LG SN8YG review: A feature-packed soundbar that doesn’t neglect the basics
The Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support is great, but the rich mid-range audio is even better.
By Ben Patterson
TechHiveJul 14, 2020 3:00 am PDT
At a Glance
Generous mid-range audio
Built-in Google Assistant and Chromecast
No AirPlay 2 support
Subwoofer is a bit boomy at its default setting
The LG SN8YG excels where it counts, delivering full, rich audio with a robust mid-range—a characteristic that’s too-frequently lacking in competing soundbars.
The 3.1.2-channel LG SN8YG soundbar ticks many of our favorite boxes, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based sound, eARC support for lossless audio, room calibration, and built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant.
More importantly, the $800 SN8YG doesn’t skimp on sonic fundamentals, paying special attention to the mid-range audio that too many of its competitors tend to gloss over. While its flat sound signature won’t appeal to all tastes and it lacks soundstage-boosting side-firing drives, the LG SN8YG’s full, rich audio quality nails the basics.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars, where you’ll findreviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
The LG SN8YG is a 3.1.2-channel soundbar that includes the standard left, center, right, and low-frequency channels (the “3.1”) as well as two height channels (the “.2” at the end) for immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound. If you wish, you can turn the 440-watt SN8YG into a full-on 5.1.2 system by adding LG’s optional SPK8-S wireless surround speaker kitRemove non-product link. (LG didn’t supply the SPK8-S for testing.)
The SN8YG’s left, center, and right channels each have one 40 x 100mm woofer and one 20mm silk tweeter dome, while a pair of 2.5-inch drivers supply the sound for the height channels. Finally, the wireless subwoofer houses a 7-inch driver.
The SN8YG’s upfiring drivers work by bouncing sound off your ceiling, an appealingly easy and inexpensive alternative to installing height speakers in your ceiling. There is a catch when it comes to upfiring drivers for 3D audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, however: you need to have the right ceiling. A flat ceiling between 7.5 and 14 feet is ideal, according to Dolby, while vaulted ceilings will mar the effect.
The main soundbar unit measures 41.7 x 2.2 x 4.7 inches, a relatively low profile that shouldn’t block the bottom edge of most TVs when the soundbar is sitting in front. Even with my 55-inch LG C9 OLED TV, a notoriously low-slung set, the top of the SN8YG’s housing barely grazed the C9’s bottom edge, not enough to give me any bother (and I’m a stickler for anything that blocks the margins of my TV screen).
The design of the SN8YG’s main housing is virtually identical to that of LG’s 2019 soundbars, including the SL10RG that I reviewed last year. Unlike some soundbars that are covered in fabric, the SN8YG’s bare shell exposes both the front speaker grille as well as the top circular grilles for the twin upfiring drivers. While the brushed top of the SN8YG looks stylish, it also tends to reflect bright images from the TV, although I never found the reflections to be unduly distracting.
Getting the SN8YG up and running was, for me at least, a painless operation. You can place the soundbar directly in front of your TV or mount it on a wall; mounting brackets, a screw kit, and a mounting guide are included. I opted to simply place the soundbar in front of my TV.
The SN8YG is slightly different from other soundbars I’ve tested in that its power cord comes in two segments, with a relatively bulky power brick sitting in the middle. While placing the power brick might be awkward depending on the configuration of your TV setup, it also means that the two-prong power plug isn’t saddled with a wall wart that blocks nearby outlets.
The wireless subwoofer (which isn’t really wireless, given that it comes with a five-foot power cord) comes pre-paired with the soundbar, and it seamlessly connected to the main soundbar unit once I powered both of them up. There’s also a manual pairing process should the automatic pairing fail for some reason (perhaps due to interference from a nearby wireless router).
Wireless setup and auto room calibration
Like LG’s other wireless soundbars, the Google Assistant-enabled LG SN8YG uses the Google Home app to connect to your wireless network, and the setup process worked seamlessly for me.
When you power up the soundbar for the first time, Google Assistant immediately chimes in, prompting you to install and run the Google Home mobile app. Once you do, a “Set up LG SN Series ThinQ Soundbar” banner appears near the top of the app’s home screen. Tap the banner, and the Google Home app steps you through the Wi-Fi connection process, from identifying the soundbar and picking a “room” for it to entering your Wi-Fi password and and setting up Voice Match, the Google feature that lets Google Assistant identify your voice. The app also installs any necessary firmware updates. Within five minutes or so, the SN8YG was connected to my Wi-Fi network without any noticeable hiccups.
Thanks to its built-in Chromecast Audio support, you can stream audio to the LG SN8YG via Wi-Fi from practically any Chromecast-enabled app, and you can also stream tunes directly to the soundbar using Bluetooth. I tried both Chromecast and Bluetooth audio streaming during my testing and didn’t encounter any issues. There’s no AirPlay 2 support, unfortunately.
