LG S80QY Reviewed at $699.00
Product Name: LG S80QY
Product Description: 3.1.3 CH Dolby Atmos Soundbar
Design - 9/10
Movies Performance - 8.8/10
Music Performance - 8.8/10
Inputs and Features - 8.5/10
Price / Quality - 9/10
Reviewed at $699.00
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced
- Easy to setup
- Plenty of extra features
- Can be expanded to 5.1.3 channels
- No surround sound
- Atmos effects lack clarity and elevation
- Only 1 HDMI input
- No 4K@120Hz pass-through
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With LG having release no less than five new soundbars in 2022 they surely know how to offer something for all budgets and all tastes, as they have been doing for the last few years now. In our LG S80QY review today we will be looking towards the middle of their lineup and determine if LG’s new release has anything different to offer than the model it is supposed to replace, the 2021 SP8YA.
Now, we didn’t have the chance to test its predecessor so we will not be able to directly compare the two units but LG usually releases these new models with minimal differences as one year is not enough time to make any substantial improvements. And from the looks of it the S80QY falls right into that category with one notable difference that we are going to speak about further down our review.
But before we start, as we always do, let’s see in a glimpse what the new 2022 release comes with. The LG S80QY is a 3.1.3 channels, soundbar-subwoofer combo that supports not only Dolby Atmos and DTS:X but also IMAX Enhanced. It is once again the result of the collaboration with Meridian and comes with plenty of features like high resolution audio, many online streaming and multi-room options, voice control, an auto calibration system, USB and Bluetooth playback and can be expanded with an optional surround speakers kit.
In theory the S80QY looks to be a fully packed soundbar and with a price that is really good for what is offered. But in the end how it performs will determine if this is a soundbar to be remembered or it will be lost in the vast sea of soundbars available in this price range. So without further delay let start our analysis.
Design, Inputs and Features
It seems that for 2022 LG decided to use the same design across their top three soundbars, being the S95QR, the S90QY and the S80QY as the next in line, the S75Q seems to alter its looks slightly from the rest. The biggest addition this year is obviously the third, centered up-firing Atmos woofer, but other than that the S80QY is a very LG looking design.
In terms of size the S80QY measures 39.4″ x 2.5″ x 5.3″ (1000 x 63 x 135 mm) including the feet and weights 9.9 lbs (4.5 Kg) which is what you should expect from a mid tier soundbar to be honest.
Just keep in mind that if you plan on placing it in front of your TV the soundbar, although it has a low profile design that can fit under most TV models, it doesn’t have any IR repeaters, so if your TV’s IR sensor is extremely low then it may obstruct the signal, so you better measure first just to be on the safe side. Most TVs do have a gap of around 2.5″ below the panel so you should be ok but there are a few ones we have seen that leave less space so always check to be sure.
As for its looks the S80QY looks similar in design to the S95QR, as we mentioned above. The whole front and sides are covered by a cloth fabric hiding all the drivers and the front display while the rest of the main body is made out of the usual plastic with a brushed metal finish to it making it look more premium and good looking.
At the top face we get the built-in buttons and once again LG uses touch sensitive ones as they had done in the past. Having touch sensitive buttons is a double edged sword as we have mentioned many times in the past. From one side they do look much better than physical buttons and make the device look more premium but on the other hand it’s extremely difficult to use them in low lit conditions making them almost unusable.
But the buttons is not the only element we get at the top face as we also find two small holes under them for the auto calibration system along with the three Dolby Atmos up-firing drivers behind their round metal grilles positioned two at the sides and one dead center. The Meridian and LG logos sit at both front corners complementing the overall nice looking design.
One thing that we are very critical when it comes to soundbar designs is the use of a front display that shows various functions of the unit. Some soundbars lack a fully working display making it very hard for the user to know what the soundbar is doing.
Thankfully the S80QY comes with a fully working LCD display that LG placed at the right side of the center front speaker. This display can show you various information like input source and volume among others and can show up to five characters at the same time.
One thing that LG changed compared to previous years is to take out the secondary LED array under the main display that was used for indicating various voice control functions. To be honest we like it more this way as it keeps an easier to understand scheme and no need to look at the manual each time what the combination of lights means.
