What is the LG SK10Y?
This big but stylishly-designed soundbar is well-made and boasts a decent set of features. The SK10Y supports high resolution audio, works with Google Assistant, and has Chromecast built-in. It also supports Dolby Atmos using a 5.1.2 speaker configuration, but strangely there's no DTS:X included.
The SK10Y heads up a soundbar range that includes the smaller SK9Y, and the 2.1-channel SK8Y. The prices of these soundbars have recently dropped, with the SK10Y currently available for £899 as at the time of writing (October 2018). While that’s certainly an attractive price, how does the LG compare to the competition? Let's find out.
However, despite its dimensions, the SK10Y remains a stylish and surprisingly sleek soundbar. You’ll obviously need a fairly wide surface on which to position it but at only 63mm high, it can fit in front of most TVs without blocking the screen or IR receiver. You should ensure the sideways and upwards-firing drivers are clear of any obstructions, and LG also include brackets for wall mounting if necessary.
The SK10Y comes with a bass-reflex subwoofer that is made from MDF and uses a 7-inch forward-firing driver. It has a matching black, brushed metal finish and black cloth grille, that complements the main unit. The sub should wirelessly connect to the soundbar automatically, although you can do this manually, if necessary. The subwoofer measures 221 x 390 x 313mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 7.6kg.
Connections and Control
In terms of other connections, there's an optical, digital audio input, a 3.5mm analogue input, and an Ethernet port. There's also a USB port, but that's only for firmware updates. In addition to physical connections, there are a number of wireless options, with Wi-Fi (2.4/5GHz) and Bluetooth 4.0 built-in.
The included remote is the kind you tend to lose down the back of the sofa, but at least there are large buttons for power, volume, function (input) and mute. There are also large and easy to use buttons for play/pause and skip forwards and backwards. Beneath these controls are smaller and slightly more fiddly buttons for info, sound effects, speaker levels, AV sync, auto volume and auto power.
As well as the controls on the soundbar itself and the provided remote, if you connect via HDMI ARC, then you can use your TV remote to control the SK10Y. Finally, there's the option of using LG’s Wi-Fi Speaker app to set up and control your soundbar. This app is excellent, with a well-designed user interface that allows you to select inputs, choose sound effects, and set up various features.
LG SK10Y Features
Thanks to the partnership with Meridian Audio, the SK10Y also includes the British manufacturer’s advanced ‘Bass and Space’ and ‘Height Elevation’ technologies, which are designed to produce a more immersive listening experience from non-Atmos content.
Aside from Dolby Atmos, this soundbar can decode LPCM, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Digital, and DTS Digital Surround. So as well as DTS:X, the LG also doesn’t support DTS-HD Master Audio. While it's true that Dolby dominates streaming audio, the decision to limit the DTS support is sure to disappoint film fans with a lot of Blu-rays and 4K discs.
The side-firing drivers on the SK10Y are intended to create the sense of surround channels, but in reality they only really add greater width to the front soundstage. However if you want to add genuine surround speakers to the SK10Y, LG offers the SPK8 wireless rear speaker kit for £170. This provides dedicated surround channels (but no rear overhead channels), expanding the system to 7.1.2 with an additional 70W for each of the rear speakers, resulting in 690W in total.
The SK10Y boasts some excellent Hi-Fi credentials, not just because of the involvement of Meridian Audio but also thanks to its support of high resolution audio. The soundbar can handle sample rates up to 24bit/192kHz and supports MP3, WAV, AAC, AIFF, WMA, OGG, Apple Lossless and FLAC file formats.
The SK10Y wouldn't be a 2018 soundbar without some form of voice control, so naturally it works with Google Assistant. If you connect it to a compatible Google Assistant speaker, you can control the LG using your voice. There’s also Chromecast built-in, allowing you to cast songs, podcasts and stations from Tidal, Spotify, YouTube and more.
Setup, Operation and Testing
To kick things off, I positioned the soundbar in front of my TV, ensuring none of the drivers were obstructed, and placed the subwoofer at the front of the room. After that, I connected my lossless sources directly to the soundbar using the two available HDMI inputs. All my other sources were connected to the TV, with their audio sent to the soundbar via HDMI ARC. If your TV doesn’t support ARC, you’ll need to use the optical connection.
For testing, I connected various devices directly via HDMI, including an LG UP970 UHD Blu-ray player, a PS4 Pro, an Apple TV 4K and a YouView set top box. I also tested the Audio Return Channel capabilities of the soundbar by connecting everything to an LG 65C8 OLED TV and sending the audio back via ARC. Since the C8 supports Atmos on its Netflix and Amazon apps using Dolby Digital Plus for delivery, I was able to send Atmos from both, back to the LG via ARC.
I connected the SK10Y to my home network using a wireless connection, but you can also use an Ethernet cable. I used the Wi-Fi Speaker app, which was quick and easy to follow. To create a Bluetooth connection, I simply selected the BT function and then paired the soundbar to my device. I paired the SK10Y with an iPhone X and a Samsung S9+, allowing me to test the soundbar's capabilities with streamed music over both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Once I had set up and connected the soundbar, all I needed to do was set the levels for the various speakers. You can do this by ear, but I used an SPL meter (there are plenty of free SPL apps available). Using either the remote or the Wi-Fi Speaker app, I then adjusted the centre, overhead and subwoofer levels to create a balanced sound field. While the audio setup is simple, it borders on being a bit too simple, and I would have liked to see some form of room equalisation on a flagship soundbar like this.
The SK10Y is a piece of cake to operate, all I needed to do was select the correct input (ARC, optical, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, portable, HDMI1, and HDMI 2), and then adjust the volume. The soundbar will detect the incoming audio signal from whichever input you have selected and decode it automatically. For audio signals apart from Dolby Atmos, you can apply various surround modes. These modes include Standard, Movie, Music, ASC (Adaptive Sound Control) which optimises the surround effect in real time, and Bass Blast which boosts the lower frequencies.
