Reviews: Audio

This soundbar takes up less space, is easier on your wallet

As a soundbar, LG's SJ9 does a competent job of replicating a 3D-sound environment with good surround depth and vertical height, and is able to give a convincing surround-sound atmosphere.
As a soundbar, LG's SJ9 does a competent job of replicating a 3D-sound environment with good surround depth and vertical height, and is able to give a convincing surround-sound atmosphere.PHOTO: LG

LG's SJ9 comes with Dolby Atmos support to enhance your movie and game enjoyment

LG's top-of-the-line soundbar, the SJ9, aims to put surround-sound capabilities in living rooms, but at an affordable cost and with minimal equipment clutter.

The SJ9 is LG's first soundbar to come with Dolby Atmos support, which is used to enhance realism while watching movies or playing games, by creating a sense of aural space for sound effects.

It has two up-firing speakers for vertical sound, on top of five regular front-facing speakers and an accompanying subwoofer, making it what LG calls a 5.1.2 soundbar system.

As a soundbar, it does a competent job of replicating a 3D-sound environment with good surround depth and vertical height, and is able to give a convincing surround- sound atmosphere.

On a Blu-Ray copy of Mad Max: Fury Road, the loud, chaotic chase scenes in the movie were exciting to watch and listen to with the SJ9.

The rumble of engines and demented warcries as cars steadily approach from a distance were faithfully replicated, getting louder and more immediate with the vehicles' approach.

Unfortunately, the SJ9 has only one HDMI input port that supports Dolby Atmos, which restricts its uses for viewers who may want the technology while using both their Blu-Ray player and game console, for example.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $1,888

    DIMENSIONS: 1,200 x 58 x 145mm

    SPEAKERS: Five 43-watt speakers (two front, two surround, one centre); one 200-watt wireless subwoofer

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

It's a major hassle to swop HDMI cables if you have multiple input sources and want to make use of the SJ9's Atmos capabilities.

Another odd decision with the SJ9 is the lack of customised tweaking of its surround-sound profile to suit its physical environment. Since each room's layout is different, which affects the realism of where sound effects occur within the space, the lack of an option to calibrate the soundbar to the room might turn some off the SJ9.

However, forgoing this option makes the SJ9 easy to plug and play and helps keep its cost down.

Consumers who want a fuss-free setup experience and don't mind passable, good surround sound right off the bat might find that a plus point.

As with other modern soundbars in the market, the SJ9 comes with a host of other features for audio connectivity.

A Bluetooth connection lets users connect their smartphones to it and stream music wirelessly. Downloading the LG Music Flow app lets you pair the SJ9 to a local Wi-Fi network in a quick and smooth fashion, giving you the ability to then connect to a media server or use Spotify Connect to stream music.

The SJ9 supports high-resolution music files up to 24bit/192Hz, and is generally a solid performer with detailed audio resolution and an expansive soundscape. However, its sub-bass felt a bit lacking, despite the accompanying subwoofer .

Its volume controls can be a bit inconsistent. When plugged through an optical cable to a smart TV set or streaming music, the soundbar is pretty loud at half of its maximum volume, and is sure to elicit complaints from neighbours if pushed to the max.

However, when the same optical source is used to watch Netflix, the volume level drops dramatically, and isn't as deafeningly loud even at maximum volume.

• Verdict: LG's SJ9 soundbar is an affordable alternative to clunky surround-sound set-ups, with respectable sound quality and fuss-free setup.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 26, 2017, with the headline 'This soundbar takes up less space, is easier on your wallet'. Print Edition | Subscribe