Sure, you can buy small, portable, battery-powered Bluetooth speakers that you can take with you wherever you go. In a pinch, they'll do a decent job for a small house party. But if you want to do things right, you want a big Bluetooth speaker. One that can draw enough power to dim the lights in your neighbourhood every time the bass kicks in. LG's FH6 X-Boom Freestyler — yes, that's its name — is a floor-standing speaker or horizontal boombox with a ridiculously large amount of audio power, and a bunch of LED lights on the front that you can set to flicker on and off in any colour you desire.
What Is It?
The $599 LG FH6 X-Boom Freestyler — just the Freestyler from here on in — is an all-in-one sound system that integrates two massive 8-inch bass woofers and two 1-inch tweeter drivers, a USB port for playing your personal music collection, a FM radio tuner, a Bluetooth radio for connecting your smartphone or modern LG TV, and a pair of microphone inputs. Yes, this is a karaoke machine, just waiting for your caterwauling to join in on top of the latest Selena Gomez track. It's a giant trapezoidal prism, like a Toblerone on steroids.
Packing 600 Watts of audio power into that single-enclosure stereo setup, at a dollar per Watt of audio juice, the X-Boom is a big and imposing piece of audio equipment. Despite being plastic, it's very sturdy and heavy, weighing in at 16.8kg and measuring 818mm tall (as well as 318x388mm around). You're not going to be moving it from location to location regularly, even if it's just within your house — and forget about taking it more than a couple of metres from a power point, because it doesn't have an internal battery like its much smaller portable cousins or the similar Sony GTK-XB7.
Once you've got the FH6 X-Boom Freestyler hooked up to power, you've got a choice of USB inputs — MP3 and WMA file types are supported — or a class auxiliary input jack using a stereo RCA connector. We think the vast majority of users will opt for Bluetooth, though, because it's much more versatile and it also allows for three phones to be hooked up simultaneously and sharing their music tracks, as long as they're all using the Music Flow Bluetooth app. That same app also lets users muck around with the various DJ effects — like a record scratch — that can be added on top of tracks using the buttons on the FH6's top panel.
What's It Good At?
For a speaker that looks as out there as the FH6 X-Boom does, we've come to expect an inversely proportional relationship in sound quality. Big, flashy speakers usually don't sound very good — they're more about style than substance. But, in its own particular musical niche — that's a niche of loud music, with strong bass kicks and a thumping beat — LG's Freestyler actually sounds pretty impressive! It's definitely a musical speaker rather than an analytical one; there's not a huge amount of audible fine detail like you might find with a reference set of near-field bookshelf loudspeakers, but the X-Boom lives up to its name and produces some impressively bass-heavy, but clear, sound.
And it goes loud. If you want a single speaker that will fill your entire two-storey Australian house and quarter acreage with electronic music until the early hours of dawn — or until your neighbours complain, whichever comes sooner — then the FH6 fills that role perfectly. It maintains the same audio signature all the way up to its genuinely painfully loud maximum volume, too, remaining extremely powerful in the bass department but without making massive sacrifices to the quality of the higher end of the spectrum provided by those tiny but gutsy 1-inch treble tweeters. Oh, and you can hook up two X-Boom speakers over Bluetooth, if you decide you want the nuclear option.
The Music Flow Bluetooth app that LG provides for free alongside the Freestyler is a surprisingly useful addition to its repertoire. You can of course just hook up the speaker to your smartphone using Bluetooth and play music from your various streaming apps like Spotify or Apple Music, or you can use the Music Flow Bluetooth app and add in a bunch of different DJ effects or audio effects like phasing or flanging on top of tracks at the same time. It works well, and provides a great, clean interface for the music that you've already got saved to your mobile device.
What's It Not Good At?
It's strange to say this about a Bluetooth speaker, but the FH6 is a complicated device — there's a lot that it can do. You almost have to have the Music Flow Bluetooth app installed when you hook the X-Boom Freestyler to your smartphone, because there's a lot going on — what if you need to change the brightness of the lighting? What if you want to add a little bit of reverb to the acoustic track that you're listening to. To that end, the top control panel is a little bit intimidating for a first-time user, and reading the instruction manual actually goes a long way towards understanding what the FH6 can do.
If I had a criticism of the Freestyler, it would be that the lighting system — for all its versatility — comes off as a little simplistic. I'd like the option for those lights to flash when I get a notification on my connected phone, or for different tones or shades of lighting to flash when there's specific bass or treble notes, in the same way that arena lighting systems are set up for giant stadium bands like U2 to blast out alongside their songs. These are comparatively small additions that work in the background that I think would take the party aspect of the FH6 to another level entirely.
Should You Buy It?
The potential market for the $599 FH6 X-Boom Freestyler is a little small, if you consider it only as a party-starting boombox. It's too powerful to not be used at its ear-bleeding maximum volume for most of the time — it's a waste otherwise, and you'd have more luck with a small portable Bluetooth speaker. It's a DJ speaker, but not one that a DJ could just rock up to your house with unless he has a ute and some serious muscles. It's when you hook it up to a TV and use it as the most powerful soundbar ever that it gets that extra bit of secret sauce that makes it worthwhile.
And, of course, there's the light show to think about as well. The Freestyler's lighting setup is actually pretty cool — it's not gaudy unless you really want it to be — and as long as you think about it as a nifty added extra rather than the central reason for the FH6's existence, there's no downside. The DJ effects we could personally take or leave, but there will definitely be people that enjoy them after a few drinks (or a few drinks more). It's all controlled through an Android app that's easy to use, too.
But at the end of the day we judge speakers on the way that they sound, and the X-Boom does exactly what it says on the tin. It gets loud, and it sounds pretty damn good while doing that. Decent treble response is joined by a ridiculous, stonking amount of bass power, with strong mid-bass and floor-shaking lower bass — it's a party speaker through and through. But these factors also make it a surprisingly useful and versatile speaker for everyday home use underneath your TV — as long as you can find the room for it.