LG S90QY soundbar – terrific 5.1.3 Dolby Atmos all-in-one (review)

The LG S90QY soundbar is a terrific performer, with LG’s unique up-firing centre channel adding extra clear voice and producing a more well-rounded, room-filling sound.

It is an all-in-one soundbar with a separate sub-woofer. That means it uses psychoacoustics to bounce up-firing 3D height sounds off the ceiling and side-firing sounds off the side walls. If you have the right room, the results are pretty spectacular. If you don’t, you will need to look at the $2049 LG S95QR 9.1.5 with dedicated rear forward-and-up-firing speakers.

Psychoacoustics explained

All Dolby Atmos all-in-one soundbars use side-firing speakers (surround sound appearing to come from the sides) and up-firing speakers (3D spatial height). To be immersive, you must have left/right walls within a metre or so of each end of the sound bar and a standard 2.4m ceiling. You need a sitting position between 3-4 metres from the screen.

If you don’t have that, you must use discrete rear-and-up-firing speakers like the LG S95QR.

What CyberShack looks for

As you can imagine, we have tested a lot of Dolby Atmos soundbars. We look for a few main things.

  • At least 5.1.2 and preferably 5.1.4
  • Volume at least 80dB with minimal distortion
  • Clear voice (this means it needs a dedicated forward-firing centre channel focusing on the 1-4kHz frequency range).
  • HDMI 2.1 eARC port for 4K@120Hz uncompressed Dolby Atmos pass-through (and optionally DTS decoding)
  • Room calibration via a smartphone App, remote control, or separate room mic
  • Immersive sound. Does sound come from overheard, in-front, behind or is it mostly front-centric (as with most all-in-ones)
  • An App is not mandatory but can add more customisation, an EQ etc
  • Voice Assistance is not mandatory (in fact, you can have too many voice assistants)

The LG S90QY exceeds these parameters and, in our opinion, is the second-best in the LG 2022 Soundbar range – something completely different.

LG S90QY soundbar (Australian review)

WebsiteProduct Page and Manual
PricePrice is RRP exclusive of any seasonal or event discounts. $1549 buy seen for <$1400, so shop around (We have also seen the S95QR for as low as $1580)
FromLG Online Harvey Norman, Domayne, Joyce Mayne, Retravision, Videopro, JB Hi-Fi, Good Guys, Appliances Online.
Warranty1-year ACL
LGLG (formerly Lucky-Goldstar from 1983 to 1995) is a South Korean multinational conglomerate. It makes electronics, chemicals, and telecommunications products.
MoreCybershack LG News and reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Pass (meets expectations) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. We occasionally give a Pass ‘+’ rating to show it is good but does not quite make it to Exceed.

LG S90QY soundbar

What is Dolby Atmos 5.1.3?

LG is the first to incorporate a dedicated up-firing centre channel. In this soundbar, you get

  • Left/centre/right 45/40/45W
  • Left/right surround – 45/45W
  • Left/centre/right up-firing 45/40/45W
  • Sub-woofer 220W (main speaker and bass port) strong build 50-80Hz 80Hz+ flat
  • Total nine speakers and 580W RMS. Wattages are at 3 Ω impedance and 10% THD

Does centre up-firing make a real difference? Pass

LG would have you believe so, but in reality, clear voice needs to be forward firing from the screen. It perhaps adds some height but no extra sound stage definition. Let’s just say the 2022 range with an up-firing centre channel is more about bragging rights.

Dolby Atmos – Pass

Atmos is fairly forward-centric immersive, though it doesn’t really replicate sounds from above or behind you. Also, its surround performance isn’t the best.

Surround – Pass

It is a Pass with the right room, but it is a Fail for the typical open-plan lounge room.

But, in reality, most viewing is free-to-air or from a streaming service and will be in surround sound (Dolby Digital or DTS to 5.1). You only experience Dolby Atmos with a Dolby Vision/Atmos content and capable TV. Most are very happy with 5.1 sound.

Sound decode modes – Pass+

Regardless of the nine speakers, all non-Dolby Atmos metadata downmixes to the speaker’s capability.

  • Dolby Atmos (5.1.3 or 7.1.3 with the optional rear speaker set) downmixed from 128 sound objects
  • Dolby Digital/Plus, True HD (5.1 surround)
  • DTS/X/HD (downmixed to 5.1 surround)
  • PCM mono/multichannel (simulated surround)

Music – AAC/AAC+ or SBC generally downmixed to 2.1 but also may be upscaled up to 24-bit/96kHz

EQ – Exceed

Press the remote control button to select the most content-appropriate sound. We recommend AI or Clear Voice if required.

  • AI SOUND PRO: Artificial intelligence selects the optimal sound settings to suit your content.
  • STANDARD: You can enjoy optimised sound.
  • MUSIC: Experience premium sound technology from MERIDIAN.
  • CINEMA: Play content with 3D sound similar to a movie theatre.
  • CLEAR VOICE: Voice sound clear, improving the quality of voice sound
  • SPORTS: Realistic sound like in a stadium
  • GAME: Optimised sound for game
  • BASS BLAST (BASS BLAST+): Bass sounds are enhanced
  • Night-time mode (also good for hearing impaired)

There are also user-selectable settings for Bass, Treble, Centre, Subwoofer, Height Centre and Height Channels.

