During the last few days I had one of LG’s SN9YG premium soundbars on loan to get a taste of it’s capability. Despite not using it for very long I have some insights that will help you when purchasing a soundbar.
This advice is especially useful if any of these describe your situation: you want to use a soundbar as your only home speaker, live in an apartment or other narrow home like a terrace, have high living room ceilings or live on a noisy main road.
Can a high end soundbar work as your only speaker?
Most soundbars are located close to a wall and designed to fire sound forwards towards your sofa and some fire upwards as well. Soundbars generally don’t put much or any effort into side firing audio.
So if your place is relatively small like a studio or 1 bedroom apartment and it’s square shaped that’s fine as you’ll be able to hear the sound everywhere.
However if your home is long and narrow and your living room is at one end that’s the end of the house where you’ll hear the soundbar audio well. Even if the layout is open plan you won’t hear it as well at the other end of the house eg if you’re cooking in the kitchen.
To hear sound throughout a long and narrow home layout you need either a decently powerful speaker in the middle or several smart speakers playing in a group at once.
Is it worth paying more for a soundbar that has Google Assistant built-in?
From my experience the answer is No.
That’s because if Google Assistant is built-in to any soundbar, then that voice control functionality is only enabled when the TV is off. This seems kind of pointless because the vast majority of the time you’re near the TV is when you’re sitting in front watching it. However that’s exactly when the voice assistant control will be disabled so you can’t tell the speaker to change volume or other settings.
Is your living room ceiling quite high, slanted or curved?
Then don’t bother buying a soundbar or sound system just because it supports Dolby Atmos.
That’s because Dolby Atmos fires sound upwards to bounce off the ceiling and come back down towards you. So Atmos works best when the ceiling is flat and not too far away. An upwards firing Atmos speaker won’t work well if the ceiling is far, slanted, curved or disrupted by a big fan or large light fitting like a chandelier.
The official advice from Dolby is:
“The ideal ceiling height is between 7.5 and 12 feet, and the maximum recommended height is 14 feet. The ceiling should be flat and made from an acoustically reflective material, such as drywall or plaster.”
Can you be bothered to install and setup an app just for your soundbar?
Interestingly a lot of the advanced functions of the SN9YG such as AI Sound aren’t accessible unless you add the soundbar to Google Home and also install the LG WiFi speaker app. I bet lots of buyers don’t bother, and therefore miss out on most of the best features.
Will a Dolby Atmos soundbar make all audio sound better?
Dolby Atmos content is not common. Even if you have access to it you won’t be able to output Atmos soundtracks to an Atmos capable soundbar if the hardware you’re playing it through is a built-in app on a smart TV that’s a few years old (or a set top box like Xiaomi Mi Box wasn’t designed to decode Atmos sound).
So where can you listen to Dolby Atmos audio?
- Free to air TV: No
- Foxtel and Fetch subscription TV: No
- STAN: No
- BINGE: No
- Netflix: Yes, some titles
- Disney+: Yes, some titles
- Amazon Prime: Yes, some titles
- Bluray: Yes. some titles
Netflix is the best place to experience Atmos easily without having to buy Bluray discs though from what I have seen and experienced.
Netflix’s advice is that they support streaming with Dolby Atmos audio on select titles and even then only if you have:
- A Dolby Atmos-capable audio system.
- Their most expensive Ultra HD plan.
- A Netflix-capable device with Dolby Atmos support.
- Streaming quality set to High or Auto
Do you live in a noisy urban area?
For various reasons I had to move recently during the COVID-19 pandemic and that meant signing up to a rental without being able to inspect it inside because there were people still living in it. Anyway when I moved in the apartment was pretty good in most ways with lots of light and airflow.
The only catch is the living room space (where the TV lives) is located close to a main road that has constant traffic during all waking hours. Not only normal traffic but also emergency services and sound from the bus stop outside.
Since the LG SN9YG was under the TV I realised while listening to it that the nuanced audio output capabilities of a quite high end soundbar are wasted if you have constantly variable ambient noise coming from outside. So if you also live in a similar noisy situation, stick with a mid-level soundbar instead.
Where can you buy the LG SN9YG?
Don’t reach the conclusion from my comments above that the LG SN9YG is a bad speaker — I quite enjoyed rewatching Disney+ The Mandalorian and listening to Ludwig Göransson’s amazing soundtrack.
The soundbar is quite capable of providing great audio entertainment as long as you connect it to Google, install the LG Wi-Fi app, use the soundbar to watch Dolby Atmos encoded video content in a quiet room, with an appropriate ceiling and a TV/Bluray/Set top box that can process and output Dolby Atmos audio signals.
The LG SN9YG can be bought for RRP $1399 from major retailers such as Appliances Online, JB Hi-Fi and Good Guys amongst others.