The Sony LSPX-S2 glass Bluetooth speaker looks like a crazy proposition: it's a digital candle that doubles as a speaker. Yet, up close, this well-crafted plate of cutting-edge technology has something incredibly fascinating.
Perhaps they are the tremendous LED candles (32 levels, in fact, adjustable via an app), or the fact that its protruding 10-inch glass tube is really only at its best with soft jazz (suggestion of a demo relaxing), but perhaps also because LSPX-S2 swims firmly against the technological tide. After all, the conventional wisdom of CES is that the hardware is dead and that all the innovations are now only in software and services.
But looking great and sounding better, the LSPX-S2 paints a very different image both for the convention and for the future of technology as a whole.
LSPX-S2 reminds us of another long-forgotten masterpiece, the 10-inch Sony XEL-1 OLED TV for far-off desktops in 2008. Like the LSPX-S2, that one television only had the latest technology inside a delightful form factor.
But the successor of the most cumbersome LSPX-S1 everyone will not like it, and a lot depends on the environment in which it is placed: in bright light, for example, LSPX-S2 looks a bit like a clumsy combination of a portable speaker and a test tube. However, dimming the lights and the flickering LED light at the base of the glass tube completely changes its aesthetics.
The base of LSPX-S2 is actually the lowlight, design-wise. Sculpted in machined aluminum, it simply looks like a high-end version of the kind of "fun" Bluetooth speaker you could do in the shower or on the beach. For beginners, this adds NFC and supports Spotify Connect and Hi-Res Audio.
A soft material wrapped around the hull houses a USB-C slot to charge it (lasts eight hours per charge), a 3.5mm audio input to connect any audio device (though of course it has both Bluetooth and WiFi), hidden volume and buttons down, a similar mode covered and standby controls.
Fortunately, even if it's small, 1.1 kg is not particularly light. In reality, it is something of a paperweight, and remains on the ground even if it is knocked or bumped. This is crucial because our first thought in seeing the LSPX-S2 was that a stirring cat / child / arm could easily detach it from a table. It's too heavy for that.
It's the one that sticks out from the top of the LSPX-S2 that's history, but calling it glass is extending the truth. It is actually a transparent tweeter that uses organic glass, a sort of acrylic resin that is also found in sunglasses and windows. Touch that glass and you can hear it vibrate gently during music playback.
Sony describes technology as Advanced Vertical Drive, and what happens when you play music is that the glass vibrates gently when touched by a circular actuator at its base. That glass is corked all around, sending the sound vertically to 360 degrees. It also has a much higher surface than the average tweeter, so detail and volume.
The performance of the LSPX-S2 depends on what sounds and where. Fed with a soft jazz and dreamy female voices, it excels absolutely, offering warm tones of mid-range. The use of glass tube, although aesthetically rather shocking, turns out to be a pure way to ensure that 360-degree audio is just that, and for once not a compromise based on the algorithm.
That said, for two people sitting opposite each other, or on any round table, the LSPX-S2 makes a lot of sense; offers all the same audio performance and the same lighting. It would also work on a bedside table, partly due to the built-in sleep timer.
Obviously, the speaker does not need to live alone on a kitchen table for two people – Sony has also shown it in a domestic environment, with a pair of LSPX-S2 left on a desk. The light emitted by one of them is not sufficient for a close work, but it seems OK for reading.
Surprisingly, LSPX-S2 supports Spotify Connect and Hi-Res Audio, but given its price – £ 550 (about $ 700, AU $ 975) when it will be launched in May – we're glad it does. Furthermore, not only can the LSPX-S2 be combined with a second unit (the standard for wireless speakers of this price) it also works with other Sony Bluetooth speakers.
The LSPX-S2 is the classic Sony: deliciously designed, is a robust piece of anti-tech that can also look, feel and play at the forefront. However, it's not particularly versatile, it does not offer Apple AirPlay, and despite the 360 degree immersive music march that's happening right now, the limited musical reach and the high price probably means that the LSPX-S2 is probably just over a passing news.
While we hope it does not fade like a candle in the wind, we are glad to have listened to it – it was one of the brightest experiences of CES this year.
- Check out the TechRadar CES 2019 coverage. We live in Las Vegas to offer you all the news and technology launches, as well as practical reviews of everything from 8K televisions to folding displays, to new phones, smart laptops and gadgets for the home.