Sony combined its expertise in audio with the Google Assistant, and came up with the best Google Assistant Speaker currently on the market.
At IFA back in late August, a number of companies debuted their own Google Assistant and Alexa-enabled speakers. Sony's LF-S50G was also announced, and it's finally available now. It was one of the more popular speakers to be announced, given Sony's history with audio quality in its other products, and the fact that it is going to cost the same as the Google Home, just $129. Now the Sony LF-S50G has been in our hands for a couple of weeks and it's time to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of the LF-S50G.
The LF-S50G is a 360-degree speaker, which is quite common these days with various speakers. It is the size of a satellite speaker, about 48mm, with a sub woofer of 2.09-inches. The speaker itself weighs about 26 ounces, so it is a bit heavy, but that's to be expected. It does support both 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi networks, and is set up through the Google Assistant. It does use Bluetooth 4.2 for connectivity as well and supports A2DP, AVRCP profiles and has a frequency range of 20Hz to 20,000Hz. It does also have a IPX3 rating, which means that is splash proof, but definitely not waterproof. This is so that it can sit in the kitchen without getting damaged by splashes from the sync or what have you.
In the Box
There's not much included in the box, you have the Sony LF-S50G along with its power cord and some paperwork. That's really about it as far as the contents go inside the box. However, when you do take the speaker out of the box, be careful as the outershell does come off, and it wasn't on securely in our unit (which could also be true for retail units). This could mean that Sony is going to offer different colored shells for the LF-S50G, instead of just the black and white colors we currently have.
Coming from Sony, there are certain expectations with the LF-S50G, which includes a great build quality, and that is exactly what you have here. It's a cylinder-style speaker here, with a fabric grille. More and more speakers are using fabric on their grilles since they are able to still get sound out of the speaker without affecting it that much, while also making the speaker look rather unique. Now we have the white model here, which does look really nice, although the black one would likely look better, especially with the LED clock on the front. You can adjust the brightness of the LED clock here with the dimmer switch that is located on the base of the LF-S50G.
The bottom of the LF-S50G is silver, which does pick up dust rather quickly, but luckily you won't be touching that part to often. It's not metal, but faux metal, which is still fine, as it does give it a rather nice look. On the back there are a couple of buttons. One is for turning off the microphone, and the other is for Bluetooth pairing. You'll also notice that there is a NFC logo on the back of the LF-S50G, making it easy for you to pair it with your smartphone. This is a feature that Sony has been including in its headphones and speakers for quite a few years, making it easy for you to see where the NFC logo is and pair it quickly. Although that isn't really needed with this speaker, due to the Google Assistant being on-board.
There are some gesture controls on the Sony LF-S50G, similar to the Google Home, you can move your finger clockwise or counter-clockwise to adjust the volume, you can also tap the top of the speaker to activate Google Assistant without saying "OK Google". But the gesture controls are rather hit or miss. Sometimes they will work perfectly fine without any issues at all, and other times it won't work at all. So to adjust volume, it's easier to just say "OK Google, set volume to 35%" or something similar.
The hardware on the Sony LF-S50G is definitely the best on any Google Assistant-enabled speaker right now. Of course, there also isn't a whole lot of competition in the space right now, making that easy for Sony. There's basically the JBL LINK series, Google Home series and then the Sony LF-S50G, but there are plenty more coming. Right now, until the Google Home Max arrives, the Sony LF-S50G might be the best one available, at least in terms of design.
The sound quality on the LF-S50G doesn't really live up to the expectations that many would have for Sony. Sony is very good with audio, and has some of the best headphones and speakers on the market, like the WH-1000X M2, which are said to be the best pair of noise cancelling headphones out there. Now that isn't to say that the sound quality on the LF-S50G is bad, it's still good, but not as good as some might expect it to be from Sony. The main issue with the sound quality on the LF-S50G is that it doesn't have the range of some of the others in Sony's portfolio, and it actually falls short of some of the Alexa speakers, the higher-end ones not the Echo Dot.
Being that this is a 360-degree speaker, it does fill the entire room with sound, and it does sound good, but the bass isn't exactly there. After using a number of Sony's Extra Bass speakers, you'd expect a bit more bass from the LF-S50G. It does, however, have really good mids and highs which are crisp and clear, even at higher volumes. But Bass is where it lacks. For most people, this won't be an issue at all. It will really only affect audiophiles out there that want the best of the best, and can truly tell the difference between the sound from different Sony speakers. That said, if you are buying this for the occasional music streaming session, and mostly for Google Assistant support, then this definitely won't be an issue for you.
The main reason why anyone would buy the Sony LF-S50G, Google Assistant. Unlike with third-party Alexa speakers, Google Assistant doesn't treat third-party speakers different. To setup the LF-S50G, you will go into the Google Home app and set it up like a Chromecast or Google Home, and it should also prompt you to set it up. The setup process is quite simple, as it always has been. After a couple of minutes, you'll be all set to start using the LF-S50G. Now this does have Chromecast support, which means if you have a Chromecast or Android TV, you do have the option of asking the LF-S50G to play something on your TV using the Google Assistant.
The Google Assistant works just as well as it does on the Google Home. It can control your smart home products like light bulbs, thermostats and much more. You can ask the Google Assistant for weather details, what's on your calendar and so much more. However, we did notice that the microphones inside the LF-S50G are a bit more sensitive than the Google Home. So if you are watching TV or a YouTube video and someone says "OK Google" there is a chance it'll pick it up and start listening for a command. This didn't happen often, so it's not as sensitive as the iHome AVS16 that we reviewed, which was very, very sensitive. And most people really won't notice the difference here either. So that's a good thing, as you won't need to keep the mic on mute for the majority of the time.
On the front of the LF-S50G, where the clock is, that is where the Google Assistant lights will appear. There are four LED lights just above the clock, and they do show up in different colors, though the yellow and blue looks really close to the white LEDs and the only one that really looks different is the purple one. So Google Assistant is here, and it works just as you'd expect, there's really no differences here between Google Assistant on the LF-S50G and the Google Home. Which helps to make this a great option.
The Sony LF-S50G is a great looking speaker that just happens to have the Google Assistant built-in. Now most people will go for the Google Home Mini or the Google Home, since they are now discounted at most places and the Home Mini is much cheaper. But those that really want to stream music over Google Assistant, should take a look at the LF-S50G. It does streaming audio really well, not to mention the LF-S50G would look really good on a bookshelf in your living room or even on your desk at work. It's hard to go wrong with the LF-S50G. But if you are looking for something with the best audio quality available, then you might want to look elsewhere. Especially with the Sonos One being available with Alexa and it getting Google Assistant early next year. There will be plenty of competition coming to this space, and hopefully Sony can keep up with that competition and bring its audio prowess over to the smart speaker realm.