Panasonic SC-GA10 Google Assistant smart speaker (updated review)

The Panasonic SC-GA10 has what is arguably the most desirable looks of all the Google Assistant speakers. A tall tower in polished back or white. Oh, and a stereo pairing is coming via firmware update soon.

GadgetGuy Thomas Bartlett reviewed the speaker in April stating it had loud sound and pleasant styling. We won’t repeat Thomas’s excellent review here. Perhaps read it first before continuing here.

PS – Unlike Thomas’s experience with Google Home app setup we had no issues at all.

We are reviewing ten Google Assistant speakers.

While this article is not a shoot-out as such, it does show that there are distinct Google Assistant categories of speakers.

  • Basic 1.0, 24-bit/96kHz – Google Home and Google Home Mini (review here)
  • Mid 1.0 – Sony LF-S50G (original review here and update to come)
  • Upper – LG WK7 ThinQ (review here
  • Water resistant/portable – JBL Link 10/20/300 (reviews to come)
  • Stereo – Google Home Max (review here) and Panasonic SC-GA10 (original review here and this  updated review)

Review Update: Panasonic SC-GA10 speaker

We asked Panasonic for a pair of these to test in stereo. Alas, the firmware update mentioned at launch in April has not occurred. So, when it does, we will try for stereo again.

But we probably would repeat the caveat that we did with the Google Home Max. Is it better to have two of these for 2.0 at $758 or buy a decent 3.1 sound bar and a Google Home Mini for about the same price?

The answer comes in two ways. First what fits your décor. Second, if you find the Panasonic sound signature appealing in your environment.

Let’s look at the impressive tech specs first

Panasonic SC-GA10

  • 24-bit/192kHz sound (Hi-Res audio)
  • Bluetooth 4.2 SBC (standard) and AAC (high-res)codecs
  • Mono 1.0 forward firing
  • 1 x 80mm dual coil (that is like two speakers in one) for bass and mids
  • Bass reflex port to pump some more air
  • 2 x 20mm tweeters angled at 45°
  • 40W, 1kHz/10% THD (2 x 20W)
  • Wi-Fi N dual band
  • Chromecast and multi-room audio
  • 3.5mm Aux-In

So how does it sound?

The Hi-Res works only via Hi-Res enabled Bluetooth smartphones (like the excellent LG V30+ ThinQ). While welcome it is probably overkill for a mono 1.0, front firing speaker. Bring on that stereo firmware update!

In our tests, we found upper bass kicking in at 100H-500Hz. It also had reasonably respectable mids until 2kHz, but it was all downhill from there.

At full volume (80dB) upper treble was harsh and total harmonic distortion unacceptable. Note that this test was with a tone generator and they don’t lie.

But how many listen at full volume? Well probably very few. Up to 80% volume the music experience was pleasant.

Panasonic SC-GA10

So, the native sound is a mid-sound signature for clear voice. As such you don’t get room-thumping bass (no ‘portable’ speaker does – Google Home Max comes closest). Nor do you get the very high crisp notes.

This does deserve further investigation for two reasons. First, it’s a Panasonic, and they don’t make too many mistakes. Second, it is a 24-bit/192kHZ Hi-Res device.

Well, we did investigate

We had not installed the Panasonic Music Control App (for Android and iOS). The first thing it did was update firmware.

Panasonic SC-GA10

The app is for use outside the Google Home environment. It manages things like

  • Hooking up to a DLNA server (NAS storage), phone, tablet or PC.
  • An Equaliser (with the settings stored on the speaker)
  • Choice of streaming music providers (outside those from Google Home)
  • Stereo pairing (when available although Google Home also handles this)
  • And joining a Panasonic based multi-room setup.

The app has Super Sound EQ, Super Bass Sound (does ramp up midbass) and presets.

Let’s just say that software EQ vastly improved bass but treble is still is a little harsh at 100% volume. I am sure Panasonic can and will fix this in firmware updates.

The only other quibble is that the dual mics cease to hear the keyword about 75% music volume. This is not unusual for all makes of Google Assistant speakers.

GadgetGuy’s take. Killer looks. When stereo pairing comes it will be better looking, albeit lower powered alternative to Google Home Max.

I like the looks. The refined tower exudes style. I also love Panasonic quality. I was interested because these were supposed to support stereo – and they eventually will.

But, at the moment they are a mono 1.0 speaker and at $379 hopelessly outclassed by the far better sounding $299 LG WK7 ThinQ

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Don’t get me wrong. At normal levels of music and after the firmware and EQ update you can get reasonable quality sound. That is fine for apartments and smaller areas.

The Google Home Max at $549 each is very loud and proud. But a stereo pair at $1,098 invites a closer look at 3.1/5.1 soundbars and a Google Home Mini.

Pro

  • Killer looks – IMHO
  • Great specifications on paper – more work needs to be done on firmware
  • Good sound when using the software EQ
  • 3.5mm port
  • Bluetooth
  • Hi-Res and music upscaling

Con

  • Wi-Fi N dual band is acceptable for music streaming but too many alternatives have Wi-Fi AC dual band.
  • Mic could be more sensitive

Ratings

As a Google Home 1.0 mono speaker, the LG WK7 outclasses it. As a 2.0 speaker (not tested yet as the firmware is not released) it would rate better.

  • Overall: 4 out of 5
  • Features: 4 out of 5 – All required features
  • Value for Money: 3 out of 5 – Expensive for a mono 1.0 speaker. You should consider alternatives at the price of a stereo pair. Add an extra star if you buy for <$300.
  • Performance: 4 out of 5 – After EQ adjustment its provides perfectly reasonable sound
  • Ease of Use: 4 out of 5 – Plug and play. The app is a little fiddly
  • Design: 5 out of 5 – Basic black cylinder but suits most décor

Price:

$379 but shop around as they are in stores at less than $300.