After the high-performing SJ9 last year, LG presents an even higher positioned soundbar this year; the LG SK10Y with Dolby Atmos – of course – and a dash of technology from the British hi-fi legend Meridian. We’re reviewing the premium soundbar in this review.
LG SK10Y review
The 2018 is the best soundbar that LG brings to the market, a new top model that has to outdo the SJ9 last year. A top model without Dolby Atmos support is of course not possible, making this LG immediately an interesting option for those who want the best in terms of surround but do not feel like placing speakers and cables. Dolby Atmos soundbars are still relatively new, but now there are some models on the market, including Samsung, Sony and Yamaha.
The SK10Y with 5.1.2 channel playback is certainly not your only choice if you have a Atmos soundbar is looking for. That is why LG gives this premium device with a suggested retail price of 1,099 euros (currently for sale for 909 euros) what unique features, issue of stand out in the store. One of the things the manufacturer did was ask for advice from a hi-fi brand. Not Harman or Bang & Olufsen, as you might expect, but the British Meridian. A name that is less well known outside the hi-fi world, despite the British’s contributions to audio codecs of the Blu-ray specification and the successful collaborations with luxury brands such as Jaguar and Range Rover. But does Meridian’s contribution also provide an exceptional soundbar? We investigate this in the LG SK10Y test.
The SK10Y is not a soundbar for everyone. And then we do not have the price tag that seems high for a conventional soundbar, but is around the norm for an Atmos soundbar. You can easily lose a thousand euros in this segment. No, the first reason you doubt the purchase of this LG is its dimensions. We noticed it immediately when unpacking: this is one of the biggest soundbars that we ever visited. With a width of 146.5 cm, it barely fits on our TV cabinet and our 55-inch LG OLED55B6V almost looks like a tiny miniature. With a 40-inch TV, the contrast between television and soundbar would simply be absurd. To be honest we have to admit that LG itself only recommends the SK10Y for 55-inch and larger TVs.
The SK10Y is quite deep, because of the two extra speakers that are directed upwards. Perhaps because of its size you would not have to put it in a furniture or under a TV, but would you consider it anyway: it is not a good idea. The overhead speakers must be free to spread the sound of the height channels well upwards. With its sleek design and rather austere appearance, it is the soundbar that self-destroys itself, insofar as this is possible with a giant like this one. It has very few buttons and the display is placed subtly behind the loudspeaker grille at the front. The wireless subwoofer that comes with the SK10Y is surprisingly relatively compact. You can easily lose it in the room.
With a shot of Meridian
An interesting question is what Meridian added to the SK10Y. LG is not entirely clear about this, although during a presentation at the recent EISA Convention in Antwerp we got the impression that the British audio company mainly gave feedback on soundbar designs that LG had already signed. That was about how drivers could be better suspended in the housing, with more attenuation at the back, for example. According to other sources, Meridian would also have given advice on the used DACs in the LG SK10Y, which would not be crazy given the British’s focus on digital audio. There is of course a lot of cooperation between large AV brands and hi-fi companies nowadays, partly because marketers want to give tvs and other AV some more standing in terms of sound.
As you would expect from a high-end soundbar, the SK10Y is well equipped with inputs and possibilities. All connections are grouped in a niche at the rear, so that connected cables stay clear from view. Those who are a little handy can even do it invisibly. The two HDMI inputs on the LG SK10Y can be used for external sources, such as a digital television decoder or a console. The inputs are, as it should be in 2018, 4K and HDCP 2.2 -compatible. The third HDMI port is used for the cable that goes to the TV.
Furthermore, the LG SK10Y has an optical input (which can be used for a CD player or a console), an auxiliary input for a music player or smartphone and a USB port. However, you can not use the latter for music files. If you want to stream music, you can do so via Bluetooth (with support from AAC) from your phone or via the network (ethernet or WiFi).
For several years, LG tried to use the MusicFlow platform multiroom system. The LG SK10Y leaves this behind and works with a new app; LG Wi-Fi Speaker. Through this app you can fully control the soundbar, even if you watch TV, and adjust settings. You really have to install this app on your phone, because via the included compact remote control you can not adjust a few functions. Enabling the night mode or DRC function, for example, is only possible via the app.
