In recent years, LG has presented very competent and sometimes even excellent sound bars, helped by the input of the British hi-fi brand Meridian. And yes, that collaboration therefore continues with the LG DSN8YG Soundbar as the latest fruit of it. With Dolby Atmos support, 3.1.2 playback, Google Assistant, Chromecast and room calibration, this compact LG offers a lot for its price of 699 euros.
LG DSN8YG Soundbar
The DSN8YG we see here is a small first. It is the first device of the new batch of soundbars that LG will bring to the shops in 2020, sometime in the coming weeks. To be exact: it is the entry-level of the four premium models that the Korean brand has planned this year. Although this is definitely not an entry-level model, but it is a sturdy middle class that has many interesting features on board. The price tag of 699 euros for the SN8GY immediately indicates that this is not a budget device. For that price you get some: support for Dolby Atmos and DTS: X, eARC compatibility and the ability to address Google Assistant via the built-in microphone. You can also play almost any streaming service via Chromecast. The big innovation in 2020, however, is AI Room Calibration, a feature that addresses one of the biggest issues when listening to music and movie sound in a living room: the acoustics. Just like with high-end AV receivers, the LG DSN8YG can determine the properties of your living room by means of test tones and ensure that the sound is optimized. This advanced feature is kept easy to use, practice
LG is very consistent in releasing new sound bars every year. However, the innovations that are introduced are not always so visible. Just to say: new LG soundbars tend to look a lot like their predecessors. LG’s industrial design language is not really evolving. That is not necessarily a flaw, just an observation. So what we see with the DSN8YG is not surprising or new. Personally we find the design not so fresh in our modern interior with lots of white and light wood tones, but it does not disappoint. The DSN8YG is undeniably well built and is relatively subtle in a room (once you’ve removed the big sticker with logos, of course). There are also clever aspects. We always love that LG places a simple display behind a speaker grille that dims after a while, so that you are not distracted when watching movies. The DNS8YG is 106 cm wide – which is a bit shorter than many top models and less wide than the 55-inch LG TV we connect it to.
The DSN8YG is a 3.1.2 soundbar, so stereo plus a center channel and two height channels that provide a three-dimensional experience. The height channels sound is distributed through two speakers at the top of the unit. It is best not to put this LG in a niche of a cupboard or completely under a TV, but on a TV cabinet so that the speakers point freely at the ceiling. You can also hang it on the wall; the necessary for this has been put in the box by LG. It does – like many Atmos soundbars – hang with the narrow back against the wall, which we find visually less strong. You can also expand the DSN8YG with a pair of wireless speakers in the back of the room, turning it into a 5.1.2 soundbar. However, those speakers were not yet available, so we have not yet been able to test this. In our experience, such speakers provide a much better experience.
There are not so many connections to this soundbar, which is not so unusual at this price point. In addition to an HDMI 2.1 port with eARC for connection to the TV, you can connect one additional source device (such as a console or TV decoder) via HDMI. There is also an optical input that you can use for an audio device or a second game console. You play your own music files from USB storage, but that is not really practical to do. Streaming over Bluetooth or over WiFi (Chromecast) is simply much more convenient. For the audiophiles among us: hi-res PCM audio formats are also welcome, up to 192 kHz / 24-bit.
Setup and control via Google
LG is a big fan of the Google ecosystem. Most sound bars of the past few years come with Chromecast and can be set up via the Google Home app on your smartphone. An advantage: connecting to your WiFi network is very easy. Open Home and chances are that the app immediately indicates that there is a device to set up. A few taps later and the DSN8YG hangs on the network.
The LG sound bars are not only controllable via Google Assistant, they also contain a microphone to directly address the intelligent helper. So you should not work as a Nest Hub via your smartphone or a device. The DSN8YG can understand voice commands, even if the command applies to other home devices. Just before the movie, you can ask the soundbar to dim the Hue lamps in the living room. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but handy and fun.