At the back we find two insets that house all the available connection ports. As usual the power port is separated from the rest on the right side which can be slightly frustrating if you want to group all cables together and keep them hidden from plain sight. There is nothing else at the back as the wall mounting brackets hold the soundbar from underneath in this design.
As for the subwoofer, this seems to be exactly the same one used in the S95QR, both in terms of design and dimensions. It is a bass reflex design with the port located at the front and the driver at the side. It uses a wood box and there is a circular fabric cloth covering the big driver.
The subwoofer is also wireless but it still has a power cord. At the back we find a pairing button and LED while we measured it at 7.9″ x 16″ x 15.9″ (201.7 x 407 x 403 mm) and with a weight of 22.1 lbs (10Kg), making it a big one for the size of the main unit as it looks like a desktop computer sitting on your floor.
In general not many surprises here. LG used the same design across all three of their top releases and the only change is size. The S80QY looks modern, nice looking and with good build quality, just what you should expect from an LG release.
The unit may not be the audio monster the S95QR was but surely still packs some respectable power. Nine drivers are used in total across seven different channels in order for the soundbar to get its 3.1.3 channels output rating.
The main bar incorporates three channels at the front with left, right and center. The right and left channels use a 52 x 99mm woofer each along with a 20mm silk dome tweeter. On the other hand the center channel uses a single 2 inch (ND) woofer.
For the top layer we find three Atmos channels, with the center one being a new feature in some of LG’s 2022 releases as we recently saw in the S95QR. The right and left Atmos channels use a 2.5 inch woofer each while the center Atmos one goes for a 20mm silk dome woofer.
As for the subwoofer, it comes with a single, side-firing 8″ bass driver which is slightly bigger than what LG used in previous years.
The soundbar has a total of 480 watts of power with 260 watts for the main unit and 220 watts for the subwoofer.
The soundbar lacks any kind of side-firing channels and also is missing any rear speakers although these can be purchased separately if you like. But more on this a bit further down our article.
The unit does not stray far away from what you should expect from a mid tier soundbar. As such, the number of available ports is rather limited which surely may pose a problem in certain situations as many home theaters use a streaming device, media player, disc player and even a gaming console among others so there is an increased need for HDMI ports.
What we do get is one HDMI input, one HDMI output, a digital audio optical input and a single USB port for streaming content from an external storage device. And that’s all.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is that all the HDMI ports are the older HDMI 2.0 and as a result they do not support 4K@120Hz. This means that if you want to connect your gaming console in the soundbar for high frame rate gaming you are out of luck. In such a case your only option is to use the eARC and connect your console to the TV and from there to the soundbar itself.
The difference this year is that all ports do support both VRR and ALLM so in case you do gaming but don’t care much about HFR then connecting your console to the soundbar and then to the TV will benefit you a lot. The HDMI ports also support 4K pass-through, Dolby Vision, HDR10 and CEC.
Another potential problem by having only one input is in case you have more devices to connect. In such a case you will have to use the TV HDMI ports to rectify this otherwise a HDMI switch will be necessary. Unfortunately this is a problem among all soundbars, either low tier or flagship releases.
The subwoofer uses a wireless connection to the main unit so no need for a cable there. It only needs to be plugged into a power outlet.
Also we shouldn’t forget to mention the unit’s wireless capabilities as it features built-in WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n) along with Bluetooth v5.0 which ensures better and more stable connections.
In general we are not surprised by what is offered in the S80QY as it is a very similar to what the S95QR offered minus one HDMI input. Not having HDMI 2.1 ports for some 120Hz gaming is surely a let down and hopefully LG will rectify this next year.
When it comes to controlling the unit, LG made sure to keep parity among all their releases so the S80QY is not all that different from what the S95QR offered.
And we will start with the remote which is the same across many units this year and LG has updated it slightly. To be honest the new design looks more simple and easier to understand what does what. The number of buttons has decreased and overall layout looks easier to the eyes. Unfortunately for some functions you will still need to use the supported app as not everything can be handled by the remote. But in general it is an improvement over previous designs.
As we mentioned earlier in our review there are a few built-in touch sensitive buttons on the main unit that you can use also. These include a power button, a function button for selecting input source, volume controls, playback controls and a couple more that control the Bluetooth and WiFi. These are placed just above the center Atmos driver.
