(Pocket-lint) - Dolby Atmos is firmly on the agenda as the immersive sound technology becomes more readily available through services like Netflix and Apple TV, and integrated into more TVs and soundbars.
For LG, that sees an expansion to three models offering Dolby Atmos and DTS:X in the flagship SL10YG, the SL9YG and the SL8YG. Sitting in slightly different positions, we got a look and listen to these soundbars as they hit the shelves in retail stores.
What's the difference between the models?
While on the surface there are a lot of similarities in these bars, let's start with what's different. First is the size - LG has given guide TV sizes for the bars, with the SL10 the widest and designed for TVs around 65-inches. The SL9 drops down a suit TVs around 55 inches - the average for UK homes - while the SL8 is more compact and better suited to a 49-inch set.
Those sizes give you a guide as to how the bar will look with your TV - pair the SL10 with a 50-inch TV and it will be much wider and look a little odd.
A bigger bar, of course means more internal space and that changes the make of the physical speakers inside. While all support Atmos with upfiring speakers, the composition of the front-firing speakers is different - as it the power output. Here's how they break down:
- LG SL10YG - 570W, 5.1.2
- LG SL9YG - 500W, 4.1.2
- LG SL8YG - 440W, 3.1.2
As you can deduce from the channels listed above, the SL9 doesn't have a physical central speaker - whereas the SL8 and SL10 do.
The SL9, however, has been designed to be mounted in two orientations, so it can be wall-mounted flat, with the soundbar then smartly shifting the soundscape to match the orientation.
The SL9 and the SL10 also have upconverting to 192kHz while the SL8 only offers 96kHz, so those two upper models will potentially give you higher quality sound output.
Of all the models, only the SL10 has two HDMI inputs. While all the models offer HDMI passthrough - supporting 4K HDR - only the top model gives you the option of connecting two different inputs. There is no support for eARC on any models.
Finally you have the prices, which also cover a wide range, with the SL8 being much more accessible than the other models.
- LG SL10YG - £1199
- LG SL9YG - £999
- LG SL8YG - £699
While we've not had the chance to fully assess the performance of the different models, we have heard all three; they all offer appreciable room-filling audio, all come with the same wireless subwoofer to ensure they can deliver crisp and powerful bass - but the SL10 sounds noticeably wider than the other two models.
When it comes to Dolby Atmos performance, the placement of sound is precise and without any rear channels there's a sense of immersion, but not as complete as a full setup with rear speakers. To get around this, all the soundbars are compatible with the accessory kit SPK8, which adds wireless rear channels to your soundbar - a potential upgrade option.
LG has been working with Meridian Audio for a couple of years and in 2019, Meridian has worked to refine the audio performance of these three soundbars. Meridian's involvement isn't just a case of tuning post-production, they are involved in the process from design through to the final product, working closely with LG and Dolby.
Meridian's input into the design helps to reduce things like vibration, leading to a stiffer cabinet, while also lending digital signal processing expertise to improve the sound quality.
One aspect of this is lifting the sound so the listening has the impression that the vocals are coming from the TV, rather than below it, while also refining bass delivery and the sense of immersiveness for a better Dolby experience.
All the soundbars also offer Google Assistant, with mics included on the bars themselves. That will mean that there's no need for a secondary smart device in the room, you'll be able to talk directly to Google through the soundbar. While this can do things like change the volume level, it's likely to be much more useful for controlling music playback when using it as a music system rather than in support of your TV.
Google Assistant is of course a fully-featured system, allowing smart home control with your voice and access to a whole world of information. It also enables casting, so you can easily send music from your phone to the LG soundbar using services like Spotify or YouTube Music.
Which soundbar is right for you?
With each soundbar sitting in a slightly different position, there's a lot to consider. Naturally, the top model, the SL10GY is the most capable when it comes to sound delivery - but that does come at a price. For those with a smaller room or smaller TV, you might find that the other models have more appeal with their lower prices.
The SL9GY has a lot of appeal in its mounting options: being able to flush mount it for a minimalist finish without protruding into the room too much will appeal to those who want a smarter overall look.
The SL8GY is naturally the most affordable of the trio, while still offering that important support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats. It still offers a powerful punch when it comes to audio, while being more compact and less intrusive overall than the other models.
We'll be looking to review LG's new soundbars as soon as we can, so we'll update with more detailed information once we have done so.