Product Reviews

LG SJ8 Sound Bar

For those without the space for a proper surround sound speaker setup, a soundbar makes the most sense. They offer simple setup, operation, and don’t take up much room. The LG SJ8 is an ultra-slim 4.1 channel soundbar that will look great sitting in front of any television and has more features than you’ll probably ever need. 

While the soundbar segment is crowded with options, the LG SJ8 manages to stand out with its myriad of sound options with Chromecast, Bluetooth 4.0, Wi-Fi, and more built-in. 

While the SJ8 works best with LG TVs, there’s really no reason you can’t use this soundbar with other TV makes. That said, only LG TVs with LG TV Sound Sync will be able to support wireless connection to the TV – everyone else will have to stick with the traditional HDMI or Optical connection. 

In terms of value, the LG SJ8 is on the expensive side if you pay the MSRP of $600 (£400, AU$1,099). However, LG is currently having a $200 off promotion in the US at the time of this writing, making the SJ8 a bit of a bargain, especially compared to its similarly priced sibling with fewer features, the LG SH7B

If you want a soundbar that looks great, sounds good, and want to take advantage of LG’s multi-room speaker technology, the LG SJ8 is a good choice. 

Design

The LG SJ8 soundbar is strikingly thin at just 1.5-inches tall. This means it’ll fit nicely in front of just about any TV without blocking any of the picture. The soundbar features an all-black look that blends in … but borders on the generic. 

The wireless subwoofer is especially bland in its design but it’s small size offers offers flexible placement. 

The front of the LG SJ8 features a simple LCD display that shows your current input as well as different messages. The soundbar will greet you with a “Hello” and say “Goodbye” when powered down but also lets you see when the speaker is being updated or playing from a Chromecast music source. 

While the LCD is useful, it’s annoying that you can’t dim or disable it altogether; it’s distracting when watching movies and we don’t need to know we’re using the HDMI connection at all times. Here’s hoping LG can do something about it down the road with a software update or, if nothing else, take this into consideration for next year’s high-end soundbars.

The speaker’s physical controls are located in the back right side of the speaker and offer a nice tactile feel, though most users will likely stick with using the various LG mobile apps to control the speaker. The included remote works well and is nicer-feeling than the credit-card remotes with mushy membrane buttons that ship with other soundbars. 

In terms of input, you get one HDMI 2.0 input, one HDMI 2.0 output, optical, Wi-Fi, Chromecast, and Bluetooth. Setup is super simple, but you’ll need to download several of LG’s mobile apps to fully take advantage of all the SJ8’s features. 

Performance

If we had to sum up the LG SJ8’s sound in one word, it would be “exciting.” The soundbar makes watching movies super fun with its punchy dynamic range: Explosions rock the room and though the wireless sub is small, it manages to punch above what its diminutive weight suggests. However, we found the bass overbearing out of the box and had to turn it down two notches.

Cinephiles will love the Cinema setting of the LG SJ8, as it helps accentuate voices for clear dialogue, as well as accentuating the bass and treble. While not balanced, the sound signature in Cinema mode is fun and offers a more expansive soundstage. 

Although the soundbar supports DTS Digital Surround, it doesn’t really produce surround sound. You don’t get the wide soundstage and life-like imaging of a true surround system. Instead, the SJ8 sounds like a good 2.1 system. Systems like the Sonos Playbase and Sonos Playbar claim to offer surround sound and although it sounds good, they never sound like true surround systems. 

For music playback, we found the LG SJ8 narrow sounding and lacking in detail. The SJ8 features Hi-Res audio support and 24/192 upsampling, but the speaker lacks detail so these features don’t really matter. We tried playing 24/192 music over the system and it sounded like a streaming source, so you don’t really get audiophile quality out of this soundbar, which isn’t surprising at this price range. Audiophiles will want to check out the Focal Dimension instead.

Verdict

The LG SJ8 is a good-sounding and decent-looking soundbar that offers simple setup and convenient features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Chromecast. It also offers some unique sound settings that adapt to what you’re watching and the Cinema mode makes watching movies exciting. 

Its bass-heavy and soft sound won’t impress audiophiles but you shouldn’t be expecting audiophile sound in this price range. What you should expect is an easy to use soundbar that sounds good enough and that’s exactly what you get with the LG SJ8. 

In terms of competitors, the Sony HT-MT300 is an excellent alternative for those with smaller TVs but still want big sound. Audiophiles will want to step up to the Focal DImension, but its huge subwoofer may not work for those with limited space. If you live in the Sonos world, it’s easy to recommend the Sonos Playbase or Playbar. Last but not least, if you can live without a dedicated subwoofer, the Samsung HW-MS650 offers tremendous value and better sound. 


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