I tested the LG C3 OLED TV's new Dolby Atmos soundbar upgrade feature and… wow?

LG C3 OLED smart interface shown from angle
(Image credit: Future)

LG’s SC9S is the company’s new soundbar for 2023, and it’s one that was designed to mate perfectly with the new LG C3 OLED TV. The specific feature that makes it a match for the C3 is a bundled bracket that lets you attach the soundbar directly to the TV (55-, 65-, and 77-inch screen sizes), and it can also be used with the company’s C2 series OLEDs.

LG’s bracket is actually one of a trio of features called Wow Synergy that are meant to boost integration between the company’s TVs and soundbars. Those other features include WowCast, which lets you stream lossless audio via Wi-Fi between an LG TV and soundbar when using an optional transmitter, and Wow Orchestra, a sound processing mode that merges the TV’s built-in speakers with the soundbar’s audio output.

Brands like Samsung provide similar features on their TVs that let them work more seamlessly with the best Dolby Atmos soundbars, but Wow Synergy is a new thing for LG. And while I find both the lossless wireless audio link and the integrated stand, which I used for my review of the C3 OLED, impressive, Wow Orchestra is the feature I was most eager to try out. 

And try it out I did. I’ll dig into my in-depth impressions of Wow Orchestra in a bit, but let me first cover the details of the SC9S. 

The SC9S is a 3.1.3-channel soundbar with processing for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and it also has IMAX Enhanced support. There are nine total speakers when you count the included wireless subwoofer, and the system is driven by 400 watts. 

An HDMI input and HDMI output (with eARC) are provided and there’s pass-through for 4K 120Hz, VRR, and ALLM for gaming with an Xbox Series X | S or PS5. The SC9S’s streaming support encompasses both AirPlay 2 and Chromecast built-in, along with Tidal Connect and Spotify Connect, and it works with Google Assistant and Alexa.

Last year’s LG S80QY soundbar introduced an innovative new feature: a third upfiring driver to deliver Atmos height effects and to elevate dialogue to screen level for a more natural presentation. That same feature is found on the SC9S, which also has LG’s new Triple Level Spatial Sound Technology that uses an HRTF-based 3D engine to add a virtual mid-layer to dialogue and height effects.

Otherwise, the SC9S has AI Room Calibration, a feature that analyzes the sound output in your room and automatically adjusts it to improve low-frequency performance, and AI Sound Pro, which, in LG’s words, “analyzes the audio signal and automatically applies the most appropriate settings” to ensure the best sound for movies, sports, music, or any other type of content.

LG C3 OLED TV showing Top Gun Maverick on screen and Wow Orchestra mode adjustment

The Wow Orchestra feature can be easily accessed from within the LG C3 OLED TV's Quick Menu. (Image credit: Future)

Wow Orchestra: a dress rehearsal 

First off, let me say that the SC9S soundbar itself has impressive overall sound quality. Movie and TV dialogue is very clear, and the Triple Level Spatial Sound tech works really well to match it to the onscreen action. Atmos height effects are rendered in a dramatic manner, and music sounds natural and well-balanced for the most part.

When AI Sound Pro is switched on, the sound with Dolby Atmos and other formats takes on a more expansive quality, though the extra sense of spaciousness doesn’t detract at all from dialogue clarity. I find LG’s characterization of the mode as one that applies the right settings to get the best sound from all manner of content to be accurate, and I ended up leaving it on for much of my viewing with the LG C3 and S95S combination.

LG’s Wow Orchestra feature isn’t a separate sound mode, but rather one that works alongside the one you currently have selected to further enhance spaciousness. An onscreen Quick Menu on the C3 OLED TV lets you easily access it, and using this, I was able to quickly toggle Wow Orchestra on and off to get a sense of how the sound presentation was impacted when it was turned on.

For the most part, Wow Orchestra made the sound bigger and brighter. Though I wasn’t using rear speakers – which are an available add-on option for the SC9S – Wow Orchestra created a near-surround sound effect, and the height channels in Atmos soundtracks gained substance and depth. There was also a boost in treble detail, though it seemed a bit over-enhanced with some movie scenes I watched.

One problem Wow Orchestra introduced was a degree of lag between the sound coming from the soundbar and from the TV’s own built-in speakers. This could be corrected for the most part by using the Match TV Picture and Sound setting in the C3’s advanced audio menu, though I was never able to fully adjust it to my satisfaction.

The result here was a slight slurring effect with movie dialogue, which was most noticeable in scenes that take place in a reverberant space. Watching a sequence early on in Top Gun: Maverick where Maverick (Tom Cruise) is informed by his team about the pending shut-down of their mission, for example, the dialogue spoken in the large flight hangar had a slight echo and also a too-crisp quality. And this was after I had painstakingly made every possible adjustment to try and dial in the alignment of the TV and soundbar’s audio output.

When I watched Top Gun’s less dialogue-oriented action scenes, the effect of Wow Orchestra had much more… wow to it. But given the work LG has already done to increase the natural rendition of voices on its soundbars with the third upfiring driver and Triple Level Spatial Sound tech, this seems like a step backward.

The LG C3 OLED TV has already received two software updates since I received it for testing. I’m hoping to see yet another one come through soon that will correct Wow Orchestra’s shortcomings, and also make it easier to set up and adjust. Until that happens, I’ll likely be watching with Wow Orchestra off, and finding satisfaction with the SC9S’s already substantial wow factor.

Al Griffin
Senior Editor Home Entertainment, US

Al Griffin has been writing about and reviewing A/V tech since the days LaserDiscs roamed the earth, and was previously the editor of Sound & Vision magazine. 

When not reviewing the latest and greatest gear or watching movies at home, he can usually be found out and about on a bike.