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LG S95QR review: The world’s first soundbar with a centre height channel

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : 1,699
inc VAT

The LG S95QR ups the ante by adding a centre height channel to the company’s flagship Dolby Atmos soundbar

Pros

  • Powerful and immersive soundstage
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • Nice design and solid build quality

Cons

  • No 4K/120 or HDR10+ passthrough
  • More HDMI inputs would be nice

The LG S95QR is the latest immersive soundbar system from the South Korean manufacturer and builds on the success of previous iterations by adding a centre height channel – which is a world first.

Less of a soundbar and more of a home cinema system, the S95QR delivers 9.1.5-channel audio with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. LG’s continued partnership with Meridian also pays dividends with the inclusion of some proprietary audio enhancement tech.

The scale and slam generated by the system results in an engaging, enveloping audio experience that’s up there with the best around for the money – only the lack of 4K/120 and HDR10+ passthrough and the limited number of inputs hold the S95QR back.

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LG S95QR review: What you need to know

The LG S95QR is a 9.1.5-channel audio system composed of a soundbar, a pair of wireless rear speakers, and a wireless subwoofer driven by a total of 810W. A combination of forward-, upward-, and side-firing drivers create an enveloping hemisphere of sound, and it was developed in conjunction with high-end audio brand Meridian. As a result, the S95QR includes proprietary features such as Meridian Horizon, AI Room Calibration, and AI Sound Pro enhancements.

The soundbar is designed to seamlessly integrate with the latest LG TVs, and decodes Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced soundtracks. There’s also Hi-Res Audio support, along with extensive connectivity, and the inclusion of Amazon Alexa for a fully-functioning smart assistant. Solid build quality and stylish design round out a well-specified and highly accomplished soundbar package that offers full immersion with the minimum of fuss.

READ NEXT: The best LG TVs to buy this year

LG S95QR review: Price and competition

The LG S95QR sits at the top of the brand’s soundbar range, and as such it comes with an equally high-end price tag of £1,699. While that might seem like a lot, it starts to make sense when you consider the cost of replicating the immersive audio experience using an AV receiver, speaker package and subwoofer.

The price is also comparable with the competition, with the obvious alternative of the Samsung HW-Q990B currently retailing for £1,599. The Samsung might not have a centre height channel, but its extra side drivers produce an 11.1.4-channel experience. It might also lack VRR support and IMAX Enhanced, but HDR10+ passthrough is a welcome benefit. Ultimately, this Dolby Atmos/DTS:X system is an assured performer, and the soundbar to beat at the moment.

LG S95QR review: Design and features

The LG S95QR is surprisingly stylish for a large soundbar, with a brushed metal top, wrap-around grille, rounded corners, and dark grey finish. There are front-, side- and upward-firing drivers, and some basic controls above the centre height speaker. The main unit measures 1,200 x 135 x 63mm (WDH), so it’s better suited to larger TV screen sizes, and weighs a touch over 5kg.

The wireless subwoofer uses a front-ported design with a side-firing 8in driver, and is styled to match the main unit. It measures 202 x 403 x 407mm, and weighs in at a hefty 10kg. The wireless rear speakers each have forward-, side- and upward-firing drivers, and are amongst the biggest you’ll see included with a soundbar. They also match the rest of the system, with each one measuring 159 x 142 x 223mm and weighing 4kg.

The S95QR has a total of 15 drivers, and while not quite as many as the Samsung HW-Q990B, which manages 16, the addition of a centre height channel is a world first. With all these drivers you need plenty of juice, and the S95QR has power to spare. There’s a total of 810W of amplification, with 590W used for the various speakers, and 220W allocated to the subwoofer.

The S95QR has been designed to seamlessly integrate with LG TVs using the latest Alpha9 Gen5 processor, adding more horsepower when processing the audio formats or adding AI-enhanced sonic upscaling. There’s support for Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and IMAX Enhanced, along with Hi-Res Audio up to 24-bit/192kHz.

LG’s partnership with Meridian means the S95QR incorporates the latter’s Horizon up-mixing algorithm that turns two-channel into 5.1-channel audio. The AI Room Calibration system has been upgraded since last year, and now subdivides frequencies below 130Hz into eight sections, rather than the previous two.

The AI Sound Pro feature is designed to analyse audio and automatically apply processing on the fly, thus optimising the sound for specific content. Here the extra processing power on supporting LG TVs really adds value. There are also a number of sound presets: Standard, Music, Game, Sport, Cinema, and Bass.

Finally, LG now offers lossless wireless connectivity thanks to its new WOWcast wireless dongle (£100). You use this HDMI adapter to wirelessly connect your TV (it doesn’t have to be an LG model, it just needs an ARC/eARC HDMI port) and then you can send full lossless audio to the soundbar for immersive audio formats like Dolby Atmos using Dolby TrueHD.