The built-in support for Chromecast is a huge asset if you want to listen to music. Support for casting is ingrained in the apps of almost every streaming service, including Spotify, YouTube Music and Apple Music. Do you want to listen to your own music files? DLNA support does not seem to be available, but you can choose music from a DLNA share from certain apps (such as BubbleUPnP) and send it to the LG soundbar via casting. You can also do this via the LG WiFi Speaker app, an optional app for iOS and Android. Installing is a good idea, because the app gives you quick access to all kinds of settings that are quite useful.
LG also provides a physical remote. It is a classic mini remote from the Korean brand that makes you do a surprising amount. Most people may control the volume via the TV’s zapper, but this junior remote can do much more. So you can use it to choose inputs or quickly choose a night mode with reduced bass.
No more switching audio modes
One of the signs of this new LG is the AI Sound Pro function. It does something really useful: instead of having to manually switch between sound modes because you’re going to be watching other content, AI Sound Pro itself detects what works best. For a start: it works – for the most part. When we stream music via Chromecast, we notice that the soundbar adopts a tuning corresponding to the Music mode (which you can also choose manually if desired). With films it suddenly sounds much deeper and rawer in the low. We quietly assume that most people with a soundbar rarely change the sound modes themselves after a while, perhaps because they barely touch the soundbar’s remote. So that the soundbar itself switches is extremely comfortable and ensures that you get the best sound quality in most cases.
Speaking of sound quality: the DSN8YG promises to make music and films sound better by compensating for acoustic shortcomings in your room. After all, those hard floors or gigantic curtains make noise sound than intended, usually in the bad sense. For example, a large window with thick curtains dampens enormously, so that all life can disappear from music. To tackle that, you can work with calibration software. Advanced solutions, such as Dirac, can do a lot, but require a lot of knowledge and expensive devices. The AI Room Calibration that LG introduces this year is looking for the golden mean. It promises to improve your sound but without burdening you with extensive manual measurements with specialized microphones that you have to move in space. You can set the function via the LG WiFi Speaker app, via a simple step-by-step plan. Please note: you have to go through the step-by-step plan with the space furnished as when you watch TV. So close the curtains. And if you adjust the room in terms of decor, for example by moving the sofa, you have to take the measurement again. The room must also be quiet when you take the measurement.
Setting AI Room Calibration is very fast. All test tones are played in about a minute. At a fairly high volume, by the way – so don’t do it at 1 am. At the end of the measurement, you can play a test sound with and without adjustments to decide which one you want. Frankly, we didn’t hear much difference with the test sound.
But AI Room Calibration did something in our room, because when we turned it off completely in the app, the higher tones became noticeably brighter and sharper. In the AI Sound Pro mode, it was particularly noticeable that the calibration largely eliminated a standing wave, so that an overly fat bass frequency disappeared. We think that is the most important, because such a room mode especially ruins the full listening experience with music. After all, that thick bass (caused by the shape of your room) sounds much louder than the rest of the instruments and makes it sound hollow. With the function turned on or off, it was a day and night difference in our living room with Daft Punk’s track “Motherboard.” We are satisfied with that. That a room mode was not completely gone is probably because the calibration measurement works best where you are sitting. Functions such as AI Room Calibration use a microphone on the soundbar. And it doesn’t “hear” the same acoustic problems as you do in the seat. The musical performance is quite good for a soundbar, as was the case with previous LG Meridian products.
Involvement is great
For our test, we connect the DSN8YG via HDMI to the ARC connection on an LG OLED55C9 . It could also be wireless, via Bluetooth, but that does not offer the best sound quality or surround. Then rather via HDMI. After all, this television also supports eARC, which is immediately confirmed on the display of the soundbar. The nice thing about it is that we can just go to the Netflix app to find movie material with Dolby Atmos soundtracks. Of course we immediately go to “Roma”, the semi-autobiographical film by Alfonso Cuarón that received an Oscar for sound design. Rightly so, because as we noted in previous reviews, this film is a model of how you can create a lot of atmosphere with Dolby Atmos. Also in films where nothing explodes or no car transforms into a robot. The power of Atmos at Roma lies in generating a sound image that suits a home in a large city. The DSN8YG conveys much of this. The long stretched opening scene in which the household help walks around the house is full of sounds that makes her walk realistic. The radio playing in the background and changing position as it moves to another room, for example. It’s all in the micro details. We are satisfied with what we hear: the LG soundbar expresses the situation well. The placement of the effects is good – yet when it comes to things right in front of you – and the soundscape is presented openly and spatially. Sound bars do not always succeed in this, so the sound always seems to come out really clearly from that long bar. The SN8YG does better, but as a middle class it does not match the top models in terms of 3D imaging.
