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LG SK10Y review: Huge Atmos sound bar reaches for the sky, almost makes it

The LG SK10Y offers an enveloping sound from a single bar and subwoofer, but falls short of competitors.

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Ty Pendlebury
Steve Guttenberg
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Ty Pendlebury

Editor

Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.

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Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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Dolby Atmos has been with us for a few years now, but the price of sound bars that will play remains pretty high -- especially compared to the excellent selection of budget non-Atmos bars

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7.3

LG SK10Y

The Good

The LG SK10Y offers exciting Atmos capability and excellent home theater-oriented sonics. The bar includes a number of useful features including Chromecast built-in and HDMI switching with 4K HDR compatibility.

The Bad

The sound bar doesn't offer DTS:X capability. The sound isn't very musical, and the subwoofer doesn't blend as well as some. The main speaker is very large and may not fit on a regular TV stand.

The Bottom Line

The LG SK10Y offers an enveloping Atmos sound from a single bar and subwoofer, but competitors from Sony and Samsung sound better.

The LG SK10Y costs $1,099, £1,200 and AU$1,699, and its size is as massive as its price. It includes a wireless subwoofer and the option of rear speakers, and its sound quality favors home theater with a bright energetic sound. But do you really need a speaker that costs this much?

While there's a lot be said for limiting your budget -- $300 is a sweet spot for sound bars -- the LG is nonetheless one of the least costly ways to get Dolby Atmos into your home. If you want those atmospheric "height" effects but don't want to bother with a full receiver and multispeaker combo, it's worth a look.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Atmos sound bars do a lot of stuff. Models such as the LG SK10Y project audio forward, upward and to the sides, which takes a lot of drivers. And space. As a result the LG SK10Y is huge! It's easily the longest if not the largest sound bar we've ever had in the CNET listening room. Move aside, Yamaha YST-5600.

The SK10Y's 57.7-inch width matches up well with that of the company's 65-inch TV's, which is obviously by design. The sound bar is also not too tall that it blocks your IR port at 2.5 inches (though if it does, sadly there's no IR repeater). The matching subwoofer is relatively large at 8.7 inches by 15.4 inches by 12.3 inches.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote control is quaint, and allows access to the most commonly used functions, but after setup most people will either use the TV remote or the smart phone app.

Features

The LG is a 5.1.2 channel sound bar whose selling feature is its ability to play Dolby Atmos soundtracks -- the "atmospheric" format that appears on Blu-rays and some Netflix programs, and which adds an extra layer of height effects.

However, now that the LG's main competitors -- the Samsung N850 and the Sony HT-S5000 -- include both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X it makes the LG's holdout on the latter seem like an unnecessary omission. A small number of discs, including the 4K Blu-ray versions of Harry Potter, include a DTS:X soundtrack without Atmos, so you may be missing out on some effects by buying the LG.

The sound bar features tuning and DSP (digital signal processing) from high-end manufacturer Meridian, including bass, space and height elevation, which raises the sound to the level of the screen.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Both HDMI 2.0 ports have 4K HDR support, and the bar also includes a 3.5mm input in addition to an optical port. For streaming music there's Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi. LG abandoned its proprietary Music Flow multiroom system a while back, and in its place is Chromecast built-in. Google's audio protocol still lets you use Spotify or Pandora or even Roon, plus it offers compatibility with a wealth of third-party speakers.

If you want to add rear speakers to the SK10Y then you can purchase the $179 SPK-8 kit seperately.

Sound rising above the bar

At first we weren't at all happy with the SK10Y's sharp, piercing sound on one of our favorite Atmos movies, Mad Max: Fury Road. Changing the "Sound Effect" setting from the default "Movie" to "ASC" (adaptive sound control) fixed the problem. The sound smoothed out, and Mad Max's onscreen shenanigans were accompanied by the sort of high-impact sound we've come to expect from this Blu-ray.

The soundstage, as expected from a bar this big, covered nearly the entire width and height of the front wall of our listening room. Better yet, the SK10Y not only sounded like a big sound bar, it had the poise and control you don't get from budget bars.

LG's designers wanted to make sure you were aware of the SK10Y's subwoofer; even if you tuck it away in a corner or behind the drapes, the SK10Y's bass will always be present. The sub is a bass lover's dream, but we felt, literally, the bass was overly generous at the 0 setting, we were happier with it at -6. Even in that reduced setting bass fullness was substantial with movies. On the other hand, the blend between the sub and sound bar wasn't as smooth as we like; the upper bass was too lean, and the low bass was too much.

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Yes, it's big.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Pitted against the considerable talents of Sony's HT-ST5000 Atmos bar, the SK10Y held its own, but the HT-ST5000's sound bar-subwoofer integration was smoother than the SK10Y's.

With the World War II drama Hacksaw Ridge, the SK10Y unleashed the ferocity of the battle scenes sounding like it wasn't working very hard at all. The HT-ST5000 was a little more dynamic, however, and it sounded more powerful. The Sony's stereo soundstage projected a tad wider, and dialogue sounded more natural. The SK10Y wasn't far behind, but we'd give the nod to the HT-ST5000.

One of our go-to Atmos music Blu-rays is Kraftwerk's 3D The Catalogue, and the SK10Y's vertical sound projection outpaced the HT-ST5000's. Kraftwerk's music is loaded with texture, and the SK10Y dredged up every bit of it. Clarity was excellent, and while the LG's low, rumbling bass definition was powerful, the HT-ST5000's was cleaner.

Diana Krall's The Girl in the Other Room CD performed decently over the SK10Y, but sound bars including this one are at their best with movies. Two-channel music winds up sounding too thin; Krall's vocals were slightly anemic, and the bass sounded disconnected from the sound bar. If you listen to more music than you watch movies, you might want to consider buying a much better-sounding stereo system for less than the price of the SK10Y. For instance, we like the Onkyo TX-8140 stereo receiver ($299) matched with a pair of ELAC Debut F5.2 tower speakers ($600). Of course the SK10Y's advantages are clear: It takes up a lot less space and it's more convenient to use.

Should you buy it?

The LG is best for people who don't listen to a lot of music and simply want to listen to Atmos soundtracks -- or games -- on their big screen TV. The LG SK10Y is an exciting performer with movies, and its skills with Atmos movies were never in doubt. It's worth an audition, for sure.

That said we liked the Sony better overall, and we have yet to hear the Samsung N850 -- another model on the same level as the LG in terms of features and price (look for a review very soon). If the Samsung's performance is on a par with the excellent model it replaces, it could be the go-to Atmos sound bar. 

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7.3

LG SK10Y

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Sound 7Value 7