LG UltraGear GP9 Review: Headset-Free Game Chat, Bad Sound

Soundbars usually something you would associate with a home theater. They offer most of the benefits of a detailed sound system, but in a much faster package. It’s a concept that looks like it could lend itself to a desktop gaming rig, but few companies have tried it yet. LG’s test is the most ambitious yet, but if it’s an indication of where the market is, there’s a long way to go.

LG’s UltraGear GP9 is a 20-watt mini soundbar, just under 15 inches wide. It packs two 20-mm tweeters and two 2-inch woofers. It also includes a 2,600-mAh battery, which allows it to act as a portable Bluetooth speaker. In particular, it comes with a built-in microphone for chatting with teammates in the game, which may be the most surprisingly well-executed feature available here.

Everything except the Kitchen Sink

On paper, the LG UltraGear GP9 seems like the perfect soundbar. It can be plugged into your computer via USB-C or an optical audio cable, and transferring inputs is as easy as pressing a button at the top. Next to the buttons, you’ll find a giant volume knob that controls the internal speaker volume, with a large mute button in the middle. That means that even if you can’t find which app is ringing, you can turn off the sound quickly.

This is especially useful when the GP9 is used as a Bluetooth speaker, one of its best tricks. Since it has a built-in battery, it can be unplugged from the wall. It’s very liberating to know that the sound system I use for my desktop can easily take me to the beach or, more likely if I’m being honest, downstairs for board game night. I usually need a completely different device, and that’s a big factor when considering the price. Sure, $ 500 can be a lot for desktop speakers, but what about desktop speakers and a portable Bluetooth speaker? Okay, still a lot. But the value is approaching reasonable.

What’s more, GP9 pulls another trick out of its hat: It can also be used for team chat. How to world will that be manageable, you ask? Pure magic is my best prediction. The microphones are inside the same soundbar that broadcasts the audio to your face. That’s usually a recipe for feedback, echoes, and noise. Even intelligent echo and noise cancellation is able to recognize your sound from the audio emitted right by the soundbar.

I tried it on and was told by teammates that my hearing was clear, with no major audio problems, which was like a miracle. Being able to chat with your team while listening to game audio, all without even a single piece of hardware in your head, is the kind of futuristic feature that typically sells a device on its own.

But sadly, it’s this point that the performance reality of the UltraGear GP9 is back on the ground. Like many great ideas like this little soundbar packaged in one package, it has a job to do with everyone. That’s where the problems started.

Struggle with the Past

Photo: LG

Nearly two decades ago, I went to a Micro Center and fell just shy of $ 100 on a 5.1 surround sound Logitech desktop speaker system. It’s not the highest option, even at the time, but it does have five speakers with some, very high RCA cables and a reasonably heavy bass that is all-encompassing. I’ve long since stopped using the rear speakers, and I haven’t tried to update or even slightly improve this system since I first bought it.

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