Panasonic SC-GA10 Review: High fidelity smart sound

Panasonic SC-GA10
Panasonic SC-GA10

Quick Verdict
If Google's own Home speakers leave you wanting for quality audio, Panasonic's more Hi-Fi friendly SC-GA10 will deliver more of what your ears crave.

The good

  • Good audio reproduction.
  • Panasonic Music Control app can talk to multiple sources.
  • Refined design.
  • Multiple inputs.

The bad

  • Microphone pickup a little lacking.
  • No 360 degree sound.
  • Large power brick.
  • Top-mounted touch controls a little too easy to accidentally tap.


While Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa have been battling it out for voice control of homes overseas for a few years now, here in Australia it has been a relatively recent phenomenon, kicked off by the appearance of Google's Home Speakers in 2017.

Google Home is a very capable speaker platform, but nobody's going to accuse it of being a high-fidelity platform.

That's where speakers like the Panasonic SC-GA10 come in.

Panasonic SC-GA10: Design

Panasonic has a history in the audio space, and it shows with the SC-GA10, which has a classic Hi-Fi component feel to it. Measuring in at 100 x 284 x 100 mm and with a carrying weight of 1.7kg, it's taller than most other competing smart speakers, but with a design that allows it to more seamlessly blend in with most home decor.

The key idea here is that you'd place the SC-GA10 up against a wall (more on this later) somewhere in your home, and then use it for its audio reproduction and Google Assistant features.

In keeping with that design style, actual controls are subtle and out of the way, because this is largely meant to be a speaker you're going to talk to, rather than spend much time tapping.

Controls are based on a top-mounted touch panel, including connection method, audio level, power and microphone muting, if desirable. For some reason, the volume touch controls are right near the power button, which is mildly annoying, but not a mistake you're likely to make more than once. Or if you're me, more than about 3 times.

The Panasonic SC-GA10 might be a future-facing smart speaker, but it's also surprisingly well laid out for alternate connection methods. You can use it as a straight Bluetooth speaker if that's all you want, and there's also support for connecting a 3.5mm audio input jack.

You could go quite nuts and hook up the Google Assistant-using Panasonic SC-GA10 to an Alexa-toting Amazon Echo Dot if you wanted to, although I'm not going to be held responsible for what happens if you do.

The one slight downside to the Panasonic SC-GA10 comes via its power adaptor, which is on the hefty side. Given how much actual space and weight the SC-GA10 takes up, it's a little disappointing that its adaptor isn't mostly internal, because it means you have to find somewhere to hide its ugly power brick when placing it.

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Panasonic SC-GA10: Speaker quality

The SC-GA10's core selling point is in offering high quality audio, which it manages via a stacked speaker arrangement with dual 2cm tweeters and an 8cm woofer to deliver a 180 degree soundstage.

It's a smart design for its size, and it's one that delivers a very good audio experience, as long as you're at the front of it. It's rather evident from the fact that it pushes audio out at 180 degrees that it's not going to offer the same 360-degree music output that you would get out of, say, an Apple HomePod.

It's not that the SC-GA10 goes silent if you're behind it, but you do lose a lot of the ambient richness of its output if you're not fundamentally in front of it. The solution that works best for this is to place the SC-GA10 as close to a wall as is feasible, so you're always getting the best tones out of it. If what you want is a smart speaker for the middle of a room you're always moving around in, it might not be the best match.

Still, audio reproduction testing with multiple audio sources and music types was very pleasing. Led Zeppelin's classic "Stairway to Heaven" kept the proper plucking resonance of its guitar notes along with its more subtle flutes, while Prince's "Let's Go Crazy" kept its own punchy tones well. Even more modern and generally over-produced pop tunes presented well on the SC-GA10's speakers.

Top volume is quite loud and capable of filling a room quite well, although you're probably not going to have the neighbours calling the constabulary if you were to use it as your sole party speaker.

Setting up the Panasonic SC-GA10 isn't dissimilar to any other Google Assistant speaker, with the Google Home app used to share network connectivity and naming functions to your SC-GA10 with minimal fuss. Panasonic also offers up its own Panasonic Music Control App, complete with equalisation controls if the default balance isn't to your taste.

