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LG unveils 4K speaker, to go with your 4K TV. Huh?

Sebastian Anthony

The LG SJ9 4K soundbar, with its upwards-firing speakers that are required for Dolby Atmos at home. Presumably it's sitting underneath a 4K TV.
Rejoice, audiophiles! Now that you've purchased an audiophile Ethernet cable, audiophile SD card, and audiophile valve headphone amp, there's finally a speaker worthy of your high-res, high-def audio pipeline: LG's new 4K soundbar, the SJ9.
I can see from your perplexed countenance that you too thought "4K" referred to display resolution—specifically 4096×2160 or 3840×2160—but clearly we were wrong. To be honest, I'm relieved. Instead of agonising over which audio solution to pair with my new 4K TV, I'll just get a 4K soundbar. They obviously work in perfect harmony.
But joking aside, have you worked out how LG managed to slap a "4K Sound" sticker on a soundbar? It has nothing to do with display resolution, and it's only tangentially connected to audio resolution. Basically, the SJ9 is capable of playing 24-bit/96kHz lossless audio files—and the total bitrate of that audio stream is... over 4,000 kilobits per second! Presumably someone at LG realised that "4000K sound" would've looked a bit weird on the box, so they rounded it down to a nice and neat 4K.
At this juncture I should point out that LG's spurious "4K Sound" tech almost certainly has nothing to do with LG's superb engineering and R&D departments; rather, it has all the hallmarks of a vigilante marketing team. We've seen similar conflation and abuse of terms like 4G and 5G. A few years back, Broadcom tried to convince me it had the first 5G baseband—but of course, the marketing team were just trying to gussy up a 5GHz Wi-Fi chip.
On a more serious note, the SJ9, unveiled at CES 2017, is LG's first Dolby Atmos-enabled soundbar. There are currently only two other Dolby Atmos soundbars—the Samsung HW-K950, which we recently reviewed (and loved), and the Yamaha YSP-5600. Complete specs haven't been provided, but it looks like the LG SJ9 uses a very similar setup to Samsung: a soundbar with upwards-firing drivers paired with a separate subwoofer and two smaller surround speakers.
Curiously, as part of its 4K Sound package, the SJ9 can also upsample "standard audio files" to high-def 24-bit/192kHz audio, "sharpening the subtle details and nuances of each track." The press release doesn't clarify how the SJ9 extracts (creates?) more detail from a digital audio file. It sounds rather tricky to me. There's also Chromecast functionality built-in.
There's no release date or price on the SJ9, but it'll almost certainly be released in the next few months for around £1,500/$1,500.

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