Another great scene is where the father of the family drives his American sleigh into the hallway that doubles as a garage. The aircraft carrier-sized vehicle just passes through the gate, and the whole family watches with glee as he succeeds in his mission again. The DSN8YG scores here by bringing the classical music that plays on the car radio very nicely and distantly, while the sound effects such as the switch and turn on the steering wheel come straight from the screen.
Another point on which this LG performs relatively well is dialogue display. The center channel is not the weak link with this device, as is often the case with sound bars. Brad Pitt’s inner voice in “Ad Astra” (UHD Blu-ray, Dolby Atmos) rolls out of the DSN8YG full and immersive, projected to appear out of the screen. The criticisms of this SF movie are not so positive – perhaps because it is quite slow and not always logical – but the visuals and the soundtrack are very tasty. The music by Max Richter and Nils Frahm, among others, plays almost continuously and contributes enormously to the somewhat uncomfortable, threatening atmosphere that Ad Astra exudes – and which makes the DSN8YG hang nicely in the air. It is during the viewing of this film that we notice that the channels in our space are slightly unbalanced. The center is just a bit too dominant. That you can adjust the individual channels via the LG app is a big plus, and we were able to get it right. With other series and movies (usually in stereo) we found it more difficult to get really good.
The official Dolby demos are also discussed. Via “Audiosphere” you immediately hear how well an audio device puts the different channels in the room. We note that the front height channels sound higher in the room, but not very high either. It is enough to provide something “extra”, but it will stick around the top of the screen. To be clear: the soundbar is placed about 20 cm below the C9 on the wall, on a TV stand. At “Leaf”, the LG does very well about spinning the leaf and also the rain and thunder in the background at “Amaze” is very realistic for a soundbar. Kudos also for the included subwoofer. Subs at sound bars often have to play relatively high frequencies, so you hear them as a separate speaker when they are not in the front of the room. We have placed the sub to our left, but it is never noticeable that it plays separately from the soundbar. That’s how you do it. Compared to a lot of different soundbars, with this LG you can still venture to place that subwoofer at the back of the room – an arrangement that is often more convenient in a real-life living room.
For our portion of action, we choose ‘Rampage’ (Netflix, DD 5.1), a movie based on a Midway arcade game in which you destroy a city with a giant gorilla, lizard and a wolf-like beast. The main role is for The Rock, who plays a primatologist who can communicate with a gorilla. This also says enough about this film, which really requires you to clear the mind before watching. The DSN8YG conveys the action well, but now that subwoofer can show itself a bit more. At this point, the AI Sound Pro mode continues to get a little too thin, switching to Movie yourself makes it much more spectacular. The sub could be a bit more robust.
The LG DSN8YG Soundbar offers a lot for its price point. The soundbar may be the entry-level in LG’s premium line for 2020, but the performance is already pretty good. That should of course be the case, because 699 euros is not nothing. The stereo with center reproduction is particularly good, with decent front height channels that still provide a 3D experience at some level. This gives you a much larger and more immersive sound image when watching movies and compared to typical TV speakers. It could be better, but then you are talking about a more expensive soundbar with more advanced driver setups. The LG excels thanks to the many extras: Chromecast, Google Assistant and the effective room calibration function.
Cons of LG DSN8YG Soundbar
- Chromecast and Google Assistant via built-in microphone
Pros of LG DSN8YG Soundbar
- Room calibration is easy to use
- Nice channel separation at the front of the room
- Refined sound, suitable for music