Ports

  • HDMI 2.1 4K@60Hz eARC
  • HDMI 2.1 pass through 4K@60Hz up to HDR10 (you need to connect DA content and 4K@120Hz Consoles devices to the TV)
  • Digital Optical
  • USB 5V/.5A/2.5W FAT16/FAT32/NTFS (not exFAT)
  • Wi-Fi N 2.4Ghz and Wi-Fi Direct Miracast and Apple AirPlay2
  • BT Chromecast
  • LG WOWCAST WTP3 wireless 7.1.4 connection with adapter (broadcasts HDMI signal)

Controls

  • It has an IR remote – volume up/down, source (HDMI 1), EQ pre-sets
  • We highly recommend the LG Soundbar App for final tuning and settings.
  • Voice assistants are via respective smart speaker

Pairing to LG TV

Compatible 2022 LG TVs have TV Sound Mode Share. LG says this feature enhances the sound quality, but we did not measure much difference either way.

Size – Pass

  • Soundbar: L/H/D 1200 x 62 x 135
  • Sub- 405 square x 202mm

At 62mm heigh, it can obscure some TVs, and at 1200mm long, it won’t fit between many TV legs. Check before buying.

Rear speaker option

You could add the SPQ8-S 140W wireless 2.0ch rear speaker kit for $299, but these are just to reinforce surround sound – not 3D height. These add two extra channels for Dolby Atmos, e.g., 7.1.3, but for all other content, it is more to reinforce the 5.1.3 surround. PS – these are already part of the $1349 S80QR soundbar.

The setup is a little clunky – you need to power a wireless box and run cables from it to the speakers.

How does it sound (post-calibration)? – Pass+

The LG partnership with British audio specialist Meridian brings its prestige and refined sound to this product.

  • The stereo soundstage is a little wider than the soundbar.
  • The forward-firing speakers have excellent left/right separation
  • In the wrong room, it does not accurately place sound objects – it is more of a feeling of Dolby Atmos instead of having to ‘duck’ as the low-flying helicopter goes overhead.
  • The forward-firing centre channel does voice very well. The up-firing centre channel does not add much – perhaps a little placement definition.
  • ‘Clear Voice’ mode enhances dialogue, and the night mode feature balances volume levels against sound when you watch TV at night.
  • Bass is thumpy. We dialled it back a little and still had heaps.
  • Maximum volume 85dB with no perceptible distortion

Looking at the white noise generator frequency chart below, you see very strong bass building 35-50Hz and the flat (good) all the way. This is an exceptional frequency response, and you are rewarded with excellent quality TV and music sound.

It is technically a neutral sound signature (good) with a slight out-of-the-box bass emphasis.

You can read more How to tell if you have good music (sound signature is the key – guide).

CyberShack’s view – LG S90QY soundbar is very good for the price

It is one of the best all-in-ones (plus a sub-woofer), and the performance is commensurate with the $1399 price. But most users do not have the right room and, as such, won’t really get the Dolby Atmos and surround they deserve (it is good but not great).

We will be reviewing the $2049 LG S95QR 9.1.4 soundbar (seen for $1580) with discrete rear forward-and-up-firing speakers soon, and we suspect that if you want the real Dolby Atmos experience with immersive 3D height and surround, that this is your only option.

The centre up-firing speaker is a good concept but try as we may, it really did not add enough to crow about.

Competition

Its biggest competition is the LG S95QR 9.1.5 Dolby Atmos discrete soundbar if you can get it for $1580. With this, you don’t have to worry about psychoacoustics; if you play Dolby Atmos sound, you will feel it. Surround sound will be a definite improvement too.

  • Samsung has the $2099 Q990B and $1599 Q930B, but these are best for Samsung QNED and QLED TVs as they have Q-symphony integration.
  • JBL Bar 9.1 (really 5.1.2) at $1499 is excellent and has two detachable rear speakers – no psychoacoustics and that lovely JBL sound signature
  • Bose 900 is a 5.0.2 all-in-one soundbar at $1399, but it uses psychoacoustics, and you would have to add a wireless bass module at $1195 to compete with the LG.
  • Sonos Arc is a 5.0.2 all-in-one soundbar at $1499, but it uses psychoacoustics, and you would have to add a wireless bass module at $1099 to compete with the LG.

Ratings

It is hard because the LG S90QY soundbar can be a spectacular performer in the right psychoacoustic-friendly room (like a media room). If you have that, there are no downsides, and it would rate well.

But the reality is that most don’t have that room, and this, like every other all-in-one, is a very forward-centric soundbar that doesn’t do Dolby Atmos or surround sound justice.

Given its quality, sound quality, range of pre-sets and reasonable price, it has our recommendation with caveats.

LG S90QY 5.1.3 soundbar

$1549 but we have seen it for <$1400
8.4

Features

8.0/10

Value

9.0/10

Performance

8.0/10

Ease of Use

9.0/10

Design

8.0/10

Pros

  • n the right room, it is a good Dolby Atmos all-in-one soundbar
  • Dedicated centre up-firing channel is unique to LG
  • Great range of pre-sets
  • Gets very loud with minimal distortion
  • LG soundbars are TV brand agnostic so it’s a good choice

Cons

  • • Without the right room the Dolby Atmos and surround sound effects are limited


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