The LG S80QR is an entertaining wireless surround sound system with a neat trick in its upfiring centre channel, though in terms of offering a true Atmos performance, it falls short.
- Entertaining surround sound
- Upfiring centre helps with dialogue
- Seamless wireless connection
- Atmos and DTS:X support
- Flat Atmos performance
- Satellites require a wired connection
- Object-based audioSupports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
- Upfiring centre dialogueCentre speaker fires dialogue upwards for better clarity
- Hi-Res audioSupports files up to 24-bit/96kHz
The problem about Dolby Atmos soundbars is that they can’t produce a true immersive experience without a pair of surround speakers.
They’re all fine at creating a wide and tall soundstage, but Dolby Atmos (along with DTS:X) is all about creating a hemisphere of sound, one that feeds from the front to the back and vice versa, and that’s hard labour without speakers to fill in what’s behind the listener.
With the S95QR sitting at the top of the company’s soundbar offering, LG’s step-down soundbar system in the S80QR looks to remedy this headache by including rear speakers as part of the package.
- Rather drab look
- LCD display
- Wired surround speakers
The LG S80QR is a utilitarian piece of kit, constructed to not attract attention. The only concession to style is a grey Jersey acoustic fabric that wraps around the midriff of both the main unit and surround speakers, and when matched with the gunmetal grey finish, this is a soundbar system intent on fading into the background.
On the main unit is an LCD display (able to show five characters) that neatly disappears behind the acoustic fabric when off.
Where things get unique is the driver arrangement on the main unit. The S80QR has three upfiring speakers that raise sound towards the ceiling, but only two are applicable for Dolby Atmos sound. The centre drive unit (shaped like a ring) is reserved to give dialogue a boost.
The surround speakers are wired, connected to a wireless receiver that synchronises the rears with the main speaker and wireless subwoofer. When the light goes green, all the speakers are in harmony, when it shows red then either it’s off or there’s a connection issue. There’s no upward-firing element to these speakers as there is on the flagship S95QR; the sensation of height is provided solely from the front.
The surrounds have a small footprint, slight enough to perch on speaker stands or furniture. The wired cables provide enough leeway to spread across a large room though the drawback is trailing cables. The 8-inch wireless subwoofer is a beast, best served when positioned not far from the main unit.
Connections are hidden within a recessed area on the main unit, comprised of an HDMI input and output (for adding a source and connecting to a TV respectively), digital optical and USB port. Wall mounting is possible, a bracket and screws for the main unit are included though fixings are sold separately. There are some noteworthy green credentials to note too, as the Jersey fabric on the main bar is produced from reclaimed plastic bottles.
- Lots of connectivity options
- No 4K 120Hz passthrough for gaming
- WOW Synergy synchronisation with LG TVs
Like with its TVs, LG has squeezed out an assortment of features that make the S80QR a capable and versatile (at least on paper) soundbar system.
Its HDMI input supports pass-through of HDR10 and Dolby Vision, however HDR10+ gets the cold shoulder and there’s no 4K 120Hz for game consoles. although the LG S80QR can claim HDMI VRR and ALLM support.
Chromecast, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect (with MQA support) and Bluetooth 5.0 offer options of getting audio to the S80QR, while format compatibility covers all things Dolby and DTS, and there’s Hi-res audio compatibility up to 24-bit/96kHz.
Sound modes are too numerous to list but of most interest is IMAX Enhanced, AI Sound Pro, Clear Voice and Music, the latter developed by LG’s long-term audio partner Meridian.
A.I. Room Calibration automatically assesses a room’s acoustic properties by using the bar’s internal microphone but pre- and post-calibration, though I can’t hear much of a difference with it enabled.
WOW Synergy is LG’s take on Samsung’s Q-Symphony, and it offers better integration with LG TVs, working in concert to expand the soundstage along with sharing the same interface to make it easier to use both TV and bar. Add the WOWCAST dongle and the TV can transmit audio to the soundbar, including Dolby Atmos soundtracks.
- Upfiring centre elevates dialogue
- Not really a hemisphere of sound
- Punchy subwoofer
Set up takes about ten minutes to position, connect, and make sure everything is up and running. Once done, my first impression is the LG SQ80R easily delivers a big soundstage with the rears filling the space behind me. The question is whether the S80QR feels like an Atmos surround sound system and on that matter, I would say no.
