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Sony XAV-701HD A/V Receiver with Bluetooth Review

by December 02, 2012
Sony XAV-701HD A/V Receiver with Bluetooth

Sony XAV-701HD A/V Receiver with Bluetooth

  • Product Name: XAV-701HD A/V Receiver with Bluetooth
  • Manufacturer: Sony
  • Performance Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Value Rating: StarStarStarStarhalf-star
  • Review Date: December 02, 2012 21:20
  • MSRP: $ 699
  • 7” Touch Screen Display
  • Pandora Internet Radio Control
  • Firmware upgradable with USB input
  • Integrated HD Radio Tuner
  • Advanced Response User Interface
  • Optional TomTom navigation control
  • Custom sound settings with EQ7
  • Auxiliary Audio/Video inputs
  • Hands Free with noise canceling
  • Telenav app control for iPhone
  • Dual Rear USB 1-Wire Inputs
  • 5V RCA outputs for system expansion
  • iPod and iPhone content playback
  • SiriusXM Satellite radio ready
  • Intuitive ZAPPIN search feature
  • Zone x Zone for rear seat playback
  • The immaculate reception
  • Steering wheel control ready input
  • MirrorLink smartphone connectivity
  • Integrated Bluetooth technology
  • 3 year warranty
  • Passenger App Control
  • Plays DVDs/CDs and digital files
  • Variable Color Illumination
  • Powerful in-dash amplification
  • SensMe Music App
  • Convenient wireless remote included


  • Great call quality
  • Pandora support
  • TeleNav software
  • Sound quality
  • Easy user interface
  • USB firmware updates


  • MirrorLink still in infancy


XAV-701HD Features and Overview

I first got interested in car audio about two years after I started getting interested in home audio - that was more than a couple of decades ago. Basically, that meant that it took me two long years to get frustrated enough at just how bad my vehicle sounded to do anything about. That's two years to hold my car audio in comparison to my home theater. In hindsight, it's amazing that it took me so long to actually do something about it. Once my convictions about good audio reached a boiling point, I got my first aftermarket car stereo, an Alpine that had all the bells and whistles (which, for 1991 wasn't all that much to be honest). Still, it was light years better than the stock radio in my 1984 Honda Accord.

Times have changed and stereos have gotten more sophisticated, with the leading brands leap-frogging each other in terms of advanced offerings and high quality components. Fast-forward to 2012 and I'm staring at the new Sony XAV-701HD in-dash A/V receiver. This unit has a lot to offer today's tech-savvy customer. With all kinds of smartphone connectivity, it makes this unit an easy choice for those looking to upgrade their vehicle's factory system. And if I can give you a piece of advice—don't waste precious years convincing yourself that it's OK to endure a badly-designed stock car audio system. Change it out while you still have ears to hear.

This particular double-din Sony receiver comes with a large 7" WVGA touchscreen that is both easy on the eyes and has menus and controls that are a cinch to navigate. There are only a few physical buttons and they are lined up along the bottom of the screen, something that leaves the installed look very clean and elegant. Probably my favorite feature is the dedicated RC-300IPCV connector for the iPhone that turns the XAV-701HD into a turn-by-turn navigation system, courtesy of Telenav—but more on that later.


Connectivity for any smartphone (iPhone, Android, etc) is possible though Bluetooth and USB. There are two wired USB plugs that allow you to connect, control and charge your compatible USB device. The Sony XAV-701HD can access your digital music files including album art and metadata and will even work with USB thumb drives loaded with music. But the Bluetooth connectivity goes even further in that it allows you to stream Pandora radio or simply the music on your phone without having to be physically connected. This is going to especially appeal to those of you with unlimited data plans. Since the XAV-701HD comes with Pandora installed, it's easy to interface with your account.


