LG SJ8 Soundbar Review
A great way to boost the sonic abilities of your new OLED TV
What is the LG SJ8?The LG SJ8 is the company's mid-range soundbar, sitting below the Dolby Atmos enabled SJ9 in their line-up. It's easy to forget that despite all this talk of immersive audio, most people just want a decent level of sound quality when they're watching TV. Although manufacturers have made great advances in terms of audio performance when it comes to ultra thin TVs, the reality is that you can only bend the laws of physics so far. So if you've just picked up an LG B7 or LG C7 in the Black Friday sales, the chances are that you'll have a bit left over to buy a soundbar and boost your TV's sonic capabilities. If so the SJ8 might just fit the bill with a 4.1-channel design, a compact wireless subwoofer, 4K HDR support, multi-room features and high resolution audio – all of which you can pick up for £349 as at the time of writing (December 2017). So let's see how the SJ8 measures up and find out if it is the perfect complement to that new OLED TV.
Design, Control & ConnectionsThe SJ8 boasts an attractive design and a slim form factor that has been designed to complement LG's B7 and C7 OLED TVs – there's even an optional dedicated TV mount for that purpose. As a result the SJ8 can fit unobtrusively under a TV without blocking the screen or drawing attention to itself. There's a black brushed metal finish on the top panel and a metal grille that wraps around the front and bends inwards at the sides. The soundbar cabinet is closed and inside there are 20mm dome tweeters, 26 x 95mm mid/bass drivers and 130W of amplification, which is split evenly between the left and right channels. The mid/bass drivers are elongated which LG claims helps to compensate for the low form factor and allows the SJ8 to compete with larger soundbars.
The SJ8 measures 1220 x 38 x 105mm (WxHxD), weighs in at 2.7kg and, although the build quality is reasonable, it does feel a bit plasticky in places. The SJ8 comes with a bass reflex active subwoofer which is styled to match the soundbar itself, with a black and dark grey finish. The cabinet is made of MDF, measures 171 x 320 x 252mm (WxHxD), weighs 4.3kg and has a metal mesh over the 6-inch driver. The subwoofer feels reasonably well made, although the finish at the rear is a bit untidy, and there is 170W of built in amplification. Thanks to being both fairly compact and wireless it's easy to position, just as long as there's a power socket nearby.
There is an LED display on the front of the SJ8, which clearly shows important information like the volume, the source and the sound setting every time you make an adjustment. At the right rear of the soundbar there are some basic controls that allow you to turn the SJ8 on or off, cycle through the inputs, turn the volume up or down, connect to your WiFi network and add the soundbar to your Music Flow network. Since the SJ8 supports Music Flow you can also use the smart device app to control the soundbar and this app is not only well designed and effective but also provides all the controls found on the provided remote, as well as many others.
The SJ8's actual remote is a bit of a disappointment because it's the same small, fiddly black plastic controller that is included with the more expensive SJ9. It has all the buttons that you'll need but it's easy to misplace and the rubber keys aren't that well laid out. It also isn't particularly obvious what some of the buttons do but using the remote you can turn the SJ8 on or off, select the inputs, change the volume, choose sound effects and play/pause and skip content and access the special features.
The connections on the SJ8 aren't extensive but are typical for a soundbar at this price point and should get the job done. There is a single HDMI input and an HDMI output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel) – both the HDMI input and output support 4K, HDR and HDCP 2.2. Since you're almost certainly going to have more than one HDMI source, the best approach would be to connect them directly to the TV and the send the audio back to the soundbar via ARC. The SJ8 also has an optical digital input and an Ethernet port, along with built-in WiFi (2.4G/5G) and Bluetooth 4.0.
It's unobtrusive and attractively designed to complement LG's B7 and C7 OLED TVs
Features & SpecsThe SJ8 has a number of key features, of which support for LG's Music Flow multi-room system is probably the most important. This allows you to build a multi-room system by starting with the SJ8 or simply add it to an existing network of other Music Flow devices. Music Flow uses a mesh network and is a highly effective multi-room system. As part of this the SJ8 also supports Hi-Res Audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, allowing you to enjoy lossless playback of file types that include FLAC (up to 192kHz), OGG (up to 48kHz), WAV, ALAC, MP3, WMA, AAC and AIFF. The SJ8 also supports LPCM, Dolby Digital and DTS Digital Surround but doesn't support Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio.
In terms of audio processing, the SJ8 includes LG's Sound Upconverting to up-sample 16-bit/48kHz to 24-bit/192kHz, as well as Adaptive Sound Control (ASC) which intelligently analyses the frequency levels of audio from content that you're watching and enhances the mix to emphasise certain aspects such as vocals for the news or bass for action movies. LG have also developed their Auto Sound Engine which automatically optimises audio for different volume levels. There are a number of sound settings and you can choose between ASC, Cinema and Bass Blast; as well as use the Tone Control, Night Mode and Dynamic Range Control.
The inclusion of Music Flow provides access to a number of features including Home Cinema Mode (using other Music Flow speakers as rear channels in a genuine surround system), Group Play Mode (to group together a number of Music Flow speakers in a room, perhaps for a party) and Multi Room Mode (allowing you to select Music Flow speakers in different rooms). Another useful feature is Auto Music Play which allows the soundbar to automatically take over playback of audio from a connected device once it senses the device is nearby. The SJ8 has Spotify Connect and Chromecast built in, allowing you to cast music, podcasts and radio stations to your soundbar using apps like Google Play Music, Deezer and TuneIn. The SJ8 comes with an optical digital cable in the box and there are also brackets and a template included should you wish to wall mount the soundbar.
