LG SP9YA soundbar review: This 5.1.2 speaker has side-firing drivers

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Can a soundbar get a 5.1.2-channel billing without separate surround speakers? That’s the question LG’s SP9YA poses, which comes labeled as a 5.1.2 soundbar despite lacking a pair of wireless surround modules; instead, the soundbar delivers its surround cues with side-firing drivers in the main speaker itself. The SP9YA isn’t the first soundbar to attempt this trick; the Creative SXFI Carrier tries something similar, and with similarly mixed results. (LG does offer an optional rear speaker kit for 7.1.2 audio.)

But while the SP9YA’s status as a true 5.1.2 soundbar is debatable, its robust, full-bodied sound and lively Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height effects are in little doubt, even if its surround cues aren’t as distinct as they could be. The SP9YA also packs an array of impressive features, including AI-powered room correction, eARC, built-in AirPlay 2 and Chromecast, as well as support for Alexa speaker groups and Spotify Connect.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars. Click that link to read reviews of competing products, along with a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Specifications

LG bills the SP9YA as a 5.1.2-channel soundbar, so it’s a little confusing when you open the box to find only the main soundbar unit and the wireless subwoofer, but no wireless surround speakers. As I mentioned earlier, LG counts the SP9YA’s pair of side-firing drivers as surround channels, making it a 5.1.2 soundbar rather than a 3.1.2 configuration. As we’ll see (and hear) later, these drivers on the side of the soundbar can’t quite compete with separate surround speakers. Fortunately, you can upgrade the SP9YA using LG’s $180 SPK8-S Wireless Rear Speaker Kit for a full-on 7.1.2 setup, but LG didn’t supply us with the kit for this review.

In any event, the SP9YA features a total of 11 drivers, including 10 in the main soundbar unit. The left, right, and center channels each get their own oval-shaped woofers (40x100mm) and tweeters (also 40x100mm), which are flanked by circular 2.5-inch side woofers that supply audio for the two surround channels. On top of the soundbar housing are two up-firing 2.5-inch drivers that deliver height cues for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. Finally, the wireless subwoofer has a 7-inch driver.

lg sp9ya side firing driver Ben Patterson/IDG

The LG SP9YA delivers its surround effects via side-firing drivers rather than physical surround speakers.

The upfiring drivers supply Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height cues by bouncing sound off your ceiling, an easier and more affordable alternative to height speakers that are actually installed in your ceiling. But while upfiring drivers are a common feature of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X-supporting soundbars, they require a certain type of ceiling to function properly—namely, a flat, sound-reflecting ceiling that’s between 7 and 14.5 feet in height. If you have ceiling beams or a vaulted ceiling, upfiring drivers for Atmos or DTS:X won’t cut it; in those cases, you might be better off with a soundbar that employs virtualization for height cues.

 

Measuring 48 x 2.2 x 5.7 inches (WxHxD), the 13.9-pound SP9YA is quite wide, stretching the entire length of the media cabinet that holds my 55-inch LG C9 OLED TV. That said, the soundbar also has a fairly low profile, allowing it to sit below my low-slung set while barely grazing the bottom edge of the screen.

Meanwhile, the 8.7 x 15.4 x 12.3-inch, 13.9-pound subwoofer is mid-sized as far as wireless subs go, which is to say that it’s not something you could (or would want to) tuck discretely next to your sofa. Instead, it’s better off somewhere behind your TV, preferably not too close to a wall.



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