Familiar, sleek aesthetic
Tons of home theater features
Great cinematic punch
Sound falls short for music
Remote still needs work
The SP9YA lands in a category of soundbars that include standouts like the Arc and the Samsung HW-800T. Beyond that, LG’s new bar has to compete with Vizio's impressive surround Atmos system, the Elevate, as well as budget Dolby Atmos systems like the Vizio M-Series 5.1.2 and the Monoprice SB-600 that cost hundreds less. It all amounts to a tough task of finding sure footing in a Dolby Atmos landscape that seems to expand exponentially by the day.
About the LG SP9YA
- Height x Width x Depth: 2.2 inches x 48.03 inches x 5.7 inches (bar), 15.4 inches x 8.7 inches x 12.3 inches (subwoofer)
- Weight: 13.9 pounds (bar), 17.2 pounds (subwoofer)
- Speakers/drivers: two front speakers, one center speaker, two surround (side) speakers, two front height speakers, one subwoofer
- Amplification: 520 watts of claimed amplification
- Wireless connection: Bluetooth, WiFi
- Wired connection: HDMI eARC/ARC input/output, spare HDMI input, one optical input, one USB port
- Sound formats: Dolby Atmos, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, DTS:X DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS-HD High Resolution, FLAC, WAV, MP3, AAC, OGG
- Video support: 4K passthrough, Dolby Vision, HDR10
- Warranty: One-year limited warranty for parts and labor
The SP9YA is a 5.1.2-channel soundbar system, but like its competitors above, it swaps rear satellites for “side speakers” built into the soundbar in an attempt to replicate full surround sound without the need for some assortment of wires and speakers around the back of your room.
One of the benefits here is the pure ease of setup. Once you’ve plugged in and connected to your display, you’re set. There are no additional wires to hide, or speakers to position. Essentially, just plug, play, and enjoy.
What we like
A familiar, sharp aesthetic
We enjoyed the sleek, slim design of LG’s previous version of this soundbar, the SN9YG. And, since the company kept the dimensions and appearance of the SP9YA almost identical to its predecessor (seriously, the SP9YA doesn’t deviate a single inch nor ounce from last year’s model), it stands to reason that design is once again a highlight in this latest iteration.
LG does disclose a neat, eco-friendly feature found in its latest line of soundbars: certain bars (the SP9YA included) are built using post-consumer recycled content. Furthermore, the soundbar’s internal packaging is made using recycled pulp.
All the home theater goodies you can think of
The SP9YA’s spec sheet is basically an endlessly scrolling column of "yeses." It supports all of the buzzword formats you'd expect, from Dolby Atmos and DTS:X to 4K/HDR passthrough, including both Dolby Vision and HDR10. With the inclusion of the increasingly common HDMI eARC input/output for easy operation and compression-free audio with supported TVs, as well as an additional HDMI input, the SP9YA checks the important boxes for a premium bar in 2021.
LG goes further, though, including Hi-Res Audio support up to 24bit/192kHz. It also features both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connection, with support for Chromecast, Spotify Connect, and Apple AirPlay 2, along with both Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa compatibility. It may not quite be the Swiss Army Knife of support that the Sonos Arc is, but it’s very Sonos-esque in this sense. And that’s a good thing.
The previous edition of this soundbar had built-in Google Assistant, but the SP9YA drops the onboard microphone, meaning you’ll need to employ a smartphone, smart speaker, or smart hub if you want to use voice commands. I couldn’t get my Amazon Echo Show 8 to adjust the volume on the SP9YA, but I could start and stop music, change tracks and pull up specific playlists simply by using my voice. For my needs, that was good enough.
Great sound for movie lovers
Conveniently, our SP9YA review unit showed up just in time to set up before the weekly premiere of the Disney+ hit series Loki. As luck would have it, the latest episode offered a wide range of opportunities to test the new bar’s chops, including dialogue-heavy scenes and sequences that were jam-packed with action.
Throughout the episode—and during watches of a variety of other content, from The Big Lebowski to Dave—the SP9YA delivered. Even with all seven drivers housed in a single enclosure, dialogue emitting from the bar’s center channel comes through with impressive clarity.
