Technology reporters have spent the last few months heaping praise on the Sony Glass Sound Speaker (LSPX-S1). The Verge called it "magnificent" and the Wall Street Journal said "it may be the speaker that you most want to live with." The unique design—a tall, clear tower enclosing an adjustable LED light—even earned the item inclusion in the Museum of Modern Art’s online store.

According to the site, the speaker is one of MoMA's best sellers. The ad copy gushes that Sony has managed to “create a new kind of living experience," one that looks like a “sleek, softly glowing lantern but is also a powerful speaker with breathtaking sound quality.”  

You can probably see where this is going. 

Consumer Reports has now tested this Bluetooth speaker, which carries an $800 price tag, making it the most expensive in our ratings. And we found that where it matters most, the speaker is decidedly ho-hum, earning just fair marks for overall sound quality. As I write this, 68 speakers have scored higher in our recent tests.

the Sony Glass Sound Speaker sitting on a shelf
Photo: Terry Sullivan

We found that the bass has mediocre impact and the lower bass is lacking in power. The midrange is thin and somewhat hazy. And, working our way higher in tone, the lower and mid-treble are subdued while the upper treble is overly prominent with a sizzly sound. The overall sound quality is somewhat harsh at higher volumes. 

With some speaker models, we find that adding a second unit really improves the overall sound, but that wasn't the case when we tested a pair of the Sony Glass Sound Speakers. Our testers found that the sound remained thin. Though the bass was slightly more robust, everything else was somewhat hazy and congested.

When we approached Sony with our findings, a company spokesperson questioned what kinds of songs we used in our testing, pointing out that the speaker is designed more for the mellow music crowd than, say, fans of Black Sabbath. “When you listen to jazz, classical, or acoustic types of music, you have the ability to hear a much clearer sound," said Tamica Fields, a marketing specialist in Sony’s Life Space UX division. "You notice different kinds of instruments that you wouldn’t notice on a regular Bluetooth speaker.”

For what it's worth, we do employ a full range of music—everything from classical to hip hop—in our speaker testing.

Fields also stressed the significance of the product's lantern-like look. "We wanted to give people the benefit of being able to move the speaker around," she said. "With its sleek, elegant design, it seamlessly integrates into the home.”

We agree that the Glass Sound Speaker is visually elegant, with a sort of minimalist, Donald Judd appeal—and on pure looks, we understand why it landed on the MoMA shopping site. Yet, even when it comes to design, we have misgivings. To control various features on the speaker, including the strength of the lamp’s illumination, you can download an app. But if you want to change those settings using buttons on the speaker itself, you need to turn the unit upside down—which is not the most convenient way for users to access a device's controls.

the controls on the bottom of the Sony Glass Sound Speaker
Volume and light dimming controls are found on the bottom of this Sony speaker.
Photo: Terry Sullivan

In the end, we don't think cutting edge design should cost so much: For that credit card-straining $800 price tag, you can buy two or three wireless speakers that have superior sound.

Check out the BravenBRV-XXL, $350, or the Marshall Kilburn, $300. Both scored better than the Sony Glass Sound in our ratings. And our top-rated speaker, the Sonos Play:5, costs just $500—which, as we recall, used to seem like a lot to pay for a wireless speaker.