Multi-room audio is, in Australia, the Next Big Thing. If you have a big apartment or a house, buy three or four speakers within one brand and you'll be able to play music from them all simultaneously, filling your home with sound. Despite the company being a relatively new entrant to the game, LG's Music Flow speakers are more than a match for Samsung or Sonos.
What Is It?
- Networkng: Yes, infrastructure
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Wi-Fi: Yes
- App: Android, iOS
- Inputs: 3.5mm, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
- Battery: No
I got the chance to test out LG's Music Flow range of speakers, along with the accompanying app, at the same time as I reviewed its EC970T 55-inch curved Ultra HD OLED TV. LG's Music Flow encompasses more than just one speaker -- there's three networked speakers, a networked soundbar, and a wireless bridge that ties the whole lot together.
Matching Samsung's M7 and M3 wireless audio blow for blow, LG's multi-room speakers are the H7, H5, H3 and HS6 soundbar. Don't get the names confused, Samsung's M7, M5, M3 and soundbar follow roughly the same small-medium-large, good-better-best philosophy, but it's all about which multi-room ecosystem you buy into these days. Like the others, LG's system hinges on an app for Android or iOS that lets you adjust the different parameters of your various smart speakers.
All running through the $79 R1 network bridge, which you hook up to your home network router, LG's $549 H7 speaker is the largest of the three and boasts 70 Watts of audio power. Like the rest of the line-up it hooks into LG's dual band wireless multi-room infrastructure and works with iOS, Android, PC and Mac apps to channel locally stored or streaming music from one or more speakers at a time. The lesser $399 H5 and $249 H3 tout 40 Watts and 30 Watts respectively; all three also have Bluetooth for directly playing music.
For the purposes of this review, I'll be talking most about the H7, as it's both the top of the line Music Flow speaker and the one that I spent the most time with. It's $549, and at 370x232x110mm and 4.1kg it has the size and weight to handle some powerful audio output whether you're listening to music or watching a movie.
What's It Good At?
Somewhere along the way, I feel like good sound fell by the wayside when smart, network-connected speakers started getting popular. There are so many Bluetooth speakers out there that just sound OK. I'm happy to report that the entire LG Music Flow range actually sounds pretty damn good, too, and the star of the lineup in the H7 can definitely keep up with its chief competitor, Sonos's PLAY:5.
The H7 is a 70-Watt speaker, with dedicated tweeter and woofer drivers in its 370mm wide, 232mm tall chassis, and if you're into loud music, this is the one to get. It's easily the equal of the Sonos PLAY:5 when it comes to playing loud, with excellent bass for a speaker enclosure of its size, and surprisingly clear treble over a wide soundstages. Unless you're going to be using it in a really large room, we can't see you needing more than one H7 Music Flow speaker to fill your living environment with sound.
The smaller H5 and especially H3 lend themselves to being paired up in stereo -- you could have two H3s in a large bedroom or two H5s in a living room, for example, in a setup that would happily produce appreciably loud and stereo-defined audio. In a common or garden Sydney apartment, I think I'd be perfectly happy with two H5s for the living room and a supplementary H3 in the bedroom. All of the three speakers produce musical, involving sound -- it's just a question of how loud you want to go, and how much extra bass you want, as to which one you buy.
The crowning feature of the Music Flow range is its ability, across all three network speaker units, to connect directly to a smartphone over Bluetooth. More than that, you can connect to This broadens the appeal of these speakers considerably; you don't have to be connected to Wi-Fi to access more than one at a time, which makes it significantly easier for a guest to your house to put on some music from their smartphone.
I never had a problem with the Music Flow's Wi-Fi dropping out, either, courtesy of the dual-band setup and the standalone R1 wireless bridge's hefty transmission power. I've had issues in the past with Sonos' PLAY:5 cutting out in the middle of a music track when the Wi-Fi network it was connected to was less than stellar, but the Music Flow seems a lot more tolerant. Bluetooth was similarly trouble-free in my testing, although I only connected to two speakers, rather than the four or five on offer, at once.
What's It Not Good At?
LG's Music Flow speakers can go loud, but that doesn't necessarily mean you should use them to the fullest extent of their power. The H3, for example, distorts a little with strong bass kicks at the top of its range, and treble gets harsh. I would have been perfectly happy had LG capped the H3 and H5's output power at around 75 per cent of their maximum, and simply suggesting the H7 for larger living spaces. The H7 is consistently distortion-free, though; it's just the smaller speakers that start to run out of breath at full tilt.
Although it does give you troublefree Wi-Fi and a pretty decent coverage range, having to purchase and install the R1 wireless bridge is an extra cost that adds to the overall price of the Music Flow system if you want to use one or more speakers wirelessly. You can connect everything over Ethernet, of course, and that's probably the best solution if you're planning a permanent solution, but if you want to go wireless you'll have to pay a little extra.
While the Android version of the Music Flow app on both tablet and smartphone was rock solid in my testing, I found the iPad version of the app struggled to get into the groove with a pre-existing system. After a couple of app crashes and the app deciding to re-index all my iPad's stored music upon restarting each time, it turned out to be much simpler to just use an Android device. I did test this a little while ago, though, so that minor issue may already have been solved.
Should You Buy It?
LG's Music Flow range of speakers isn't a quiet entry into the competitive world of multi-room home audio; it's an all-guns-blazing charge. Unlike Sonos' slow but ceaseless march and Samsung's more measured and methodical approach over the last few years, if you go to buy a LG networked speaker now you have four to choose from and more on the way. The company is clearly committed to the system and it'll grow further with time.
The hardware is good, for one. The H7 is far and away the best speaker in LG's Music Flow lineup, but the H5 and H3 have equal purpose -- even if they should ideally be used in a pair for the best possible stereo sound and overall audio power. Having to buy the R1 bridge to get your speakers to work wirelessly is a bit of a pain -- see if you can get it thrown in for free if you buy a couple of speakers at once -- and drives up the cost, so take that into account.
But, as the overall ecosystem goes, LG has seemingly got the major points right with Music Flow. If you're thinking of kitting out your house with multiple multi-room audio speakers, you could do a lot worse.