Last but not least, it was time to run the LG SN8YG’s AI-powered room calibration feature, which is also available on LG’s other “premium” 2020 soundbars. The SN8YG’s room calibration feature (which must be run using LG’s Wi-Fi Speaker mobile app) tweaks the soundbar’s audio according to the approximate shape of the room, which it detects by emitting a series of loud beeps, blips. and tones; the soundbar then measures how long it takes for the sounds to bounce back into its integrated microphone array.
While some advanced room calibration systems involve taking readings from up to 32 microphone positions, the LG SN8YG only takes readings from its dual built-in microphones. The LG Wi-Fi Speaker app does let you compare what the SN8YG sounds like before and after calibration, but the loud, muffled clips of nature sounds that it uses for the comparison makes it difficult to judge whether there’s any actual improvement. Still, any room correction functionality is a welcome addition to a soundbar in this price range.
Inputs and outputs
As far as connections to your TV go, the SN8YG comes with one HDMI input (which supports 4K HDR passthrough), an HDMI-ARC port (which can either pass video through to your TV, or accept audio from your TV via the Audio Return Channel protocol), and an optical (Toslink) input.
The easiest way to connect the SN8YG to your TV is via the HDMI-ARC port, which allows you to connect your various video sources to your TV’s HDMI inputs and then send audio back down to the soundbar. Making matters even better is that the SN8YG supports eARC, an enhanced version of ARC that allows for lossless audio formats such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, although the soundbar’s eARC support won’t matter if your TV isn’t compatible with eARC, too (and unless your TV was manufactured in the past year or so, it likely isn’t).
If your TV doesn’t support eARC but you still want to hear lossless high-resolution audio over the SN8YG (typically from a Blu-ray player), you can connect a video source directly to the soundbar’s HDMI 2.0 input. Because the SN8YG only has a single HDMI input (besides its HDMI-ARC port), you’ll need to manually swap video sources if you have more than one (unless you have an A/V receiver or an HDMI switcher).
While most of the soundbars I’ve tested in the past come with an HDMI cable, the LG SN8YG doesn’t, which seems pretty stingy given the SN8YG’s $800 price tag.
Besides the video inputs, the LG SN8YG also comes equipped with a USB Type-A input that (refreshingly) supports media playback, including MP3, AAC, OGG, FLAC, and WAV files.
Integrated buttons, remote control, app control, and Google Assistant
Along the top of the main SN8YG soundbar housing are touch-sensitive buttons for power, input source (confusingly labeled “F,” for “function”), play/pause, and microphone mute. There’s also a five-digit LED display on the front of the soundbar that tells you the currently selected input and the detected audio format, while four solid dots directly below the readout glow white when the soundbar’s microphone are active and amber when they’re muted (generally during audio playback).
The non-backlit remote included with the SN8YG comes with a prominent volume rocker in the top-left corner, a second rocker for input source (“F” again), and mute, plus a Google Assistant button in the middle. A Sound Effect button cycles through the soundbar’s various audio modes (which I’ll cover momentarily), while a Settings button lets you adjust the sound levels for the subwoofer, the center channel, and the height channels, along with treble and bass.
Nine smaller buttons for playback, night mode, and various other functions sit beneath the Google Assistant button and its flanking controls. Curiously, the handy mic mute button on the remote for last year’s LG SL10RG soundbar is (unfortunately) missing from the SN8YG’s remote.
The aforementioned LG Wi-Fi Speaker app lets you control all the major functions and settings for the SN8YG, including sound modes, sound levels for the various speakers, the sleep timer, and power modes.
Even better is the built-in Google Assistant, which lets you use voice commands to control the soundbar’s volume, change sound modes, power the soundbar on and off, and more. You can also ask Google Assistant anything that you could on a Google Nest Mini, a Google Nest Hub Max, or any other Google smart devices, meaning you can ask about the weather, check your calendar, ask trivia questions, or control compatible smart home devices.
Google Assistant will keep an ear out for the “Hey Google” wake word when the soundbar is idle or in standby mode; during video or music playback, you’ll need to press the Google Assistant button on the remote prior to giving a voice command.
Annoyingly, the volume of Google Assistant’s voice can get way too loud depending on the current volume level of the soundbar. There should be a way to cap the Assistant’s maximum volume. (Continued on the next page.)
Operation and performance
The LG SN8YG comes with five sound modes: Standard, Movie (which applies Dolby Surround processing), Music, Bass Blast, and AI Sound Pro, an AI-powered mode that analyzes the audio in real time and tweaks the sound according to the content that’s playing. Call me a Dolby snob, but I pretty much stuck with the Dolby Surround-enabled Movie mode, although I found that the AI Sound Pro mode had its merits, too. It’s worth noting that the SN8YG’s sound modes aren’t available while listening to Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content.