The app also works as a music player for files stored on the mobile device or a DLNA server, but that function worked more not or during our testing. The LG-app regularly did not find the soundbar and at other times it did not want to play music files for unclear reasons. It was not the size – and on paper the LG SK10Y has good support for music formats. We quickly switched to the BubbleUPnP app on Android, a very good music player that also allows streaming of music services such as Tidal and Qobuz. In addition, the SK10Y Chromecast-compatible, allowing you to stream music directly through many apps from music services (including Spotify and Deezer). And that went fine.
Equally large in sound
Before releasing film content on the SK10Y, we pick up the Dolby Atmos test disc as usual to hear how the LG handles the standard demos. What is immediately noticeable with demos like ‘Leaf’ is that a very wide image is created, also in height. A merit of that enormous size, which makes the speakers of the LG SK10Y stand apart than with an ordinary soundbar. It serves a generous sound image with a strong sense of left and right – also nice for music – and with a center channel that gets enough space. What does that concretely mean? We look at the impressive ‘Sicario’ (on Ultra HD Blu-ray with Dolby Atmos) by Denis Villeneuve and with a threatening soundtrack by Jóhann Jóhannsson. Throughout the film, the heartbeat of Jóhannsson’s music keeps floating in the room, completely separate from the soundbar or sub. At different moments, such as when on the eve of a raid thunder sound over the desert landscape rolls, we hear Atmos film effects very high in the room. An exceptionally beautiful performance for a soundbar. Of all the similar devices we tested, only the Yamaha YSP-5600 really came close.
The Blu-ray of ‘Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation’ is something we like to add to the extra spatiality that Dolby Atmos can provide experience, especially the exciting scene in the Wiener Opera House, when Ethan Hunt in the wings hits a hitman while a performance of ‘Turandot’ takes place in the background. During the battle between the IMF agent and sniper, the SK10Y places the sounds of the fistfight perfectly at the front of the image, while the opera singing and the musical accompaniment are presented much more in space. Very nice. The ultimate Atmos experience is not because there are no high-altitude channels, but this is quite good for 5.1.2. In our living room with a ceiling at a height of three meters, we have to put the OVC (Overhead Speaker Volume) on 5 or 6 for a really ‘high’ reproduction of Atmos effects.
When playing from ‘Radioactivitat’ from the Blu-ray of Kraftwerk 1-2-3 (Dolby Atmos) we also note that the subwoofer at the LG SK10Y to soundbarnormen is really good. We placed the sub in the back of the room, which is a bad idea for many soundbars. They spread too many higher frequencies that then do not come noticeably from the direction of the TV screen. The subwoofer that LG delivers is also not entirely clean on the surface at that level – you hear a small piece of directional sound – but most of the energy stops in the very low frequencies. On the + 1-stand it is just right for the room of 25m2 (on one side opened to a second room). Moreover, the sub is not so woolly, because otherwise a typical feature is cheap sound-bar subwoofers. That makes the Kraftwerk track play fast and sneaky – something we do not often experience with a soundbar.
If you deliver the LG SK10Y Dolby Atmos content, you have no sound modes that you can select . If you watch video with Dolby Digital via Netflix or stream your music, you can choose from five sound modes. The Standard mode, we honestly found really bad, just like the Bass Blaster (which in our opinion just does the opposite). Switch quickly to Movie or Music according to your own taste. LG might not like to hear it, but at various music tracks we finally found ‘Off Meridian’ sounding the best.
The SK10Y is so big that it will be a problem in many living rooms. The corresponding app also does not work properly. But apart from that the LG soundbar performs very well. Just that huge size makes the SK10Y a larger sound image than many other soundbars. Feed him with a movie or game with Dolby Atmos and you will be served a soundtrack that looks very enveloping – and so compelling. In terms of music reproduction, the LG SK10Y is a reference in the segment. The fact that it is Chromecast-compatible and can be controlled via Google Assistant makes it perfect for listening to music.