Can a soundbar get a 5.1.2-channel billing with out separate encompass audio system? That’s the query LG’s SP9YA poses, which comes labeled as a 5.1.2 soundbar regardless of missing a pair of wi-fi encompass modules; as an alternative, the soundbar delivers its encompass cues with side-firing drivers in the primary speaker itself. The SP9YA isn’t the primary soundbar to aim this trick; the Artistic SXFI Provider tries one thing related, and with equally combined outcomes. (LG does supply an optionally available rear speaker package for 7.1.2 audio.)
However whereas the SP9YA’s standing as a real 5.1.2 soundbar is debatable, its sturdy, full-bodied sound and full of life Dolby Atmos and DTS:X peak results are in little doubt, even when its encompass cues aren’t as distinct as they could possibly be. The SP9YA additionally packs an array of spectacular options, together with AI-powered room correction, eARC, built-in AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, in addition to assist for Alexa speaker teams and Spotify Join.
This evaluate is a part of TechHive’s protection of the very best soundbars. Click on that hyperlink to learn evaluations of competing merchandise, together with a purchaser’s information to the options it’s best to contemplate when procuring.
LG payments the SP9YA as a 5.1.2-channel soundbar, so it’s somewhat complicated whenever you open the field to search out solely the primary soundbar unit and the wi-fi subwoofer, however no wi-fi encompass audio system. As I discussed earlier, LG counts the SP9YA’s pair of side-firing drivers as encompass channels, making it a 5.1.2 soundbar quite than a 3.1.2 configuration. As we’ll see (and listen to) later, these drivers on the facet of the soundbar can’t fairly compete with separate encompass audio system. Happily, you may improve the SP9YA utilizing LG’s $180 SPK8-S Wi-fi Rear Speaker Package for a full-on 7.1.2 setup, however LG didn’t provide us with the package for this evaluate.
In any occasion, the SP9YA contains a complete of 11 drivers, together with 10 in the primary soundbar unit. The left, proper, and middle channels every get their very own oval-shaped woofers (40x100mm) and tweeters (additionally 40x100mm), that are flanked by round 2.5-inch facet woofers that provide audio for the 2 encompass channels. On prime of the soundbar housing are two up-firing 2.5-inch drivers that ship peak cues for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. Lastly, the wi-fi subwoofer has a 7-inch driver.
The upfiring drivers provide Dolby Atmos and DTS:X peak cues by bouncing pontificate your ceiling, a better and extra inexpensive various to peak audio system which might be really put in in your ceiling. However whereas upfiring drivers are a standard characteristic of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X-supporting soundbars, they require a sure kind of ceiling to operate correctly—particularly, a flat, sound-reflecting ceiling that’s between 7 and 14.5 ft in peak. If in case you have ceiling beams or a vaulted ceiling, upfiring drivers for Atmos or DTS:X received’t lower it; in these instances, you is likely to be higher off with a soundbar that employs virtualization for peak cues.
Measuring 48 x 2.2 x 5.7 inches (WxHxD), the 13.9-pound SP9YA is sort of broad, stretching your entire size of the media cupboard that holds my 55-inch LG C9 OLED TV. That mentioned, the soundbar additionally has a reasonably low profile, permitting it to take a seat beneath my low-slung set whereas barely grazing the underside fringe of the display screen.
In the meantime, the 8.7 x 15.4 x 12.3-inch, 13.9-pound subwoofer is mid-sized so far as wi-fi subs go, which is to say that it’s not one thing you possibly can (or would wish to) tuck discretely subsequent to your couch. As a substitute, it’s higher off someplace behind your TV, ideally not too near a wall.
Moreover putting the SP9YA in entrance of a TV, you possibly can additionally mount it on a wall below your TV, and happily, LG offers each a mounting template and wall brackets for that very function.
Talking of what’s included, LG provides an optical cable however—as with earlier soundbars—no HDMI cable. After all, you may snag a good HDMI cable for lower than $10, however nonetheless, that’s somewhat stingy, LG.