During a certain apocalyptic conclusion to a certain Loki episode (no spoilers!), the SP9YA also offered a stellar sense of immersion thanks to its upfiring drivers. Projectile objects hurtling down from the sky sounded like they actually came from above, as did toppling buildings and crumbling structures.
Another new Marvel property, Black Widow, showcased the same Dolby Atmos prowess. During a rather impressive action sequence in a film that’s filled with impressive action sequences, I was captivated by the gravity that the LG’s upfiring drivers added to an airborne showdown between Black Widow and the film’s antagonist. As debris cratered toward the earth all around the mid-air fight, the bar did its best to put me right in the middle of the free-fall.
The included wireless subwoofer (something the Sonos Arc notably lacks) is a trooper too, adding impactful bass that helped round out the audio in each death-defying moment.
What we don’t like
Music playback leaves something(s) to be desired
There was an unnatural quality plaguing the sound signature of last year's SN9YG, and it seems to have found its way to the SP9YA. I didn’t experience it nearly as much with movies and TV, but most music I auditioned had a metallic tendency embedded in its sound signature. George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord,” for instance, was notably missing the warmth that makes it such a charming track. It’s still a moderately pleasant listening experience, but it’s just not the lovely rendition I look forward to every time I cycle through a Marvel rewatch and land on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
To be clear, I wouldn’t go as far as describing this sound as “bad,” and the average listener will probably be content with it—it’s a small sample size, but my significant other couldn’t discern any real issues with the sound. And, after revisiting the bar’s musical chops and playing with the audio settings, I’ll admit that listening to music through the SP9YA grew on me over time. That said, it's not the wonderfully musical sound found in competitors like the Sonos Arc or Samsung HW-800T.
There are several sound effects to sort through, an AI Room Calibration feature, and available speaker-by-speaker adjustments that can be made to try and dial in the SP9YA to your specific tastes. However, while it has good sound overall, we prefer the Sonos or Samsung counterparts for music.
The new remote could still use a button or two
The SP9YA has a new remote that features a major facelift from last year’s handheld controller, and LG deserves credit for rolling out a sleeker successor with a better layout of controls. Technically, you can make most, if not all the sound adjustments you need with the SP9YA’s remote. Still, dedicated buttons for tinkering with essential settings like subwoofer response or even height levels would have elevated a good redesign into a great one.
LG’s accompanying soundbar app does help close the gap in this department. It features a straightforward interface that puts every essential setting in front of you: you can run the AI Room Calibration feature, toggle between sound effects, or adjust the decibel levels of each individual speaker in the system. It’s not quite in Sonos territory, with an app that’s so comprehensive the Arc arrives without a remote, but it proved to be a consistently useful tool for controlling the SP9YA.
Should you buy it?
Yes, as long as the price is right
If you can get the SP9YA for closer to $700-800, it’s a lot easier to recommend outright. For those enticed by all its Wi-Fi wiles and powerful Atmos, or even those who simply don't want to deal with placing satellite speakers in the back of their living rooms, the SP9YA could be a great solution.
But the SP9YA has tough competition from our favorite soundbar overall, the $800 Sonos Arc. You could also get a powerful, full-surround setup in Vizio's Elevate which offers the best dollar-for-dollar Atmos performance out there for at or below the SP9YA's $1,000 MSRP.
Then there are budget-friendly bars like the Vizio M-Series 5.1.2 or Monoprice SB-600, which have fewer add-on features but also offer physical rear speakers for hundreds less. The SP9YA's Dolby Atmos performance is better than the latter two, and to be fair, it does create a wide enough soundstage to provide a decent illusion of rear speakers. However, it just doesn’t beat the real deal. You can pick up LG’s SKY8-S speakers to eradicate the issue, but that adds about $180 to an already pricey package.
If LG’s pricing history is any indicator, the SP9YA could settle into a much lower retail price. Under those conditions, it becomes a great option for anyone intending to use a soundbar primarily for movies and TV shows. It's just a matter of whether you’re sold enough on the SP9YA’s stellar Dolby Atmos and its laundry list of supported formats to grab it on sale, or instead opt for one of its very capable competitors.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.
Meet the tester
Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.
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