LG SN11RG Soundbar Review

Fully immersive and almost fully specced

SRP: £1,499.99

What is the LG SN11RG?

The LG SN11RG is the latest flagship soundbar from the Korean manufacturer, and builds on last year's SL10YG by adding wireless rear speakers incorporating upfiring drivers for a fully immersive 7.1.4-channel experience with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio.

The SN11 also boasts Meridian audio technology, an AI room calibration feature, eARC, Chromecast, support for Hi-Res Audio and built-in Google Assistant. All this puts the new model head-to-head with Samsung's outgoing HW-Q90R soundbar and the up-coming HW-Q950T.

Since this is a top-of-the-line model, it has an equally high-end price, and will currently set you back £1,499 as at the time of writing (August 2020). However, given all the SN11RG can do, it might be ideal for anyone wanting an elegant immersive audio solution with the minimum of fuss.

Design

The LG SN11RG looks identical to last year's SL10YG, with exactly the same sleek frame, curved edges and low form factor. The build quality is excellent, with a moulded plastic chassis, a full-length wrap-around perforated metal grille, and circular metal grilles on the top.

The soundbar uses a black and dark grey colour scheme, with a brushed aluminium finish on top. The forward- and side-firing speakers are behind the metal grille, while the upward-firing speakers are on top. There’s a five character display on the front right, with four LEDs beneath that indicate the status of Google Assistant.

LG SN11RG
Close-up

The soundbar measures 1443 x 63 x 146mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 7.2kg. The width makes it better suited for TVs with screen sizes of 55 inches or larger. If you plan on wall-mounting, LG includes a template and dedicated brackets.

The wireless subwoofer is made of MDF, and has a finish that matches the main unit. It uses a 7-inch front-firing driver with a rear port, and measures 221 x 390 x 313mm (WxHxD) and weighs 7.8kg.

 

The size, shape and styling of the main unit and sub are identical to last year, but new this year are wireless rears

New this year are a pair of wireless rear speakers with front-facing and upfiring drivers. The cabinets are well-made and reasonably compact, with a finish that also matches the main unit. Each speaker measures 130 x 212 x 191mm (WxHxD), weighs 5.2kg and comes with wall mounting brackets. It's worth pointing out that while the sub and rears are wireless in terms of their connection to the main unit, you will need to plug each of them into a power socket.

Connections and Control

The LG SN11RG has a standard set of connections for a soundbar at this price, with two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output that supports eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel). The HDMI ports are also capable of passing 4K, HDCP 2.3, and high dynamic range, including HDR10 and Dolby Vision, but not HDR10+.

In terms of other physical connections, there’s an optical digital input and a USB port, but no Ethernet port for a wired connection. As a result you have to go wireless, and here the soundbar has built-in Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5GHz) and Bluetooth (v5.0, SBC), plus there’s also support for Chromecast.

LG SN11RG
Connections

The touch sensitive controls on the soundbar itself are located at the top and towards the centre of the main unit. These allow you to select input, change the volume, turn the power on and off, play/pause, mute the built-in far-field microphones, and activate Google Assistant.

The included remote is similar to last year, with a few minor changes. The button layout remains sensible, but the diminutive dimensions risk it getting lost down the back of the sofa. There are large buttons for main controls like power, volume, function (for cycling through the inputs) and mute.

 

The connections are the same as last year, but now support eARC, while the remote remains small but effective

Beneath these are smaller buttons for selecting sound effects, activating Google Assistant when watching TV (not necessary when listening to music), and Sound Tuning. Towards the bottom are smaller buttons for play/pause and skip forwards and backwards, navigating USB file folders, info, repeat, night mode, and an auto power feature for an optical connection.

LG SN11RG
Controls and remote

LG offers a smartphone app (iOS and Android), which provides access to all the controls found on the remote and even a couple of extra ones: Dynamic Range Control, Auto Volume Leveller, and AI room correction. You can also use the Google Home app for limited control.

