LG has been probably the most progressive soundbar manufacturers in current occasions, and that spirit continues in some methods with the SK8 – at the least by way of what it provides for its cash: Regardless of costing lower than $400/£400, it helps Chromecast Constructed-in connectivity, Google Assistant management, and – regardless that it solely boasts a 2.1 speaker configuration – decoding of the unbelievable ‘object-based’ Dolby Atmos sound system. 

Whereas Samsung and Sony have related choices of their lineups, the SK8 (known as the SK8Y within the US and Australia) delivers a clear, detailed, open sound and it is a useful enchancment over your built-in TV sound system. 

Design

LG SK8 Specs

Dimensions: 1061(w) x 57.5(h) x 87(d)mm | Speaker configuration: 2.1 | Claimed audio energy: 360W | Connections: One HDMI in, one HDMI out, Bluetooth four.zero, Wi-Fi, optical audio enter 

The SK8 system gives probably the most enticing soundbars on the town – and, at lower than 60mm excessive, it’s slim sufficient to suit beneath virtually any TV with out impinging on the display. It would not damage that it has a superbly clean end and elegantly rounded corners that give it some real glamour … sadly, nonetheless, the wi-fi subwoofer offered alongside the soundbar is much less elegant. 

The sub is only a rectangular black field you’ll in all probability wish to conceal behind a settee or beneath a aspect board. It nonetheless appears to be like and feels nicely made, although. And to be trustworthy, most of the best-sounding bass audio system aren’t precisely supermodels to have a look at.

There are a few facets of the SK8’s design that remind you of how reasonably priced it’s, although. First, the soundbar options no up-firing audio system. Second, the package deal consists of no rear audio system. So its Dolby Atmos impact might be must be largely created by audio processing, not by precise audio system. 

Total, whereas the SK8’s subwoofer isn’t particularly straightforward on the attention, the principle soundbar is each petite and superbly completed. To this point, so good. 

Options

The SK8’s Dolby Atmos decoding is a really uncommon discover for the value – even when it has to depend on audio processing quite than bodily audio system to offer lots of its Atmos sound channels. 

A sore spot, nonetheless, is that the SK8 isn’t suitable with any optionally available additional wi-fi rear channels audio system, and doesn’t help decoding of the opposite ‘object-based’ audio system, DTS-X. DTS:X streams are ‘downgraded’ to DTS Digital Encompass.

To make up for its faux-Atmos-ness, we have been impressed to seek out the SK8 supporting Chromecast in addition to Bluetooth, HDMI, optical and Wi-Fi connectivity. Chromecast Constructed-in help means the SK8 can play content material instantly from companies corresponding to Tidal, Spotify, YouTube, TuneIn, Google Play Music and Deezer. For Hello-Fi lovers, varied excessive decision audio recordsdata may be performed, too, as much as 24-bit/92kHz, together with FLAC, Apple Lossless, WMA and WAV.

The SK8 also can hearken to you in addition to making its personal noise so long as you join it to a Google Assistant-compatible speaker. (Funnily sufficient, LG has fashions of its personal that match this invoice within the form of its ThinQ speaker sequence, however that is OK.)

The SK8 ships with a small however tidy distant management, whereas the soundbar sports activities a small however legible LED that will help you monitor which enter you’ve chosen and which sound format you’re enjoying. The show helpful, actually, it’s arduous to assume how the SK8 might be a lot simpler to make use of. 

LG has even saved issues easy with its sound settings: There are fundamental Music and Film choices, in addition to an Adaptive Sound Management possibility that makes an attempt to mechanically regulate playback to go well with no matter you’re enjoying – sports activities, dramas, motion pictures and so forth. This works fairly nicely for probably the most half, although there’s a slight sound benefit – particularly by way of consistency – to manually switching between the Film and Music modes in the event you may be bothered.

The SK8’s 2.1 sound system delivers 360W of energy, damaged down into 2 x 80W for the entrance left and proper channels, and a whopping 200W for the subwoofer. The soundbar’s bodywork, in the meantime, is optimised for TVs above 49 inches in measurement, and goes particularly nicely with LG’s personal 2018 TV designs – although, you actually don’t have to make use of the SK8 with an LG TV.

Sadly, the SK8’s connections are a bit of restricted, in that there’s just one HDMI enter and no 4K HDR move by way of help – so that you’re restricted by way of how a lot exterior gear you’ll be able to connect to it except you route every part by way of your tv, and you’ll’t join a 4K Blu-ray participant to it and count on the HDR and 4K from that 4K Blu-ray participant to move by way of to your TV. 

