LG's standout 4K OLED TVs have been amongst the best TVs on the market for some time, but the company's soundbars (including its Dolby Atmos models) seem to have flown under the radar. So what are they like? And should you consider buying one?
Thus far, the Korean giant's soundbars have garnered a mixed reception. But if "an uncommonly affordable Dolby Atmos soundbar" piques your interest – and it should, it was a phrase uttered by us upon reviewing an LG 'bar – then why not take a closer look? There's even an pastry-sized and shaped model for 2021. (Sorry if you're now hungry.)
LG's soundbar line-up features some of the best in immersive, three-dimensional and hi-res audio tech such as Dolby Atmos, Meridian Audio and DTS:X, plus AI Sound Pro auto-calibration.
As a key player in home cinema, LG has something to prove in the realm of elite-level soundbars. It may not have achieved the hit rate of Sonos (with the Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam, both happy recipients of What Hi-Fi? 2020 Awards) or Yamaha yet, but LG has clearly put a lot of effort into honing its new 2021 range – which will doubtless mean a plethora of deals on its earlier models.
But are LG soundbars any good? And should you consider an LG soundbar deal if you spot a bargain? We'll provide all the expert advice you need to make a sound(bar) decision.
Which are the best LG soundbars?
Let's start with the good. When we reviewed LG's cheapest Dolby Atmos soundbar of 2019, the LG SL8YG (the "uncommonly affordable" model), we were impressed with what we heard in terms of Dolby Atmos presentation. It does a grand job of spreading soundtracks far and wide (and, to a lesser extent, above) thus offering a potential solution if introducing multiple speakers to the lounge is a hard no.
Google Chromecast integration means you can ‘cast’ music and video content from compatible apps (such as Spotify, Tidal, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video) straight to it and it's handy for grouping other Chromecast-enabled speakers together for multi-room playback. Built-in Google Assistant is on board too.
It proved a solid three-star soundbar when we considered the sound quality for bass softness and dynamic expression, but its attractive build and Dolby Atmos support remains a good advert for the format.
While the LG SL9YG didn't exactly receive a glowing review, the impressive sense of Dolby Atmos height featured again, as did the premium feel, and we also heard floor-shaking bass. The sound was middling, but the product showed immense promise if LG could achieve a better integrated, more dynamic and solid sound.
What about LG's latest soundbar line-up?
On paper, the spec-sheets for LG's latest slew of soundbars for 2021 look impressive.
The South Korean tech giant has announced a full suite of eight 'bars to go with its new OLED Evo and QNED TVs for 2021 – and with a 42-inch OLED made by LG Display now in the pipeline, a soundbar with a similar form factor (see above) makes perfect sense. Also on the menu from LG are premium 7.1.4, 5.1.2, and 3.1.2 models, each of which boasts support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio along with LG’s Meridian sound technology.
But it isn't all flagship models. LG's new entry-level TV speakers are typified by a more compact, all-in-one design that includes HDMI connectivity plus a softer, more home-decor friendly appearance. The SP2, for example, is billed as a 2.1-channel, 100W lifestyle soundbar with onboard subwoofers. It offers HDMI connectivity as well as Bluetooth, and comes in a choice of charcoal or grey.
One step up, the 5.1-channel SP7 model maintains the all-in-one design but adds tuning by Meridian Audio, DTS Virtual:X and more oomph (440W).
Here's the full 2021 lineup from LG:
LG SP11R – 7.1.4 channel, 770W, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Meridian tuning
LG SP9 – 5.1.2 channel, 520W, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Meridian tuning
LG SP8 – 3.1.2 channel, 440W, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Meridian tuning
LG SPD7 – Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, 3.1.2 channel, 380W
LG SP7 – 5.1 channel, 440W, Meridian tuning
LG QP5 Éclair – 3.1.2 channel, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X
LG SN4 – 2.1 channel, 300W
LG SP2 – 2.1 channel, 200W, HDMI and Bluetooth
LG says most of the new models, aside from the cutesy QP5 Éclair, will be available by March or April 2021. Pricing has yet to be announced – but we'll let you know as soon as.
