While Samsung and LG may be known variously as "those TV guys," or even "they make cell phones," both have been making inroads into audio for some years. Samsung says it wants to compete with Bowers and Wilkins, and LG was collaborating with hi-fi specialists as far back as 2008.
While LG's partnership with Mark Levinson was short-lived, the company has seemingly been focused on sound quality ever since. The last few years of LG sound bars have been largely excellent -- see 2015's LAS751, for example -- and the SH7B continues in this tradition.
For a $400 sound bar, the LG SH7B has a few more features than most in its price class, including multiroom streaming, Bluetooth and an HDMI input. Its performance is also a cut above competitors with a skilfully blend between the wireless sub and sound bar. While it's best for movies, as most sound bars are, if you're looking for a music player as well it will also do a more than creditable job.
Slimline and discreet, the LG doesn't impose itself too much on your living area. It's roughly 42 inches wide and 2 inches high -- and designed to complement 49-inch TVs -- and the design features a mesh grille and finned ends. The LED display pokes through the grille and informs you of volume or your input. As the SH7B lacks an onscreen display, most of the functions are performed via this one-line readout.
The subwoofer is a small, bookshelf-speaker-sized unit with a similar grille to the main speaker. It's compact enough to be placed out of the way and yet we found that despite its diminutive size it was capable of plenty of impact. It connects to the soundbar wirelessly, so the only cable is the AC power cord.
Though the remote that shipped with the LAS751 was a metal-decked affair, the SH7B is simple plastic. All of the functions for adjusting sound presets are available, though advanced functions such as streaming and adding rear speakers are provided by the Music Flow app.
The SH7B is a 340W sound bar with a wireless subwoofer which offers HDMI input and output. The rest of the connectivity offering is high with the addition of Bluetooth wireless, digital optical, analog 3.5mm, plus Ethernet and Wi-Fi networking options.
Of interest to people looking for a true surround system the sound bar is able to pair with other wireless LG speakers to act as surrounds, though competitors implement it more seamlessly.
The sound bar is part of LG's Music Flow multiroom system, which boasts its own app. One of our favorite things about this player is that it can also serve as your on-the-go player, which enables you to seamlessly playback your Now Playing on your system when you get back home.
The sound bar comes with a number of different streaming services onboard, including iHeartRadio, TuneIn, Spotify, Rhapsody, Pandora and Google Play Music. With the inclusion of Google Cast the number of apps increases -- you can send music from many iPhone/iPad apps and all Android apps via Wi-Fi -- and when Google opens up its system later this year users will be able to use this device in a multiroom environment with Chromecast Audio. Bluetooth compatibility, meanwhile, means that any phone or tablet can stream audio to the SH7B.
We encountered no hitches getting the LG SH7B up and playing movies and music. We liked that this sound bar lets you easily adjust bass, treble and subwoofer levels on the fly with the remote. That's good, but we didn't hear much change with the SH7B's Adaptive Sound Control, and the other sound tuning features. We liked the Standard and Cinema sound settings well enough, so we didn't feel a need to further explore the SH7B's processing options.
The SH7B asserted itself with movies and music with strong bass, dynamic punch, clear articulation with voices, and smooth treble detail. We showed this skinny sound bar no mercy and cranked up the fight scenes that run through most of the "Deadpool" Blu-ray. The SH7B belted out a big and brawny sound as superheroes Deadpool and Colossus exchanged body blows, and the film's endless parade of explosions and heavy-duty mayhem were all taken in stride. No sound bar in the SH7B's price class can match its home theater muscle. The pint-size sub may not look like a brute, but we came to respect its abilities to supply solid bass.
Adding a pair of LG H3s as rear surround speakers helped tremendously here, for while there's no way to adjust volume with the remote or app -- it's all manual from the speaker itself -- the effect on surround sound was transformational. With the speakers properly balanced we found that front-to-back effects -- such as when a car drives over the camera in the opening scenes of "Deadpool" -- were fully realized. This is something your usual 2.1 sound bar just can't do. One thing to note is that you'll need to turn the surrounds off through the app when listening to music or else all three speakers blast your songs at you.
We next turned to the "Titanic" scenes near the end of the film where musicians are playing as panicked passengers scurry in all directions. The SH7B did a fine job reproducing the sound of violins and violas, the torrents of water flooding the decks and the ocean spray.
The time seemed ripe for a comparison, so we brought out our long standing favorite 'bar in the SH7B's price class, the mighty Yamaha YAS-203, and replayed the "Deadpool" and "Titanic" scenes, and felt the two sound bars sounded similar, the main differences were the YAS-203 projected a wider and more spacious soundfield, and the SH7B was a wee bit clearer overall. Dialogue intelligibility was, again, very similar between the two 'bars.
Next up, Bruce Springsteen's all-acoustic "Live in Dublin" concert DVD. The SH7B's lively sound brought out the best in Springsteen's vocals, and the mix of guitars, banjo, flute, accordion, horns, bass and drums all sounded natural, without a hint of the harshness or edge we get from many sound bars.
It's rare to find a sound bar that sounds acceptably decent playing music files and CDs, but SH7B was again well above average with a sampling of Jakob Dylan, Grateful Dead and LCD Soundsystem tunes. We fine-tuned the SH7B subwoofer and treble balances by turning up the bass and reducing the treble a bit, but the SH7B was easily one of the best, most naturally balanced sound bars we've tested in its price class, handily trumping the YAS-203, our previous reference for music.
Obviously, we came away from our time auditioning the LG SH7B amazed by its sound. It's equally skilled with home theater and music, and it nudged ahead of one of our long-term reference sound bars, the Yamaha YAS-203! Add in a selection of advanced connectivity and streaming options and it becomes one of the best sound bars at the price.