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Next, I listened to a couple of the audio-only demos on that disc. The helicopter demo is—what else?—the sound of a helicopter circling overhead. Without the optional surround speakers, the sound simply moved back and forth across the front soundstage, though it certainly did sound like it was overhead at a seating distance of five feet. The overhead effect was greatly diminished at a distance of 10 feet, but it was still there slightly. The same was true of the rainstorm audio demo.
Among the music-video selections on the Dolby Atmos demo disc is “Bailando” by Enrique Inglesias, which is one of my favorite Atmos music mixes. At a distance of five feet, the soundstage was smooth and very immersive with plenty of overhead activity and some extension beyond the left and right boundaries of the enclosure. At 10 feet, the immersive soundstage survived a bit better than the previous examples I tried.
Finally, I watched a clip from Gravity on Blu-ray, which has one of the best Atmos soundtracks I’ve heard. In particular, the scene with Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) in the International Space Station has sounds all around, especially when a fire breaks out, and the immersive soundstage from the SL8YG was excellent at five feet. It was still pretty good at 10 feet, though it was more forward, as expected.
Throughout my Atmos listening, the SL8YG’s overall sound was nice and rich while remaining fairly clean and open. The subwoofer produced clean, balanced bass, though it was not prodigious. When the soundbar receives an Atmos bitstream, the various sound modes are disabled.
In addition to Blu-rays, I watch TV from a Dish satellite receiver—which meant swapping HDMI cables from the player to the satellite receiver. In this case, I tried the sound modes, and I had a strong preference for the Movie mode, which exhibited much better dialog balance than any of the other modes. It was also much louder and sounded richer and fuller than the other modes. By comparison, the Music mode sounded very closed in, and Standard seemed quite reserved and veiled. ASC was fairly clean, while Bass Blast was obviously over-enhanced.
I also listened to some music via Bluetooth. I still preferred the Movie mode in this case. Music mode sounded very closed in—yuck! ASC was thin and bright, while Bass Blast was very bright and shiny with lots of boom. In Standard mode, the sound was somewhat veiled and thin—surprising, since this is the mode that Meridian worked on.
I really enjoyed the sound quality of the LG SL8YG in certain circumstances. With Dolby Atmos—and sitting within five feet of the soundbar—I heard a very good immersive soundfield with rich, clean sound. But moving back to a more normal seating distance of 10 feet, much of the overhead effect disappeared. Other content sounded quite good in Movie mode, but none of the other modes sounded good at all.
Equally disappointing is the inclusion of only one HDMI input. At nearly $800, it should have at least two. As I discussed earlier, not many soundbars provide more than one HDMI input, but there are a few that do. For example, the Sony HT-Z9F is a 3.1.2 soundbar with two HDMI inputs for $700, the Nakamichi Shockwafe Pro 7.1 SSE is a 7.1.4 (!) soundbar with rear speakers and three HDMI inputs for $900, and the Pioneer FS-EB70 is a 3.1.2 soundbar with four HDMI inputs for $1,000. With the SL8YG, you’ll need to use the TV as the HDMI switcher, which has a few potential disadvantages, or get a separate HDMI switcher, which complicates the use of the system.
On the plus side, you can feed it music via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi with Chromecast built in as well as from a USB storage device, and it upmixes non-immersive content nicely. I like that level of flexibility, but it’s not enough to make up for only one HDMI input and limited seating options to fully experience immersive audio.
This article was updated after publication to expand its discussion of the benefits of having multiple HDMI inputs on a soundbar.
LG SL8YG soundbar
The SL8YG sounds great in certain circumstances, but not in many others. Plus, it has only one HDMI input, which is unfortunate even though it's common in soundbars.
- Excellent sound quality in Dolby Atmos and Movie mode
- Immersive audio works well if you’re seated close enough
- Supports Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and Chromecast audio delivery
- Only one HDMI input
- Overhead channels not very effective if you're seated at a normal distance from the screen
- Other than Movie mode, other modes sound pretty bad
- User interface is somewhat confusing