If all that wasn’t enough, those of you connecting via HDMI-CEC can use your TV remote to adjust the volume, and thanks to built-in Google Assistant and a pair of far-field mics there's also the option of limited voice control for those who prefer to remain hands-free.

Features and Specs

The SN11RG uses a 7.1.4-channel speaker configuration, based around front-firing left and right drivers, a centre channel, side-firing width drivers, upward-firing front height channels, wireless rear speakers with upfiring drivers, and a wireless subwoofer.

The two forward-firing speakers and the centre channel are each composed of a 40x100mm woofer and 20mm silk dome tweeter, while the rear speakers just use the 40x100mm woofers. The four upward-firing speakers each use 2.5-inch woofers, and the bass reflex subwoofer uses a 7-inch driver.

 

The SN11 supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio using a fully immersive 7.1.4-channel speaker layout

There’s 50W of built-in amplification for each of the front, centre, side, rear and upward-firing speakers in the soundbar, and 220W for the subwoofer – producing a total of 770W of power. That’s a serious amount of grunt, ensuring this soundbar is capable of producing a big and powerful room-filling presence.

The SN11RG supports object-based audio in the form of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X thanks to the 7.1.4 speaker layout, creating a genuinely immersive experience. It also supports all the other Dolby and DTS variants (with the exception of IMAX Enhanced DTS:X), along with LPCM.

LG SN11RG
Soundbar and subwoofer

In terms of file support, there’s high resolution audio with a 192kHz/24-bit DAC and support for MP3, WAV, AAC/AAC+, AIFF, OGG, and FLAC file formats. There’s also Chromecast built-in, allowing you to cast songs, podcasts and stations from TIDAL, Spotify, YouTube and more.

More: Audio Formats

The soundbar includes a number of sound effects (modes), such as AI Sound Pro, which automatically analyses content to instantly optimise audio settings, Standard, Music, Movie, and Bass Blast – which are all self-explanatory. Other settings include Night Mode, Dynamic Range Control, Auto Volume Leveller, and a User EQ.

New this year is the AI room calibration feature that uses the two mics built into the soundbar. During setup, his feature employs test tones to determine the layout of your room in only 15 seconds. It then configures itself for the best, distortion-free audio for your living space. This automatic sound tuning technology compensates for the environment the SN11 is placed in, by using algorithms designed to improve the overall sonic performance.

 

LG has added a useful AI room correction feature, although if you're old-school there are still manual controls

If a source is connected to the soundbar using the optical digital input there's an automatic power on/off function, and a sound sync feature. For those using SIMPLINK (HDMI-CEC), there's an AV synch feature available via the remote app (0-300ms).

LG soundbars with a G suffix have Google Assistant built-in, and this not only allows voice control but also enables you to find information, play music and much more. In order to use Google Assistant simply say “Hey Google” or (when watching TV) press the Google Assistant buttons on the main unit, controller or remote app. This engages the far-field microphones in the soundbar, creating a fully functioning smart speaker.

Setup and Operation

The LG SN11RG is easy to setup, especially if you use the remote app. Not only does it allow you to bypass the less-than-informative LCD display at the front of the soundbar, but also provides access to more features than the remote control, including the useful AI room calibration.

The soundbar should be placed on a flat surface in front of the TV, with all the drivers free of any obstructions. LG includes brackets for those who would rather wall mount. The subwoofer is placed at the front of the room, and should pair automatically with the main unit, although it can also be paired manually if necessary.

 

The upfiring drivers bounce sounds off the ceiling, but their effectiveness will depend on how flat and reflective it is

The rear speakers should be placed behind, and either side of the main listening position. The speakers are marked left and right, and there are brackets for wall mounting if you prefer, but don’t forget to make sure the drivers aren’t being blocked. You’ll also need to plug in the main unit, subwoofer and both rear speakers – that’s four plugs in total.

The upward-firing drivers literally bounce acoustic beams off the ceiling, thus creating the illusion of overhead speakers. For this to work properly, you ideally need a low, flat, and reflective ceiling. If you have a very high, uneven or vaulted ceiling, this kind of technology might not be for you.

