Inputs and Features8.5/10
Price / Quality9.4/10
- Good performance for this category
- Wireless rear speakers support
- Very easy to setup
- Good price
- No surround depth from main unit
- DTS Virtual:X makes sound feel over-processed
- Expanding to 5.1 can be a bit pricey
- Remote could be smaller
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It seems that LG puts a lot of attention in the soundbar market as of lately. At least this is the sense we get from seeing them releasing so many models year after year and with their 2019 lineup consisting from 7 different models everyone can understand that they are determined to catch a big portion of this developing market.
This year’s lineup consists of the low budget SL4Y and SL5Y (which we had very recently reviewed), the middle tier SL6Y and SL7Y and the top class, Dolby Atmos enabled SL8YG, SL9YG and their flagship, the SL10YG. Our today’s LG SL6Y review will focus in the first of the two middle tier models that was designed to combine performance and low price into a single package.
Having recently reviewed the exactly previous model, the SL5Y we couldn’t avoid direct comparisons between the two and during our review you will see that there are much more common elements between the two than what you think making the decision on which one is better to choose a more difficult one.
The LG SL6Y is rated as a 3.1 channels soundbar that consists of the main unit along with a wireless subwoofer offering a combined power of 420 watts, comes with DTS Virtual:X support, can play High Resolution Audio, can be expanded to a 5.1 channels system by adding surround speakers and it comes with built-in Bluetooth support for wireless streaming.
When you first look at the specs the SL6Y looks awfully similar to the SL5Y but we are here to point out their differences and suggest which one is the most appropriate for any given situation. So without further delay lets start our review.
Design, Inputs and Features
Opening the box of the LG SL6Y we find the main unit that houses the three front channels and the wireless subwoofer so in effect we have a 3.1 channels system to begin with. Upon first look, and still having fresh momory from our SL5Y testing, the SL6Y looks extremely similar to it’s smaller brother.
In fact we could say that except from the length nothing else appears to be different as far the general design of the unit is concerned while the subwoofer itself seems to be exactly the same one we tested with the smaller unit. In essence we could call this one as SL5Y+ or SL5Y Max as it seems that LG made some very minor changes to the overall design in order to incorporate the third center channel in the main soundbar.
The soundbar measures 41.73″ x 2.2″ x 3.3″ (1060 x 57 x 85 mm) and weights 7.6 lbs (3.45 Kg) which is ideal for any TV of 49″ and above. The SL5Y in contrast would look a bit small for such big sized TVs whereas the SL6Y feels right at home with the length it has. Also for a soundbar that passes the 1 meter in length it feels pretty light making placement and setup very easy.
And while there is a change in the main unit’s length it seems that LG felt the included subwoofer had the necessary juice to power this unit also. Measuring 6.7″ x 15.5″ x 9.8″ (171.0 x 393.0 x 248.5 mm) and weighting 11.7 lbs (5.3 Kg) this is not the kind of wireless subwoofer that can really make its’ presense felt as it’s more or less a compact design making it’s placement rather easy even in small areas.
The design of the SL6Y follows exactly the same principles of the smaller SL5Y with it’s simple lines and materials used. It features a relatively clean look with curvy corners with the top side being covered with a rough textured plastic while the whole front face is covered with a perforated grill keeping an overall symmetric look. The LG logo is sitting prominently on the far right, top side while there is no other graphics or logos on this otherwise clean look.
In a similar fashion the right side of the soundbar is covered by four control buttons that include the power on/off button, two buttons for volume control and an F button that has various functions depending on how many times you push it including input selection, USB and Bluetooth functionality. These physical buttons are covered under a kind of membrane that we like as it keeps the buttons hidden and dust free.
One thing we find very useful and practical in these soundbars is the inclusion of a front display that helps you have an idea of the various functions of the soundbar like volume and input selection among others. We were surprised to see one included in such a low cost unit as the SL5Y was so we thought that the SL6Y would also get one and we were not wrong.
