What is the LG SP8YA?
The LG SP8YA is a soundbar and subwoofer combination that includes side- and upward-firing drivers to create a 3.1.2-channel system. There's support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, Meridian tuning, an AI Sound Pro mode and high-resolution audio support.
The SP8YA retails for £599 as at the time of writing (July 2021), and while it has a solid set of features and decent pricing, it's part of a very competitive segment of the soundbar market. So let's get testing and see how it performs in comparison with its peer group.
The LG SP8YA sports the company's classic soundbar design, with a low form factor and curved corners. The construction uses a largely plastic moulded chassis, with a wrap-around mesh grille, a brushed metal top, and a black finish. The upward-firing speakers are behind round grilles on the top, while the three front-firing speakers are located behind the main grille.
The overall design is minimalist in appearance, and the connections are in a recessed area on the underside. At the front, between the centre and right speakers, is a five character display. It's reasonably informative, clearly visible and easy to read from a distance.
The soundbar and subwoofer are both well made, with the former large enough for big-screen TVs
The soundbar measures 1060 x 57 x 119mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 4.4kg. The soundbar uses a power brick adapter, and there's a choice of stand or wall-mounting. If you're planning on the latter LG includes brackets and a template.
The wireless subwoofer is the same model included with a number of other LG soundbars. It's 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.
Connections and Control
The LG SP8YA houses its connections in a recessed area at the rear of the soundbar, and here you'll find an HDMI input and an HDMI output that supports eARC. The HDMI ports can pass 4K, HDCP 2.3, VRR, ALLM, 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. The wireless connections consist of built-in Wi-Fi (2.4 and 5GHz) and Bluetooth 5.0, plus there’s support for Google Chromecast and Apple AirPlay 2.
The soundbar passes Dolby Vision, but unsurprisingly it doesn't support HDR10+
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, and pair Bluetooth devices.
The remote control has been given a redesign and now looks more like LG's TV zappers. It's a definite improvement on the small and fiddly controller included with previous LG soundbars, and the new shape is bigger, more comfortable to hold and easier to use with one hand.
The remote control has had a make over and is a big improvement over previous years
The button layout has been simplified, and is sensibly laid out. There's an on/off button at the top, beneath this is volume up/down, mute and input select. There's a dedicated button for pairing Bluetooth devices, a circular set of navigation controls, and buttons for accessing the sound modes and settings menus.
LG also offers a soundbar app (iOS and Android), which is very effective, and 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. Those connecting via HDMI-CEC can also use the TV remote to adjust the volume.
Features and Specs
The SP8YA uses a 3.1.2-channel speaker configuration, based around front-firing left and right drivers, a centre channel, upward-firing front height channels, and a wireless subwoofer.
The two forward-firing speakers and centre channel are composed of a 40x100mm woofer and 20mm silk dome tweeter, while the two upward-firing speakers each use 2.5-inch woofers, and the bass reflex subwoofer uses a 7-inch driver.
The 3.1.2-channel speaker layout supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, with the option to add wireless rears
There’s 50W of built-in amplification for each of the front, centre, and upward-firing speakers, and 220W for the subwoofer – producing a total of 470W of power. That’s a decent amount of amplification, ensuring the soundbar can produce a solid room-filling delivery.
The SP8YA supports object-based audio in the form of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X thanks to the 3.1.2 speaker layout, creating a reasonably immersive experience. It also supports all the other Dolby and DTS variants (with the exception of IMAX Enhanced DTS:X), along with LPCM.
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 Google Chromecast, Apple AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect built-in, allowing for streaming content from other devices.
More: Audio Formats
The soundbar sports a number of sound modes: AI Sound Pro, Standard, Music, Cinema, Sports, Game, Clear Voice and Bass Blast – with Sports and Game being new modes this year. Other settings include Night Mode, Dynamic Range Control, Auto Volume Leveller, and a User EQ.
The features include Hi-Res Audio, AirPlay 2, Chromecast, and the ability to work with Alexa and Google Assistant
The AI room calibration uses two mics built into the soundbar, and employs test tones to determine the layout of your room, before configuring itself for the best audio by applying algorithms designed to compensate for the environment.
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 sync feature available via the remote app (0-300ms).
The TV Sound Mode Share is a new feature allowing the SP8YA to access the Alpha 9 Gen4 processor on LG's 2021 TVs, enabling AI Sound Pro to make the audio clearer and more consistent. Finally, the soundbar works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.
Set Up and Operation
The LG SP8YA is simple to set up, especially if you use the soundbar app. Not only does it allow you to bypass the less-than-informative LCD display at the front of the soundbar and connect to your Wi-Fi but it also provides access to more features than the remote control.
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.
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.
If your TV supports eARC, you can send lossless audio back via HDMI, but if not you'll need to connect any lossless sources directly to the soundbar, although you can still send lossy audio back via ARC. If your TV doesn’t support ARC at all, you can use the optical digital connection but this means you won’t benefit from HDMI-CEC.