Besides the main sound modes, the soundbar also has a separate Surround mode that upscales all audio sources to 3.1.2 sound (or 5.1.2 sound if you’re using LG’s wireless surround kit), including 2.0 and 5.1 audio that lack height effects. Except for music, I generally kept Surround mode enabled during my testing. There’s also a night mode for late-night listening, although a Dialog Control setting only works with DTS audio sources.
I was pretty tough on LG’s SL10RG last year, a 5.1.4 soundbar that I panned for its “dull” and “listless” audio. I’m happy to report that this year’s LG SN8YG notches a major improvement in sound quality, perhaps due to the soundbar’s room calibration feature (which last year’s SL10RG lacks), better audio processing, upgraded drivers, or a combination of all three.
Overall, I’d describe the SN8YG’s sonics as flat—that is, acoustically flat, as opposed to dull—with noticeable if restrained surround and height effects that rarely felt phony. Personally, I prefer a warmer sound than what I heard from the SN8YG, but that’s a matter of taste. In any case, I particularly appreciated the soundbar’s attention to mid-range sound, which too many of its competitors gloss over in favor of a brassy high end or overpowering bass. And while I found the subwoofer to be a bit too boomy, knocking 8dB off the subwoofer slider in the LG Wi-Fi Speaker app did the trick. Still, the SN8YG’s soundstage was a tad narrow, which is unsurprising for a soundbar that lacks side-firing drivers.
My first stop was the title sequence from 1978’s Superman on iTunes, which features a remastered Dolby Atmos soundtrack. I’ve always been a sucker for Superman’s swooshing opening titles and its iconic John Williams score, and I felt the SN8YG’s performance here—while not as warm as I would like—was rich, big, and impressive. I could hear height cues as Marlon Brando’s credit swooped across the screen, and I liked the sharp squeal of the Phantom Zone as it twirled into the frame and then soared (virtually) over my right shoulder, having captured General Zod and his minions.
Next, I queued up the famous Imperial Walker battle on Hoth from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, which recently came out on a 4K Blu-ray disc. Thanks to its new Dolby Atmos soundtrack, Empire now fires off plenty of height cues—the X-Wings and Snow Speeders soar above you, and you can hear the Imperial Walker’s massive foot above your head as it’s about to crush Luke Skywaker. Again, nice sound from the SN8YG, a tad flat (acoustically, mind you), and with surround and height effects that impress but don’t overwhelm.
The thrilling launch sequence of Apollo 13, which is available on UHD Blu-ray with a DTS:X soundtrack, always gives me the chills when I’m watching it with great sound. Last year’s LG SL10RG delivered no chills, but the new LG SN8YG provided chills aplenty, especially as the Saturn V lifted off the launchpad with James Horner’s swelling score in the background. The fuel pumps gurgled convincingly across the soundstage prior to the launch, while the roaring engines sounded deep but satisfyingly tight. Even better, Tom Hanks’s rapid-fire dialog (“Houston we have a center-engine cutoff, go on the other four?”) didn’t get lost amid the sonic mayhem.
I also tried a scene with a traditional 5.1 audio—in this case, the Blu-ray of 2 Fast 2 Furious, which comes with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. With the Movie mode enabled, Dolby Digital processing upscales the sound to 3.1.2 (or 5.1.2, had I tested the SN8YG with the optional wireless surround kit), and as Paul Walker roared up to the starting line for the opening race, I could hear the chrome pipes on his custom ride shooting jets of exhaust into the air, and I also liked the buzz of the revving engines as the hurtling cars cornered impossible turns. Once again, dialog remained clear and distinct despite the tumult.
Switching to music (which I streamed to the soundbar via Chromecast, while switching to Music mode and turning the Surround setting off), I enjoyed the crisp acoustics of Bruce Springsteen’s spare “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” a little flat (not a bad thing!) with no skimping in the mid-range department. Skipping over to Larissa Dedova’s rendition of Maurice Ravel’s solo piano works for the Centaur label, Dedova’s keystrokes sounded full and natural, and I got a nice sense of the concert hall. Taking a sharp left turn to hip hop, Ciara’s massive “Level Up” sounded superb, with big, tight beats, precise vocals and crisp yet full percussion. Nicely done.
The LG SN8YG excels where it counts, delivering full, rich audio with a robust mid range that’s frequently lacking in competing soundbars. You also get plenty of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height cures courtesy of the twin upfiring drivers, along with eARC support, built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant, and AI-powered room correction, all for a reasonable $800 sticker price. AirPlay 2 support would have been a nice touch, and we wish LG would toss in an HDMI cable with its soundbars, but those are quibbles in an otherwise impressive package.