Inputs and outputs
The SP9YA’s varied ports sit in a proper rear cavity, and also you get simply 4 of them: an HDMI enter, an HDMI output that helps HDMI-ARC/eARC, an optical (Toslink) enter, and a USB-A port that may entry audio recordsdata.
The soundbar’s two HDMI connectors provide you with a few choices by way of connecting to a TV. First, you possibly can plug a video supply straight into the SP9YA’s HDMI enter after which ship each video and audio from the soundbar’s HDMI output (4K HDR passthrough is supported, together with Dolby Imaginative and prescient) to one in every of your TV’s HDMI inputs. Since there’s just one HDMI enter, nonetheless, you’d be restricted to connecting solely a single video supply to the SP9YA. Frankly, given the SP9YA’s lofty price ticket, we’d have favored to see no less than one extra HDMI enter.
The opposite possibility is to attach your video sources to your TV’s HDMI inputs, after which ship audio all the way down to the soundbar’s HDMI-ARC port. Doing so means you’ll be capable of join as many video sources as your TV’s HDMI inputs will enable, and also you’ll additionally be capable of hear audio out of your TV’s built-in streaming apps by means of the soundbar. Even higher, the SP9YA helps eARC, an “enhanced” model of ARC that permits for lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Grasp Audio tracks, which generally grace Blu-ray discs. (You possibly can learn extra about ARC and eARC right here.)
Moreover the HDMI connectors, there’s additionally the optical enter for connecting an older, HDMI-less TV. There aren’t any RCA inputs for TVs that don’t even have optical outputs, however let’s face it; in case you’re coughing up $1,000 for a soundbar, you’re in all probability not going to hook it as much as a tube TV from the 90s (and even earlier) anyway.
Lastly, the USB-A port can play WAV, MP3, OGG, AAC, and FLAC recordsdata, together with as much as 24-bit FLACs with 192kHz sampling charges. I related a USB flash drive with a 24-bit/96kHz FLAC file and managed to play it with none points. (I’ll talk about the way it sounded in a bit.)
When you’ve both positioned the soundbar in entrance of your TV or put in it below your TV, you plug it into an influence socket utilizing a roughly 5-foot captive twine, which terminates in (fortunately) an ordinary two-prong plug quite than a wall wart. The wi-fi subwoofer comes pre-paired with the soundbar, and it ought to join mechanically as soon as plugged in. If it doesn’t, you may manually pair the soundbar and the sub, however the automated pairing course of labored seamlessly for me.
Whereas LG soundbars with built-in Google Assistant use the Google Residence app to hook up with your Wi-Fi community, the SP9YA (which lacks built-in Google Assistant—extra on that in a bit) makes the reference to the brand new LG Sound Bar app, and the method was flawless. After firing it up on my iPhone and granting it permission to make use of Bluetooth, the app rapidly discovered the SP9YA and prompted me to decide on my community SSID and enter my password. Lower than a minute later, the connection was made, and the soundbar immediate confirmed up as an possibility amongst my different AirPlay 2 and Chromecast gadgets.
Moreover the Wi-Fi setup, the SP9YA provides a room calibration characteristic, which detects the acoustics of your room by bouncing sounds off your partitions and furnishings. Not like the Sonos Arc, which employs the microphone of an iPhone to carry out its measurements, the SP9YA makes use of its personal built-in microphone to take its calibration readings. The entire course of takes just a few minutes, and you may evaluate the outcomes with the sound of the uncalibrated soundbar. Whereas LG’s AI Room Calibration course of isn’t as exact as extra superior calibration programs corresponding to Audyssey (which takes readings from eight microphone positions), it’s a welcome characteristic given the SP9YA’s value level.
Controls, distant, and app
The SP9YA has seven capacitive contact buttons that sit on prime of the primary soundbar unit: energy, enter choose—which, fortunately, is now not labeled “F” (for “Perform”) because it was in earlier fashions—quantity up and down, play/pause, Bluetooth pair, and Wi-Fi.
The soundbar’s two-microphone array is straight in entrance of the highest buttons (though the 2 small mic holes are so small that they’re simple to overlook), whereas a five-digit show that dims after a brief interval of inactivity is on the entrance panel.