Ordinarily, you wouldn't want to give third-party control apps a second thought, but Panasonic is clearly also jousting towards the like of Sonos, given that its app not only offers direct playback from popular streaming sources but also network discovery of any digital music sitting on the local network. It's not a spectacularly pretty app, but the ability to quickly queue up a playlist from songs on my local NAS was greatly appreciated.

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Panasonic SC-GA10: Smart home quality

However, the Panasonic SC-GA10 isn't just a fancy Bluetooth speaker, as it's one of what will be many devices launched in Australia this year to include Google Assistant onboard.

It manages its Google Assistant integration with the use of an array of top-mounted microphones that listen out for your call of "OK Google". As with any smart speaker, you've got to be comfortable with having an always-on Internet connected microphone in your home to make the most of the SC-GA10, although you can optionally switch the microphone off if you don't want others controlling your speaker deliberately or inadvertently.

The Panasonic SC-GA10's audio pickup on its microphones was decent, but not quite up to the level of some of the best smart speakers we've tested. With the SC-GA10 placed at one end of the room and playing music, I sometimes had problems getting it to recognise even a simple "OK Google".

There's functionally no difference in Google Assistant integration from one device to the next, which means that exactly the same features and limitations that apply to the Google Home or Google Home Mini also apply to the Panasonic SC-GA10. That means you can use it to control compatible smart home devices at a phrase. Indeed, having already set up a Google Home Mini in my house, I didn't even have to tell the SC-GA10 where or what my smart home appliances were, because it already knew.

That also means that you can hit those frustrating moments where Google Assistant has to tell you that it can't do something, or doesn't know something due to your phrasing or accent. Google Assistant is getting better all the time, so that's a problem that may diminish over time, but if you think you're getting an all-knowing digital genie in your house, think again.

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Panasonic SC-GA10: Verdict

The Panasonic SC-GA10 presents good balanced audio in an appealing form factor with the added advantages of Google Assistant on board.

If all you want is just a smart speaker and audio quality isn't a concern, then this isn't the speaker for you. However, if what you desire is good quality audio along with smart features, this is a far superior offering to the regular Google Home or Google Home Mini.

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Panasonic SC-GA10: Pricing and availability

The Panasonic SC-GA10 will retail for $379 outright, and will be available in Australia in May 2018.

Panasonic SC-GA10: Alternatives

In the Google Assistant space, your options start with the low-cost Google Home Mini, which features all of the voice assistant features but nowhere near the audio quality of the SC-GA10. That's also true, but to a lesser extent, for the Google Home speaker as well.

Shifting further up the audio quality ladder, the SC-GA10 competes directly with speakers such as the Sony LF-S50G or JBL Link 20, as well as LG's upcoming $299 LG WK7 speaker.

Keeping in the high-end speaker space, there's obvious competition if you live in the iOS world with Apple's exceptional sounding Apple HomePod speaker, but that's a speaker with far fewer music alternatives than any Google Assistant speaker, not to mention the more limited smarts of Apple's Siri.

On the Alexa side of the fence, any of Amazon's Echo speakers such as the Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot or Echo Plus will handle smart home operation, but not with the quality of the SC-GA10 for music playback. Sonos has stated that we'll see Alexa integration in Australia "in Autumn 2018" for its Sonos One speaker, which presumably means any day now.

If you're feeling overwhelmed with the selection, you can use our interactive Smart Speaker hub to find the perfect smart speaker for your needs and budget.

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Panasonic SC-GA10: What the other reviewers say

SiteCommentScore
Techradar"Panasonic’s gutsy SC-GA10 combines the benefits of smart control, with a gloriously immodest musical performance."4/5
Engadget"The GA10 promises stellar sound, but doesn’t deliver."74/100
Trusted Reviews"This is clearly a speaker first, and an assistant second."N/A
Pocket Lint"The GA10 is like the Google Home for people who want decent audio."N/A
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Panasonic SC-GA10 at a glance

Panasonic GA10What is the Panasonic SC-GA10? Consumer Electronics giant Panasonic has thrown its hat into the smart speaker ring, launching the GA10 as a Google Assistant enabled speaker.

When did the Panasonic SC-GA10 come out? The Panasonic SC-GA10 launches in Australia in May 2018.