Going back to LG's 2020 range, that five-strong – and still very relevant – rollout bears the prefix 'SN' followed by a number, then either 'RG' (LG's top of the range model) 'YG' or 'Y' suffixes. All of them boast AI Sound Pro.
This addition to the feature list – seen for the first time in 2020 – is essentially auto-calibration tech, meaning compatible soundbars will analyse your room and adjust their sound to suit the space available.
The flagship LG SN11RG (pictured, above) is a 770W, 7.1.4 hi-res audio (24-bit/192kHz) set-up that comes complete with two wireless rear speakers, both of which are forward and up-firing.
It also boasts Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and British hi-fi specialist Meridian Audio's Advanced Sound Technology enhancements – Bass and Space technology aims to boost low frequencies and widen the soundstage, while Image Elevation promises to raise the perceived height of vocals and instruments.
Does it deliver? Sadly, under intense review conditions, we found the bass "woolly" and the audio lacking in clarity generally – and at £1499 ($1599, AU$1699) we expect more.
The LG SN10YG is a 5.1.2 channel option, also with Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and built-in Google Assistant, plus 4K and Dolby Vision video passthrough.
With the SN10YG (above) and the three other, lower-priced new soundbar offerings, you could, of course, add full surround-sound via LG's optional SPK8 Wireless Rear Speaker Kit, sold separately.
Boasting a similar spec-sheet (albeit in a 3.1.2 channel set-up) the LG SN8YG is a compact design and simple set-up for slightly smaller rooms and TVs from 49in and upwards. Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, AI Sound Pro and Meridian Audio's Advanced Technologies are all still on the menu, as is built-in Google Assistant.
Into LG's more budget-friendly 2020 options and the LG SN6Y is a 3.1 channel set-up with DTS Virtual:X, (note the 'Virtual') and a dedicated centre channel. There's no Dolby Atmos support or Google Assistant built-in, but you do get Bluetooth, optical and HDMI ARC connectivity.
At the most affordable end of the scale, the LG SN5Y (below) is a 2.1 channel hi-res audio set-up with DTS Virtual:X. AI Sound Pro still adjusts sound levels to what you're watching, there's Bluetooth support, and LG says it best suits TVs of between 40in and 49in.
Should I buy an LG soundbar?
On paper, the 2021 flagship LG SP11R – a 7.1.4 channel, 770W, Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Meridian tuning offering – is LG's most impressive-looking new proposition, although considering its predecessor's asking fee we'd expect it to come with a similarly premium price tag.
At the other end of the scale, however, LG regularly includes its most budget-friendly or slightly older soundbars in sales promotions, proving there are bargains to be had, even on new releases.
While we've yet to test the current class of LG soundbar, if LG has capitalised on the immersive Dolby Atmos chops seen in previous iterations and fine-tuned the sound quality, it could be on to a winner this year.
We wouldn't turn our noses up at a tempting LG soundbar deal, should one present itself. Check for feature support on cheaper and smaller models as things such as DTS:X and built-in Google Assistant aren't a given at that end of the scale, but there's a fair chance they will still offer good value.
While the 2021 range has yet to grace our testing facility, these are particularly tempting on paper due to the inclusion of AI Sound Pro auto-calibration tech and updated aesthetics. The 2020 models are bound to be reduced, too, so if virtual surround-sound on a tight budget is top of your list, keep an eye out for deals.
For the ultimate sonic enhancement of your TV's sound, we'd suggest checking out our buying guide to the best soundbars, which is full of worthy alternatives for you to consider. Top of the pile for an easy upgrade on your TV's speakers has to be the Sonos Beam or Sonos Arc – both What Hi-Fi? Awards 2020 winners.
Veering towards a 5.1 home cinema speaker package rather than a soundbar? The Dali Oberon 5 5.1 Speaker Package got our nod for Product of the Year at the What Hi-Fi? Awards 2020. A quick scan of the current deals online suggests you could nab it for bang on in the middle of those two figures rather than at the top end, too. A few options to consider...
Read all our LG reviews