But what has changed is that instead of being placed exactly in the middle of the front face here it has been pushed to the right side between the center and right channels. This has to do with the fact that the middle is occupied by the center channel so moving the display a bit was a necessity. The LCD display can show up to 5 characters and can be very handy for you to know specific commands and functions of the unit. Also the display will turn off after 15 seconds of inactivity so it will not be distracting when watching content for long periods of time.
At the back we find all the connections that are grouped together except from the power connector that is positioned away from the rest. This can make cable management a bit problematic as grouping and hiding them is not as easy as if all connections were close together. The SL6Y features the same low profile as the SL5Y which makes placement under any TV easy and effortless. Because of this low profile there is very low possibility that it will obstruct the TV’s IR sensor and thus there is no need for the soundbar to have any IR repeaters that we have seen in some other larger models something that definitely helps to keep the cost as low as possible.
Lastly in the package we got some wall mount brackets that you can use to place the soundbar on the wall. The SL6Y features only forward looking drivers meaning that placement on a furniture and on the wall will be feature the same sitting position. We have seen a few soundbars offering different placing positions depending on where you place them but this is not the case with this one.
Closing we will just say that the SL6Y comes with the same kind of quality we had seen before in the SL5Y. From the design, the materials used and ergonomics everything is the same with the only change being the different length, the inclusion of the center channel and the reposition of the front display a bit to the right. It’s bigger size makes it fit mostly for bigger sized TVs and thus for larger spaces in general.
Let’s see now what is hidden under the hood and what makes the SL6Y sound like it does. Usually we don’t get many details on the kind of drivers these soundbars are using but thankfully LG has given us a few details on the soundbar’s innards. Similarly to what the SL5Y was using, behind the non removable grill there are 40 x 100 mm oval woofers in addition to 20mm silk dome tweeters. Using oval woofers means that the soundbar can maintain it’s performance even with the lower than usual profile that comes with while the drivers are placed in a closed enclosure type.
The difference we see between this unit and the SL5Y is that here LG have changed the power of the right and left channels to a 80W (45W + 35W) rating for each channel and has also added a center channel with 40W of power. This brings the total to 200 watts compared to the 180 watts of the SL5Y. Additionally the included subwoofer features a single 6″ driver placed in a Bass Reflex enclosure with a frontal grill that is fixed and cannot be removed. The subwoofer is exactly the same as LG seems to be using the same unit for both the SL5Y and SL6Y and as such comes with 220 watts of power.
With all the above total output of the SL6Y reaches 420 watts with 82dB of sensitivity and 4 ohms impedance for the main unit and 85dB sensitivity and 3 ohm impedance for the subwoofer which is slightly better the SL5Y. Obviously it all comes down to our real world testing to determine if there is any actual difference in these numbers.
When it comes to the connectivity capabilities of the LG SL6Y it seems that it comes with exactly the same specs as the SL5Y so this part of our article will be almost the same as before. As we look the soundbar from behind the power connector is located on the right side while all the other connections are grouped together in an inset in the left back face. We would like to have the power connector closer to the others also for better cable management but we will have to settle with this.
From left to right we get a USB port (5V/500mA) that can be used to connect any kind of external storage or flash drive and stream music from there, an optical digital input, an HDMI input and lastly an HDMI output with added ARC support.
Since everything is the same, as only positions are different, our opinion haven’t change. Both HDMI ports are version 1.4 and there is no eARC support which means no streaming of lossless audio formats like Dolby True-HD or DTS HD Master Audio. Also there is no analogue ports available but we don’t see this as a big minus as the included digital optical and HDMI ports are more than enough for any kind of basic setup.
Lastly there is no WiFi available in the SL6Y and all wireless conectivity of the unit is limited to the included Bluetooth 4.0 (SBC and AAC) functionality it has.
