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LG SN7CY Review

This wooferless Atmos soundbar from LG doesn't hit the heights

Verdict

It's a mixed bag with LG's wooferless SN7CY soundbar. While it presents a big sound with disc-based Atmos/DTS:X content, it can often sound lean and unnatural. It sounds better with broadcast TV and streaming services, but this bar can't overcome its limitations.

Pros

  • Dolby Atmos/DTS:X
  • Big sound
  • Fine with broadcast TV/streaming services

Cons

  • Unnatural and sharp presentation that lacks warmth
  • Modest bass
  • Front heavy soundstage doesn't help Atmos/DTS:X

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £399
  • Weight: 3.74kg
  • Dolby Atmos/DTS:X
  • 24-bit/96kHz Hi-res audio
  • Meridian sound processing
  • Dolby Vision pass-through
  • AI Sound Pro

The SN7CY drops the subwoofer but keeps object-based audio in LG’s 2020 soundbar range.

LG has split its approach for its 2020 UK soundbar range, the South Korean electronics giant offering different configurations to suit your set-up.

Want Dolby Atmos/DTS:X with rear speakers? Go for the SN11RG. Perhaps a soundbar and subwoofer combo? The SN9YG would suit. Fancy something more convenient? That’s where the SN7CY enters the equation.

Related: Best Dolby Atmos soundbar

LG SN7CY design – Minimalist aesthetic

Compared to the 2019 SL8YG and the SN7CY is slightly taller, not as wide and the same depth. Its reduced width makes it suited to 40-inch TVs and above.

It’s minimalist in its aesthetic and sits beneath the TV without drawing attention to itself. Inside the unit is a five speaker array (to make up the 3.0.2 channels), with the left and right channels made up of one 52 x 99mm woofer and a 20mm silk dome tweeter. Centre channel is a 2-inch full-range woofer and the upfiring speakers use 2.5-inch woofers. Two 48 x 180mm passive radiators make up the bass response.

LG SN7CY

The speaker grille mesh wraps around the edges, and on top are speaker grilles at either end where the upfiring speakers sit. Also on the top surface are touch controls for power, inputs and volume. In the middle of the speaker’s main grille and slightly to the right resides the LED display. It’s not too small and can be read from the comfort of your sofa. The readout stays on but dims after a few seconds, so it won’t catch your attention.

The remote looks identical to last year’s but the layout has been re-jigged. The playback buttons have been moved up, the Sound Effect button moved down and the Google Assistant/microphone/Night mode buttons removed (the latter bumped off to the app). With fewer buttons it’s less fiddly and the layout feels better too.

At 3.74kg, the SN7CY weighs less than the SL8YG did. Included in the packaging are wall fixings along with instructions to wall-mount.

Related: Best soundbar

LG SN7CY features – Support for Atmos and DTS:X

As the SN7CY is a wooferless soundbar which means there’s no separate sub unit. If a sub is what you want, LG has the similarly named SN7Y (the ‘C’ is to differentiate the two). The ‘Y’ indicates the SN7CY works with the SPK8-S rear speaker kit (sold separately), providing an upgrade path for surround sound.

Flip the bar over and there’s a recessed area for connections. Unlike the Canton Smart Soundbar 9, the SN7CY is not graced with many HDMI ports. There’s a single HDMI out (ARC), along with HDMI, USB and optical inputs.

The HDMI ports support HDR10/Dolby Vision pass-through and the SN7CY is wireless ready with Bluetooth 4.0 (SBC only) and Wi-Fi sync. The soundbar omits Google Assistant so if you need smarts, LG’s SN9 and SN11 would be the more apt.

LG’s suite of sound modes remain the same with Standard, Bass Blast, Movie, Music and AI Sound Pro available for any audio tracks that aren’t Atmos or DTS:X. AI Sound Pro analyses audio and optimises it and Standard is where Meridian’s audio expertise enters the mix. User EQ options are available on the remote (or app) to adjust sound levels for each speaker.

