The LG WK7 marks a couple of firsts for the Korean giant. It’s the company’s first foray into the ever-growing smart speaker market. It’s also one of the first products to emerge as part of the new partnership between LG and British audio specialist Meridian.
The benefits of this partnership to both brands are obvious. LG offers Meridian exposure in new product categories within the consumer AV market and for its part, Meridian brings decades of experience, in areas such as audio processing and speaker design, to the table.
The WK7 even has ‘with Meridian technology’ stamped on its exterior. But as always, the proof is in the testing. Can the LG WK7 ThinQ Speaker (to give it its full and unsnappy name) do both brands justice?
Design and build
Cylindrical is the de facto form for a number of smart speakers, and the WK7 continues this trend. It’s a chunky and tallish unit, bigger than the Amazon Echo 2 but not quite as rotund as the Apple HomePod, with a similar footprint to the Sonos One.
That grey exterior looks a little insipid next to the smart white finish of a Sonos One, but means blending in won’t be a problem. For £200, the WK7 also feels reassuringly weighty.
Unlike the HomePod, with its fancy subwoofer-on-top arrangement and circular array of tweeters, the LG keps things simple. Through the metal grille you can make out a forward-firing dome tweeter sitting above a mid/bass driver. Both are made from aluminium.
Like most speakers in this class, the WK7 boasts a clean, uncluttered appearance. The top features touch-sensitive controls for volume and playback, and that tiny splash of colour is a dedicated, touch-sensitive Google Assistant button – handy if you want a break from barking “Hey Google” at the speaker to get its attention.
The ‘F’ button on top stands for ‘Function’ and allows you to swap between wi-fi and Bluetooth connections.
The WK7 works over your wi-fi network, or you can hook up sources via Bluetooth. There’s no 3.5mm input, but on a wireless smart speaker that isn’t the the end of the world.
Unlike Sonos, LG doesn’t offer you the option of running two WK7s as a stereo pair. It’s not a deal-breaker, but worth noting all the same.
LG claims the WK7 is the first smart speaker to use the Android Things platform, which it says will boost the user experience and allow developers to make the most of the platform’s capabilities.
It falls under LG’s ThinQ brand of artificial intelligence products, and is powered by Google Assistant. The speaker also has Chromecast built in, so you can stream between and interact with compatible sources and displays.
The LG WK7 supports all the usual file formats, and native 24bit/96kHz and 24bit/192kHz hi-res audio playback. Any lower-quality audio is automatically upsampled to 24bit/96kHz.
You can control the WK7 a number of different ways. Talking to the speaker is one option - the two tiny holes on either side of the volume control are the mics. But if you don’t fancy having Google Assistant listening in the background, you can mute the mics by tapping a button on the back of the WK7.
Apple’s HomePod boasts six mics, but the Google Assistant in the WK7 still does a decent job of responding. Even with music blasting out at anti-social levels, there’s a good chance your voice will still register.
It’s not perfect but, in our experience, virtual assistants rarely are.
There’s also the Google Home app. You’re encouraged to download the iOS or Android version, by the Google Assistant as soon as you fire up the WK7 – it’s the quickest way to get the speaker onto your home network.
It’s an attractive interface, and intuitive too. Whether you want to learn more about compatible services or set up a multi-room system, the app is there to help.
Finally, there’s LG’s own Wi-Fi Speaker app. It looks and feels outdated, is cumbersome to use and the wording on some of its menus is a little odd.
The only reason you’d visit this instead of the Google Home app is if you want to access the extra sound settings built into the WK7.
MORE: Google Home review
Within the app, there is scope to enable and disable what LG calls Clear Vocal and Enhanced Bass.
The former makes vocals more prominent, pushing them out into the soundfield and adding extra reinforcement. The latter boosts the level and impact of bass frequencies.
It’s often worth experimenting with such settings, but on this occasion we’d steer clear. Both modes sacrifice cohesiveness and quality of sound to such a degree the negatives outweigh any positives.
Turn these modes off, position the speaker in the corner of a room - on a bookshelf or close to a rear wall - and you’ll hear the WK7 performing at its best. And its best is rather good by smart speaker standards.
MORE: Best speaker deals 2018
The speaker drives the song along with purpose, and does a fine job of distinguishing between the tight punchy bass notes and the slightly smudged low-frequency pulses.
Matt Bellamy’s vocal delivery is clear and clean. It shares space and equal billing with the lowest lows and highest highs.
There’s no sign of the harshness or sibilance which can often blight wireless speakers at this price. Neither does the speaker go the safe route and opt for an overly soft or rolled-off sound.
Play Talk Tonight by Oasis and Noel’s vocal and acoustic guitar play work nicely in tandem.
The WK7 creates a soundstage with impressive scale, and decent height and width. The LG doesn’t fill a room quite as well as the Apple HomePod, but serves up a greater sense of space and a bigger soundstage than the Sonos One.
But the LG falls down when it comes to balance. Where the best in class maintain an even balance across the board, the LG can sound a little unsteady.
Certain bass notes are overegged and have a tendancy to protrude into the soundstage. It doesn’t ruin the sound, but you’re aware of it when playing certain types of music.
We'd also like more drive in the LG's presentation; a little more rhythmic precision would make for a more vital sound.
Following the announcement back in December 2017, we were intrigued to see how the whole LG/Meridian partnership would evolve.
See all our LG reviews