If you're looking for a home theatre upgrade that supports the latest cinematic sound formats, without drilling holes in your roof or running cables across the carpet, a high-end soundbar is the way to go. And with a low, sleek design and incredible sound, LG's SN11RG is the finest I've tested so far.
Like many new soundbars, the SN11RG aims to emulate the experience of having speakers mounted around your room and in the ceiling, analogous to a 7.1.4 setup.
The main bar provides the centre, forward left and forward right channels, while shooting sound out both sides to (hopefully) bounce off your walls and create the two side channels. A pair of hefty wireless rear speakers are included provide the final two main channels.
Meanwhile the .4 refers to height channels, with the main bar and the rear speakers shooting sound upwards to bounce off your roof and seem as though it's coming from above. The .1, of course, is provided by a powerful wireless subwoofer.
My loungeroom is generally awful acoustically, with a tall roof, wobbly floors and a window to the kitchen, but the SN11RG did better than most, and I found it produced the most impressive object-based sound I've heard from a soundbar system.
There was a real sense of the sound filling space behind and around me, and I felt I could pinpoint the sources. Height was not as precise as with real roof-mounted speakers, and might be better with a lower roof, but even so I could tell the difference between objects whizzing at my face and flying overhead in Blade Runner 2049.
Of course the sound will only be as good as the source it comes from. The SN11RG accepts Dolby Atmos and DTS:X signals for object-based sound, has two HDMI inputs, supports eARC and passes 4K Dolby Vision back to the TV, so connecting appropriate sources like UHD Blu-Ray players should be a cinch. Obviously the sound is at its best with a well-mixed Blu-ray, where the sub and height channels really open up.
There's an option to "upscale" stereo or 5.1 mixes to 7.1.4, and while the sound definitely fills the space I found it a bit oppressive to have TV talking heads or cartoons spread through the whole room and preferred to keep that effect off. It did better with music, seeming to isolate instruments and vocals and assign them a space quite well, and in general the soundbar was an excellent music player over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi via Chromecast built-in.
My main complaints are of the niggly variety. The need for audio separation means this is an extremely long soundbar at around 1.5 metres, which threatened to not fit on my entertainment unit. It's also a bit of a pain that setup requires two separate apps; Google Home for the initial setup and then LG's own for advanced settings and tuning.
But once it was installed and running it performed wonderfully. At around $1500 you could probably build a whole 7.1 setup with individual speakers that would sound as good, but the tidy wireless design and ease of use makes the SN11RG a winner.