With voice assistant speakers now creating a stir in the market with Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Home Pod and more, it was only a matter of time before the Google Assistant wave arrived. Arrive it has, and Sony is leading the charge with their LF-S50G Wireless Speaker.
A squat black cylinder, the LF-S50G is a humble little device. It doesn’t take up much space on my desk, it only needs one cord to power itself and it rather helpfully tells me the time through a digital clock hidden behind its fabric mesh when connected.
As a speaker, its more than adequate for something in its $250 AUD price range. The highs are crisp, the lows are resonant without clouding out the rest of the sound with bass. Even its volume levels in wider, more open spaces were very respectable. This is a speaker with confidence — Sony knows they can make a good speaker for any price range and they’re not worried about pushing the envelope because they know they can impress you.
Where the LF-S50G shines is in its Google Assistant features. Set up is very straightforward and uses the Google Home app on your Android or iOS device. From there, it connects to your home wifi and, as long as your phone is connected to the same wifi signal, it will always be ready to help.
Only once in a full fortnight of testing did the the LF-S50G miss or not understand a command. It didn’t seem to matter how loud I was blasting music through the speaker, it could still hear me say “Hey, Google,” at normal speaking volume. There’s very little lag between asking a question or issuing a command getting a response. The longest is probably the return on Google Play Music when gearing up to play a song. As it uses the software and turns the knobs, there’s a short and conspicuous silence before the music eventually begins.
Google Assistant also has no problems dealing with the Australian accent, a notorious weakspot where voice command software is concerned. Further, I was even able to stumble out of my bedroom in the morning and ask it, through the kind of yawn the renders you paralysed for a second, for the weather forecast. Not only was the LF-S50G able to translate “Hway Gorgo, wossweaAAAARGHther gonm be like t’day?” it fed me back my local weather report immediately. That it can pick the question out from the other extraneous nonsense is really impressive and I expect this ability to accurately fill in the gaps for you will be great news for people who live with speech impediments.
Google Assistant, for its part, is also quite clever about how it delivers the information you request. I ask it for a recipe and it walks me through it one step at a time, and is will to wait for my go-ahead before reading out the next step. I ask it for the phone number of a business and it enunciates the number in a way that is fast enough to punch into your phone but slow enough that you can still write it down. Ask it to tell you a joke. Better yet, tell it to self destruct for an especially good laugh. Be creative with your questions, chances are it will have an answer for you.
The unit itself is controlled by what my housemate insists on calling Magic but what Sony themselves call gesture controls. Swirling your finger in a clockwise motion above the plate at the top of the speaker will turn the volume up. Swirling anti-clockwise will turn the volume down. Swiping your finger above it will skip tracks when playing music. There’s a whole range of motions the speaker can detect, and not one of them actually involves touching the device at all. The closest many of us will ever get to feeling like we live in the Harry Potter universe.
All told, the LF-S50G is a really lovely piece of kit. Its design is unassuming so that it can blend in no matter where you put it, its sound is as pleasing to the ear as its price point can make it and it can correctly interpret your pre-coffee cave person grunting.
Score: 9.0 out of 10
Highlights: Nice design; Nice performance; Nice assistant
Lowlights: Digital clock might be a bit bright at night if you plan to have it in the bedroom
Price: $249 AUD
Reviewed using a loaned retail unit provided by the manufacturer.