Another area where the SL6Y is like for like with the smaller SL5Y is in its’ available control options. As such we have already mentioned above about the built-in buttons that are placed on the right side of the main unit but these are only for the most basic of functions and you will need the remote in order to be able to calibrate and setup the soundbar.
Once again the included remote is the same one we saw before meaning the same fairly large plastic remote with just a few big buttons available. With so much empty space we would prefer a smaller size but at least the buttons are huge which is good when handling it in the dark. The buttons have the usual rubber feel to them but they were very responsive when pressed. Also we should mention that there is no backlight function available but at least the low number of buttons and their big size somewhat improve things.
At the top left we get a big power button shaped in the familiar power symbol and below two huge buttons for volume control on the left and the mute and Function button on the right for controlling input selection and various functions. Exactly under these we get three big circular playback buttons that are used when you stream music and below is a group of six buttons that are used for the rest of the soundbar’s functions that include sound effect selection, sound tuning, folders selection, information display and select desired repeat or random mode.
Lastly we should mention that the SL6Y supports control from a smartphone or tablet through the “Music Flow Bluetooth” app that you can download from Google Play store. What should be noted is that this app is supported only in Android devices so if you have an Apple device or tablet then you are out of luck. The reason for this is not known and certainly will make a few stay away. The app not only offers all the basic controls for the soundbar but also includes a few extra functions that cannot be accessed otherwise. These include the Dynamic Range Control, the Auto Volume Leveler as well as the included Night mode for late night viewings.
Extra Features and Services
Similarities between the SL5Y and the SL6Y continue in this part of our review also as the amount of extra features and functionality is exactly the same. We said before that these kind of low budget soundbars have to keep things rather simple as most users that buy these want a relatively easy plug-and-play experience without the hassle of complex calibrations and connections. And it seems that the SL6Y follows the same principle of offering a very simple process from the moment you open the box until the point you watch, or listen, your first content.
With that being said let’s see what do we get in this one. We briefly mentioned above about the soundbar’s built-in Bluetooth functionality. This means that you can stream music from any mobile phone or device to the unit itself. There is nothing complex about the whole process and you connect both devices and streaming starts. Simple enough even for those that are not very tech savvy. We would like to see Bluetooth 5.0 but unfortunately the SL6Y comes with version 4.0 but even as such connection was very stable during our test streaming.
Let’s talk now about the available sound modes that you can choose from by simply pressing a button on the remote. Each sound mode can be used depending on the content you watch or listen with the ones available including ASC (Adaptive Sound Control) that analyzes the content being played and make adjustments in order for the unit to produce the best acoustics possible.
There is also Bass Blast that you can use if you are a fan of low frequencies, Standard mode if you prefer a more balanced acoustic performance and last but not least DTS Virtual:X which is the mode that LG advertised the most with these low and middle tier soundbars and we will talk about a bit further down our review.
But if you find that the unit is lacking in it’s surround capabilities then you have the option to expand it to a full 5.1 surround system with the optional kit (SPK8-S) that includes a receiver unit along with a couple of surround speakers. This extra kit connects to the soundbar wirelessly and with a simple push of the sound tuning button on the remote for 3 seconds, viola, surround activity is alive and kicking! Simple, easy and effortless as it should be with a unit like this.
Obviously this extra kit is not cheap and will set you back around $200 which adds considerably to the basic cost but even as such for a total of $550-$600 you get a full blown 5.1 surround system which is not bad at all. Another small shortcoming is that when you connect these rear speakers you don’t have the ability to calibrate them individually as both rear channels are calibrated at the same time which makes setup a little less accurate than what we would like.
Closing this section the SL6Y supports HDMI-CEC, LG Sound Sync aw well as SIMPLELINK which means that you can use any of these in order to control the soundbar with the TV’s remote and thus decrease the number of remotes you need to use all the time adding more simplicity to your setup.