LG SN11RG
AI sound calibration

An Ultra HD Blu-ray player and game console were connected directly to the soundbar using the available HDMI inputs, while all the other sources were connected to the TV, and their audio sent back via HDMI-ARC. If your TV doesn’t support ARC, you can use the optical digital connection, but this means you won’t benefit from HDMI-CEC.

For testing, I used a Panasonic DP-UB820 4K Blu-ray player and Sony PS4 game console connected directly to the soundbar, and a Manhattan T3-R Freeview HD set-top box connected directly to an LG 77C9 OLED TV. The TV’s ARC capability with Atmos was tested using its Netflix, Disney+ and Apple TV+  apps, and its eARC capabilities were tested by connecting the 4K disc player to the TV and sending lossless audio back via HDMI-ARC.

You need to use the Google Home app to connect to a Wi-Fi network, but this process is quick and easy. You should also be able to setup the Google Assistant quickly and easily using this app. You can create a Bluetooth connection by selecting the BT function, and I paired the soundbar to my iPhone X, allowing me to test the quality of streamed music.

 

Google Home makes Wi-Fi setup easy, and eARC means you can send lossless audio back from the TV via HDMI

Once installed, all you need to do is follow the instructions in the remote app. This will allow you to run the AI room correction feature and optimise the sonic performance of the SN11 for your specific acoustic environment. However, for those who would rather set the different speaker levels manually, you can use the sound tuning menu accessible via the remote or the app.

The LG is easy to operate, and the soundbar will detect incoming audio signals from whichever input you have selected and decode automatically. For audio signals apart from Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, you can apply the various sound effects (modes) mentioned in the features and specs section.

Performance

The LG SN11RG delivers a fantastic overall performance, with an expansive and powerful soundstage that will perfectly complement bigger screen sizes and larger rooms. The side-firing speakers ensure plenty of width, and the rears produce genuine surround envelopment. Depending on your ceiling, the upfirers can be very effective, and the subwoofer lays a solid foundation of bass.

Whether you’re catching-up on your favourite TV show, watching a movie or listening to music, this impressive soundbar will deliver the goods. It has a warm and rich sound that combines with an energetic and full-bodied delivery, resulting in a performance that’s both exciting and enjoyable, especially when you delve into the wonderful world of object-based audio.

The film 1917 has a superb Dolby Atmos soundtrack that involves extensive use of highly directional sound effects. To deliver these effectively, a system needs rear speakers combined with front and back overhead channels to ensure precise positioning. The SN11 handles this complex mix with great aplomb, steering effects around the room with impressive accuracy. The sounds of No-Man’s Land surround you, bi-planes fly overhead, and there’s a palpable sense of claustrophobia inside the German underground barracks. The system also reveals some tight bass and excellent timing as a bomb suddenly goes off.

LG SN11RG
Left view

The SN11RG is particularly good at creating ambience, resulting in a naturalistic sound field that immerses you in a scene. The climactic punch-up in John Wick takes place in a storm, and thunder rolls overhead while rain pours down all around you. The soundbar really places you in the middle of the action, with gunfire and punches that retain a visceral impact thanks to the well-integrated subwoofer. Having said that, the sub could have used a little more depth, especially when dealing with a bass-fest like Godzilla: King of the Monsters. However, LG has clearly chosen greater cohesion over an unruly low-end.

 

The soundstage is genuinely immersive, with enveloping surrounds, plenty of overhead action and tight bass 

The use of identical drivers throughout the system certainly ensures a tonally balanced sound field. This pays dividends in a film like Gravity, which also has a very directional soundtrack. The audio retains a similar timbre as it moves from speaker to speaker, helping to sell the illusion of a seamless soundstage. The inclusion of rears also fills up the hole behind you, a problem that has plagued all of LG’s previous soundbars, where the soundstage is very front-heavy. Not so here, where you not only have surround channels behind you, but also rear overhead effects.