For testing, we used LG UP970 and Panasonic DP-UB820 4K Blu-ray players, a Sony PS4 games console, a Manhattan T3-R Freeview PVR, and an LG 77C9 OLED TV. The latter'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 players to the TV and sending lossless audio back via HDMI. We also paired the soundbar with an iPhone X to test the quality of streamed music.
The SP8YA is easy to set up thanks to LG's AI room correction and effective soundbar remote app
The remote app runs the AI room correction feature and optimises the sonic performance of the SP8YA for your specific acoustic environment. For those who would rather set the different speaker levels manually, you can use the remote or better still the soundbar app, but the levels adjust both channels simultaneously, which can be an issue in asymmetric rooms.
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 modes mentioned in the features and specs section.
The LG SP8YA delivers a solid performance with a wide front soundstage thanks to the size of the main unit, clear dialogue thanks to the dedicated centre speaker, and overhead effects created by the upward-firing drivers. The subwoofer delivers a decent foundation of bass, and the system as a whole has enough power to handle larger rooms, going loud without distorting or losing energy.
The SP8 handled lossless audio well, whether sent directly from the player to the soundbar or via the TV's eARC connection. Regardless of the method of connection, the recent 4K disc of Godzilla vs Kong sounded suitably titanic, with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that delivers plenty of overhead action and serious amounts of bass. The climactic battle in Hong Kong proves effective at demonstrating the power of the overall system, although the sub lacked the depth to handle some of the deeper infrasonic hits.
The overall performance is very good, with width, height and depth, plus plenty of power for larger rooms
The mix also reveals a soundstage that essentially fills the first third of the room, effectively creating a wall of sound. While this is expected of a soundbar without rear speakers, it does mean there's an acoustical hole behind you, as evidenced during the scenes where Kong and our heroes journey down to the 'Hollow Earth'. If you want to experience genuine immersion, you should invest in pair of the optional wireless rear speakers.
The soundbar also decodes DTS:X, and displays the same strengths and weakness with this alternative object-based audio format. The undead-killing antics of Zombieland: Double Tap is a great test, with a dynamic immersive soundtrack that's full of gunfire and explosions. This soundbar is certainly able to reproduce energetic and enjoyable over-the-top action, delivering effects with precision and placing them around and above the screen.
Moving on to broadcast TV and the delivery retains the same sense of composure, whether it’s in terms of the news, game shows, concerts or documentaries. The voiceovers retain clarity, the music sounds natural and uncluttered and, while 5.1 soundtracks obviously lose that sense of surround envelopment, panning across the front of the room is good, and the soundbar is able to project effects into the room with some effectiveness.
There are numerous sound modes, including AI Sound Pro, Standard, Music, Cinema, Sports, Game, Clear Voice and Bass Blast. The AI Sound Pro mode brings out the fidelity of dialogue and works well with general TV viewing, while Cinema can give TV dramas and movies a greater sense of envelopment. The Game mode is useful for bringing out sound effects, making for a more compelling gaming experience.
Streaming music from Spotify produces a balanced two-channel delivery, with good stereo separation and imaging that results in precise localisation of effects. There’s a pleasing musicality to the delivery, and listening to Moby's Play reveals clear vocals, sweeping arrangements, complex samples and a driving beat. It's a fun overall delivery, resulting in a solid all-round performance.
- Dolby Atmos/DTS:X support
- Upward-firing drivers are effective
- Clear dialogue thanks to centre speaker
- Solid bass thanks to wireless sub
- AI room calibration feature
- Amazon Alexa built-in
- Chromecast and AirPlay 2
- Option to add rear speakers
- Front-heavy soundstage
- No HDR10+ passthrough
LG SP8YA Soundbar Review
Should I buy one?
The LG SP8YA is a solid soundbar and wireless subwoofer that will add sonic scale to the big-screen images on your TV while providing a taste of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio. As with any system that lacks rear speakers, the object-based audio is very front-heavy, but you can add wireless rear speakers if you want a better surround experience.
The SP8YA delivers good stereo imaging for music, clear dialogue thanks to the dedicated centre speaker, and some nice overhead effects created by the upward-firing drivers. The sub also produces a decent amount bass, although it doesn't go as deep as some of the competition. However, the front soundstage does generate plenty of width, height and depth.
The soundbar includes a host of features such as eARC, Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Hi-Res audio support, and the ability to work with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Unsurprisingly, it doesn't pass HDR10+, but otherwise this is a solid if uninspiring soundbar that delivers a decent overall performance.
What are my alternatives?
The obvious alternative is the Samsung HW-Q800A, which is £200 more but a great all-rounder, delivering an accomplished performance with Atmos and DTS:X. The soundstage is wide, with clear dialogue, distinct overhead channels, and a solid bass foundation. Like the SP8YA, the delivery is obviously front-heavy, with no surround envelopment, but Samsung offers optional wireless speakers with upward-firing drivers for a 7.1.4-channel system.
There's also support for eARC, built-in Alexa, Adaptive Voice Amplifier, SpaceFit Sound, Q Symphony, and the SmartThings app. Unlike the SP8YA, the Samsung also passes both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. The system even manages to sound excellent with non-immersive content, so whether you're catching up on your favourite TV show, listening to music, or indulging in a gaming session, this soundbar is sure to please.
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