LG SL10 aLG has brought me to England to listen to some new soundbars, so I figure these must be pretty special soundbars. I normally listen to soundbars in big appliance stores just like my readers do but, hey, it’s LG’s dime.

The special thing about these soundbars is the little badge on them that reads ‘Meridian.’ Meridian is a name after which hi fi buffs lust. It’s an English company making speakers, amplifiers, CD players and streaming equipment and it has been at the top of these various trees for more than four decades. And now LG is partnering with it for soundbars.

Partnerships like this either work or they don’t. When it got into cameras Panasonic partnered with Leica and it worked brilliantly, but how many people bought a Proton sedan because Lotus had a hand in the suspension? These partnerships are all about commitment. If it is to maintain its brand values the established brand – in this case Meridian – has to make very sure that anything wearing its name delivers a genuine benefit over and above the norm. This can mean some robust meetings with the aspiring brand, in this case LG.

LG SL8 d

Knowing Meridian I’m expecting good sound. But that’s not the only partnership LG has going. It is also putting Dolby Atmos in these soundbars. Atmos delivers sound from above as well as all around, so a helicopter really does sound like it’s above you. Okay, the Atmos in these operates with sound reflected off the ceiling rather than having actual roof speakers. It’s okay as long as your ceiling isn’t too high, and it’s why demos don’t work in big showrooms. As the sound bounces off the ceiling it also spreads, increasing the sweet spot – that spot where everything sounds right. So the far end of the couch still works.

LG demoBut wait, there’s a third partnership. These also have Google Assistant, so when the helicopter is struggling for altitude during the mountain rescue you can push the Google button and ask why helicopters can’t fly as high as other aircraft. Note that bit about pushing the button. It means Google Assistant won’t crank up when you see Chuck Mangione on telly and say ‘Hey, flugelhorn’.

LG offers three soundbars with all this, the SL8 at $1099, the SL9 at $1499 and the SL10 at $1699.

The demonstration is short but loud. Loud always sounds better. I’m impressed by the width of the soundstage and the sheer accuracy and definition of the sound. Through tricky digital signal processing the folk at Meridian have lifted the sound so that it seems to be coming from the television, rather than below it. I’ve heard one soundbar that sounds better than this but it costs $2600, and I come away thinking Meridian has done a very thorough job indeed.

But the Atmos leaves me struggling. I didn’t really get the 3D effect everyone was talking about. It’s not as convincing as Atmos systems that place speakers in the ceiling.

Okay, forget that, the big thing is that so much good quality sound can come from such compact soundbars. They’re long and slim, and nestle so neatly under a television you’ll forget they’re there. And the SL9 can be mounted vertically, ideal for a wall mount.

The other surprise is their ability with music, which is delightful. Hans Zimmer has done heaps of movie music and we listened to two precious minutes of it before we had to move on. I’ll get back to you when I get one of these things in the Man Cave for a week.

First published by smh.com.au May 2019.


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