OK Google – what can you do on a Sony LF-S50G speaker? (review)

Q. OK Google, what do you think of the Sony LF-S50G wireless speaker. A. Let’s just say that as a speaker it is a cut above Google Home speaker offerings.

OK Google speakers – any brand – can access Google Assistant’s power

OK Google a.k.a. Google Assistant is its ‘preliminary’ attempt to provide a two-way voice interface for music, search and a degree of smart home control.

At this point, it is pretty good for playing music, answering silly questions and pretty elementary for everything else.

How to enable OK Google (on Android)

All tests were done with a Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and Sony LF-S50G speaker.

To get started download the Google Home app.

Once installed pair the speaker with your home Wi-Fi network and give Google permission to know virtually everything about you.

It is really hard to get any benefit unless it knows your location, your calendar, emails, contacts, tasks, what devices are on your network, and even your voice pattern (it recognises your and other nominated voices).

If you are paranoid about digital footprints then don’t use any voice assistant, stay well away from Facebook and use a VPN!

OK Google needs work – but it is learning all the time

OK Google – play me a song.

First, it will attempt to link to the premium paid music services like Google Music, but it also recognised “OK Google, Play Smooth FM radio.”

OK Google – what is the weather? The weather in XXXX is 28°.

OK Google – give me the weather forecast for today? Mostly sunny in XXXX with a forecast of 28° and a low of 21°.

The subtle difference is that the more specific you are, the more accurate the response.

It is quite frustrating knowing that Google Search will give you an answer on your desktop or phone screen, but OK Google cannot.

For example, searching for Central Coast tide times brings up the answer, but OK Google does not have a clue what tide is. “Sorry I can’t help, but I am always learning.”

What the pleasant female voice is saying is that all conversations are recorded, and it eventually learns from them.

There are some other useful things it can do. Set the alarm, set a reminder, get a summary of your day, make a shopping list, unlock your phone (a voice recording can trick it), payment information (Google Pay), send a message to or call someone in your contacts and more.

OK Google, Smart Home Control

It requires OK Google to communicate with a wide range of smart hubs and connected devices. The beginnings are there, but there is no panacea yet – one hub to control them all – although the Samsung SmartThings Hub seems to have the widest connectivity.

I got it to control a Philips Hue light, a WEMo power outlet and a Samsung PowerBot. The remainder of the smart home monitors, cameras and other devices are not yet Borg-like assimilated – but resistance is useless.

GadgetGuys’s take – OK Google you are off to a good start

Google Assistant is the beginning, and it has a long way to go. However, it is remarkably good at voice recognition. When Google Assistant works, it is a wondrous experience. But when it fails, it is easy to get frustrated so don’t blame the speaker!

Google Assistant is making big strides towards overtaking Alexa – in some ways; it already has. It is easy to like Amazon Alexa (reviews coming) especially if you want to access the Amazon ecosystem.

Google Assistant is currently behind Alexa with fewer ‘skills’ and compatible smart home devices, but it has enough to be useful. I predict that any smart device that has an Android app will quickly support OK Google.

Google Assistant speakers work seamlessly together (different brands and types in different rooms) and are compatible with a wide variety of Google apps and services.

Google is better at answering random questions and telling you where to eat, since it can easily send information to your phone, as well.

Sony LF-S50G OK Google Assistant speaker (review)

It has is Google Assistant voice recognition built in – performance on that front is entirely up to Google. The unidirectional microphone works up to 10 metres at normal conversation levels and 20 metres if you raise your voice a little above the music. It has a ‘mic off’ button for privacy.

Setup is simple – plug it in, fire up Google Assistant to pair it to your home Wi-Fi network (N dual band 2.4 or 5GHz) and that is it. My first request was “Play Smooth FM”, and it found it!

Looks

The speaker pre-dates Apple’s HomePod, yet it shares similar design cues with a woven mesh exterior and squat cylindrical shape. It weighs 750g and is 162 (h) and 110mm (round).

People will inevitably compare this with Apple’s HomePod – they are two entirely different beasts. Sony works in the Google ecosystem and knows how to make good speakers.

It has an attractive design with a bonus of a 24-hour LCD clock at the front.

How does it sound?

It has two speakers. The 53mm sub-woofer handles bass and is connected to a bass reflex duct – it can push lots of air for solid bass at low to medium volumes.

The second 48mm speaker points upwards into a cone-shaped diffuser and handles mid-range and some treble.

It is a 360° mono speaker offering radiating sound all around. You know where the front is as it displays the time – very handy. It does not pair for stereo but will support multi-room setups and mixes well with any brand of OK Google speaker.

Some international reviews have said the sound is average, so I did not expect too much and was pleasantly surprised.

Maximum volume is around 80dB – it is very loud. There is no apparent distortion at full volume, but the treble becomes more obvious. There is no app to control EQ etc.,

It has a 20Hz-20kHz frequency response – tests confirmed that. At medium volume, it has stronger bass and mid-range and slightly recessed treble – a warm and sweet sound signature that Sony is famous for. It provides fatigue-free, easy listening so hard to achieve in a small speaker.

Google Assistant may be the reason to buy a speaker, but Sony quality is the reason to use it. Sound wise it’s worth paying more for over the Google Home and mini.

IP Rating and gesture control

It is IPX3 rated – water sprayed for five minutes has no harmful effect – so don’t dunk it. The cover is removable and can be washed under water reflecting use in the kitchen.

It also has handsfree gesture control – wave your hand over the top for play/pause, next/previous track, and volume. This is more than a little erratic until you get the hang of it – I didn’t.

Underneath the speaker are two buttons; one is for cycling through LED brightness settings and the other for disabling the gesture controls.

It has Bluetooth and Chromecast too

You can use it as a Bluetooth 4.2 A2DP hands-free speaker/phone.

It pairs via NFC and will stream any content from your smartphone. It does not have any built-in music clients – it assumes either Google Home (Wi-Fi) or the smartphone acts as the streamer.

Chromecast allows music to be streamed to Chromecast devices.

It works with Android TV (Sony or Philips) or a Chromecast dongle. It would turn the TV on, but that was about it.

GadgetGuy’s take – Sony LFS50G is a very good OK Google speaker

I like it both as a streaming speaker and a Google Assistant. I especially like the Wi-Fi functionality and the ‘warm and sweet’ easy listening sound signature.

Pros

  • Attractive
  • The clock is handy
  • OK Google is very convenient to set time reminders when cooking
  • Loads of volume and low distortion
  • Sony’s ‘warm and sweet’ sound signature for easy, fatigue-free listening
  • Thoughtful design allows the woven cover to be removed and washed
  • Supports AVRCP (Audio/Video Remote Control Profile)

Cons

  • Google Assistant does not yet support handsfree speakerphone – needs to be paired with Bluetooth
  • Gesture controls are erratic

Best use

  • Kitchen
  • Bedside clock
  • Personal listening – while loud it is not quite a room-filling stereo system!

Price

$249 at major retailers. Shop online, and you may save up to 25%.

Ratings

Do you rate it as a speaker or a Google Assistant speaker? We will go for the former in which case it outclasses the Google Home and Mini for sound quality and volume.

  • Overall: 4.2 out of 5
  • Features: 4 out of 5 – Needs to act as a handsfree phone although can do this with Bluetooth connection
  • Value for money: 4 out of 5 – bag an online bargain to take this up a point
  • Performance: 4 out of 5 – in all tests it met specifications
  • Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – but forget gesture control
  • Design: 5 out of 5 –  Woven light grey/white – looks elegant