Review

Sony’s lamp slash speaker for balmy summer evenings

Livia Gamper
27.06.2022
Translation: Katherine Martin

The LSPX-S3 is the third version of Sony’s unusual speaker – and it looks like a bong. While you may not be able to smoke anything with it, the gadget does do three things: music, light and hands-free phone calls.

When manufacturers launch hybrid products, it often goes badly wrong. I can say from experience that products hailed as all-singing, all-dancing are often neither fish nor fowl. Sony’s new lamp-speaker combo has not just two, but three functions. The LSPX-S3 can play music, produce light and serve as a hands-free feature when making phone calls. With this in mind, you can probably call it a tribrid.

Sony LSPX-S3 (8 h, 30 m, USB bus-powered)
383.–

Sony LSPX-S3

8 h, 30 m, USB bus-powered

8 h, 30 m, USB bus-powered

4

Sony has the unconventional speaker delivered to me at work. On my bike ride home, I sweat even more than usual; with its elongated design, the LSPX-S3 isn’t designed to be transported in a backpack. Nevertheless, the speaker slash lamp survives the journey home unscathed.

The glass tube produces a good sound

The first thing I want to know is how the speaker sounds. In the tube, which is made of «organic glass» (also known as acrylic glass), Sony has installed the tweeter. The mids are generated with a 46-millimetre speaker unit, while a passive radiator is supposed to provide the bass. I listen to «Burn the Witch» by Radiohead on my balcony. The string orchestra intro sounds well balanced and precise. And when the vocals kick in, the lamp-style speaker sounds sharp, clear and striking. I like when the bass comes in at the chorus. The speaker can even hold its own when the song picks up speed.

The LSPX-S3’s tweeter is located in the glass tube.
The LSPX-S3’s tweeter is located in the glass tube.

On account of my small balcony, however, I do sit near the device. It sounds good from all sides, so it doesn’t matter where it’s positioned on the table. As soon as I’m a few metres away, though, the LSPX-S3 sounds muffled, with the mids and vocals in particular fading into nothing. The speaker doesn’t sound clear over several metres outdoors, nor can it fill a room.

The LSPX-S3 has enough bass for me. If you’d like more, you can activate the standard Sony bass booster in the app. The device then has audibly more boom – a bit too much for my balcony table, which starts to noticeably vibrate along with the music. If you want a tabletop speaker, you need a stable table.

A cosy glow, but not for reading

There’s a small bulb at the bottom of the tweeter glass, the brightness of which can be adjusted to 32 different levels. On top of that, there are two candlelight modes. They allow you to choose whether the lamp should flicker like a candle or flash in time to the music. Getting such a small light to dance to the beat of the music is pointless, in my opinion. There’s not much of a difference between that and normal mode. The candle modes are of the most use when it’s dark and you want to set a cosy mood. As a table lamp, the LSPX-S3 is bright enough.

You’ll find the small LED bulb at the bottom of the glass tube.
You’ll find the small LED bulb at the bottom of the glass tube.

The LSPX-S3 can’t light a living room, nor can it be used as a reading light – the bulb isn’t strong enough for that. It’s no good as a balcony light either, as it’s not bright enough to illuminate tripping hazards on the floor.

Good battery life depending on usage

Sony says the battery lasts eight hours. Compared to a UE Boom 3, which has a 15-hour battery life, that isn’t much. But the Boom, like almost every speaker, doesn’t have a built-in light. The more I crank up the brightness of the LSPX-S3 lamp, the faster the battery drains. Battery life is also impacted by the speaker volume. My speaker never falls short of Sony’s specifications: during my test, it runs for just under ten hours in candle mode, without the bass amplifier, and at an average volume. If the battery level falls to below 20 per cent, the speaker starts beeping every couple of minutes, briefly stopping the music in the process. This puts a considerable dampener on the enjoyment of listening to it.

The device is charged via USB-C and takes about five hours to reach full power. You can also use the speaker while it’s being charged.

The controls are fiddly

The lamp-speaker can be controlled in various ways: via the buttons on the device itself or in the Sony Music Center app. The buttons on the device are located on the bottom of the speaker: on and off, answer call, volume up, volume down. There’s also a small touch sensor above the USB-C port that you can use to adjust the brightness of the lamp.

The sensor doesn’t work consistently for me: sometimes nothing happens, or the light gets really bright again, then the lamp just turns off. It takes a while before I get the hang of knowing how to tap the sensor to get it to do what I want. Since the sensor and the buttons are so far down on the speaker, the operation is fiddly and you don’t have the best access to the controls. The Bluetooth pairing button as well as the sleep timer are on the underside of the device. If you want to press the buttons, you need to flip the speaker first.

The four controls are way down below.
The four controls are way down below.
The pairing and timer buttons are on the bottom of the speaker.
The pairing and timer buttons are on the bottom of the speaker.

The app-based controls, on the other hand, are reliable if slightly convoluted. Each one involves opening menu after menu until you get the setting you want. Mind you, you can specify numerous details such as the brightness or level of bass I mentioned before.

The speaker can be connected to a mobile phone via Bluetooth 5.0, with Sony’s high-resolution LDAC Bluetooth codec also supported. Unfortunately, the speaker doesn’t work over Wi-Fi, and connecting it with a jack cable isn’t possible either. The 3-in-1 speaker weighs 1.1 kilogrammes. And thanks to its design, it can easily be carried with one hand.

The call button allows you to answer incoming calls on the speaker itself – a feature that works consistently. During my test call, the voice quality is flawless on both sides. I can hear and be heard clearly.

Verdict: it’s good, with expensive bells and whistles

Sony’s lamp speaker manages to perform all three of its functions well: it lets you listen to music, conjure up a cosy light, answer calls and hold conversations. It’s questionable whether anyone needs all of these features packed into one device. And the whole thing has a high price tag; as of 27 June 2022, the LSPX-S3 costs over 300 francs.

When it comes to the design, it’s a question of taste: it looks like a bong. The glassy, grey look is probably a good fit for a chic rooftop apartment. In my 70s flat, however, it sticks out like a sore thumb. That said, the light looks pretty on my balcony.

If you like the design, don’t have enough lamps at home or want cosy lighting for your balcony, garden or patio while listening to music on balmy summer evenings, you might be happy with the LSPX-S3. And, of course, if you can spare the cash.

On the balcony, the speaker gives off a cosy light.
On the balcony, the speaker gives off a cosy light.

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Testing devices and gadgets is my thing. Some experiments lead to interesting insights, others to demolished phones. I’m hooked on series and can’t imagine life without Netflix. In summer, you’ll find me soaking up the sun by the lake or at a music festival.


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