LG SP11RA


The SP11RA looks lovely and sounds excellent with both films and music, as well as introducing some interesting new features to the soundbar world. It’s perhaps a bit expensive given what some of the latest competition is offering, however.

Pros

  • Powerful, detailed sound with especially good height effects
  • Sleek, attractive design
  • Good for both music and movies

Cons

  • Feels a bit expensive
  • Some unhelpful presets
  • Occasionally lacks impact with film soundtracks

Key Features


  • Four-piece soundbar systemAlthough described as a soundbar, it comprises four separate units: the main soundbar, two rear speakers, and a subwoofer

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X playbackThe soundbar can decode and play through all of its 7.1.4 channels the latest and greatest ‘object-based’ sound formats, which place effects into a carefully constructed 3D sound space

  • Real 7.1.4 channel outputThe drivers in the SP11RA’s various components are capable of delivering real (rather than virtual, via processing) front-left, front-right, front-centre, side-left, side-right, rear-left, rear-right, and four up-firing channels of sound, plus a subwoofer for bass

  • eARC HDMI supportThis lets you pass lossless Dolby Atmos/DTS:X sound over HDMI from compatible TVs to the soundbar

  • 770W total powerSpread around all the channels, this huge power output is actually larger on paper than that of the Samsung Q950A, despite that model having more channels to feed

Introduction

The SP11RA is LG’s flagship soundbar for 2021. As with its 2020 predecessor, the SN11RG, it sports 12 channels of sound delivering 770W of total power, and can play both the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X premium sound formats.

New for 2021 are a couple of intriguing new audio processing features: the AI Sound Pro system familiar from LG’s TVs, and a new ‘Horizon’ music enhancement system from famed British Hi-Fi brand Meridian.

As with LG’s premium soundbars of the past few years, Meridian has also been heavily involved in the SP11RA’s core design.

Availability

  • UKRRP: £1499
  • EuropeRRP: €1599
  • AustraliaRRP: AU$1749

The SP11RA is widely available in the UK for £1499 – which, crucially, gives it a £100 advantage over the recently reviewed HW-Q950A from arch-rival, Samsung. However, its price still places it firmly in premium soundbar territory, which inevitably puts pressure on its performance. 

All four components of the LG SP11RA soundbar package.The LG SP11RA soundbar system.

The SP11RA does live more or less up to premium soundbar expectations by comprising four separate enclosures – the main soundbar, a large wireless subwoofer and two wireless rears. It also fits an unusually high number of separate channels into three of those four enclosures. 

In Australia, the LG SP11RA goes for AU$1749 at the time of writing (although this is based on a 5% discount promotion). The soundbar isn’t yet available in the US. 

Design

  • Four-component system
  • Two HDMIs, including eARC support
  • Up-firing drivers in the rears

The main soundbar and rears of the SP11RA package are all good-looking units. The soundbar enjoys a slim profile that should fit comfortably under most of today’s TVs, and carries a smooth finish to its top edge that gives it a suitably premium feel.

The way its two large up-firing drivers sit flush with rest of the top edge looks smart, too, while the front and sides use a hard grilled finish that still feels opulent while providing a pleasant contrast with the smoothness of the top. 

The rears are surprisingly compact considering they each have two drivers tucked away inside and, again, feature a robust and sleek (if not particularly imaginative) finish and shape. They feel heavy, too, raising hopes of plenty of power without you having to worry about them potentially jumping off your sideboard.

Right corner detail of the LG SP11RA soundbar

The subwoofer is reassuringly large, but slim enough when viewed front-on to be relatively easy to tuck down the side of a sofa or under a sideboard. (Since bass is non-directional, the subwoofer doesn’t need to be placed in a specific location.)

Connections on the main soundbar include two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, an optical digital audio input, and a 5V USB port. The HDMI output supports eARC, meaning that it can receive lossless Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks back from your TV, as well as passing pictures on to the TV when you’re using a source connected directly to the soundbar. 

The SP11RA helpfully sports an LED to track volume settings, inputs and so on. And unlike the Samsung Q950A, the SP11RA’s LED helpfully appears on the front of the soundbar, where you can actually see it, rather than being tucked onto the back of the top edge.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that many of LG’s new 2021 soundbars, including the SP11RA, are the first in the industry to receive Eco Product Certification for their minimal environment impact from independent Geneva-based product testing organisation, Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS).

Features

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X playback
  • 770W feeding into 7.1.4 channels of sound
  • Meridian Horizon and LG AI Sound Pro processing modes

The first thing that establishes the SP11RA as a premium soundbar is its channel count. The front soundbar carries left, right, centre, left-side and right-side channels, plus two up-firing drivers designed to reflect overhead effects in Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks off your ceiling. The rears have both forward-facing and up-firing drivers, while the subwoofer just does its usual ‘.1’ bass thing. 

The LG SP11RA soundbar’s connections.

This adds up to a ‘real’ (rather than virtual) 7.1.4 channel count – an impressive number by the standards of soundbars generally. That said, it’s only the same number as was included on last year’s SN11RG LG flagship soundbar, while Samsung’s latest flagship HW-Q950A model has become the first soundbar to carry 11.1.4 channels. 

With LG not upping its channel count for its 2021 flagship soundbar, we need to look elsewhere for improvements over last year’s model. The main ones are two promising new audio processing features: LG’s AI Sound Pro system, and a Meridian Horizon mode.

The first of these brings the AI Sound Pro technology that’s been available on LG’s premium TVs to LG soundbars for the first time. It automatically identifies the type of sound being played, and adapts the soundbar’s playback profile to ensure you always get the optimum playback results.

The Meridian Horizon mode, which kicks in if you choose the Music preset, aims to turn two-channel stereo content into multichannel audio for a more immersive listening experience.

Turning to more regular features, the HDMIs can pass through 4K at 60Hz with HDR10 or Dolby Vision HDR. 

There’s no support for the HDR10+ system, though. Admittedly, HDR10+ content – which adds extra scene-by-scene picture information like Dolby Vision – is not as common as its Dolby rival. However, it is certainly out there, and not supporting it on the SP11RA’s HDMIs seems a bit churlish given that many other soundbars now – including Samsung’s models – support both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.

The wireless rear speakers provided with the SP11RA soundbar.

It’s perhaps a shame that there’s no support for passthrough of 4K/120Hz with HDR now that the PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X and latest PC graphics cards can all output this game-changing format. Especially since most of the latest AV receivers support this. To be fair, though, aside from a pair of soundbars Go to Source