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LG S95QR review: Connections and control

The LG S95QR houses its connections in a recess at the rear, with two HDMI inputs and an output that supports eARC. More inputs would be nice, but they all pass 4K/60p, along with HDR10, HLG and Dolby Vision. Sadly there’s no passthrough of HDR10+, although this isn’t surprising given LG’s lack of support for the Samsung-backed dynamic metadata format.

Gamers will be pleased to learn the S95QR supports ALLM and VRR, but annoyingly there’s no passthrough of 4K/120 content with a higher frame rate. The lack of fully-specced HDMI 2.1 connections is disappointing, but still fairly common at the moment. Finally, in terms of other connections there’s an optical digital audio input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2.

The remote control is an elegant-looking zapper with a glossy black finish, although it’s also a bit of a fingerprint magnet. The button layout is simplified and intuitive, with all the controls you need to set up and operate the S95QR. Other options include LG’s remote app, the TV remote when connected via HDMI-CEC, and even your voice thanks to support for Amazon Alexa.

LG S95QR review: Sound Quality

The LG S95QR is an impressive performer right out of the gate, but as with most audio products, a bit of thought during set up will pay dividends.

For a start, make sure the various drivers aren’t blocked, and avoid putting the subwoofer in a corner. Don’t position the large rear speakers too close to you, give them room to breathe; and while the rears and sub might connect to the soundbar wirelessly, they still need to be plugged in. The lower, flatter and more reflective your ceiling, the more effective the overhead channels.

Once you’ve taken care of the basics, the AI Room Correction will handle the rest, eliminating the more egregious acoustic aspects of the environment, and ensuring the overall soundstage is balanced and the bass properly integrated. Then all you need to do is connect your various sources, sit back and enjoy a fantastically immersive sonic experience.

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No matter what a manufacturer might claim, a soundbar system lacking rear speakers simply can’t create the same level of immersion one with them can. The S95QR’s surrounds and front and rear heights produce a bubble of sound that allows the processing to place audio effects around the room with precision. The result is a more realistic experience, as objects are steered seamlessly through three dimensional space.

When watching 1917 with its Dolby Atmos soundtrack, you can clearly hear two planes fly over as our heroes first venture into No Man’s Land. The sounds of flies buzzing around a dead horse move with respect to the camera in a way that’s flawless. The powerful amplification also adds dynamic range, and when a booby trap explodes the impact is visceral.

In fact, the overall soundstage is often huge, with the front and rear side drivers adding width, while the extra height channel at the front creates a sense of scale. This is very obvious during the beach assault in Edge of Tomorrow, where the new Atmos track rattles all around when inside the drop-ship, and then engulfs you in chaos and carnage once the action hits the ground.

Unlike previous LG soundbars, the bass is allocated to each channel correctly, and the new sub is better integrated. It can occasionally feel a little muddy, but is responsive, delivering the goods when required. The same goes for the amps, which have sufficient power to never sound strained and distorted as you dial up the volume.

The dedicated centre channel makes sure dialogue is always clear and focused no matter how frenetic the mix, and the clean midrange and well-defined treble ensure musical scores are equally well served. As a result, while this soundbar is primarily aimed at object-based audio fanatics, if you also want to enjoy two-channel or multi-channel music, the LG won’t disappoint.

While most soundtracks use Atmos these days, if you have a big selection of discs with DTS:X soundtracks, the S95QR will put a smile on your face. Jurassic World was suitably monstrous, and the IMAX Enhanced track (also delivered via DTS:X) on Jumanji: The Next Level made full use of the height channels and subs to deliver a full-bodied and multi-layered presentation.

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LG S95QR review: Verdict

The LG S95QR is an impressive soundbar system that creates a fully-immersive bubble of sound around the listener. The addition of a centre height channel helps create a wall of sound at the front of the room, while the rear speakers ensure plenty of surround presence.

There’s sufficient power to drive all the speakers, ensuring the soundstage has scale and slam, while the subwoofer adds low-frequency depth. The result is a system that’s balanced and cohesive. The overall sound quality is excellent, with a clean delivery and precise placement of effects. In fact, the only way to experience a more immersive soundstage would be to invest in a full separates system, which would be more expensive and significantly less convenient.

Film fans will be delighted with the Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced processing, and thanks to Meridian’s involvement music lovers won’t be disappointed either. There’s an excellent set of features, and only the lack of HDR10+ and 4K/120 passthrough really disappoints. The slightly cheaper Samsung HW-990B remains our top pick if you’re after an immersive soundbar system, but the LG S95R is a close second and the smarter choice if you own an LG television.

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