LG SN11RG
Right view

The dedicated centre speaker plays its part as well, providing clear and precise dialogue that is focused on the screen. There is a pleasing clarity to the mid-range, and lovely detail to much of the delivery. The powerful amplification also gives this soundbar some impressive dynamic range that really helps to sell a more energetic and aggressive sound mix like Midway. The titular battle is an all-enveloping cacophony of aerial and naval ballistics, and the SN11 does an excellent job of keeping the different elements distinct. So whether its an aircraft flying through a cloud of flak, or bullets strafing a ship, the sounds remain discernible.

This ability to deliver a balanced but wide front soundstage, combined with good localisation of effects and a tight low-end, also results in a great performance with music. The numerous drum solos in Whiplash are rendered with precision and attack, while the sub responds with a tight percussive kick. The SN11RG proved very adept with music, producing a 2.1-channel performance that retained good stereo imaging and a responsive low-end. There might be better soundbars for music, but none of them have the ability to also deliver a fully immersive object-based experience.

The SN11 handled the Atmos soundtracks from the C9’s built-in apps particularly well, whether it’s the spooky bumps in the night in The Haunting of Hill House, or hip-hop stylings of Hamilton. The LG also delivered an engaging performance with DTS:X soundtracks, and as always the T-Rex attack in Jurassic Park is a masterclass in sound design. This scene has it all, from the low-end thump of the dino’s arrival, to the thunder overhead and the rain in the surround channels. There’s a terrifying combination of high pitched squeal and throaty roar as the T-Rex let’s rip, and the entire sequence is utterly thrilling on this LG soundbar.

Verdict

Pros

  • Superb sound quality
  • Fully immersive 7.1.4
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • eARC support
  • AI room calibration feature
  • Sleek and well made
  • Google Assistant built-in
  • Hi-Res Audio and Chromecast

Cons

  • No HDR10+ passthrough
  • Sub could go a little deeper
  • Pricey

LG SN11RG Soundbar Review

Should I buy one?

The LG SN11RG is an exceptional soundbar that delivers a full-fat 7.1.4-channel system, and benefits from a big, bold and powerful delivery. It's undoubtedly a step-up from last year's SL10YG, and joins the select club of soundbars that can deliver a genuinely immersive experience with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio soundtracks.

The SN11 sounds fantastic, is simple to setup and easy to optimise thanks to the new AI room correction feature. It also boasts a host of useful features that includes support for eARC, Chromecast, various sound modes, and Hi-Res Audio, along with built-in Google Assistant. In fact, this soundbar is hard to fault and offers a nearly flawless package.

One of its few limitations is as an inability to pass HDR10+ , but that's really no great loss. The subwoofer could perhaps go a little deeper, and the SN11RG is fairly pricey – although its comparable to the competition. Overall, this is an impressive effort from LG, and should prove ideal for anyone wanting full immersion without the hassle of an AV receiver and speaker package system. 

What are my alternatives?

The number of soundbars offering a genuine 7.1.4 experience with actual speakers, rather than resorting to psychoacoustic trickery or bouncing sounds all over the lounge, is actually quite small.

If you're on a tighter budget and can't afford the SN11RG, then you could consider the JBL BAR 9.1 (£899) with its detachable wireless rear speakers. This eye-catching soundbar includes a wireless subwoofer, eARC, auto setup, and support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Like the LG there's no HDR10+ passthrough, but the JBL only has one HDMI input and no remote app. The front soundstage is a little narrow, but overall this is an excellent performer and great value for money.

Alternatively you could consider the Samsung HW-Q90R. This 7.1.4-channel soundbar will soon be replaced by the HW-Q950T, but that means it can now be picked up for £999. The Q90R benefits from a wider front soundstage, sounds excellent, and like the SN11RG and BAR 9.1 it has a wireless sub and wireless rears with upfiring drivers. It supports Atmos and DTS:X, has two HDMI inputs, and an output that finally supports eARC after a long overdue firmware update. It doesn't have an auto calibration feature, but it can pass both Dolby Vision and HDR10+, making it the one of the most complete soundbars around.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
9

Ease of use

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
9

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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