The unit also supports both LG Sound Sync and SIMPLINK which means that if your TV also supports either of these two functions you can use the remote of your TV to control certain functions of the soundbar. This way you lower the number of remotes you need to have in your home cinema and thus makes it a very practical feature.
Another way of controlling the unit is through your voice. Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are both supported in the S80QY but unfortunately although the unit comes with built-in microphones these cannot be used with voice control and you will need separate devices for this function.
The main app that you have to download to use all the soundbar’s functions is LG Sound Bar app. With it you can connect the unit to the internet, control it and even use the auto sound calibration system available. Keep in mind that the previously used LG ThinQ app will not work with this unit.
The only minus here is that the soundbar needs a separate device for voice control although it has built-in microphones that could be used for this function. Except from this the unit comes with everything you should expect from a flagship release.
Extra Features and Services
Now let’s take a look at what extras are included in this unit.
The S80QY supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats which is a big plus as we have seen many manufacturers dropping DTS altogether. This means that it can also playback all the older formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio along with the more simple Dolby Digital and DTS formats. For 2022 we actually get an upgrade as LG added IMAX Enhanced support also although there is still very little content available.
The soundbar also supports LPCM audio in case your source can do the decoding. Keep in mind that the optical port can support only up to Dolby Digital and DTS so for any of the more advanced formats you will need to use the HDMI ports.
As with all LG soundbars the unit comes with various sound modes available that can be selected with the press of a button. The sound modes available can be selected either you have the rear speakers connected or not.
There is a total of eight different sound modes with Bass Blast and Bass Blast+ that reinforce the low end, Standard which uses Meridian technology to deliver the best possible experience, Cinema which gives higher priority to the surround effects for more immersion, Music that is a mode that has been balanced more for music tracks, Game which is optimized for video games immersion, Sports that is aimed at simulating the atmosphere of a stadium and Clear Voice that should be used more for talk shows and news broadcasts.
Lastly there is the AI Sound Pro which lets the soundbar to automatically decide the optimal sound mode and is for those that don’t want to mess with sound options all the time. AI Sound Pro uses Adaptive Sound Control (ASC) to automatically adjust sound levels, bringing out treble or bass based on what you’re watching.
Lastly there is a Night Time mode which is basically the Night mode we have seen many soundbars using. It is useful when you want to watch movies at low volume late at night. It can be used to reduce the sound intensity and improve fineness and softness. The Night Mode can be enabled either from the LG Sound Bar app or the remote itself.
LG has, as in the previous years, partnered with Meridian Audio in order to provide their higher tier soundbars they release with their advanced Digital Signal Processing technology. This is used in Standard and Music modes while with it’s HiFi DAC the S80QY also supports High Resolution Audio up to 24bit/96kHz which is a bit lower that what the S95QR could support.
Meridian Horizon upmixes two-channel stereo to any loudspeaker configuration and its adaptive up-mixing treats high and low frequencies separately, to psychoacoustically optimize sound localization cues. This results in more stable imaging, with a larger sweet-spot, and a more immersive listening experience.
Although most low tier soundbars opt for manual calibrations certain high end models come with some kind of audio calibration system and the S80QY uses the same system that LG has been using in many of their releases.
The AI Room Calibration Pro as it is called uses spatial awareness technology to measure your room’s unique characteristics. It then balances the soundbar audio settings to the environment. Basically what this does is to compensate for the environment the soundbar is placed in, by using algorithms that improve the soundbar’s sonic performance.
The unit also comes with plenty of streaming options as both USB and Bluetooth streaming are available. From USB you can stream all kinds of files from low quality MP3, OGG and AAC all the way to High Resolution Audio files including FLAC and WAV. As for Bluetooth obviously quality is lower but is still good enough for casual listening.
But streaming doesn’t stop there as there is also Chromecast built-in and with it you can use various streaming services and platforms by downloading a Chromecast enabled app. Also in case you want to setup a multi-room environment you will need to download Google Home.
But the unit does not stop to Chromecast as LG has added Airplay 2, Tidal and Spotify Connect in case these interest you.
