I love reviewing innovative products. LG Singapore recently contacted me to test a sound bar. When I read the product information, I was blown away. It is not just a sound bar!
The SJ7 consists of 3 components: 2 speaker units and 1 subwoofer. They are linked to one another wirelessly – no messy cables! One of the units even has its own rechargeable battery pack! The drawback: you need 3 AC sockets to power them up.
It’s a Sound Bar!
By placing the 2 speakers horizontally together, it becomes a normal sound bar in front of the TV, delivering 2.1 audio.
It’s a Stereo Speaker System!
Just rotate the 2 speakers vertically and insert on the included stand, and it becomes a stereo speaker.
It’s a Surround Sound System!
Shift the right speaker module to the rear of the room, switch the mode to “Rear”, and now you get 4.1 audio. You don’t even need to worry about power plug: the right speaker runs on battery that can last about 4 hours. But on battery, the output power drops from 320W to 140W.
It’s a Portable Speaker!
Pair the right speaker module to your smartphone or tablet. Now you can bring it anywhere to enjoy Bluetooth audio. No wires! No cables!
3 Ways to Connect
The LG SJ7 only supports 3 inputs: HDMI 1.4, also known as HDMI ARC (audio return channel), optical input (S/PDIF), and Bluetooth 4.0. Being an LG audio product, it naturally supports LG TV Sound Sync. When I realised my TV does not have either HDMI ARC nor optical output, I thought hard on how I could go about testing the product. Fortunately, my desktop soundcard supports, so I brought the units into my study room to setup.
I can also connect via Bluetooth from my smartphone or tablet to the SJ7 main unit, which then syncs with the other 2 units to deliver immersive audio experience over mobile devices. Very satisfying.
Operation and Various Modes
The LG SJ7 can be operated with buttons at the sides of each speaker. I find it easier to operate with the remote control. There is a 5-character scrolling LED panel at the front of the main unit that shows the function or operating mode currently selected.
The “F” button toggles the various connection options, like Bluetooth, Optical, HDMI, LG TV Sound Sync. The “Sound Effect” button toggles among the sound modes: Standard, Cinema, ASC, Bass Blast. ASC stands for Adaptive Sound Control, where the SJ7 will detect the type of sound and adjust the audio balance accordingly. An “EQ” button allows adjustment of treble, bass, subwoofer, up to 5 steps. A separate button adjusts the rear speaker level in 6 steps, or can be manually adjusted from the buttons on the rear speaker.
The remote control only operates the main left speaker unit. The right speaker unit has its own manual power switch, while the subwoofer has none. I can only assume there are some power saving circuitry to put the units on standby, else you would have to remember to switch off all the units.
The SJ7 auto-powers on when it detects activity over the optical, which is convenient. However, I noticed that when the SJ7 is in Bluetooth mode, it too auto-switches to optical mode when activity is detected. Similarly, when I connect manually to the SJ7 in Bluetooth mode, it also auto-switches from existing mode automatically, and that is not cool.
Being wireless Bluetooth, there could be risks of connectivity issues among the units. During my review period, there are occasional dropouts on the subwoofer, and the speaker also had a few audio cut-offs, which recovered after 2 seconds. It does not occur as frequently as compared to wireless earphones, so I am not that concerned. But like any wireless technology, it could happen, so if you are very concerned about such issues, my recommendation is to go for total wired audio setup. It is assurance over convenience, and for me, as a home entertainment product, I would go for convenience.
Each speaker unit contains 2 midrange drivers and 2 tweeters. The subwoofer is a single cone driver. The SJ7 supports LPCM, Dolby Digital, DTS Digital Surround.
There are 4 ways that the SJ7 can deliver music, so I will review every possible set up.
Main unit + Subwoofer
When the second unit is not turned on or when surround mode is turn off under Rear Mode, the audio is less spatial. Treble does not offer sparkle as much as other modes, but also not dark. Bass is supported with the subwoofer and mid-bass is also sufficient.
Main unit + Second unit (Rear Mode) + Subwoofer
Although the front main unit produces similar audio output, the second rear unit delivers additional sparkle and subtle 3D space front to back, resulting in better treble, clarity, and musical breadth. The volume of the rear can be adjust to satisfaction, or simply adjust the distance of the rear speaker. Note that the volume is lower when running the rear unit on battery.
This is my favourite listening mode. After all, this is what makes SJ7 unique: surround set up without wires.
Main unit + Second unit (Sound Bar Mode) + Subwoofer
This is the best mode if you need bigger fuller-range audio quality. You can position either together like a single soundbar, or stand apart like normal speakers. With both speakers positioned in front, the clear treble is balanced with more-forward midrange and subwoofer. Sound is larger, stereo mapping is better, musical details are more prominent. What’s sorely missing is the mid to upper bass to complete the audiophile experience. The sub-woofer kick-bass effect is there, but bass notes could not compete with the other frequencies. It is precisely this deficiencies that I prefer the Rear Mode, because the highs are less overpowering to allow the mid bass to sing out a little more.
Second unit (Portable Mode)
With a single unit and lack of subwoofer, the audio is skewed towards clear treble with a bass that lacks punch. Nevertheless, it is a fabulous option that allows deployment of the second unit for other purposes when the SJ7 lies idle in one room. Apply software EQ with the connected Bluetooth device to customise the sound to your liking.
The LG SJ7 is a versatile audio system for the home. I can move the second unit to create a wider stereo sound or immersive surround by placing at the rear, or as a separate portable speaker in another room. Take note though that for wired connection to the TV or audio device, SJ7 only supports HDMI ARC and optical out.
The retail price of S$1088 might be steep as a sound bar, but its multi-use factor makes it more useful and less of a white elephant compared to other standard sound bars. The wireless set up means there is no constraint when positioning all the 3 units. For that, I thoroughly enjoy the SJ7 as an audio entertainment speaker and recommend it for home owners.