The other thing the Sony offers—and this is more impressive for people doing a first-time upgrade to a modern car receiver—is hands free calling. With the XAV-701HD, you can to download your phone book to the receiver and make calls without much hassle or even a complicated setup. We found the included hands-free microphone to be clear and most of my friends and family, some local, some as far away as Alaska, agreed. Part of this is because Sony integrated echo and noise canceling circuitry into the system that makes conversations sound just as good as holding the handset. We mounted out microphone at the top left of the windshield, removing the A pillar and running the mic cable within. Sony gives you plenty of length to do this and it's just a great way to get your mic properly positioned and yet out of the way.

MirrorLink - Like It, Love It...? It Doesn't Matter Because You Probably Can't Use it Yet
Possibly the biggest buzz about the Sony XAV-701HD is the built in MirrorLink technology developed by the Car Connectivity Consortium. The idea behind this is that, with a smartphone, you can mirror the screen of the phone directly to the display of the receiver. Approved applications and features from the phone would then be accessible from the receiver—including media players and navigation. On paper this sounds awesome. In reality, well, this technology is still pretty new and there is only a short list of approved phones...in fact, 9 in the known universe at the time of this review. If more phone manufacturers partner up and get their new devices approved, then MirrorLink can potentially be a real game-changer for the car audio market. It's just disappointing that MirrorLink doesn't support Apple phones, nor does it seem to work with the latest Samsung devices you see advertised on TV every day (save the solitary Galaxy S III). You can check the the Sony website for a current list of the applicable phones that, currently, includes 8 Symbian OS models from Nokia and the Samsung.

XAV-701HD Installation and Navigation

So back to the install. You might be wondering where I installed this receiver. The Sony XAV-701HD landed itself in a late-model Ford F150, replacing the factory unit. The installation was actually quite easy, especially since I utilized a wire adapter kit to go from the stock radio interface plug to the Sony receiver plug. While you can wire in a backup camera, other A/V input device or connect the pre-amp outputs to an amplifier, I kept this particular install rather simple. In fact, a subsequent review will go over how this receiver sounds with updated speakers. For now, the factory drivers remained so that I could truly evaluate just the new A/V receiver.

And, you know what? The Sony actually made my factory speakers come to life. Compared to the factory radio, the Sony immediately added greater dynamic range and additional fidelity to the midrange that was not present with the former stock head unit. To evaluate the system, I first connected my iPhone via Bluetooth and, within minutes, had music streaming through the system. After that came Pandora streaming and then hands-free calling to make sure everything was operating normally.

As I mentioned, all the controls and options and easy to navigate and pretty intuitive. The user interface has a very "Android-ish" feel about it that's a combination of icons and text-driven menus. The home screen gives you all the available options and applications. And, if an application isn't available or applicable to your smartphone, it will be grayed out on the screen.

charging iPhoneSince I'm an Android-turned-iPhone user, I was most excited about turning this A/V receiver into a full-fledged navigation system. Since Telenav comes pre-installed on the receiver, I went ahead and downloaded the free Telenav app from the App Store for my iPhone. I'll save you the trouble now, just go ahead and pay the 9.99 for the yearly subscription to the Telenav premium service. This is the only way you can interface the app with the XAV-701HD. The cool thing is that since the iPhone connector acts as a charger, the whole time you are using the GPS in your phone, the receiver keeps it charged so that you never have to worry about a depleted battery when you get to your destination. The Telenav interface really is easy to use and it comes with a plethora of POI's and other useful features like realtime traffic and map updates. For $9.99/year this app is well worth the price—particularly if you consider how much a standalone GPS unit costs or factor in annual map updates. One slight disappointment is that, while using Telenav, only music that is stored on your iPhone can be played. Pandora, CDs or other stored music files will have to wait until you're finished with your navigation. 