But there is more. If you have one of the latest LG TVs then the included TV Sound Mode Share may interest you as what this does is to pair the TV with the soundbar and use the TV’s processor in order to further optimize sound quality. Unfortunately we didn’t have an LG TV that supports this feature in order to determine if there is any actual improvement in the sound output or not.
Another nice feature is support for adding rear speakers in case you find surround immersion to be lacking. In that case you can get the optional SPQ8-S rear speakers kit which will greatly expand what the soundbar can do. Obviously the total cost rises a lot but giving you the ability to choose if you want it or not is a major plus in our books.
Last feature that we need to mention is the new LG WOWCAST. This is a small box that allows for your TV and soundbar to connect through wireless so you don’t need any cables between the two.
In total the S80QY comes with the full set of extras LG is using in their flagship unit. This shows how much value you get at a vastly reduced price compared to LG’s best this year.
Placement and initial installation and setup of the S80QY was not all that different from previous LG soundbars we had tested. It may need a bit more time than some simpler soundbars but in general we didn’t find it all that hard and surely even if you have no previous experience it shouldn’t take you a considerable amount of time to have everything ready.
First of all you have to connect the soundbar to your TV and you have various options to choose here. You can go either for HDMI pass-through or use the eARC functionality. You can also use the optical port or even go for the WOOCAST and connect the soundbar with your TV through wireless.
As we do in most of our tests when a soundbar with similar connectivity options is available, we opted to connect our source, a Zidoo Z9X media player, and our PS5 to the soundbar itself and use its pass-through capabilities so then we used its HDMI output that went to our test TV. Both the Zidoo and our TV supported Dolby Vision so we wanted to test if that worked also.
Keep in mind that since there was only a single input we could not have both the media player and PS5 connected at the same time so we tried only one at a time.
Now the soundbar and subwoofer are pre-paired from the factory but even if you have a connection problem a press of the button on the back of the speakers should do the trick.
The next step you have to do is to download the LG Sound Bar app in order to connect the unit to your local network and go through its automatic calibration system. If the results are not to your satisfaction you still have the ability to go and change the volume of each channel individually.
Lastly you have to choose the appropriate sound mode and also if you want to use the Surround Sound function or not. Now, having tried all the available sound modes, in our opinion the best were either the AI Sound Pro or the Standard along with the Surround Sound turned on. But this is a personal matter as you may also find some of the other modes good so we always recommend you try them all to decide for yourself.
Onto our movies testing now and we decided to try out Saving Private Ryan in 4K UHD which comes with an explosive Dolby Atmos track that is exactly what we needed in order to push the S80QY to its limits.
We have seen many soundbars utilizing side-firing drivers in order to create a more expansive front stage but unfortunately this soundbar doesn’t have any. As a result the front sound wall it created felt a bit narrower in comparison. You still get enough depth and some nice overhead extension but sideways, not so much.
The two front main channels do all the heavy work and they did remarkably well with sound effects having enough resolution and good clarity, all things considered. Panning effects like bullets fired through the German machine guns were distinct although the missing side channels do make them have a very short traveling distance.
On the other hand the center channel did help a lot with dialogue even in such a heavy action driven film. All actors could be heard without any problem and we didn’t even need to adjust the center channel at all during testing.
One thing we should note here has to do with the centered up-firing channel. Most will believe this is used for Atmos effects only like the other two Atmos channels available. In reality this is also used with dialogue and the combination of the front center and the up-firing center channel made the dialogue feel it actually came from the TV itself rather than under it. Practically it helped dialogue gain some elevation, something that we were not expecting to be honest.
And since we talked about elevated sound, we should not forget to talk about the soundbar’s performance with Atmos effects. The three up-firing channels do give some elevation to certain Atmos elements but you shouldn’t expect these sounds to feel like coming directly above. As with all similar units you only get slight elevation in certain scenes and this is the best this unit can do.
Also the Atmos effects lacked clarity and precision and all of them originated at the front as there are no rear Atmos channels available. In any case, when the German artillery was pounding Omaha beach you could still feel the shells as they fell from above giving a nice sense overall even if they lacked clarity and precision.