LG SN7CY

Support for audio covers the necessities in LPCM, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus (which Sky Q uses for Atmos), DTS-HD MA, DTS Digital Surround and DTS High Resolution.

High-res audio is covered up to 24-bit/96kHz, and there’s also AAC/AAC+ compatibility for streaming. Plug in a USB and there’s support for FLAC (up to 192kHz) AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA and OGG (up to 48kHz).

Related: What is Dolby Atmos?

LG SN7CY sound – Object-based audio is a double edged sword

The SN7CY is similar to Sony’s HT-X8500, though where the Sony is a 2.1 system that uses digital sound processing to create height channels, the LG has genuine upfiring speakers.

And while the SN7CY generates the height needed for Atmos; its overall performance disappoints, and the biggest issue is its tone.

The SN7CY never sounds particularly natural and the problem is clear – or perhaps not – as soon you start watching 4K Blu-rays. Blade Runner 2049 in Atmos sounds lean, thin and muffled.

Voices sound distant and lack warmth, and while the centre channel levels can be adjusted it can’t alter the soundbar’s tone.

Passive radiators help make up for the lack of a separate sub unit

At least the upfiring speakers are decent in creating a sense of verticality. When Peter Parker is saved by Iron Man after his first encounter with the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, you can trace the path of the Mark XLVII suit as it blasts away, though it’s not the punchiest of sounds. The same can be said for when K’s spinner lands at Sapper Morton’s farm at the beginning of Blade Runner 2049, where it’s distinctly less weighty than the SL8YG. Tonally it’s overly sharp, especially when the volume is nudged up.

It’s similar tale with American Gangster‘s DTS:X soundtrack, with the most dynamic and expansive part of the presentation being the Universal logo that opens the disc. In fact it’s a similar story with most content as the presentation lacks weight, dynamism and warmth.

And the fewer channels you fling at it, the less arduous it sounds. Watching the Predator on 4K Blu-ray (4.0 DTS) and while it still sounded sharp, there was more space for the track to breathe.

LG SN7CY

Supply it with broadcast TV and streaming services and things take a positive turn. There’s good detail and clarity when watching Disney Plus (Doctor Strange), Apple TV Plus (Defending Jacob) and Prime Video (21 Bridges). Audio is transmitted via PCM and bass, while modest, adds a bit of colour. Change the digital output to pass-through (Dolby Audio) in the TV’s settings, and the harshness manifests again suggesting there’s something not quite right about how it handles Dolby soundtracks.

It’s a big sound, but not a particularly wide soundstage. Panning of effects is ok and while the bar can just about project effects into the room, you can’t beat a true surround sound package.

LG SN7CY

Drop down to 2.0 stereo (season 1 of 24, The Seventh Seal) and like with streaming content, it’s less cluttered and more natural sounding. There were moments in The Seventh Seal that sounded so realistic I had to pause the Blu-ray to make sure they were coming from the soundbar itself.

With 160W of power, it’s half the output of the Sony. The passive radiators are capable of a modest bass performance with streaming content, but lack the depth and detail to properly describe low-end frequencies on 4K Blu-rays.

In terms of modes, AI Sound Pro and Standard sound the smoothest (AI offers a bit more fidelity with voices). Movie elevates voices and the ups the dynamic range, but the top-end feels sharp. Bass Blast is best avoided.

Streaming Spotify in Bluetooth mode and it’s a similar story. Clarity is decent, but it sounds thin and less than weighty.

Related: Best 4K Blu-ray players

Should you buy the LG SN7CY?

The SN7CY is a soundbar best suited to streaming services and broadcast TV. Object-based audio proves to be a double edge sword, providing a sense of height but also sounding thin and harsh.

Without the rear speakers, you’re not getting true Atmos/DTS:X sound either. If you’re thinking of using it with a 4K Blu-ray player, the SN7CY doesn’t do disc-based Atmos justice.

If you’re looking for ‘Atmos’ in a compact form, there’s the HT-X8500. If Atmos is not of interest, the Sonos Beam is even more compact and is one of the best-sounding small soundbars available.

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