posted on Tuesday, 4th April 2017 by Steve May
LG is ramping up its soundbar range with the addition of two new premium offerings, the SJ8 and Dolby Atmos enabled SJ9 (pictured above). It has also confirmed to Inside CI that it is quietly dropping its MusicFlow multiroom proposition, in favour of closer integration with Google Home.
At an exclusive London preview of the two new soundbars, Robert Taylor, LG’s Senior Product Manager for Home Entertainment, told Inside CI that “there was some consumer confusion because both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi speakers were called MusicFlow. We’re now looking to stress Google Home multiroom compatibility instead.” With Google Home, users can ask the Google assistent to play music into any connected product.
“We don’t have microphones built in…at this point… but you have complete control over what you can stream and to what speaker,” adds David Seperson, Director of Global marketing and Communications.
The news probably shouldn’t surprise. LG has deep ties with Google, that dates back to the early days of Google TV. “We were one of the first companies to adopt Google Cast for Music, which is now call ChromeCast audio,” reminds Taylor.
However the brand says there were no plans at present to support the rival Amazon Alexa platform. “As a company we’re very close to Amazon. We put Amazon into our smart fridges, believe it or not,” reassuresTaylor.
LG SJ9 Dolby Atmos preview
Top of LG’s soundbar range for 2017 is the SJ9. This Dolby Atmos equipped flagship is a 5.1.2 design and comes with a wireless subwoofer. While no additional rears are included, two upfiring drivers are built into the top of the bar.
The SJ9 is compatible with Hi-Res Audio – incluidng FLAC and WAV - and can upsample lower resolution music files to 24bit/192Hz.
The SJ9 supports 4K HDMI pass-through, but there’s only a single HDMI input alongside an HDMI with ARC. Previous LG soundbars have offered comprehensive switching facilities. “We found that the additional HDMI inputs were simply not being used,” confides Seperson. “Consumers were simply connecting everything to their TVs.”
The SJ9 was demonstrated with a variety of tracks from Dolby’s latest Atmos test disc. The SJ9 has drivers placed toward the edge of the soundbar, “but the idea isn’t to use room reflections, we use acoustic bass matching. Side reflective speakers would mean you would have to put it in the right environment, we’re trying to keep it very simple.”
The total power output of the SJ9 is said to be 500W. In terms of volume, the big bar clearly has brawn to spare. In the room used for our preview it would be a stretch to say there was any significant sense of surround, however there was a convincing sense of height and scale. LG makes the point that the SJ9 is the cheapest Dolby Atmos soundbar on the market. While it has a DTS decoder, it does not support DTS:X.
Seperson says LG wants to be taken more seriously as an audio brand. “We’ve spent millions building anechoic chambers. We have three in Korea,” he says. "Our listening rooms are the best there is."
“LG was founded in 1958,” adds Seperson in an aside. “The first electronics product we launched was audio. We have a lot of sound expertise, and have had great partnerships with Mr Mark Levision, Dolby and DTS.”
The step-down SJ8 (pictured above) is for those looking for a slightly thinner soundbar solution. This 4.1 model with wireless subwoofer utlises proprietary elongated drivers, and offers a similar feature set the the SJ9, including 4K pass-through and the ability to stream via Chromecast, but lacks Atmos support. Total output power is rated at 300W. It’ll retail for £499.
Both new soundbars feature Adaptive Sound Control. First introduced in 2016, the feature isolates and adjusts dialogue on the fly for enhanced clarity. Then as soon as the action kicks off, it brings the rest of the sound mix back to the fore.
They also share premium styling, with a neat looking a metallic grille. “We’re trying to make a similar journey in sound as we did in TV, when it comes to premium-isation,” explains Taylor.
Steve is a veteran of the UK consumer electronics
industry, having covered it for
various media outlets for more than 20 years.