If you have a curved TV, buying a straight soundbar or flat external speakers kinda misses the point; you want something that matches your screen not only in style but in shape. There are a few different models out there, but LG's HS8 curved soundbar looks just about as good as all-in-one sound systems for your TV can.
I spent a couple of weeks with the amazing 65-inch LG EG960T -- a curved, Ultra HD, OLED TV that I first saw back in July last year -- paired up with the HS8 (otherwise known as the LAS855M). I went in extremely sceptical of soundbars -- apart from the Sonos Playbar, I'm not really a fan -- but was pleasantly surprised by the sound quality, especially given its relatively small size overall.
It has a surprising amount of power, considering its thin aspect. It's only 45mm tall and barely 80mm deep, but packs 160 Watts of audio power into two front-facing and two 45-degree, outward firing virtual surround sound speakers. The front-firing speakers are three times as powerful as the surround ones, so the dialogue that you're hearing is much louder by default than the surround effects -- one of the most annoying features of most of the other home-theatre-in-a-box systems that I've heard, where especially in a small room the surround channels are far too loud and intrusive on your movie-watching experience.
It's the right size for a 55- to 65-inch TV. At right on 1.2 metres wide, the HS8 is within an inch of the width of a 55-inch EG960T TV, and its five-metre radius -- the aggressiveness of its curve -- matches the TV too. It doesn't look undersized around the larger 65-inch, though, even if it does blend a little more into the stand. There's one thing worth considering though -- while a flat soundbar will sit flush against the wall underneath your curved TV, a curved soundbar will stick out like a sore thumb if you ever upgrade to a flat TV in the future. Keep that in mind when you're committing to the purchase.
It's surprisingly smart, but it doesn't have to be. The HS8 has integrated, always-on Bluetooth, so you can throw music to it easily from a pre-paired device -- or you can use any Google Cast compatible app once you've connected the HS8 to your home's Wi-Fi. Doing that also gives you access to LG's Music Flow in-home multi-room audio ecosystem, which is useful if you have other LG speakers in other rooms. I will admit that for the most part, I only ever used the HS8 as a dumb soundbar that was playing the audio that was output from the TV connected to it, but having the option there is nice.
It's really pretty straightforward to set up. For a simple, TV-only setup, all you need is the HS8's power cable, an identical power cable for the wireless subwoofer, and some method of sound input. On any half-decent TV -- definitely any curved TV, as long as it's not an ancient fishbowl curving in the wrong direction -- then HDMI should be your first choice. The HS8 has a HDMI input and output, so if you're connecting an external device like a Blu-ray player you have video pass-through to your TV. Beyond that, you also have digital audio input and a legacy 3.5mm headphone jack.
The subwoofer is good, but needs a bit of tweaking. In the box, you only get the soundbar itself and the 200 Watt ported subwoofer. That's a simple setup, but it also puts a lot of pressure on the subwoofer to perform both lower bass notes and higher mid-bass that larger front-firing speakers would usually handle. If you find the subwoofer's bass is a bit boomy and indistinct, you can partially plug the bass reflex port and tighten it up a bit, trading some of that outright power for slightly quicker response and tighter punch. It's still a room-filling sound, but it just has a little less decay to it.
You pay for that curvy exterior. At a $999 RRP, the LG HS8 is LG's most expensive soundbar -- which makes sense, since it's designed to suit its most expensive TVs. It justifies this price with the feature-set and the surprising quality of the sound that it puts out, but it's still a significant extra expense on top of an already exxy TV. You can find it for around $700 if you look around, though -- it's currently at $699 at Bing Lee, although most other stores have it for around $100 more. It's well worth it, at least.