LG HS9 (LAS950M) MusicFlow Soundbar Review
The HS9 does a lot to impress but may be too big for modern TVs
What is the LG HS9?The HS9 is LG's latest flagship soundbar and sits above the recently reviewed HS7 in the company's hierarchy. It comes with all the features and connections you would expect from a flagship model, including a wireless active subwoofer, three HDMI inputs, Bluetooth support and an impressive level of build quality. It's also Google Cast ready, supports HD audio files and forms part of LG's MusicFlow multiroom system. However all these goodies come at a cost and the HS9 has an asking price of around £799 as at the time of writing (July 2015). Please note that rather confusingly LG use two different designations for this soundbar, so although it is usually referred to as the HS9, it also has the model number LAS950M. Does LG's HS9 deliver enough features and performance to justify its hefty price tag? Let's find out.
DesignThe first thing you notice about the HS9 as you take it out of the box is that it's big and heavy. This is good because it means the main unit should be able to deliver a decent mid-range, something that is often lost on slimmer models. It does however mean that the HS9 measures 110 x 11 x 14cm (WxHxD) and is thus better suited to larger screen sizes above 50 inches. It's also quite high at 11cm, meaning if you stand it in front of the TV it could block the bottom of the screen. This was certainly true of the Panasonic TX-55CX802B we happened to be reviewing at the same time.
If the height of the HS9 should become a problem you don't have to stand the soundbar in front of the TV, you could wall mount it instead and LG include brackets and a template for this very purpose. As previously mentioned the HS9 is not only big but also quite heavy, clocking in at over 8kg, so bear that in mind of you do decide to wall mount it. Despite its size the HS9 looks quite attractive, with a dark grey metal grille around the front and sides, a black rear and a brushed metal top with a silver trim. To the right of the centre speaker there is a blue LED display that indicates input, volume and effects.
The HS9 main unit uses a multi-driver speaker layout, with seven speakers for left, right, centre, side and rear channels, with each driver being powered by 75W of amplification - that's 525W in total. The main unit is a closed system and each of the speakers utilises a 3-inch woofer and a 20mm tweeter using a PPS cone. The soundbar uses a wider front soundstage to create a more immersive audio experience although despite LG's claims, it doesn't have the side and rear speakers found in a genuine 7.1 system.
The HS9 does however include an active subwoofer to help augment the bass performance. This subwoofer is connected to the main unit using a 2.4GHz wireless connection, so all you need to do is find a convenient power socket when deciding where to position it. The subwoofer is a bass reflex model with a 6.5 inch driver and 175W of built-in amplification. The design is intended to mirror that of the main unit with black cloth around the sides and a brushed metal effect on the top.
The HS9 sports great build quality but might be too high for many of today's low-slung TVs.
Connections & ControlAt the rear in two separate recesses are all the connections. In the main recess you'll find an HDMI input and an output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). There are also two digital optical inputs and a analogue input using a 3.5mm jack. There's a USB port for service only and an Ethernet connection, although the HS9 also includes built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. In the second recess there are two more HDMI inputs along with a jack for the included IR blaster.
The HS9 has some basic controls on its top right and here you'll find six simple buttons that control power, function, volume and the MusicFlow features. There is also a simple remote control that is small but well made, it's comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand. There are buttons for power, function, mute and volume, along with playback controls, sound effects, DRC, night mode, AV sync, sleep, auto volume and auto power. There is also the MusicFlow app that we will cover in the next section.
The feature set is impressive, with 3 HDMI inputs, Google Cast, HD audio support and MusicFlow.
LG HS9 Unboxing Video
Features & SpecsThe HS9 includes a number of features, some of which we have already mentioned, such as the wireless active subwoofer, an LED display and the remote control. There's also the HDMI output that supports ARC and the three HDMI inputs, along with support for Bluetooth and NFC (Near Field Communication). The HS9 comes with an IR blaster included, as well as brackets for wall mounting and additional feet if you need the soundbar to go over a TV stand. The HS9 can also handle high quality lossless audio playback with support for WAV and FLAC up to 24-bit/192kHz.