How much does the Panasonic SC-GA10 cost? Panasonic's first smart speaker will retail for $379 outright.

What is the Panasonic SC-GA10?

Much like Sony's LF-S50G, the Panasonic SC-GA10 is a Google Assistant-powered smart speaker from a Japanese electronics giant. Panasonic has leveraged its history of audio engineering to produce a compact smart speaker with a unique design and premium audio reproduction.

Rather than many of today's smart speakers, the GA10 is designed to push audio to 180 degrees, rather than the 360 degrees of the likes of the Apple Homepod. But with dual 2cm tweeters and an 8cm woofer, the major selling point of this speaker is its audio performance.

What can the Panasonic SC-GA10 smart speaker do?

As a Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker, the GA10 can do everything from telling you the time, giving you weather updates and updates on your daily travel times to a given destination. It can answer random trivia questions, control connected smart home devices and read the latest headlines from trusted news sources. It can also stream music.

In addition to working on Wi-Fi to stream, the GA10 is a fully-fledged Bluetooth speaker, so you can have a direct music stream from your smart device.

When does the Panasonic SC-GA10 launch in Australia?

You can purchase the Panasonic GA10 from May 2018 from leading retailers.

How much does the Panasonic SC-GA10 cost?

You can pick up the Panasonic SC-GA10 for $379.

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Name Panasonic SC-GA10
Assistant Google Assistant
Wireless Network 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz/5GHz)
Weight (grams) 1,700
Height (mm) 284
Width (mm) 100
Depth (mm) 100
Speaker Information 8cm Dual Voice Coil Woofer x 1/2cm Soft Dome Tweeter x 2
Bluetooth Yes
Min. Frequency Response (Hz)
Max. Frequency Response (Hz)
Audio Out Yes
Water Rating N/A
Review Score

Pros

  • Good audio reproduction
  • Panasonic Music Control app can talk to multiple sources
  • Refined design
  • Multiple inputs

Cons

  • Microphone pickup a little lacking
  • No 360 degree sound
  • Large power brick
  • Top-mounted touch controls a little too easy to accidentally tap
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Updated February 28th, 2020
Name Product Voice Assistant Speaker Information RRP Purchase Today
Google Nest Mini 2nd Gen
Google Assistant
40mm driver
$79
Amazon Echo Dot (2nd gen)
Alexa
N/A
$79
Google Home Mini
Google Assistant
40mm driver
$79
Amazon Echo Plus (1st Gen)
Alexa
2.5" woofer + 0.8" tweeter
$99
Amazon Echo Show 5
Alexa
1.65-inch built-in speaker
$129
Amazon Echo (3rd Gen)
Alexa
3.0” woofer, 0.8” tweeter
$149
Google Home
Google Assistant
2" driver + dual 2" passive radiators
$199
Amazon Echo Spot
Alexa
1.4-inch speaker
$199
Google Home Hub
Google Home Hub
Google Assistant
Full-range speaker
$199
JBL Link 10
Google Assistant
2 x 45mm transducers
$229.95
Sony LF-S50G
Google Assistant
53mm woofer + 48mm satellite
$249
Lenovo 10-inch Smart Display
Lenovo 10-inch Smart Display
Google Assistant
2" 10W full range speaker + 2 x passive tweeters
$249
Sonos ONE
Google Assistant
Alexa
1 mid-woofer + tweeter
$299
JBL Link 20
Google Assistant
2 x 50mm transducers
$299.95
Amazon Echo Studio
Alexa
3x 2” midrange speakers, 1x 1” tweeter, 1x 5.25” woofer
$329
Google Nest Hub Max
Google Assistant
2x 18mm 10W tweeters, 1x 75mm 30W woofer
$349
Amazon Echo Show (2nd Gen)
Alexa
Dual 2” active drivers + passive radiator
$349
JBL Link 300
Google Assistant
1 x 89mm woofer, 1 x 20mm tweeter
$349.95
Panasonic SC-GA10
Google Assistant
8cm Dual Voice Coil Woofer x 1/2cm Soft Dome Tweeter x 2
$379
Google Home Max
Google Assistant
Two 114mm high-excursion woofers + two 18mm custom tweeters
$399
Apple HomePod
Siri
4" woofer + 7 tweeters
$499

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