With the SL6Y following the same simple steps during the initial setup the whole process was very easy and familiar to us. Simplicity and plug-and-play use is one of the main features of this soundbar so even if you are completely a rookie on this we assure you that it shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes to finish with everything.
After initially unpacking and placing the soundbar and subwoofer in their appropriate positions you have to connect them to a power outlet while you also have to choose the connection between your TV and the soundbar. As we did before our preferred way was to connect our Panasonic UHD player to the SL6Y and use the soundbar’s HDMI output in order to connect the unit to our TV.
When everything is connected and power them up a green light on the back of the subwoofer should indicate that it is paired with the soundbar something that is usually done from the factory. If the light is red means there is no connection and by simply pressing the pair button should do the trick.
We should note here that more than a few people have complained about subwoofer dropouts which seems to be a problem with interference with other wireless devices like routers. If you have such a problem then try to move your subwoofer or your wireless devices around in order to stabilize the signal. It’s not the best option but it seems that this model has a bit of a sensitive connection between the soundbar and subwoofer. At least in our case we didn’t experience any such problems. Also if you have connected the surround speakers you only need to push the sound tuning on the remote for 3 seconds to enable surround sound.
With everything been said and done the only calibrations that are available is to select the sound mode you like the most and by pressing the sound tuning button to adjust the treble, bass, subwoofer and center channels as well as the rear channels if available. And that’s it.
The LG SL6Y soundbar supports LPCM, Dolby Digital and DTS formats but no lossless or object-oriented tracks like Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. But what is interesting is the inclusion of DTS Virtual:X which is highly advertised by LG in these lower end soundbars and what this does is to create virtual sounds from the back and above in order to create an immersion bubble similar to what a full DTS:X system would do. But how much this works depends on a lot of factors like your area size, the content being played and where your viewing spot is. But we will test it to see how much of a difference it can make shortly.
With our memory still fresh from our testing of the SL5Y we decided to make exactly the same tests with the SL6Y and determine how much of a difference an additional 20 watts of power along with an extra center channel can do to the performance of this unit under similar circumstances. As such the film we will be testing here today will be the 4K UHD version of Jurassic World that comes with an explosive DTS:X track that is the perfect test for our situation.
The SL6Y is basically a 3.1 channels system with the front left, center and right channels along with the subwoofer for the bass. As such we cannot get the full effect that the given DTS:X track can provide and instead we got only the core DTS track to judge the soundbar with as this is what is only supported. Our goal was to try out the different sound modes and determine which one offers the best performance for our film. We will be focusing mainly in two modes here as we believe these will get the majority of attention from most users with one being the Standard mode and the other being the DTS Virtual:X mode.
First let’s talk about the Standard mode. Here the SL6Y managed to offer us the most balance between all the frequencies as this is what we were seeking the most. The soundbar certainly didn’t lack in power but obviously it cannot compete with full audio systems as well as some other top tier soundbars but it performed exactly as was expected from a middle class model.
The front was the most busy part of the soundstage as it happens usually with soundbars that have no surround speakers. The longer length of the SL6Y did manage to extend the action further to each side and with a center channel present the middle section felt more alive. Bass was certainly good without being over the top with it managing to shake us during intense action with the dinosaurs footsteps and roars keeping us on the edge.
What the unit was lacking was obviously in the surround activity as we didn’t get any feeling of action at the back. The same can also be said about the overhead layer as the soundbar doesn’t have the necessary hardware to create any kind of overhead activity. So with this in mind we felt that the Standard mode did offer the best performance and while certainly some will like the other modes more we believe this to be the one used the most. As for the surround and overhead activity there is one thing left to try out and see if we can get any with the help of DTS Virtual:X.
