LG Unveils New 2021 Soundbar Range
With its 2021 TV range now safely rolling out globally, LG is turning its attention to its latest soundbar range.
This will comprise no less than five different models, taking in price points all the way up to $2,690. Local prices have yet to be confirmed, but we’ve added basic currency conversions from the UK prices to give you an idea.
Many of the new soundbars will benefit from LG’s now well-established relationship with high-end British Hi-Fi brand Meridian; most will support both full Dolby Atmos and full DTS:X playback, and all will be compatible with a new Synergy TV feature that lets them share audio processing with LG’s latest TVs.
Sitting at the top of the new LG soundbar tree will be the SP11RA (£1,500/AUS$2,690). This boasts 7.1.4 channels - a result of the main soundbar shipping with both an external wireless subwoofer and a pair of wireless rear speakers that carry up- as well as front-firing drivers.
As you would expect of a soundbar system with four up-firing speakers, the SP11RA supports both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos playback. It makes 770W of power available to those 12 channels, and carries an AI Room Calibration feature you can use to automatically tune the system to your room layout.
The SP11RA’s audio has been designed in conjunction with Meridian, and it includes both a new Meridian Horizon Technology Audio processing system, and a Meridian Audio music mode. The former upmixes two-channel stereo content into multichannel audio to make it more immersive, while the Music Mode apparently delivers a more ‘authentic’ hi-fi experience.
The SP11RA plays Hi-Resolution Audio files too and works with the Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa voice recognition systems. Its HDMIs support both eARC (though this only supports Dolby Atmos, not DTS:X) and 4K passthrough with Dolby Vision HDR.
The new TV Sound Mode Share feature allows people who connect one of the new soundbars to a 2021 LG OLED or QNED TV to take advantage of those TV’s excellent AI Sound Pro systems, which do a seriously sophisticated job of continually optimising sound from a wide variety of automatically detected source types.
Stepping down to the SP9YA (£900/AUS$1614) sees you lose the rear speakers, meaning the channel count drops to 5.1.2. Total power output reduces to 520W, too - though you can, if you wish, add LG’s optional SPK8 wireless rear speakers to turn the SP9YA into a 7.1.2 system. Note that LG doesn’t offer any optional wireless rear speakers that carry up-firing drivers as well as front-firing drivers. The SP9YA otherwise carries all the same features you get with the SP11RA.
Stepping down further to the SP8YA (£600/AUS$1076) reduces the channel count to 3.1.2, fed by 440W of total power. Again, you can add the optional SPK8 speakers if you want a real surround sound effect, and aside from its reduced power and channel count, the SP8YA shares the same features you get on the SP11RA.
The SP7Y (£400/AUS$718) mixes things up by ditching up-firing drivers in favour of a traditional 5.1-channel system. It still provides a healthy 440W of power across those channels, though, and can still have SPK8 rears added to it. It offers the virtual implementation of DTS:X, where processing attempts to create the impression of a height effect without having actual height drivers to work with.
As you would expect given the lack of ‘real’ Atmos or DTS:X support, the eARC HDMI support you get with the other soundbars drops on the SP7Y to ordinary ARC. You also lose AI Room Calibration on the SP7Y, along with 4K with Dolby Vision passthrough and support for Google Assistant, Amazon Alexa and Apple AirPlay 2.
Finally, the SPD7Y (no pricing as yet) returns to a 3.1.2 speaker configuration, but the power reduces to 380W. You still don’t get the AI Room Calibration feature, either, or the Google Assistant/Amazon Alexa/Airplay 2 features that disappeared with the SP7Y. Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support returns, though, along with eARC support over HDMI, and 4K Dolby Vision pass through.
All five of the new soundbars are set to roll out across key European markets and North America in April, with additional models promised for later in the year.
I’ve spent the past 25 years writing about the world of home entertainment technology. In that time I’m fairly confident that I’ve reviewed more TVs and projectors than any other individual on the planet, as well as experiencing first-hand the rise and fall of all manner of great and not so great home entertainment technologies.