, Diljit Dosanjh, Micky Singh, Guru Randhawa, Kid Laroi, Enrique and Pitbull, and it consistently delivered punchy audio.
I also tried the guitar plugin feature while jamming to a track I made on GarageBand. The raw output of my electric guitar (without a guitar processor or interface) was a little too warm to my liking. Connecting my guitar processor helped a lot and I also liked the fact that there’s a separate knob for changing mic/guitar input volume. If you’re planning to connect a semi-acoustic guitar, make sure it has an equaliser on it.
That being said, if you want to entertain yourself or your guests with your guitar chops or just by plugging in a microphone for a karaoke night, you’re going to have a lot of fun.
AdvertisementWhile all of this was mostly on Apple Music with the highest streaming settings, the speaker managed to perform well even on video streaming platforms such as YouTube. There’s a noticeable difference in sound quality, but that’s only because of the bitrate of the two services.
Watching movies, TV shows or podcasts can be a bit tricky though, as the sound is too bassy, and it can quickly get a little distracting. I observed that the background score or laugh tracks often overpowered the vocals. In podcasts, the low end seeped into the speaker’s voice, making it a bit difficult to hear. For this, I recommend diving down into the sound settings of the app and turning down the Low frequency in the custom EQ.
The best part is, there is no compromise on thump even at low volumes — that’s the sweet spot that you’d mostly be hitting while chilling by yourself or working from home.
Big on battery
The SRS-XG500’s bulky design helps it accommodate a large battery that has a claimed playtime of 30 hours (with MegaBass turned on and volume at 19%). It also ships with a proprietary fast charger that claims to provide 3 hours of playtime with just 10% of charge. These are impressive figures, and they somewhat hold up in real life as well. It managed to sustain my excitement (read abuse) of playing loud music at 60-80% volume for almost two and a half days. I also managed to fully charge my phone twice during this period. These are impressive figures. Charging the speaker entirely took about two and a half hours. If you aren’t planning on holding parties every day, you may want to keep this plugged in, and Sony did think about it. They have included a Battery Care feature in the Sound Centre app that doesn’t charge the speaker beyond 90% to save the battery in the long run.
|Window-rattling bass||Accompanying apps can be too overwhelming|
|Tons of battery life||Sound can be too warm for some people|
|Easy to connect||Not enough punch for outdoor situations|
|Guitar/mic input with separate audio controls|
|Water and dustproof|
You can’t go wrong with this speaker if you’re somebody who likes hosting small house parties. It packs quite a punch, along with great connectivity options and an everlasting battery. The IP66 certification is a great peace of mind feature, as parties do tend to get messy more often than not. And even if you aren’t a party person, the ability to carry around a powerful Bluetooth speaker around the house is a great thing to have. Yes, a Type-C port is sorely needed, so is a lower price tag, but hearing your windows rattle on a party night may help justify it.
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