This 5.1.3 system mated to 620W of power doesn’t provide a great sensation of height with Atmos and DTS:X tracks. The rainy soundscape of Blade Runner doesn’t achieve lift-off in the immersive sense, rarely sounding as if it’s being directed from above or spread around the listening space – the S80QR sounds similar to a standard 5.1 system.
I am, however, impressed by the centre upfiring speaker and the boost it gives to dialogue. LG calls it a ‘world first’ for a soundbar, and in films such as Tenet and Dune (which take quite a specific approach to audio) dialogue is served well.
Kat’s dialogue in the catamaran sequence from Tenet is more intelligible and less encumbered by the rest of sound design. Another example is Lady Jessica’s recitation of the Litany against Fear in Dune, an intense and loud scene but one the LG sifts through the noise to preserve most of the dialogue.
There was only one sentence I couldn’t make out, and I found the default setting for the centre channel to be on the conservative side. Push it towards ‘+6’ and dialogue becomes clearer and sits on the screen even better, though the soundbar doesn’t project dialogue towards the listening spot.
The soundstage the S80QR produces is big and enveloping, especially with the rears filling the space behind. When Dr Strange casts a spell in Spider-Man: No Way Home, I could hear the spell move from the front to the rears and around in the listening position in a seamless manner.
The bridge scene where Peter Parker first makes acquaintances with Dr Octopus features lots of impact and punch to the action, some ‘crunchy’ detail to the effects as Octopus’ arms rip into cars, as well as a weightiness to the cars as they are flung across the highway.
The S80QR puts in a similar performance with DTS:X soundtracks, with American Gangster delivering big, deep bass. Vocal clarity is good (better after adjustment), and there’s a large sense of space as effects are placed in the front and rear speakers. There’s lots of detail to pick up and a solid balance between music, dialogue, and effects – I don’t get the sense that one is stepping on the toes of the other.
Panning of effects from the front to the rears is good, and movement across the soundstage is tracked well with clarity and solid precision. Again, there’s no real sense of overhead effects, so while I find the LG SQ80R engaging, I’ve heard other soundbar systems (namely from Samsung) that offer a better sense of ambience with Gangster’s DTS:X track.
Dynamism is parlayed well in several scenes I view. The fights in Scott Pilgrim vs the World explode into life with sufficient weight and impact (the bass is a little exaggerated at times), and in Netflix’s The Dig, the LG proves to be a dynamic performer, capturing the swells of Stefan Gregory’s score to punctuate the emotional moments in a way the more expensive one-box Devialet Dione does not.
With standard tracks the LG puts in a fine performance. Raiders of the Lost Arks’ 5.1 track offers an expansive stage, good dynamics, and plenty of heft (such as the lightning strikes as Indy descends into the Map Room). Vocal intelligibility is good, treble is sharp but not grating.
Streaming Industry’s 2.0 stereo track on iPlayer and the focus is on the front speakers, but even so, dialogue is naturally reproduced for a solid performance.
There are several sound modes to choose from in Game: Bass Blast, AI Sound Pro, Standard, Music, and Cinema. The AI mode is better than previous LG soundbars I’ve tested, less emphatic in its bass delivery and less intense but it does at least ease up on the sibilance and overly crisp tone of before for sound that is natural and weighty.
Switching to music and a Spotify Connect stream provides clarity, though largely the performance isn’t the most musical or especially dynamic with Aaliyah’s More Than a Woman. There’s a ceiling to the volume – at level 17 it gets too loud and sounds strained. Clarity across the frequency range is good even though the LG’s sense of dynamism is a little too flat to get the juices really flowing.
Should you buy it?
You want to hear what’s being said in your favourite movies: The upfiring centre channel helps lift dialogue up above the fray, and a little adjustment to the settings works wonders for tricky films.
Dolby Atmos is the reason you’re getting it: Atmos is about creating a believably immersive bubble of sound above the listening area, and the LG S80QR doesn’t achieve that sense of scale.
If you want a Dolby Atmos/DTS:X wireless sound system, the LG S80QR doesn’t provide the height channels to offer 3D immersive sound.
The upfiring centre works nicely once its levels have been adjusted, and the bass is powerful; the rear speakers fill in the space behind for a cinematic performance. The LG is a good but not great system, the Samsung HW-Q990B is a better, but more expensive alternative.
How we test
We test every soundbar we review thoroughly over an extended period of time. We use industry standard tests to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever, accept money to review a product.
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Tested for more than a week
Tested with Dolby and DTS soundtracks
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The S95QR has more power and more channels of sound, with rear upfiring speakers to provide height channels for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio
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