Don’t neglect that the SK8’s optical digital audio enter doesn’t help Dolby Atmos, whereas the HDMI’s Audio Return Channel performance solely helps compressed Dolby Atmos quite than the lossless Dolby Atmos you may get in the event you feed a 4K Blu-ray participant in through the HDMI enter. 

Efficiency

Whereas we love the look of the SK8’s soundbar element, we have been a bit of nervous that such a slender, elegant little bit of package would lack the uncooked grunt to deliver motion motion pictures to life. Fortunately, our worries proved largely unfounded.

Instantly you discover how vigorous and open it sounds. Its mid vary is full of harshness-free detailing, and voices sound wealthy, heat and nicely rounded but additionally clear and outlined. The SK8’s sound processing additionally cunningly manages to elevate the voice channel up barely in order that speech sounds prefer it’s coming from the image on the display, the place it must be, quite than from the speaker beneath the display.

Dialogue isn’t the one factor the SK8’s soundbar lifts, both. Its Dolby Atmos processing manages to ship a wall of sound that has real peak to it, in addition to width. Helicopters flying over head or volcanic rocks hurtling by way of the air really do sound like they’re within the sky above the principle soundtrack motion. 

You’ll be able to even hear excessive objects crossing from left to proper or proper to left in entrance of you as they journey above the principle motion. All regardless of the soundbar having no up-firing audio system. Spectacular.

The sound nonetheless has loads of room-filling directness and energy regardless of its vertical parts, too, and you’ll drive it louder than you’ll in all probability comfortably wish to with none signal of the SK8’s audio system falling prey to distortions or drop outs.

The SK8’s pretty small measurement limits the quantity of bass it may crank out. However that’s the place the subwoofer is available in, underpinning the motion with some credible rumbles. 

Whereas the subwoofer can rumble, although, it doesn’t accomplish that with as a lot liveliness as we’d like. Its tone and quantity stays just about fixed all through a movie, quite than shifting by way of gears just like the bass channels of Atmos-capable sound programs sometimes do. 

There are limits, too, to how the SK8 handles different facets of its Atmos capabilities. As an example, the peak results are strictly a entrance of home phenomenon. By which I imply all of them seem earlier than you, above the soundbar, quite than actually showing proper overhead. Consequently, peak channel info solely has left/proper transitions; there’s no sense of overhead results passing from entrance to again or again to entrance. 

Really, there’s no sense of ‘again’ sound, full cease. Whereas the SK8’s speaker configuration and processing can create a way of peak, we by no means actually observed any sound results showing to come back from behind me.

The tone of the SK8’s sound modifications barely at excessive volumes, too, changing into a contact extra terse, and at last, when there are particularly aggressive peak results in an Atmos combine, the SK8’s processing begins to battle a bit of, shedding a few of the refinement that often characterises its audio tone.

The silver lining right here is that the SK8 is a lovely music participant and, whereas Atmos tracks can sometimes trigger bother, it handles non-Atmos film sources very properly and constantly – except for not delivering any encompass sound results.

The Samsung HW-N950 is one of this year's best (and most expensive) options.

The Samsung HW-N950 is considered one of this 12 months’s finest (and most costly) choices.

Different soundbars to invest

Spending greater than the SK8’s $499/£399/AU$699 asking value can actually get you useful additional options corresponding to 4K HDMI loopthrough, true up-firing Atmos audio system and at the least the choice of including additional rear channel audio system. 

Alternatively, it’s arduous to think about how anybody who buys an SK8 feeling shortchanged by the sound high quality and supply flexibility it has to supply.

If cash’s no object, the Samsung HW-N950 is a beast of a system. It ships with rear audio system which have up-firing drivers in addition to entrance firing drivers, whereas its most important soundbar has side-firing and up-firing audio system. And its subwoofer is brutally, brilliantly aggressive … in fact the N950 prices $1,699/£1,499.

In case you can reside with none Dolby Atmos decoding and need an ultra-tidy sound answer, Samsung has a particularly highly effective one-box answer (as in, only a soundbar, with none subwoofer) within the form of the Samsung HW-MS650

A extra direct competitor to the SK8 is the Sony HT-ZF9, which makes use of a three.1-channel speaker configuration and proprietary Dolby Atmos processing. It prices considerably greater than the LG SK8 at $899/£650, however in addition to its additional bodily speaker channel, it carries two HDMI inputs and 4K loopthrough.

Verdict

Though you need to deal with the LG SK8’s Dolby Atmos claims with one thing of a pinch of salt on account of its lack of ‘actual’ sound channels and a barely reticent subwoofer, it nonetheless has loads to supply for its cash: It helps plenty of sources, it appears to be like enticing, it sounds extra highly effective than it appears to be like, and it’s simply as adept with music as it’s with motion pictures. An on-soundbar show and Google Assistant compatibility make it straightforward to make use of, too.  

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