The smart speaker market is bursting at the seams, as many manufacturers are clamoring to add either Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, or even Cortana voice assistant functionality to their devices. The way the market is going now, it wouldn’t surprise us to see almost all powered speakers include smart voice technology within a few years.
LG has thrown its hat into the smart speaker ring with the ThinQ WK7, which uses Google Assistant. Made for sound at $200, the speaker is an affordable alternative to Google’s bass buster, the Google Home Max, which comes in at $399. We gave the WK7 a test drive to see whether it stands out in the crowd.
The WK7 is a sturdy, utilitarian speaker, and the components seem well made and durable. But something about the design feels uninspired. One person in our office called it “tubby.”
The device is charcoal black in color. It stands 8.3 inches tall and is pillar-like with a 5.3-inch diameter. It’s a bit hefty at 4.2 pounds. On the top of the device are volume +/- buttons, a play/pause button, and an “F” button, which stands for function. That’s the button you tap to connect to Bluetooth devices. On the back of the speaker, there’s a mic on/off button, and on the bottom there’s an A/C Adapter plug and a reset button. Overall, the WK7 isn’t going to win any beauty contests, but its heft makes it feel like a quality speaker
One thing we like about most Google Assistant speakers is how easy it is to set them up thanks to the Google Home app. Nowadays, the device and app do the bulk of the work for you. Getting the WK7 up and running was no different.
The speaker offers a whole lot of powerful sound and should satisfy those on a budget.
First, downloading the Google Home app is required. After you’re squared away there, plug in the WK7 and wait for it to boot up. You’ll hear the trademark piano notes as the device indicates it’s ready to go. Open up the app, hit the options tab on the top left of the screen, and tap “Devices.” If all is working properly, the WK7 will show up automatically, and you’ll be asked if you want to set it up.
Those new to Google Home will have a bit more work to do here, like adding preferred streaming music choices (choices include Spotify, Pandora and Deezer, with Google Play and YouTube Music set as defaults) and creating your voice match profile. If you have existing smart home devices, you can add them by tapping on the Home Control option and following instructions from there. At this point, there are more than 5,000 smart home devices that work with Google Assistant.
For those who already have an existing Google Home device and app, the setup process is even more painless, with the WK7 taking just a couple minutes to get up and running. Once you’re connected to the speaker, all the existing smart home devices you have connected to the app will automatically be linked to the speaker.
Hey Google, turn on the lights
The WK7 can do all the things that a Google Home device is able to do with voice commands, whether it be turning on smart home lights, locking the front door, or asking Google Assistant who invented the cotton gin (answer: Eli Whitney).
We connected our Noon lighting with the WK7, and were easily able to control our kitchen, dining room, and living room lights by simply asking the speaker to turn them on or off. When we asked about the weather, we got the typical Google Assistant detailed answer.
The WK7’s performance can best be summed up by a line from our favorite John Prine song: “Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain.”.
Overall, the WK7 works well as a functional smart speaker that does all the things a Google Home device can do. We do have a small gripe though: During testing, we sometimes noticed a significant lag between our “Hey Google” request and when the speaker complied. For example, while playing music on Pandora, we said, “Hey Google, volume 4.” Several times, a full nine or 10 seconds would pass before the volume adjustment was made. Other times it would take about four seconds for the speaker to comply.
Curious, we conducted the same test on our Amazon Echo Show device. There, the lag time between request and compliance was about two seconds. Thinking it might be a third-party device issue, we conducted a similar test on our Sonos One Alexa-enabled speaker. There we found a four-second lag time.
All about that bass
Like a lot of new smart speakers we see hitting the market, the WK7’s performance can perhaps best be summed up by a line from our favorite John Prine song: “Pretty good, not bad, I can’t complain.” The speaker offers a whole lot of powerful sound, all for a very nice price, and should satisfy those looking to bump their kitchen or living room on a budget – and oh how it likes to thump.
In terms of size and power, the WK7 sits somewhere between the Apple’s HomePod and Google’s Home Max, and while it can’t offer the fidelity of those speakers, it also costs about half the price. The WK7 also doesn’t provide the kind of detail or instrumental definition offered by Sonos’ killer new smart speaker, the Sonos One. Then again, few smart speakers (if any) do at the $200 price point.
What the WK7 does offer is solid performance with an emphasis on booming bass and prominent vocals to out match similarly affordable smart speakers like those in Amazon’s Echo family. This allows the WK7 to do justice to everything from your favorite acoustic tracks to hip-hop jams — especially if you’re just using it as background sound while you cook dinner or chat with company. In fact, it’s pretty impressive how much full sound LG (along with its new audio partner, Meridian) was able to extract from the stout pillar without distorting.
The WK7 packs an impressive amount of sound into its hearty frame for the money.
To do so, however, the company has loaded up a lot of digital signal processing (DSP) for a pretty colored sound signature, along with plenty of compression/limiting. The former saps some of the natural sonic flavors from your music — think flattened horns and dulled stringed instruments — while the latter presents some interesting issues when the speaker is faced with the most challenging bass-heavy songs.
When auditioning Too Short’s Just Another Day (one of our go-to bass tracks), we noted a surprising level of midrange and treble being sucked out of the sound as the speaker struggled to reproduce the song’s lowest bass hit, which bottoms out somewhere around 40-50Hz. In other words, the speaker was simply trying too hard, and the resulting overcompensation made for a very uneven listen.
Overall, though, while we wished for more detail and definition, the WK7 packs an impressive amount of sound into its hearty frame for the money and should satisfy most budget-conscious listeners looking for more boom than what you’ll get from Sonos or Amazon.
The WX7 comes with a one-year parts and labor warranty.Our Take
Overall, the WK7 is a solid-sounding speaker at an affordable price point. It provides prominent bass and vocals for those who want to showcase thumping sound. The fact that Google Assistant is built into the device allows it to serve double duty as a smart home hub.
Is there a better alternative?
It depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re not married to Google Assistant, definitely consider the Sonos One Alexa-enabled speaker, which is similarly priced at $199 and features stellar sound. If you want a great sounding smart speaker with Google Assistant built in and money is no object, there’s the Google Home Max ($399). Note that LG plans to release a smart speaker with an 8-inch screen any day now. Other than the price tag ($299), we don’t know much about whether the new device will be marketed as a speaker for sound or smarts, though.
How long will it last?
Th WK7 feels sturdy, well-made, and comes from one of the most reliable electronics companies out there. We think this speaker will last several years if properly cared for. We can’t promise that LG won’t come out with a new and improved smart speaker in a year or two though.
Should you buy it?
If you’re looking for an affordable, respectable-sounding smart speaker with Google Assistant, then buy the WK7. You’ll be happy with its performance.