“Novelty is the universal cry – novelty by hook or by crook!” wrote Auguste Escoffier, father of French cuisine, in 1907, while criticising the delicate gimmickry of overpriced food trends. When first faced with LG’s new pastry-themed soundbar, the Eclair QP5, Escoffier immediately springs to mind. Mainly because he knew a thing or two about great patisserie but also, perhaps, because he understood the value of not falling into the trap of innovation for innovation’s sake.
Although Dolby Atmos soundbars may seem to have little in common with the world of fine dining (the typically monolithic black slabs rarely offer much aesthetic finesse), LG has this year delivered a rather unusual palate cleanser with the Eclair QP5.
Petite (you could fit almost five of them inside the company’s flagship LG SP11RA) and with soft curved edges, finished in a woven fabric that gives the included wireless sub the appearance of an IKEA footstool, the Eclair QP5 is a refreshing change of form from many other models currently on the market.
It’s also a fairly unique product in attempting to offer immersive audio in an ultra-compact footprint, which must, undoubtedly, be a difficult undertaking. This is a Dolby Atmos soundbar for people who don’t have space for a traditionally formed soundbar, aimed squarely at those living in flats. There’s no requirement for a massive cabinet and there are no wall mounting options, while the separate bi-directional sub is intended to offer cinematic bass without disturbing the neighbours. Much consideration has gone into the Eclair’s purpose and design, and it’s an appealing idea.
At £700 ($600, AU$820), the Eclair QP5 is just over halfway up LG’s Dolby Atmos soundbar range and is equivalently priced with another of the brand’s 3.1.2 packages, the SP8YA. While it may offer the same configuration, the SP8YA goes further on features, supporting hi-res music and network connectivity with Apple Airplay 2, Chromecast and Spotify Connect as well as Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatibility.
Samsung’s similarly high-specced Q700A is priced at £700 ($700, AU$1000) but it’s more likely that people keen on the Eclair would also be interested in other streamlined options such as the Sonos Beam. That What Hi-Fi? Award winner costs £400 ($400, AU$600) and doesn’t have a separate sub or Atmos capabilities, but it does boast five-star sound, wi-fi streaming smarts and can be expanded with two Sonos One surrounds (starting at £149, $149, AU$169 each) or built into a wider Sonos multi-room system.
Although the Eclair includes a decent amount of modern features, such as eARC and 4K HDR passthrough, its lack of any network capabilities feels like a fairly significant omission at this price – and not only because of the absence of streaming options. When using LG’s phone app, which is the only way to access certain settings, you have to first switch the Eclair to Bluetooth mode. So if you’re watching TV or a film and want to make an adjustment you have to interrupt the audio, and then manually pair your phone to the device before resuming and using the app.
Quickly toggling source input can be done either using the small included remote or the buttons on the rear of the main unit. Beneath these are ports for HDMI in, eARC, optical input and a USB drive socket. Three coloured LED lights on the front face of the main bar give visual feedback on changes made using the remote, and there’s a lively voice confirmation too.
The remote also gives access to the Eclair’s four sound profiles: a Meridian-tuned ‘Standard’ mode, a wider ‘Cinema’ profile that upmixes to the height drivers, a ‘Game’ mode, and an AI option that lets the soundbar automatically switch for you. Unlike other LG soundbars, which have a ‘Music’ mode, we find that the AI on the Eclair QP5 isn’t particularly accurate and often plays back music in Cinema mode. There is the option to let a 2020/21 LG TV take over processing duties with the ‘sound mode share’ feature, but it’s worth noting that when watching Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content all other sound modes are locked out.
Connections 1 x HDMI out, 1 x HDMI in, optical, USB
Selected sound format support Dolby Atmos, Dolby True HD, DTS:X, DTS-HD, LPCM
Bluetooth version 4.0
AirPlay 2 No
Voice control No
Dimensions (hwd, cm) 6 x 30 x 13 (bar); 29 x 40 x 19 (sub)
Weight (kg) 1.55 (bar); 7.7 (sub)
Crammed inside the Eclair is a quintet of 5cm drivers: a centre channel, left and right channels (positioned at 45-degree angles to widen the soundstage), and two up-firing drivers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height effects.
The sub, meanwhile, has a pair of 13cm opposing drivers to minimise any vibration generated by the movement of the cones. On the underside is an LED to indicate a connection to the main unit and, on our sample, the two units pair automatically and remain stable. While it’s curved, narrow and fairly compact compared to many of its peers, the sub is by no means tiny and finding a position for it could be tricky in very small spaces.
We are unquestionably curious as to what this tiny morsel of a soundbar can produce, and watching the opening scene from Baby Driver in Dolby Atmos, we are immediately struck by how the sound of the Eclair extends to the extremities of a larger screen.
As the car pulls up in traffic, remarkably there is some sense of a sweeping sound and the opening guitar chords and vocals of Bell Bottoms are enthusiastically belted out. But the same can’t be said of the rest of the arrangement.
There’s little in the way of treble sparkle and the low end feels disconnected and occasionally out of time with the main bar, which is particularly noticeable with loud effects such as gunshots and gear shifts that are meant to be tightly syncopated to the music. In the following sequence where Baby goes to get coffee and people on the street move across his path, their voices sound oddly filtered and distracting as they move from the centre channel to the limits of the soundstage.
Swapping to Gravity (also in Atmos) confirms that, when it comes to spatial precision, the Eclair can’t compete with the top performers as the opening scene’s dramatic mix of orchestral score and hurtling satellites quickly becomes cacophonous. The tiny main unit works hard to project sound upward but it’s vague and lacking in placement or motion. Meanwhile, the voices from the astronauts’ radio comms highlight the areas of the spectrum where the Eclair struggles. While Sandra Bullock’s voice is relatively clear and crisp, the dialogue of the male actors is a touch muffled and not so easy to understand.
When watching the more sedate drama The Chair, on Netflix, we can appreciate that the Eclair is a step up from our TV’s inbuilt speakers and it’s nice to hear the bursts of the classical music score sounding zealous and punchy in contrast to the quiet scenes of academic life.
Streaming music over the Bluetooth connection, we find that the sparse and mellow orchestration of Mohabbat by Arooj Aftab retains the soothing dreaminess of the harmonium and detail of the guitar. Although the sub's sound is perfunctory, it adds some warm resonance to the tabla and we feel comfortable cranking up the volume without it verging on harshness.
But with more forthright tracks such as Jane’s Addiction’s Just Because, the Eclair quickly becomes fatiguing to listen to. The searing guitars sound pushy and the soaring vocals have a boxy, nasal quality. The two compete for the same narrow audio bandwidth of the Eclair, while the bassline from the sub seems detached and monotone. Overall the delivery is a mix of sonic clashes and disjoints that can be incoherent to listen to.
The Eclair QP5 is a singularly small soundbar that delivers ample volume beyond its stature. However, with a brash character, disjointed bass and lacklustre handling of immersive sound formats, users looking for a compact TV sound upgrade might be better off getting a higher quality, non-Atmos bar. The Sonos Beam, while certainly bigger than the Eclair, is still more than neat enough for most set-ups and is available for significantly less money.
It’s a shame that delivering cinematic sound is beyond the scope of such a diminutive speaker, but the Eclair has unquestionably whet our appetite and we’re eager to see more imaginative and stylish designs in home cinema audio. A croquembouche surround system perhaps?
- Sound 3
- Features 4
- Build 5
Want more options? See our round-up of the best soundbars 2021
Read our in-depth Sonos Beam review
Check out our review of the LG SP8YA Dolby Atmos soundbar