LG debuted its Music Flow series of wireless speakers last summer, offering a range of speakers targeted squarely at competitor Sonos' products. More recently, it moved away from aping Sonos with the H4 Portable, a battery-powered speaker that acts just like its larger siblings. At CES 2015, we took a closer look (and listen) at the whole Music Flow family.
The way Music Flow works is a hybrid of Sonos and a traditional Bluetooth or NFC speaker. You can pair speakers with a phone via NFC and dedicated apps for iOS and Android, or you can control them directly over a WiFi connection. They speak with one another over WiFi, but need a hub to do so -- a requirement Sonos recently dropped.
Although the CES show floor isn't the ideal place for a scientific listening session, LG does have a small room filled with its various speakers that at least gave us a decent idea of how they sound. The H4 Portable offers a comparable experience to a tiny Bluetooth speaker like a Jawbone Mini Jambox, but with the benefits of a Sonos-esque WiFi setup. It's also able to play back quite a bit louder than the Mini Jambox without distortion.
As for the rest of the lineup, it's functional, but uninspiring. The H3 is similar to the Play:1 it's up against; the H5 is comparable to the Play:3; and the H7 -- Play:5 -- is also comparable. Across the range, mids and highs seem to have been compromised for the sake of bass, and because of this, everything sounded a little muddier than the equivalent Sonos, although both the H3 and H5, like the H4 Portable, were able to pipe music out at higher volumes than the Play:1 and Play:3 without distortion. There's also a soundbar called the H6, which features four speakers, a mini-sub and also negates the need for a hub. LG plans on introducing a seven-speaker version that would come closer to Sonos' nine-speaker Playbar.
The one thing the lineup has over Sonos -- and it's new for CES -- is compatibility with Google Cast, the equivalent of Chromecast, but for music. Supporting a standard that looks set to achieve widespread adoption is definitely a good move for LG, as it instantly adds app like Google Music, Pandora, Rdio, TuneIn and others to its compatibility list.
LG is being coy about a release date for the US, although the system is definitely coming to North America. It also refused to discuss pricing, which is strange as the entire plug-in range is already available over the pond. In the UK, the speakers are in line with their Sonos alternatives, so expect the H3 to come in at around $200, the H5 at around $300 and the H7 at around $400. As for the H4 Portable, an educated guess would price it somewhere in the $100 range.
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