LG has redesigned the remotes for its 2021 soundbar line, and the ensuing wands are far sleeker than their boxy, cheap-looking predecessors. However whereas the distant that ships with the SP9YA is extra ergonomic than earlier LG soundbar remotes I’ve tried, the buttons are specified by such a manner that you could stretch your thumb out to achieve the all-important quantity and mute buttons. The four-way navigation pad is inside simple attain, as are the sound mode, information, settings, and speaker stage buttons, nevertheless it appears odd that the quantity management sits so excessive up on the distant—and on the left-hand facet at that.
The brand new LG Sound Bar app is a step up from the getting old LG Wi-Fi Speaker app, and it permits you to management all of the capabilities of the soundbar, from altering inputs and adjusting the quantity to biking by means of the sound modes and trimming the speaker ranges. It can additionally immediate you to carry out the AI-powered room calibration course of at setup (you may at all times re-run it everytime you want), in addition to tinker with the AV synchronization in case you run into any lip-sync points.
Audio casting and sensible residence integration
Whereas some LG soundbars include Google Assistant built-in, the SP9YA isn’t one in every of them; as an alternative, it merely “works with” Alexa and Google Assistant. Which means, amongst different issues, that you could management a number of the soundbar’s capabilities with voice instructions, corresponding to “Alexa, flip LG soundbar quantity down,” or “Hey Google, skip observe,” however you may’t chat with Google Assistant or Alexa straight by means of the soundbar.
That’s the unhealthy information. The excellent news is that the SP9YA’s is blessed with a formidable array of casting and multi-room audio capabilities. Provided that, I received’t complain an excessive amount of in regards to the lack of a built-in voice assistant.
Beginning with Alexa, you may designate the SP9YA as a “most popular” speaker for one in every of your rooms or for your entire residence, that means that Alexa can mechanically play tunes on the soundbar whenever you ask her to play music. You may as well add the soundbar to an Alexa speaker group, corresponding to “Dwelling Room” or “Upstairs.”
Desire Chromecast? The SP9YA has you lined with built-in Chromecast assist, which implies you may solid music to the soundbar from any Chromecast-enabled app or service, and you may as well add the soundbar to a Chromecast speaker group. Whenever you’re casting to the SP9YA through Chromecast, you may ask Google Assistant to lift or decrease the quantity, skip tracks, or play or pause the music.
Even higher, the SP9YA additionally works with AirPlay 2, permitting you to solid audio to the soundbar from an iMac, iPhone, iPad, or one other Apple machine, and much like Alexa and Chromecast, you may add the soundbar to AirPlay speaker teams. Lastly, the SP9YA helps Spotify Join casting, too.
Sound modes and efficiency
The SP9YA options eight sound modes, together with Cinema (which upmixes all audio sources to five.1.2, together with 2.0 stereo audio), Music (which makes use of Meridian expertise to optimize its audio efficiency), Bass Blast (with ups the bass whereas additionally upmixing all sources to five.1.2), Clear Voice (for reinforcing dialogue), Commonplace (which delivers the audio with none upmixing and minimal tweaking), Sports activities, and Recreation. There’s additionally an eighth mode, AI Sound Professional, which makes use of synthetic intelligence to customise the sound relying on what you’re listening to.
Whereas there are (clearly) loads of audio modes to select from, you can’t decide a mode in any respect in relation to Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content material.
I began my listening tour with the UHD Blu-ray of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Again, specializing in the Battle of Hoth sequence in addition to the Asteroid Chase chapter. To begin with, I seen that the SP9YA delivered a number of the greatest Dolby Atmos peak cues I’ve heard from a soundbar. Take the second when Luke tosses a grenade into an Imperial Walker, then drops to the bottom and watches the cascading explosions above. With the SP9YA, I may hear the sequence of muffled bursts with a precision that I not often hear from soundbars with upfiring drivers. The identical goes for the sound of the chunks of falling ice from the ceiling as Vader and his troopers enter the crumbling Insurgent base.
