LG is doing the same thing with soundbars as it does with its TVs. Every year the company introduces a series of new models following last year’s devices. Thus, a series of new soundbars will appear in 2021, including the LG SP8Y soundbar. This is a 3.1.2 soundbar with a separate wireless subwoofer. It can be supplemented with a set of rear speakers SPK8 and get a 5.1.2 system.
The SP8Y speaker bar supports not only Dolby Atmos (with Netflix and Disney +), but also DTS: X. There are also many music streaming options, a calibration function, high-resolution audio, and an HDMI 2.1 input. The latter is especially true for progressive gamers and is still rarely seen on soundbars. In the LG SP8Y review, we will take a closer look at the functionality and features of the new model.
LG SP8Y review
The SP8Y soundbar is clearly the successor to the LG SN8Y we reviewed last year. As for the appearance, there are almost no differences. The rounded corners remain a striking design element, making this soundbar appear slightly smaller and softer than a regular soundbar. In any case, this is not a huge device, but a medium size, ideally matched to the 55-inch OLED55C1 on the wall.
SP8Y is pretty faceless and unobtrusive, as many users want. Small drawback: the screen with letters is cleverly hidden behind the speaker grill in front, but it always remains active. It would be preferable to prefer a display that turns off after a few seconds without distracting attention from the TV screen.
The SP8Y is a little deeper, so there is room at the top for two additional speakers. They deliver the 3D sound you would expect from a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. These speakers should be freely directed towards the ceiling. Thus, the soundbar cannot be placed in the TV niche or far behind the TV. It works best right in front of the screen.
New LG Soundbar app
Along with the new soundbars from 2021, LG is introducing a new app for managing them. It can also be used with older models that previously worked with the LG WiFi Speaker app. With the same features as before, it looks a little more modern and fresh. The application is used to control the soundbar. And setup, like almost all Chromecast-compatible audio devices, is first done through Google Home.
When you open the Home screen, the LG Soundbar is automatically detected, and you can walk through the steps to connect your LG Soundbar SP8Y to your Wi-Fi network. This also links the soundbar to your Google account. In the LG SP8YA version, the panel can be controlled by voice. LG’s previous app was part media player, part soundbar remote. The new application is just the second one, which is more intuitive and a little more convenient.
An important addition to the new app is the calibration function. It sends test signals once every 30 seconds to analyze the acoustic properties of the room. Based on this, the parameters are adjusted for optimal sound. In general, this feature can be highly appreciated because soundbars work in a wide variety of rooms. And this sometimes has negative consequences for the sound quality.
The LG Soundbar app can now also adjust the volume of individual channels much faster. If the ceiling is very high or, on the contrary, low, you can, for example, increase or decrease the volume of the height speakers.
Most of what you can do in the app can also be done with the supplied remote control. But the Sound Bar app is much clearer. In the app, for example, you get a good overview of the available sound modes and what they do. And this is more convenient than pressing the button every time to go to the next mode. The remote is made of a very glossy plastic that quickly gets covered in fingerprints.
Speaking of sound effects. There are seven of them, including a few unusual ones such as Bass Blast, a game mode and one for sports programs. The SP8Y soundbar sounds good with Music and Movie modes and Standard mode. However, it is worth performing a calibration first before trying the modes.
If you don’t feel like choosing the mode depending on what you are watching or listening to, use AI Surround Pro. This option automatically switches to the appropriate mode. If you switch from one TV channel to another, the choice may sometimes seem unexpected, but overall, AI Surround Pro works very well. By the way, if you are playing Dolby Atmos content, you cannot use the sound modes.
LG’s previous generation of soundbars play music well, and so does this new product. Streaming tracks from your smartphone via the Spotify app works seamlessly. SP8Y appears automatically in this app as an available speaker. If you prefer a different service, you can easily play songs via Chromecast or Airplay. There are enough streaming options.
There is no DLNA support, which is somewhat odd because the LG panel supports High-Resolution Audio. To stream Hi-Res files, you need an application such as BubbleUPnP. Surround mode does not create a spatial soundstage. It mixes volumetric content in stereo, so accurate localization of objects in the soundstage cannot be achieved. Sound appears to be coming from the center and not from the surrounding speakers.
Very enjoyable Dolby Atmos music playback, for example through the Tidal app on an Apple TV connected to the soundbar. Good musical performance is also important when watching movies. The LG SP8Y speaker panel conveys voltage well in dynamic scenes. The subwoofer controls low frequencies well without overshadowing the sound of the panel itself. It touts itself as a more subtle addition to the soundbar, which is a plus.
The port selection is pretty predictable for this price point. The connection to the TV is via an eARC compatible HDMI port . In addition, there is a second HDMI input for connecting a console, for example. It could even be Xbox Series X or PS5 because the SP8Y supports HDMI 2.1. Those. can transmit 4K / 120 or 8K60 signal. The HDMI input also handles Dolby Vision. You can easily check this by connecting your Apple TV 4K (2021) to your soundbar.
Last year’s SN8Y turned out to be a very good soundbar. Since LG SP8Y is, rather, an evolutionary continuation and nothing changes in the recipe, the assessment remains positive. For its price tag, this mid-range LG soundbar offers a lot of good stuff: an Atmos presentation with all the movies, decent music playback, reasonably efficient room calibration, and good streaming capabilities. The vastly improved app and HDMI 2.1 input are nice additions. The fact that we criticize, for example, a cheaper remote control does not detract from positive emotions.