LG SL10YG Review & Rating

Most of the soundbars we test, even the ones with subwoofers that ship as part of the package, cost less than the $1,299 LG SL10YG. For the price, the slab-style bar delivers what LG calls virtual 5.1 sound, working with a wireless subwoofer to deliver impressive, powerful audio. For $100 more than the Bowers & Wilkins Formation Bar, you get an actual sub, and a far more robust audio experience. Ultimately, the question isn’t whether this is an excellent soundbar system, but whether you need to spend this much money—or need this much power. That said, it’s the best $1,000+ soundbar we’ve tested, and earns our Editor’s Choice for high-end models.

Design

Intended for televisions that are 55 inches or larger, the black, slab-like main speaker measures 2.5 by 56.8 by 5.8 inches (HWD) and weighs 16.5 pounds. It needs a flat, sturdy space to sit on, or it can be mounted with the included wall brackets. The subwoofer measures 8.7 by 15.4 by 12.3 inches and weighs 17.2 pounds, and it’s wireless, so the only physical connection needed is the power cable that connects to the rear panel.

Across the top panel of the soundbar, there are touch-sensitive controls for power, F (this switches sound sources), volume, play/pause, mute/unmute mic, and Google Assistant. Along the back panel, there are connections for optical in (there’s a cable included), HDMI out (ARC), and two HDMI inputs. There’s also a USB connection for wired playback, and a connection for the included power cable. In addition to these connections, you can stream audio via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (with Google Assistant).

The front-facing grille has an LED readout beneath its surface, alerting you when you switch modes, sound sources, or power up or down. Internally, there are two front-facing 50-watt drivers, a single 50-watt center channel driver, two top-firing 50-watt drivers, two 5-watt surround channel drivers, and this is all matched up with a powerful 220-watt subwoofer, for a total of 570 watts—this is a powerful system.

LG SL10YG

There are several audio modes you can select for various scenarios, including Standard (neutral mode), Bass Blast, Bass Blast+, Music, and Movie. There’s also a TV sound sync mode for LG TVs—this happens through the optical connection. The system will upsample signal to 24-bit, supports most high-fidelity audio codecs, and is Dolby Atmos and DTS:X certified.

The remote control runs on two (included) AAA batteries, and is larger and more substantial than the credit card-sized, membrane-button remotes we often see with less expensive soundbars. The rubber buttons are easy to operate—there are controls for power, volume, F, mute, play/pause, track forward/backward, speaker settings (which adjusts the levels between all of the various channels, as well as bass and treble), folder navigation, night mode, and repeat. There’s also a sound effect button for cycling through the various listening modes (or disabling them), a central Google Assistant button, and a mic mute button for when you don’t want Google Assistant to be listening.

The soundbar has a voice-guided setup process that walks you through the Google Assistant process. You basically just need to download the Google Home app, and setup is simple from there. We found the mics to be easy to use—our voice commands were always understood. Yellow LEDs appear behind the grille when the mic is muted, and scrolling pale blue LEDs appear when it is listening.

Now, the reality of this speaker system, no matter how it is marketed, is that it’s a 2.1 system. It is marketed as a 5.1 system, but the extra three speakers in that optimistic spec are hard to classify. The drivers exist, but in a true 5.1 system, they’d be the center channel and the two rear speakers. We have no problem giving the LG SL10YG credit for the center channel, but there’s no one who will mistake the audio emanating from it for audio that is actually coming from behind them. You can call it virtual surround sound if you like.

Performance

First off, Standard mode sounds radically different from the other modes, and while purists may prefer it, we highly recommend giving the various other settings a test drive, even with music. Generally speaking, they all seem to make better use of the drivers and the system’s power.

In Movie mode, we checked out Blade Runner 2049‘s crash scene, during which Ryan Gosling falls from the sky in what looks like a military-grade flying Lamborghini. It features multiple explosions, and through the SL10YG, there is no question of whether you are getting all of the bass depth. This is probably the most powerful soundbar-and-sub combo we’ve tested in recent memory—explosions that can sound underwhelming on some systems are powerful and intense here. The sub will rattle your walls, but you can dial it back if need be, and the dialogue clarity in the quieter scenes of this film is also excellent. You’ll never be looking behind you for the rear surround channels, but you won’t care—the SL10YG delivers an excellent cinematic audio experience.

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During the Death Star explosion scene in Stars Wars: A New Hope, the SL10YG delivers amazing rumble and depth, while the roar of massive spaceships overhead is enough to shake the room. The John Williams score and the dialogue also sound fantastic, with excellent clarity despite the serious bass rumble. This is an ideal soundbar system for movie audio—that it is adjustable to taste makes it even more compelling.

Music mode seems to require more volume in order to match levels you hear at lower volumes in Movie mode, but this is easily done, and those seeking a more accurate sound signature for music should definitely switch to this mode. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the low frequency response is exceptionally powerful, and nicely balanced with the highs. Remember, you can also fine-tune the treble and bass on the remote’s speaker settings button.

Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” a track with far less deep bass in the mix, gives us a better sense of the SL10YG’s general sound signature. The drums on this track sound thunderous, and some users will want to dial the lows back a bit, while others will revel in the extra bass. Callahan’s baritone vocals also get some added low-mid richness, while the higher register percussive hits are bright and snappy. In the various listening modes, this track sounds wildly different, and within each mode, the lows and highs can be adjusted to achieve a reasonable balance.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild,” the kick drum loop receives enough high-mid presence for its attack to retain its punchiness, while the sub-bass synth hits are delivered with full force. The vocals are delivered cleanly and clearly with no sense of added sibilance.

On orchestral tracks, like the opening scene from John Adams’ The Gospel According to the Other Mary, the lower register instrumentation takes a step forward in the mix, but as long as you have the bass set to a reasonable level, it’s nothing over the top, and the lows act as an anchor for the track. They don’t compete for attention with the more prominent, bright higher register brass, strings, and vocals. When the levels are properly set, the SL10YG delivers a dynamic, crisp, powerful music experience with realistic, full bass depth.

Conclusions

We can happily recommend LG’s $1,300 SL10YG soundbar over the $1,200 Bowers & Wilkins Formation Bar. For $100 more, you get a far more more powerful speaker system with a wireless subwoofer in tow. The subwoofer is exceptionally powerful, the soundbar is magnificently clear and offers a wide stereo field. The connectivity options are fantastic, and the built-in Google Assistant support is an added bonus. The only thing missing here is the true surround sound you’d get from a true 5.1 array—but our guess is the power and clarity of the SL10YG will be more than enough for most listeners. It’s expensive, but it earns our Editors’ Choice for living up to its price.

If you want a powerful soundbar, but want to spend less, consider the JBL Bar 3.1, the Philips Fidelio B5, and the Sonos Beam. All offer varying degrees of power, sub-bass rumble, and are priced fairly for what they deliver.



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