Those front speakers produced a sound field that literally surrounded the TV, with sounds emanating from either side, below and from above, as well as dialogue coming from the screen. There was a genuine sense of depth to the audio, and the side-firing drivers added plenty of width, while the upward-firing drivers created the overhead channels, and the sub provided the lower frequencies.
Unsurprisingly, the SK10Y handled normal television programmes extremely well, with the news, documentaries, cooking competitions, and sports all benefiting from the capabilities of this excellent soundbar. There was an impressive precision to the delivery, which resulted in plenty of detail and clear dialogue and narration.
The soundbar’s width gave better stereo separation to music, while the roar of crowds at sporting events filled the room. There was a nice sense of depth too; and depending on the sound mode you chose, you could also add more height and boost the bass. However it’s the SK10Y's abilities with Dolby Atmos that is its big selling point, and here the LG definitely delivered.
I connected the SK10Y to an LG C8 using HDMI and was able to send Atmos-encoded soundtracks from the Netflix and Amazon apps built into the TV back to the soundbar via ARC. This approach uses lossy Dolby Digital Plus to deliver the Atmos signal, but despite this, the results were still very impressive. The soundtracks for TV shows have certainly come a long way, and now rival feature films in terms of quality.
The second season of Iron Fist on Netflix has a cracking Atmos soundtrack, and in one scene the hero is practising his martial arts in a basement. You could clearly hear the rumble of subway trains overhead, along with the sound of Danny’s breath reverberating around the room. The sub also played its part, adding real bass impact to punches, kicks, gunshots, and explosions.
This is a good place to point out that the success of the SK10Y's overhead effects will depend entirely on the type of ceiling in your room. This applies to any system that uses upward-firing drivers, and for the best overhead effects you need a low, flat, and reflective ceiling. As it happens mine is perfect, but if you have a vaulted ceiling for example, then this not the best approach for you. However, with the right kind of ceiling, this technology can be very effective, even if it will never completely replace actually having speakers on the ceiling.
As impressive as the performance of the SK10Y is with Dolby Atmos, it's also apparent that the soundstage has a very front-heavy presence. The side-firing drivers are supposed to use Acoustic Phase Matching to create the impression of surround sound, but this was never really the case. Yes, there was greater width, but I never felt like sounds were emanating from behind me. This was easy to confirm using test tones or a highly directional sound design like Gravity.
As part of the review, LG kindly provided me with the SPK8 wireless rear speaker kit, in order to run the SK10Y as a 7.1.2 with genuine surround speakers. The difference was immediate, and the addition of rear channels was able to fill the acoustic hole behind me. As a result, the experience was more immersive, with sounds actually steered around the room, and greater precision when localising effects. There's a place for phase matching and psychoacoustics, especially where space and environment are an issue, but they'll never properly replace actual surround speakers.
LG's partnership with Meridian has clearly paid dividends, especially when it comes to music. The SK10Y is one of the best sounding bars I have tested, and the width of the chassis is definitely a factor because it allows for greater stereo separation between the left and right speakers. The front three channels use a combination of 40x100mm woofers and 20mm aluminium dome tweeters, which produce an excellent mid-range and impressive top-end.
The results were impressive, with the SK10Y delivering Suede's new album The Blue Hour with an appropriately epic sweep. The album contains a lot of orchestration and the LG reproduced the scale of the music with skill, allowing for excellent clarity and localisation of instruments. The deep choral chants in the first track were delivered with plenty of bass, while the mid-tones rendered Brett Anderson's vocals with skill. The soundbar reproduced the more uptempo numbers with speed and agility, picking out the electric guitars and making sure the bass and drums provided solid support.
- Dynamic performance
- Dolby Atmos support
- Excellent bass
- Attractive design and well-made
- Soundstage front-heavy
- No DTS:X support
- Limited HDMi inputs
- Audio setup very basic
LG SK10Y Soundbar Review
LG SK10Y VerdictThe LG SK10Y is an excellent sounding product that delivered a great performance with TV and movies, combined with a surprising musicality. LG's partnership with Meridian Audio has clearly paid dividends, with wonderful clarity, plenty of detail and deep bass. Whether you’re catching up on your favourite TV show, watching a blockbuster movie or simply listening to music, the LG is sure to please.
The soundbar's performance with Dolby Atmos is also impressive, with an expansive wall of sound at the front of the room. However, the sound was very focused at the front and the lack of rear speakers meant there was nothing coming from the back. As a result, there was a limited sense of immersion, and while you can buy wireless rear speakers, that adds to the cost and still doesn't include rear height channels.
It would be nice if there were additional HDMI inputs and a more sophisticated setup process, but the SK10Y’s big weakness is a lack of DTS:X support, which is sure to disappoint many surround sound enthusiasts. That issue aside, this is a stylish and well-made soundbar with enough features and performance to justify its price tag.
What are my alternatives?The obvious alternative to the SK10Y is the Samsung HW-N850. This is exactly the same soundbar as the HW-N950 that I reviewed recently, but without the wireless rear speakers. So what you get is an equally big and well-made main unit, with three forward-firing drivers, two side-firing drivers, two upward-firing drivers, and a wireless active subwoofer.
The HW-N850 was developed in conjunction with Harman Kardon, and offers an extensive set of features including high resolution audio support, Alexa voice control, and the option to add wireless rear speakers. Crucially it also supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, which gives the Samsung an advantage over the LG. The HW-N850 is more expensive at £999 but if you want DTS:X, it's definitely worth the extra hundred quid.
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