There seems to be a bit of an arms race going on with Dolby Atmos soundbars at the moment. In an effort to one-up the competition, big brands are cramming their latest and greatest soundbars with more and more drivers in new and unexpected places. It has echoes of the early 2000s when the world of men's shaving was rocked by a similar war of creative innovation and capitalism as manufacturers competed to sell razors with increasing numbers of blades in an all-out battle known as the Razor Blade Wars.
But, just as a close shave is due as much to the quality of the blade as the number, an excess of drivers pointing in every possible direction does not guarantee better home cinema sound or less irritation.
The LG S95QR is LG’s flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar for 2022, boasting a massive 17 drivers in a 9.1.5 configuration; it’s a multi-speaker package comprising a primary soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two wireless rear speakers. It ups the ante on the brand’s previous models with the addition of side-firing drivers on the rears (a feature already employed by its rival Samsung) as well as an upward-firing centre channel that LG claims is a world first.
Costing £1700 / $1800 / AU$2000, the LG S95QR supersedes the 7.1.4 channel SP11RA, which launched in 2021 at £1500 / $1700 / AU$1849 but can now be found with around 30 per cent off. It’s priced to compete directly with Samsung’s premium Q990B Dolby Atmos soundbar, which has an even higher channel count as an 11.1.4 package that will set you back £1600 / $1900 / AU$2200.
Externally the S95QR has had a bit of a refresh, shrinking slightly and getting a new, angular, and not particularly premium-looking, grey finish. However, more significant are the internal changes that have been made to help boost the bar's performance. Starting with the core components, LG has improved its speaker design, increasing the dimensions of its racetrack drivers for a more powerful performance.
The main soundbar contains ten drivers in total, with left and right channels handled by two 20mm silk dome tweeters and two 52 x 99mm woofers. A pair of 50mm drivers on either end of the soundbar deliver surround side effects, while two 63mm units on the top surface supply height effects for immersive sound formats.
Connections eARC, 2x HDMI, optical, USB
Sound format support Dolby Atmos/ Dolby AudioTM/ DTS:X/ DTS-HD/ PCM
AirPlay 2 Yes
Voice control Google Assistant, Alexa
Dimensions (hwd) 6.3 x 120 x 13.5cm (bar); 40 x 29 x 40cm (sub); 22 x 14 x 16cm (rears)
Weight 5kg (bar); 10kg (sub); 4kg (rears)
In the centre, a 63mm driver faces forward, which couples with a 20mm silk dome tweeter on the top surface. Unlike the system’s other height drivers, this tweeter does not produce Atmos effects. Instead, it supplements the traditional front-facing driver to help raise the overall image for better dispersion and increased dialogue clarity.
The wireless sub has also been modified from previous generations, with the size of its driver increasing from 18 to 20 cm. The limp bass of the SP11RA was a real weakness when we tested the package, but LG’s updated cabinet has been revamped to add volume for increased sound pressure and bass quality, which the company claims yields an extra 5dB average SPL in both sub and soundbar performance. The sub certainly feels a bit more substantial and less of an afterthought than previous models, weighing nearly 3kg more than the one from last year.
Moving on to the rear speakers, the cabinets have a new apex design to distribute sound more evenly across a claimed 135-degree space for more forgiving placement and contain three 63mm drivers for surround effects at the front, side and overhead. In keeping with other years, these six-channel surrounds are only included with the flagship S95QR package and cannot be bought separately and added to other LG soundbars.
Another upgrade for the S95QR’s satellite speakers is enhanced wi-fi connectivity, courtesy of a new FEM amplifier that will boost the signal between the system's wireless circuits and antenna. This means that the connection to both wireless subwoofer and surrounds should have greater stability, while improved signal sensitivity and an increased transmission distance from around 19m to an impressive 30 metres makes the speakers more flexible to position, no matter how huge your living room is.
