Samsung is no longer the only one with a soundbar with four height channels. LG presents the LG DSN11RG soundbar, a 7.1.4 top model with separate wireless speakers that you place at the back of the living room and speech recognition via Google. Once again involved in the development is the British audio manufacturer Meridian – and you notice that in the positive sense.
LG DSN11RG soundbar
The DSN11RG is LG’s newest and most luxurious soundbar. It is a real top model that offers 7.1.4 and has support for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. To properly reproduce that three-dimensional sound, the soundbar itself has extra speakers that point towards the ceiling and you will find two extra wireless speakers in the box that you place behind / next to your seat. You come across such extra speakers more and more, also at LG, precisely because they are so effective to offer a real surround experience. The special thing in this case is that the DSN11RG is bundled with two speakers that each take care of two channels: the surround back channel (via a speaker at ear height) and a rear height channel (via a speaker that again points to the ceiling). . The LG top model is just one of two soundbars that offers the same (if we ignore the fading models from previous years). The other is theSamsung’s HW-Q950T we recently reviewed. In addition to specifications, the LG and Samsung have something in common: a heftier price tag. The DSN11RG costs 1,499 euros for the total package consisting of a soundbar, subwoofer and two wireless speakers. However, we wouldn’t be surprised if you see this soundbar pop up relatively quickly for a lower price or in a bundle promotion with an LG TV.
Just like in the past, LG’s top model is an immense soundbar. This is probably the largest copy that you will find in the store, because the DSN11RG is a hefty 114 cm wide. Our 55-inch LG OLED55C9 suddenly seemed very small and the TV cabinet suddenly turned out not to be wide enough. If you like your soundbar and TV in proportion, then it is best to marry this device with a 65-inch screen. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from using the DSN11RG with a smaller screen size.
The size of this soundbar is one thing. Yet it is not only something to complain about, because there are also advantages to a larger format. The main plus is that there is more distance between the individual speakers in the device. That should provide better channel separation, giving you a more convincing stereo experience with music and a pronounced left-center-right impression with movies. A bigger soundstage, in other words.
In terms of design and finish, we remain cool lovers of the futuristically drawn LG sound bars. In a modern Scandinavian interior with wood it is a bit out of place. This is of course personal taste and there is also nothing wrong with the design of the product. Everything is well put together and from a distance it looks fine. Only close by, some parts that appear to be made of metal turn out to be made of plastic.
The included wireless speakers perfectly match the soundbar. Each has its own power wire. Positive: LG supplies everything so that you can mount them on the wall. That is handy, because you cannot just put those extra speakers in every living room. For our test, for example, we use speaker stands that we normally use for monitor tests, but not everyone wants to put such things in the living room. By the way, the rear speakers are somewhat larger models, so they cannot easily stand on a narrow surface such as a windowsill.
In addition to an HDMI eARC- compatible connection for your TV, the DSN11RG also has two of its own HDMI 2.1 inputs that can process 4K sources. All HDMI connections can be found in a niche at the back so that you can tidy up cables. You see that more often with sound bars, but those inputs are often difficult to reach and you have little room for larger HDMI plugs. However, with this LG there is plenty of room. You will also find an optical input and a USB port. The latter makes it possible to play music files.
Adjust via Google Home, adjust via own app
Setting up the LG soundbar is exactly the same as with the DSN8YG that we put on the rack earlier this year. Just like that more compact device, this DSN11RG is equipped with a built-in microphone and is fully Google Assistant compatible. You can therefore set up with Google Home, using the same step-by-step plan that you follow with most compatible audio devices. It is all very quick and easy. If your mobile device’s Bluetooth is turned on, the Home app will likely find the device automatically and ask you if you want to set it up. About ten screens later you have connected the DSN11RG to your WiFi network and to the Google Assistant. In one go you will be directed to the Play Store to get the LG Wi-Fi Speaker app there. Strictly speaking, you don’t need the LG app,
We would definitely recommend installing the LG app so that you can set up the soundbar perfectly for the room. Step one is to perform the AI Room Calibration function to optimize the sound for your room. After all, the characteristics of a room have an impact on the sound quality, and a function like this one can partly compensate for this. For example, a calibration function can eliminate predominant bass frequencies caused by the room shape or placement of the soundbar. The end result is – hopefully – a sound that is more balanced.