There are plenty of features including support for LG's Music Flow multiroom system
Sound QualityAs always, taking a bit of time to carefully set up your new soundbar and subwoofer will pay dividends in the long run. To be honest the options for the soundbar itself are fairly limited, you can either position it beneath your TV or you can mount it on the wall with the provided brackets. We placed it in front of our 55B7 which it matched perfectly, the low form factor looked attractive and the two made a great combination. However the SJ8 is fairly wide so it probably wouldn't suit TVs that are smaller than 55 inches. When it comes to the subwoofer, a bit of thought and possibly some experimentation can definitely result in a superior experience. We would generally suggest not positioning the sub in a corner, either side of the TV is best, because it can be a little boomy and you'll probably need to bring the level down a few notches. However if you spend a bit of time carefully locating the subwoofer you'll end up with a bass performance that is effectively integrated with the soundbar itself.
When it comes to the actual performance of the SJ8 it's worth pointing out that it's capable of a surprisingly big front soundstage. Despite its sleek dimensions, the elongated mid/bass drivers are very effective and when combined with the wireless subwoofer the result is a big and bombastic sound. This means that the SJ8 is ideal for TV dramas and films with action-packed soundtracks, where the LG can fill the front of your room with a sonic presence that will complement your TV. A film like Atomic Blonde really benefits from the SJ8, resulting in a bone-crunching performance that perfectly complements the film's over-the-top sound design. The 80s soundtrack is delivered with gusto and dialogue remains clear, whilst the subwoofer gives depth and impact to every punch, gunshot and explosion. This is great when it comes to this kind go amped-up soundtrack but what the SJ8 isn't is subtle, so more nuanced soundtracks might lose some detail when being delivered by this soundbar and subwoofer combination.
A good example is the beginning of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, this is a film we use a lot in testing because it has a complex sound design that slowly builds with the action. The SJ8 had no trouble delivering the thunder and the falling rain but the more subtle breathing of the apes wasn't as clear as with some other soundbars. However once the hunt begins the SJ8 kicks up a gear and reproduces the thunder of the stampeding deer with great aplomb. The SJ8 is undoubtedly relying on the subwoofer to handle the lower end and, as good a job as the mid/bass drivers do in creating a big soundstage, some detail is lost in the crossover. It's also important to position and set up the subwoofer correctly because otherwise it can sound 'boomy' and dominate the rest of the sound field. However the tweeters work extremely well, handling higher pitched sounds effectively and the SJ8 has plenty of amplification which allows it to go loud without distorting or becoming harsh.
Overall the LG SJ8 is an effective soundbar for TV, movies and music but there are better sounding options available at a similar price. Having said that we doubt other soundbars will be as unobtrusive as the SJ8, so there's always a trade-off, and it does complement LG's OLED TVs very nicely.
The SJ8 can be a little heavy handed but it's great fun if you enjoy bombastic action
- Decent overall sound quality
- Good with music
- Multi-room capabilities
- Attractive design
- Well made
- Audio can be a little heavy handed
- Limited HDMI inputs
- Remote control could be better
LG SJ8 Soundbar Review
Should I buy one?The LG SJ8 is great addition to their line-up of soundbars and, whilst it doesn't include immersive audio support, it does boost the audio performance of your slimline TV, creating a decent front soundstage. The SJ8 has specifically been designed to complement LG's B7 and C7 OLED TVs, although there's no reason why you couldn't pair it with plenty of other models from a number of different manufacturers. The soundbar is well made, attractively designed and, thanks to its low form factor, it's also unobtrusive – making it ideal for today's modern ultra-slim TVs. However the soundbar is quite wide, so it's best suited to TVs with a screen size of 55 inches and larger. The SJ8 comes with a compact wireless active subwoofer that is designed to match the soundbar in terms of styling, whilst adding plenty of deep bass to the soundstage.
There's a host of features on the SJ8 including an HDMI input and output with ARC and 4K HDR passthrough, Bluetooth, Hi-Res Audio and support for LG's Music Flow multiroom system. The SJ8 is easy to set up and operate although the included controller is a little disappointing, but the remote app makes for an excellent alternative. Overall the SJ8 delivered a great performance, with a much larger front soundstage than you would expect from such a slimline cabinet. There was plenty of width and loads of deep bass thanks to the sub and, whilst the SJ8 could never be called subtle, it handles TV dramas and movies very well. It was also a solid performer with music, making it a great addition to that new OLED you've just picked up!
What are my alternatives?In terms of alternatives, if you have a larger budget you could go for LG's SJ9 Dolby Atmos soundbar, which can be picked up for £749. The SJ9 has a similar low form factor but adds upward-firing drivers to deliver a more immersive experience. However the SJ9's Dolby Atmos sound field is very front-heavy and it has the same limited number of HDMI connections, so the SJ8 definitely delivers more bang for your buck. However the obvious alternative is the Q Acoustics M3 which is not only a great performer – wining Best Soundbar Under £1,000 2017 in our recent Editor's Choice Awards – but also great value with a current price of just £269. The M3 doesn't come with a subwoofer and only has an HDMI output but it's hard to argue with a soundbar that can deliver a quality audio performance at that price point.
Ease of use9
Value for Money8
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