TeleNav iPhone

When a hands-free call comes in, the Telenav application gets sent to the background (verbal and visual navigation ceases) and the call is given priority. This is pretty much how I'd expect the system to work, given the priority of a hands-free call (which you can, of course, ignore while driving). All the Telenav navigation is processed directly from the iPhone, so as soon as you unplug the phone from the receiver, the application on the receiver closes. Plug the phone back in and the Telenav application on the receiver picks right up where it left off.

telenav reconnect message

XAV-701HD Testing and Conclusion

To further test out the functionality of the Sony XAV-701HD, I played several CD's, including some from The Letter Black and Switchfoot. As I alluded to earlier, the newly-installed Sony XAV-601BT greatly enhanced the definition of even the factory speakers on this F150 truck. It was hard to believe that you could get additional detail and resolution from a "simple" A/V receiver upgrade, but that may tell you just how poorly-designed and underpowered the factory systems are in these vehicles. When you place a real system that can output some serious watts to the speakers, they come alive—at least to the their maximum potential. I really can't wait to see what this receiver does with new speakers.

remote control

It even has a credit card-style remote control. Best to store this in the glove box.

We also popped in some DVDs, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and The Incredibles. The 800x480 screen is by no means reference, but I could appreciate the decent off-axis horizontal viewing angle which allowed both the passenger and driver (and passengers!) to enjoy the video when the vehicle was parked. Black levels were acceptably dark, but still tinged gray as you'd expect from a 7" vehicular touchscreen. Contrast was also so-so, but certainly not below average for this type of screen. Once a movie begins playing, and certainly during any navigation or OSD use, there really isn't any negative perceptions of the contrast—everything is very clear and well-defined.

disc insertion

In addition to the CDs I also queued up some music I had stored on a USB thumb drive and also streamed Internet radio from Pandora. The Pandora controls are easy to use and it took no time at all to bring up some of my favorite home-brewed radio stations. Of course, the HD Radio tuner was also a favorite of mine, allowing me to also use the radio's iTunes Tagging feature. I've found this to be incredibly helpful in building and expanding my music collection—it's a feature that's far underutilized by many and one that I feel should be better integrated into more devices. While you can't do much to customize the menus and icons, you can adjust the button colors and specify wallpaper backgrounds and moving visualizations while music is playing. All of this is both entertaining and it allows you some control over matching the interior lighting of your vehicle. One other feature that will help keep this A/V receiver at the top of its game is the ability to update the firmware via thumb drive. Updates are made available by Sony on their website and you can use the cable connected to the unit to feed it the data from the USB drive.


With an easy to use graphical user interface, three-dimensional screen visualizers, and ultra-fast GUI response, the new Sony XAV-701HD In-Dash A/V Receiver is an easy choice if you're looking to upgrade your stock system or even an older touch screen head unit. I love how well this receiver interfaces with the iPhone (and it's no slouch with Android) and also the Telenav Navigation app is superb. It was great to see how a $10 yearly investment could turn this A/V receiver into a full-blown navigation system that rivals just about any standalone GPS I've used recently. For those looking to take advantage of MirrorLink, you may need to wait a bit—unless you own one of the few phones that support it at this time. Even without a direct smartphone connection, Bluetooth connectivity was excellent and consistent for both music and hands-free calling. All in all, I really liked how the Sony XAV-701HD sounded, functioned, and also how it looked once it was installed. It's beautiful and gave the rather utilitarian interior on this F150 a major style upgrade.

The Score Card

The scoring below is based on each piece of equipment doing the duty it is designed for. The numbers are weighed heavily with respect to the individual cost of each unit, thus giving a rating roughly equal to:

Performance × Price Factor/Value = Rating

Audioholics.com note: The ratings indicated below are based on subjective listening and objective testing of the product in question. The rating scale is based on performance/value ratio. If you notice better performing products in future reviews that have lower numbers in certain areas, be aware that the value factor is most likely the culprit. Other Audioholics reviewers may rate products solely based on performance, and each reviewer has his/her own system for ratings.

Audioholics Rating Scale

  • StarStarStarStarStar — Excellent
  • StarStarStarStar — Very Good
  • StarStarStar — Good
  • StarStar — Fair
  • Star — Poor
Two-channel Audio PerformanceStarStarStarStar
Fit and FinishStarStarStarStarStar
Ergonomics & UsabilityStarStarStarStar
Ease of SetupStarStarStarStarStar
About the author:
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Clint Deboer was terminated from Audioholics for misconduct on April 4th, 2014. He no longer represents Audioholics in any fashion.

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