One thing we should note here, something that we always say with such Atmos soundbars, is that for the unit to perform at its best with Atmos you need to have a straight ceiling that is not more than 9 feet (3 meters) high. And this is because all these soundbars with up-firing channels rely on the sound bouncing on the ceiling in order to give you the illusion of overhead activity. If your ceiling has weird angles or it’s higher than the recommended expect Atmos performance to suffer a lot.
What we heard at the front was really good, especially considering the size and limitations of the S80QY. But one area that where the soundbar fails miserably is with its surround performance. This is not a problem with this unit specifically as all soundbars that lack rear surround speakers behave the same. And this was the case with the S80QY also as all action was coming from the front.
The lack of rear speakers in addition to no side-firing channels made the sound coming out of the S80QY feel very contained at the front. At least if you feel that the soundbar is very much lacking in this area you can purchase the optional SPQ8-S rear speakers kit which will improve things considerably. Just keep in mind that these rear speakers do not include up-firing drivers as the ones we saw in the S95QR so you will only get an improvement in surround sound and not in Atmos performance.
Lastly we should talk about the bass, and here the unit did really good as the included subwoofer is powerful enough to deliver all the heavy action with enough oomph. Artillery explosions and tank fire had a very raw and realistic rumble to them while other elements like debris and buildings crumbling felt natural.
The bass was never overpowering the rest of the performance and was mostly there to supplement the action than take front seat. Even during the busiest moments bass was clear and well defined and never choked or felt muffled.
Closing, we can say that the S80QY had a very solid performance overall. Yes, it has certain limitations like a narrow front stage and no surround activity but what you do get is satisfactory. If you plan on using this one for movies then we strongly suggest you get the surround speakers kit as it will greatly expand the capabilities of the unit and surely will allow it to deliver a more immersive overall performance.
With the S95QR we had three options when it comes to music playback. Either through its Bluetooth connection, the USB port or through the HDMI connection by using the media player as our source. As we usually do when we have similar kind of options, we used our Zidoo media player in order to playback some FLAC music files we have available.
When it comes to sound modes we cannot say that we favor LG’s music mode. This has been the case with previous LG models and seems to be the same here. In our opinion the Standard mode felt better but as always you should try all of them and use the one you favor the most.
Obviously such a unit cannot be considered a music powerhouse but what you will get is good enough, even if not as impressive as with movies. The soundbar managed to deliver a very neutral sound, there were no exaggerations in any part of the frequency spectrum and this resulted in a balanced output no matter the genre we tried.
Sound imaging was solid but nothing to be enthusiastic about. Clarity was at acceptable levels and while sound sources had distinguishable directionality these lacked definition and accuracy.
The mid-range was balanced enough to deliver a well defined outcome while the high end had enough energy although again, it lacked in resolution. On the other end of the frequency spectrum the bass was good and the subwoofer delivered the goods without much trouble. Some bass heavy songs did show some minor problems as the subwoofer could not dig extremely deep but this is surely not a big problem for the audience this unit aims for.
Going through various genres did not reveal any particular irregularities as the soundbar managed to perform similarly across the board.
Overall we could say that the LG is a good one for music, even if not as impressive as with movies. It will behave nicely no matter the material you throw at it and in the end this is what you should expect from such a system. It is not HiFi capable but no soundbar is and this is what you should always have in mind.
The S80QY may not be as impressive as LG’s flagship is this year but obviously it couldn’t be. But that doesn’t mean much as what we have here is an excellent mid-tier offering that packs a lot of features and performs admirably for its size, making it a very good system overall.
Its main strengths are its simplicity, ease of use and setup and solid overall performance either it be movies or music. If you add to these its extensive list of offline and online features and the ability to expand to a full 5.1.3 channels surround system, then its value surely goes higher than many models the competition has on offer.
As for its downsides, obviously there is no surround activity, although this can be rectified with the purchase of the optional rear speaker kit but this will make the cost even higher. Also Atmos effects, although were present, lacked clarity and pinpoint precision. Lastly a single HDMI input is simply not enough while the one available is the older HDMI 2.0 so no 120Hz gaming if you use its pass-through abilities.
Closing we can say we liked what we saw in the LG S80QY. It feels a very complete release as it managed to combine solid performance, a modular design, ease of use and a huge amount of extras into a single package. It is not perfect but we believe that the price is fair for what you do get, making it an excellent choice in its category.
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