Audio

Smart speaker with punchy, deep audio

LG's XBoom AI ThinQ WK7 offers Bluetooth and higher-quality audio than basic smart speakers.
LG's XBoom AI ThinQ WK7 offers Bluetooth and higher-quality audio than basic smart speakers.

Smart speakers powered by voice assistants from Amazon, Apple and Google are rapidly entering homes. They are also very affordable - the Google Home Mini costs $79, but is often sold for less.

However, it has not been easy for consumers in Singapore to buy premium smart speakers that offer highquality audio, such as the Google Home Max and Apple HomePod, as they are unavailable here.

This makes the recently launched LG XBoom AI ThinQ WK7 speaker enticing for those who want a better-sounding smart speaker.

The first thing I noticed about the cylindrical speaker is its heft - usually a good sign for speakers. It weighs about 1.9kg, compared with 477g for the Google Home and 821g for the Amazon Echo.

In fact, it reminds me of the Echo, but with more girth. Despite its cylindrical design, the WK7 is built to face a specific direction, indicated by the position of four LEDs at the curved front. Its audio is also not omni-directional, but comes mostly from the front.

At the top are touch-sensitive buttons - two to control the speaker's volume, a Function button to toggle between Wi-Fi (when it is acting as a smart speaker) and Bluetooth (when it is connected to a Bluetooth device, such as a smartphone), and a Google Assistant button to call up the voice assistant. At the back of the speaker is a button to mute the microphone.

It supports multi-room audio, which means it can link up with multiple Google smart speakers or Chromecast-compatible speakers to play music together.

  • FOR

  • • Easy to set up using Google Home app

    • Better audio than basic smart speakers

    • Multi-room audio capability

  • AGAINST

  • • Enhanced audio effects can feel overly processed

    • Basic mobile app

  • SPECS

  • PRICE: $399

    POWER OUTPUT: 30W

    CONNECTIVITY: Bluetooth and Wi-Fi

    WEIGHT: 1.9kg

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 3.5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 3.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

If you already have a Google smart speaker, setting up the WK7 will be a cinch. Simply run the Google Home app and you will be streaming music and controlling your smart home devices with your voice in no time.

First-time users will have to let the speaker recognise their voice, as well as link their existing smart home devices and streaming services to the Google Home platform.

Built with help from audio firm Meridian Audio, the WK7 sounds deeper and punchier than my Google Home Mini. The bass, in particular, is boomy and strong. Vocals seem to be enhanced for clarity. For instance, in Adele's Rolling In The Deep, all I hear is her voice above the heavy bass line, with the mid-range tones overwhelmed.

For songs that do not feature strong bass or a vocalist, such as instrumental piano pieces, the WK7 can sound quite ordinary. The same could be said if you turn off the speaker's vocal and bass audio enhancements using LG's Wi-Fi Speaker app (available for iOS and Android).

This app itself is basic and offers few controls besides adjusting the volume and toggling between Wi-Fi and Bluetooth modes.

Overall, it is a solid smart speaker that sounds better than basic models. Its Bluetooth functionality is also a useful extra not found in some smart speakers.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2019, with the headline 'Smart speaker with punchy, deep audio'. Print Edition | Subscribe