The bold, bold boombox of yesteryear is back. Sony’s SRS-XG500 X series is a large Bluetooth speaker with a carrying handle that evokes images of boombox stereos from the 80s and 90s. At first glance, this speaker is simply impressive for its substantial size, but to take a closer look, its features are just as remarkable. To top it off, its loud, boastful sound is well balanced and can handle a day at the pool or the beach very well.
Sony is narrowing down the right audience for this product, with its retail price of $ 450 and a large size not too far removed from a classic 48-quart Coleman cooler. The perfect candidates for the SRS-XG500 are those who organize or, at a minimum, attend a good number of parties. The other type of people who might appreciate this speaker are musicians. At the rear is a quarter-inch input that can handle instruments or a microphone. Being able to act as an amp for musicians remains a small audience, but it at least increases the usefulness of the speaker.
How big is the SRS-XG500?
This speaker is not an afterthought. It will need its own seat in the car or a dedicated space dug in the trunk while you go to a party on the weekend. Take the train or public transport? This is not a backpack speaker and weighs just over 12 pounds.
The SRS-XG500 is large, but its weight is not prohibitive to lug it around. Inside, it has two 4.3-inch woofers and two 0.98-inch tweeters. It really produces a lot of bass and volume for its size.
There are lights on either side of the enclosure to add ambiance as the day fades into the night. There is a row of rubber buttons on the front to control volume and playback without needing to reach for your phone. On the back is a control panel covered with a rubber flap, presumably to keep water out. It includes two USB-A ports to charge your phone or tablet. The speaker itself can conduct audio for 30 hours, so it probably has some battery life for those other devices.
One of the coolest features, in my opinion, is also on the rear: the inclusion of a quarter-inch input, designed for a guitar or microphone. Beyond streaming music from the speakerphone from your phone, it can be used as an amp.
A speaker and guitar amp combo
If you imagine a mid-sized meeting with enough people to justify this sturdy speaker, you can also imagine why it would make sense to have to connect a microphone to make announcements. Plus, someone playing an intimate show might want a bit of amplification. This speaker does not seem quite suitable for a street performer, as there is only one instrument input. Still, its ability to accommodate a mic makes it a lot more interesting than just being a Bluetooth speaker.
Boombox Sound with “Scaled and Icy” by Twenty One Pilots
As I listen to new speakers and headphones, I associate them with specific music albums. In this case, I used the new version of Twenty One Pilots “Scaled and Icy”. The duo’s music ranges from heavier rock to light pop, and is a good test case here. This new version plays both sides of the band’s past discography, but it largely favors a new synthetic and airy sound with lots of mixed bass.
The low end of the speaker is really the story here and having a dedicated Mega Bass button toggles songs like “Shy Away” or “The Outside” to be more synth-focused to present the low end beat. . It’s a welcome sound for songs since the bass doesn’t end up drowning out the vocals. At 50% volume on the SRS-XG500, “Mulberry Street” hits the drums enough to fill a large, high-ceiling living room. One of my favorite tracks on the album gets even more dancey, thanks to the reverberating bass.
Pushing the bass with Mega Bass mode helps its outdoor performance. Instead of the sound dissipating in an instant like with small Bluetooth speakers, the SRS-XG500 creates fairly even sound, with bass even without walls surrounding it. “No Chances”, one of the songs that contrasts loudly with the rest of the collection, loses none of its impact outside the house, probably thanks to the two secondary speakers.
“Good Day” and “Bounce Man” go from the heaviest feel to some of the more airy tracks in “Scaled and Icy”. Out in the yard, these songs lose their impact and are a bit high-pitched without the Mega Bass being activated. When activated, these songs are much more complete and can really shine.
I was extremely impressed with the exterior performance of this speaker. It’s a tough environment for a speaker, but this one is up to the task. Turning the volume up to 90 percent didn’t disturb the speaker or make it peak. It can fill a small suburban yard and would be loud enough to annoy grumpy neighbors. For this kind of personal use, the volume level was sufficient. To take it to the next level, the SRS-XG500 is able to connect to 99 other Sony speakers in Party Connect mode. I have not had the opportunity to test it but would be happy to do so in the future.
Should you buy the SRS-XG500?
The Sony SRS-XG500 Bluetooth speaker is both easy to sell and hard to sell. On the one hand, it can provide enough sound for the smallest outdoor gatherings. It’s resistant to the elements and has many built-in features, including a microphone or guitar input.
On the other hand, it’s big enough that you can’t take it anywhere you want. It’s also quite expensive for the price outside impulse buying territory. Still, if strong, well-balanced exterior sound is what you want and need, it’s up to the task.
Buy on Amazon and B&H Photo.
Newsweek may earn a commission from the links on this page, but we only recommend products that we support. We participate in various affiliate marketing programs, which means that we may receive commissions on products chosen by the editorial staff and purchased through our links to retailer sites.