With smart speakers taking many of the tech headlines in 2017, it's no surprise to find that LG wants a slice of this pie in 2018. Say hello to the LG WK7, or the ThinQ speaker as it was first announced at the turn of the year.
Making its debut at CES 2018, it wasn't until more recently that we got a better look at and listen to LG's speaker - although we're far from being able to deliver a definitive assessment of it.
Solid design with Meridian input
- 135 x 210.7 x 135mm, 1.9kg
- Cylindrical form with front firing drivers
- Touch controls on the top
The LG WK7 takes on a familiar cylindrical form, which has become the norm for smart speakers - think Amazon Echo or Apple Homepod. It's designed to sit in your home as a standalone speaker, measuring 135 x 210.7 x 135mm and weighing some 1.9kg.
Although it takes on a cylindrical form, the LG WK7 isn't designed as a 360-degree speaker, instead housing the drivers in the front, with the grille wrapping around and providing a pretty much seaimamless finish.
The ThinQ speaker has a serious look to it which will probably attract the market that LG is after - those who want a smart speaker but want a boosted audio experience. The audio aims are reinforced with the wording on the top declaring Meridian's involvement in the development of this speaker.
The top also houses a range touch controls although its visually minimal. There's a Google Assistant logo, a function button to switch input modes and play/pause and volume controls. As per most smart speakers the primary method of interaction is designed to be voice - hence the mic openings on the top of the speaker.
There's also a mute button to the rear to stop the speaker listening to you. LEDs on the front indicate the status.
Meridian sound for boosted quality
- Aluminium dome driver and tweeter
- Hi Res audio support
- Meridian Audio tuning
LG and Meridian announced their partnership on audio products in December 2017, aiming to boost the audio performance of a range of LG speakers. That range also includes Bluetooth speakers and the new Dolby Atmos soundbar, as well as this smart speaker.
LG introduced us to the WK7 speaker, saying that the Meridian involvement wasn't just about tweaking the sound output with a bit of software - it was about engineering support through the whole project, providing feedback on things like design and materials as well as components for the new speakers.
First impressions of the ThinQ speaker are good: we've not had the chance to listen to a huge range of tracks, but what we have heard certainly had substance to it. An aluminium dome mid-range driver and tweeter sit in the front of the speaker, with aluminium used to provide the sound pressure in the high range, which some other materials can't manage.
There's Hi Res music support in this speaker and it will support 24 bit/96kHz audio with upsampling and upscaling for lower quality sources. It will natively support FLAC, ALAC and WAV, as well as higher-quailty streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz.
Meridian's input also extended to bass and vocal management, controlling the balance to ensure that each part of the track sounds good.
While we were able to experience some of the interaction with Google Assistant via demos, we're yet to see what that would be like in a normal home. We know it will support up to six accounts, but there's still plenty we need to learn about its full performance as a smart speaker.
- What is Google Assistant, how does it work, and which devices offer it?
LG ThinQ speaker smart skills
- Google Assistant built-in
The LG ThinQ speaker is one of the first products built in Google's new Android Things platform, which LG says should lead to increased updatability. With smart speakers being about so much more than just sound quality, this becomes an important factor.
We've mentioned that it supports Google Assistant and that means that from this speaker you'll be able to interrogate Google for information, you'll be able to get reports on the weather or to check your calendar, place calls as well as control a whole range of smart home devices, from Philips Hue to Hive heating.
Like the Amazon Echo, this LG speaker can very much become to hub of your smart home, letting you say all manner of things and interact with all manner of devices.
When it comes to music you'll be able to access anything that Google Assistant supports - like Spotify, but the WK7 can also act as a Bluetooth speaker directly. But it's designed as a Wi-Fi speaker first and foremost, while also supporting Chromecast too. That means you can send audio directly from a service to the speaker, for example from Google Music, or via Spotify Connect.
The ThinQ naming on this speaker is LG's way of showing that it's a smart product. ThinQ is the platform name that LG is applying to a whole range of devices - exactly how the WK7 might play with other connected LG devices in the future remains to be seen, but there certainly seems to be plenty of choice when it comes to choosing your music source - unlike Apple HomePod.
The LG WK7 ThinQ speaker will cost £199.99 and it is due to launch on 30 April and will be available from the likes of John Lewis, Dixons and Argos. Boosting the sound quality, it takes a step over the standard Google Home experience to deliver better audio, joining the likes of the Panasonic GA10 speaker in taking smart home speakers to a better place sonically.
There's a lot we don't know about its overall performance, but first impressions of this speaker are good: we like the look, it has plenty of functionality and from what we've heard the sound is good too.
The LG WK7 ThinQ speaker is one of a new breed of smart speaker aiming to address weaker audio performance - and it looks like it does just that.