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LG SL9YG review: Atmos-pheric sound and Google Assistant in a classy package

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The Good The LG SL9YG offers classy looks and demonstrably better sonics than cheaper Atmos models. It has Google Assistant onboard and the ability to stream music over Chromecast.

The Bad The system costs more than the better-sounding Samsung HW-Q70. The buttons on top of the bar are really hard to read.

The Bottom Line The LG SL9YG combines great Atmos sound, svelte looks and a compelling mix of voice control and multiroom features.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 10
  • Sound 8
  • Value 7

Dolby Atmos soundbars have been around for a few years now, but each new iteration somehow manages to pack even more tech into a even less expensive package. However, it took until 2019 before I was finally able to recommend an Atmos soundbar -- one that offered both affordability and performance: the Vizio SB36512. Given the existence of the Vizio, does it still make sense to spend any more than $500 on a soundbar? 

For higher-end buyers, yes, it does. High-end Atmos soundbars still have plenty to offer, and based on the performance of models like the LG SL9 reviewed here and the Samsung HW-Q70 (review coming soon) you do get a real sonic upgrade over the Vizio by paying extra. And both bars manage to do it without rear speakers, which the Vizio includes.

The LG is pretty much the Swiss army knife of the two higher-end products -- it offers Atmos capability as well as Google Assistant onboard. It features audio tuning by hi-fi juggernaut Meridian as well as a chic modern look.  While the Samsung offers better sound and a cheaper price, the LG is easier to use and more flexible thanks to Assistant. The Samsung may get my vote as the better of the two options, but if you want to spend more than the Vizio, both of the Korean brands offer a compelling reason to do so. 

The prices are constantly shifting on the LG SL9YG ($499 at Amazon) but it usually sells between $600 and $800. If you can get the LG for $100 less than the Samsung, it'd be worth it.

Design and features 

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Sarah Tew/AppaEconomicDevelopment

While the LG SK10Y I reviewed earlier looked like a Cadillac, complete with its own chrome grille, this year's soundbar looks a little more austere. It's more like a silvery slab of concrete -- an elongated version of the Master and Dynamic MA770, perhaps. 

As you'd expect from an Atmos speaker the SL9YG is filled with drivers: two at the top, two firing out to the front and two to the sides.  These are protected in covered with a grey metal grill and includes a perfectly legible LED display (not a given in soundbars) in the middle. At 48-inch wide bar and 2.2 inches high the bar should fit under most TVs without blocking the IR port. The LG comes with a mount in the box for fixing the soundbar flat on the wall.

One of my only complaints about the design is that the top-mounted buttons are hard to see -- even when they're illuminated -- if there's any kind of overhead light. This is especially difficult if you don't live in a cave. I ended up using those buttons a lot since they provide the only way to disable the microphone.

The 4.1.2 soundbar includes a wireless subwoofer that is 15.4 inches high, 12.3 inches deep and 8.7 inches wide. It features a front-firing driver and a rear-mounted port. LG sells optional rear speakers (which I didn't test) for $200. Meanwhile, the remote is a cute candy bar size that comes with a dedicated Google Assistant button.

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The top mounted display is quite dim

Sarah Tew/AppaEconomicDevelopment

Features tend to rise and fall in popularity, but voice control in speakers is here to stay. It's kind of difficult to find a soundbar or speaker these days that doesn't include either Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. The LG is particularly suited for people who like smart-ifying their house (though potentially bad news for the privacy conscious). The LG includes both Google Assistant onboard as well as compatibility with Chromecast ($55 at eBay) for zooming content around your home. 

Whether you're streaming from Netflix or a copy of Avengers Endgame on Blu-ray the LG is able to decode both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as well as offering passthrough for 4K and HDR from the likes of Dolby Vision

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