Performing the room calibration of the LG soundbar is highly recommended. It doesn’t take long either. Just select in the app and listen to test sounds for just under 15 seconds. Then the job is done. You can then make a comparison between before and after, perhaps it would have been more fun if LG had chosen a better test sound. Now it is a kind of water sound.
It is very positive that you can then adjust volume levels per channel in the app. This is especially useful with the height channels, because whether you notice anything of those upward-facing speakers depends strongly on the volume level in function of the room height. If they play too quietly with a large ceiling height, you will not hear them. So adjust to your own taste, for example with Dolby’s Audiosphere demo.
Speech recognition works well
A classic LG remote control is supplied with the LG soundbar. It’s a compact black thing with a striking white button to activate the Google Assistant. We are now used to Google’s speech recognition, but we are still amazed at how well it works. If you also connect a TV (or a Chromecast adapter) to the soundbar in Google Home, you can even say something like ‘Play Star Trek Discovery on Netflix’ and an episode of the series will automatically start playing. Be careful if you ask for a volume change; ‘volume 10’ is the maximum for Google (so the soundbar volume at 100 percent), not position 10 on the LG soundbar (which corresponds to a volume level of 30 percent). Apart from that, the voice control is a nice addition to a soundbar that makes more possible. For example, we have Hue lamps in the living room, so we could also request ‘dim the light in the living room’. Just what you want when you start the new season of the Icelandic ‘Trapped’.
The LG remote also lets you switch between the inputs and sound effects. You can also adjust those separate channels in terms of volume, but that is much more time-consuming than via the LG app. You will find more options in that app that are useful.
Good for music
Meridian’s collaboration – which has been going on for several years now – seems to be more than a smart marketing exercise. Judging from a briefing we got last year about the role of the British audio brand, Meridian also has input on things like housing rigidity and driver placement. Meridian is also known for its DSP know-how, of course, so we wouldn’t be surprised if they were involved in that aspect.
In any case, our expectations are high that the DSN11RG will perform well when playing music. That was also the case with the DSN8YG , an EISA winner. The first question is of course: how do you play music? You get multiple options. We already mention Chromecast, which has become a very universal way of streaming. Almost all streaming services support it and you can also play internet radio (for example via TuneIn) and your own files (for example via BubbleUPnP). The LG app also allows the latter, although you are somewhat limited in terms of formats. Then rather via BubbleUPnP. You can also stream via Airplay and via Bluetooth. With those many streaming options, the LG has an edge for the Samsung HW-Q950T.
We already noted that the width of the DSN11RG can potentially be a plus for music reproduction. In practice, this turns out to be the case, especially if you choose the sound mode ‘Music’. You could also opt for the AI Pro mode, which basically means that the soundbar itself would choose the right mode – but we didn’t always think it was good to switch when we switched to a different type of content.
Although a soundbar can hardly deliver the full sound that you get from two decent passive speakers, this LG soundbar does its very best. LG and Meridian deserve a pat on the back because they still get maximum balanced reproduction from a long, slim speaker. A metal track like ‘Tailgunner’ by Iron Maiden illustrates this well. It is a track that usually cannot be enjoyed on a soundbar because small speakers simply cannot handle it, it does sound pretty good here. There is speed and you do indeed get a decent stereo image. Gregory Porter’s ‘Liquid Spirit’ also rolls out nicely from the LG soundbar; Porter’s warm honey voice comes out nicely from the center, while the piano and claps are positioned a little further back. Showing that ‘depth’ in a recording is often difficult for a soundbar. The double bass lacks some definition, but you should also expect that with a subwoofer that is ultimately tuned for film support. All in all, a great result.
Literally a wide view
Roma will remain one of our favorite Atmos movies on Netflix in the second half of 2020. Not because of the bombast, but because of the atmospheric use of height channels to really draw you into the story. The LG soundbar immediately scores in terms of positioning from the opening song. The birds really seem to be chirping somewhere in the room and the sound effects nicely follow the action on the screen, for example when the girl is walking around the house. This is a nice result, although at the very beginning we think the water that is poured over the floor sounds a little artificial. The height channels at the front also seem effective than at the back, but that may be due to our setup. Either way, the DSN11RG puts down one of the best soundbar renderings of these complex scenes here.