We tried out the same scenes we checked with Standard mode only now we engaged the DTS Virtual:X mode and what we observed now was that the soundstage felt a bit more enveloping than before. To be honest, you shouldn’t expect a night and day difference with this mode but it did try to push the action further towards us instead of simple restricting itself to the front. Also some effects felt slightly elevated by trying to emulate the overhead layer. Did it managed to create a convincing performance? We cannot exactly say that it did but it certainly felt like it tried to do so and there were moments that the sound was more enveloping than before.
But as the audio is heavily processed in this mode the sound sometimes felt strange and artificial. We have said many times before that we are against such processing that alters the original sound in this way but you may find this to your liking so we will leave it as that. The DTS Virtual:X mode does have it’s merits by expanding the immersion in many cases both in the surround as well as the overhead area but at the same time it alters the original track that some may like it while others will not. In any case you should try it out for yourself and see if you like it and in the end it’s another feature that no matter how good it is, it adds further value to this soundbar.
Proceeding now with our music testing let’s see how this soundbar did when we threw some tunes to it. But before we do we should mention that the SL6Y supports High Resolution Audio with FLAC and WAV files being recognized up to a sampling rate of 24bit/192kHz. Obviously the unit can play other common audio files also in the likes of MP3, WMA as well as OGG files. All these files can be streamed either through the USB port or through Bluetooth streaming.
The soundbar did manage to create a rather good and fulfiling soundstage at the front and the additional center channel did help to that. In general we cannot say we experienced a vastly different performance from the one we had during our SL5Y review as the two units share so many similar components so this was something to be expected. Once again the inability of the unit to create any kind of surround activity was not so obvious during these music tests so that didn’t affect it’s overall performance the same way as it did when watching a film.
Nevertheless the soundbar’s front performance was very good, all things considered, even if sound had a slight muddy tone to it for our tastes. Bass was strong without overpowering the rest of the frequencies, the mid-range once again we felt like it needed a slight boost while the solid highs were completing this unit’s performance without being either exciting or lacking. Basically the music performance feels like being in balance with it’s price and since this is mostly destined for the casual user, expectations should never be very high. As such the SL6Y manages to fulfill its purpose.
We are quickly approaching the end of our review so we need to summarize everything we saw in this unit. The LG SL6Y is incredibly similar to the smaller SL5Y, in fact they are so similar that one may find it hard to decide between the two. In reality the two soundbars were designed for two different purposes. On the one side the SL5Y was meant to be used for extremely small spaces and with TVs that are no bigger than 43″ in order to look nice sitting underneath while the SL6Y with it’s bigger length looks better with sizes 49″ and above.
So with this basic difference between the two is there anything else the SL6Y offers? The extra length gave LG the ability to add an extra center channel which definitely helps with dialogue clarity more while the extra length gives the SL6Y a more wide front soundstage performance which helps more with the overall immersive experience the unit can offer. With a bit more total power this model can be used in a little bigger areas but the overall difference is not so huge as we are talking about just 20 watts more which is not so dramatic in a real situation.
The LG SL6Y is a 3.1 channels soundbar that managed to perform very good for it’s category, it extremely easy to setup, calibrate and handle, it supports Bluetooth streaming and High Resolution Audio playback while it gives you the option to expand it to a full 5.1 channels system with the additional kit. But even if you don’t have the ability to get these surround speakers the unit comes with DTS Virtual:X support that can help a little in this regard even if the end result are a bit of a mixed bag.
And this is one of the actual downsides also as the DTS Virtual:X technology cannot imitate the performance of a true surround system and sound feels over-processed and unnatural sometimes. Also the surround speakers kit is a bit expensive and will add to the total cost considerably, something that goes against the low cost principle of this model. Also while performance is rather good it never managed to really excite us but we were not expecting anything extraordinary especially with this kind of price. Lastly the remote could be a bit smaller as the available king-size buttons cover only a small portion of the available space.
In the end the LG SL6Y is a very good option if you are looking to pair your large TV with a fairly cheap and easy to setup and use soundbar. And in this regard LG has nailed it with this model so we give it our high recommendation.
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