As well as an abundance of drivers, LG has once again been generous with the connectivity options on its flagship soundbars. The S95QR offers Bluetooth, Spotify Connect, AirPlay 2 and Chromecast onboard. You can control your streaming service, adjust the volume and change sound modes with your voice thanks to Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa support.
For hardwired connections, there are eARC, optical and USB inputs, as well as two additional HDMI passthrough ports that support gaming features such as (VRR) and (ALLM). However, 4K HDR signals are only handled at up to 60Hz.
If you hate unsightly cables running between your TV and soundbar, you can pair it with the new LG WOWCAST audio dongle (sold separately) to enjoy lossless multi-channel audio wirelessly. WOWCAST support includes bitstream passthrough for Dolby Atmos, Dolby Atmos TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS:X and DTS-HD Master Audio and is priced at £100 (around $135 / AU$188).
The S95QA not only handles Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive sound formats, but it’s LG’s first soundbar to include IMAX Enhanced support, which uses a modified version of DTS:X.
Long-term LG associate Meridian Audio again supplies its Horizon technology to the S95QR for upmixing two-channel audio to 7.1 channels in music mode. As with previous years, if you buy a 2022 LG soundbar and an LG TV, the two can be partnered to use Sound Share, which lets the TV's more sophisticated software take over processing duties.
The S95QA has a simple room calibration system onboard but also offers users plenty of choices to tweak the system's sound to their liking with level control for channels, EQ and a selection of seven different sound profiles, including Sports, Game and Bass Blast. However, we’d steer clear of almost all of these except Cinema for films, and Music for music.
Starting our testing with Blade Runner 2049, it's apparent listening to the bass-heavy score that the modifications LG has made to the S95QR’s low-end performance are very much a step in the right direction, with more attack and better integration with the system as a whole. For sudden impactful sounds, such as explosions or the gunfire when K visits the orphanage, the low end is still a little slow and saggy. But it certainly adds a healthy dose of cinematic rumble and dynamic depth without drawing too much attention to its performance.
The addition of the upward-facing tweeter has improved dialogue clarity and openness. As a system, there’s generally plenty of precision across higher frequencies, though it's carefully controlled to prevent things from verging into harshness at louder volumes. Occasionally this results in a slight lack of treble sparkle.
Switching to Roma, the 360 degree soundscape is nicely realised as the main character Cleo bustles about her employer's house. The rear surrounds have a very even spread with enough weight to properly partake in the action, though they seem to perform at their best with atmospheric, airy sounds. Most multi-box systems suffer to some extent with the sound from the rears, and the voicing between the surrounds and the front sides on the S95QR could be more consistent – moving sounds have quite a noticeable tonal shift at the handover point. Height effects, from any direction, aren’t particularly focussed or effective compared to those provided by the Sonos Arc or Sennheiser Ambeo, both of which use a single, cohesive soundbar system.
Streaming Paul Simon’s The Coast, the upgrades to the sub and drivers on the S95QR bring out the warmth of the hand drums and backing vocals, balancing out the delicate detail of the clean guitars and shakers. There could be more attack at the start of notes and, unsurprisingly, timing is an issue for this rhythmically complex track, but these are common issues for soundbars when it comes to music playback. For casual listening, the S95QR isn’t offensive, but this is certainly a package that is better suited to its main purpose, home cinema sound.
LG’s dominance in the world of OLED TVs is in stark contrast to its often disappointing performance with elite-level soundbars. But, encouragingly, the S95QR shows distinct improvement from last year's model and, despite the high price, it offers users an awful lot of drivers and technology for the money.
Its upgrades are more than just cosmetic, and raise the soundbars to a new, much more competitive level. And while It may not be particularly musical or strong at delivering overhead effects, the S95QR has a broadly balanced, spacious soundstage that is detailed, cinematic and engaging.
- Sound 4
- Build 3
- Features 5
Read our review of the Sonos Arc
Also consider the Samsung HW-Q800A
Read our Sennheiser Ambeo review