The front channels are a bit too bright with ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ (Disney +, Dolby Atmos), where it is striking how clear the dialog reproduction is. The light swords also swing very convincingly through space in the fight between Rey and Kylo Ren on the water planet where the debris of the second Death Star crashed. Immense waves crash into the spaceship as the two battle fiercely, and that great water force is transmitted very firmly and powerfully. Hmm, despite the room calibration, still put the sub a bit quieter.
Much attention to music
One of the things we appreciate most about this LG is that it is very musically oriented. This means that soundtracks (such as the ongoing themes of John Williams in the Star War films) are presented in a grand and spacious way, separate from the sound effects. When you consider that music in a lot of movies drives the action and the story, this is really crucial.
With the Dolby Atmos demos that we always release on surround equipment, the LG DSN11RG performs well. The sound effects in ‘Audiosphere’ resound at the correct locations in space, in ‘Horizon’ the spaceships fly past us left and right as they should. Very spatial effects (such as the distant thunder or the pigeons flying away, or the dogs barking at ‘Shattered’). Overall a very good performance. The only thing that drew attention (and thus disturbed the immersion feeling) was the reproduction via the rear speakers, which just did not seem to match the other channels. After some experimenting with the placement of those wireless speakers, we conclude that they are best at a slightly greater distance from your seat to (partly) solve this phenomenon. The four feet we had for one of the two, was just too little. In our opinion they should also be somewhat behind you, turned in.
If you are watching Dolby Atmos or DTS: X video, you cannot select sound modes with this LG. You often have that with high-end soundbars – only the Dolby / DTS processing is useful at that time. However, a lot of content is in older surround formats, such as Dolby Digital 5.1. This is also what you will find with streaming services, such as Netflix. LG then gives you the choice between different sound modes and the option to upmix. In the app you will find some options, but we should note that there is a little too little explanation for non-techies. For example, you can have DTS upgraded by DTS: Neural X – but you must know where that option is and what it does exactly. Overall, we liked the Movie sound mode best, the others sounded flatter and thinner (and also quieter, which plays a big role in terms of perception of what’s ‘good’, research shows).
Into the X-Wing
We found the DSN11RG to perform well in gaming. It turned out to be a good companion for the brand new Xbox Series X delivered by the postman. We jump into our X-Wing to capture a Star Destroyer hovering over Yavin Prime in the flashy ‘Star Wars: Squadrons’. Positional sound may not be as crucial with this game title as it is with a tactical shooter, but it does create a lot of atmosphere and the occasional reminder that The Empire’s pilots aim better than the stormtroopers. The rear speakers come to life here more than in the film tests, perhaps because some games are effectively more with surround channels than Hollywood. That makes sense: in a film your virtual position as a viewer is relatively static, in a game you move around in a world.
The most important thing with games is that the rear channels have enough definition and power to reproduce small audio cues or directions clearly, and that is also the case with this soundbar. Of course it helps that those rear channels come from separate speakers. Action games also have very dynamic soundtracks, which can be quite difficult for a more compact device with a cheaper subwoofer. Here too the DSN11RG scores in our opinion. So if you’re looking for a soundbar to make your game night more powerful, you’re in the right place. Still, it can be even better: a separate center speaker will lift the in-game dialogues more out of the action and a discrete surround setup is even better for games where you want very precise positional audio (such as CoD: Warzone). But then of course you end up with a room full of speakers and cables.
LG DSN11RG soundbar – Conclusion
The LG DSN11RG is a strong soundbar that largely justifies its hefty price tag. It handles all major surround formats, making it more universal than certain rivals – notably the Sonos Arc . The biggest challenge with this LG is getting it placed. Not everyone will own a TV cabinet to fit and on the wall it is a striking presence. You do enjoy a better stereo presentation with music, due to its width. The DSN11RG is also a good choice for gaming.