Moreover its dealing with of peak cues in Empire, I additionally appreciated how the SP9YA (like a number of the earlier LG soundbars I’ve heard) doesn’t emphasize high- and low-end sound on the expense of the mid-range; certainly, those that desire a brighter signature from a soundbar (like what you’ll hear from the Sonos Arc) won’t just like the flatter sound of the SP9YA. And whereas the soundbar’s low-frequency results sounded somewhat boomy at first (significantly the roar of the Millennium Falcon’s engine because it corkscrewed away from pursuing TIE Fighters), dialing the subwoofer stage down tamed the bass.
Shifting on to the UHD of Blade Runner (which, like Empire, has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack), I loved the distinct plops of rain as Deckard jogged for shelter below the awning of the noodle bar, in addition to the swooshing spinners above and beneath as Gaff delivered Deckard to police HQ. The UHD of Apollo 13 with its DTS:X sound impressed as nicely, with punchy bass, clear peak results because the Saturn V’s engines roared to life, and a exact pop as Lovell jettisons the escape tower.
However whereas the SP9YA carried out properly by way of sound cues, its side-firing drivers delivered a extra muted response when it got here to encompass results. For instance, the pre-launch gurgle of the gasoline pumps in Apollo 13 didn’t really feel prefer it was coming from behind my couch, whereas the whine of the Insurgent speeders on Hoth in Empire by no means fairly appeared to swerve behind me. The facet drivers did handle to broaden the general soundstage and I did have a obscure sense of encompass atmospherics, however if you would like exact encompass cues from the SP9YA, you’ll have to crack open your pockets for the optionally available rear speaker bundle.
To strive some non-Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content material, I spun up the usual Blu-ray of Titanic, which has a DTS-HD Grasp Audio soundtrack. Queuing up the “Ode to Titanic” chapter, I sampled the assorted sound modes; Cinema mode sounded broad however blown-out and hole (maybe attributable to aggressive upmixing of the peak channels), whereas additionally burying the dialog. To my ears, AI Sound Professional sounded rather more pure and immersive, with Commonplace mode working an in depth second. With AI Sound Professional enabled, the pistons within the engine room sounded appropriately deep and kerplunky, whereas the hiss because the Titanic’s bow sliced by means of the water sounded crisp however not shrill, and it didn’t drown out Dawson’s “look look look!” as he identified the dolphins.
For music, I began by enjoying a 24-bit/96kHz FLAC of Chet Baker’s “Photo voltaic” through the USB port. Switching between the sound modes, I once more settled on AI Sound Professional (Music mode sounded wider however too boomy, whereas Commonplace mode was a tad higher however nonetheless shy of the AI mode), and I used to be impressed by the pop of the drums, the element of the brushes on the cymbals, and the positioning of the piano keystrokes. Properly accomplished.
I additionally skipped round just a few extra tracks streamed through each Chromecast and AirPlay 2. I heard detailed, full of life cymbal brushes from Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad,” in addition to refreshingly clear keystrokes from Vlado Perlemuter’s efficiency of Ravel’s solo piano works (which regularly sound mushy on different soundbars). Lastly, the bass was good on Ciara’s “Degree Up,” punchy however not overbearing, whereas Ciara’s regular vocals have been breathy and natural quite than detached (as they sound on different programs).
So, is the LG SP9YA a real 5.1.2 soundbar? Technically sure, I suppose, though I doubt side-firing drivers will ever be an ideal substitute for bodily encompass audio system. Whereas the SP9YA’s encompass results aren’t as distinct as I’d like, its general sound is full, nicely rounded, and full of life, all with out being too boomy or shrill.
Personally, I’d nonetheless suggest a 5.1.2 soundbar with precise encompass audio system, such because the Vizio Elevate (which, along with its wi-fi surrounds, options swiveling upfiring entrance drivers). However if in case you have a lounge setup that’s not conducive to satellite tv for pc audio system, otherwise you’re prepared to cough up $180 for LG’s optionally available wi-fi rear speaker package, the SP9YA could be a perfect alternative.