However the big selling point of the HS9 is the inclusion of LG's MusicFlow multiroom system. The HS9 has built-in dual band (2.4/5GHz) WiFi and can form a stable and robust mesh network, allowing it to synchronise with other speakers in the system. The Multiroom Mode allows you to play the same song in every room or stream different tracks around the house. The MusicFlow series of speakers have Google Cast built in, so you can cast apps like Pandora and Googleplay Music from your smart device to your HS9. Perhaps most interestingly for the HS9, you can synchronise the soundbar with two other MusicFlow speakers to create a genuine surround sound experience.
The MusicFlow app is available for both iOS and Android devices and includes access to music streaming services such as Spotify, Deezer, Napster, TuneIn and Amazon Cloud Player through the MusicFlow player. There is also an auto music play feature in which MusicFlow automatically syncs with the devices in your WiFi network as soon as you arrive home, so you can continue to listen to your music seamlessly around the house. You can even engage in a text relationship with the soundbar, via LG Home Chat, which lets you schedule songs via text to play when you arrive home. Overall we have found MusicFlow to be a very effective multiroom system and you can find out more in our detailed MusicFlow review.
Setup and control of the HS9 was very simple and the multiroom features proved highly effective.
Setup & OperationDespite its cost, the HS9 doesn't include an on-screen user interface but the display on the front was able to provide all the necessary information. In terms of the soundbar itself, setup was very easy but there's none of the sophistication found on Yamaha's YSP-2500, which has an on-screen menu system and a full auto setup with a dedicated microphone. Instead with the HS9 it's just a case of installing it and then deciding on the best place to position the subwoofer, which paired with the main unit automatically. Setting up MusicFlow was equally easy, all you need to do is install the app and then follow the instructions.
The provided remote control proved very effective, with useful features such as a button for toggling between the different sound effects, engaging the DRC (Dynamic Range Control) and night mode or activating the sleep function. You can also use the auto volume mode and auto power function, as well as the AV Sync which attempts to fix lip-sync issues with a delay of up to 300ms available in 10ms increments. LG also have a feature that allows for a wireless connection between their soundbars and some of their higher-end TVs. LG call it SoundSync and it’s activated in the TV's menu and is very easy to setup.
LG HS9 Video Review
HS9 Sound QualityThanks to its size and build quality, not to mention the seven built-in speakers and wireless active subwoofer, the HS9 delivered an impressive audio performance. The first thing that we noticed is that the HS9 has plenty of mid-range presence, something that is often lacking with slimmer soundbars. The combination of decent woofers and tweeters meant that overall the HS9 was able to retain a well balanced feel, with excellent placement of both music and effects. The use of a genuine middle speaker kept dialogue firmly anchored to the centre, whilst the other six helped to create an immersive front soundstage. The inclusion of an active subwoofer really helped to add bass extension and the lower frequencies were well integrated, creating a very cohesive sound field. The subwoofer was tight and responsive, keeping the bass fast and supporting the overall sound - filling in gaps where necessary.
There's no denying that size and power of the HS9 meant it could happily fill even the largest living room with sound, making it a viable alternative to a genuine receiver/sub/sat combination. The sound could be a little clinical at times but that just meant it wasn't adding any of its own colour, but if you prefer a warmer sound then you might want to try the Music setting, although in general we tested the HS9 in its default Standard setting. When it came to watching normal TV programmes the centre speaker really added value, keeping dialogue clear whether it was in a game show, the news or a documentary. The same was true of dramas and movies but the HS9 also managed to add music and effects without swamping the dialogue. Along with the already mentioned Standard and Music sound effects, there's also Cinema, Flat, Boost and Treble/Bass; although we generally preferred to use the Standard setting.
We tested the HS9 with a number of recent Blu-rays including American Sniper and Unbroken, as well as old favourites like Gravity. The soundbar certainly did an excellent job of creating an immersive front soundstage, with the music spreading across the front of the room, dialogue at the centre and good placement of effects within the overall sound field. This was very effective in the action sequences, with the subwoofer adding impact to bullets and explosions across the front and to the sides. There was also a nice sense of atmosphere in the quieter sections but claims to the HS9 creating a 7.1 surround sound system were laid bare once we tried out Gravity which has dialogue that actually moves around the sound field in 360 degrees. There was clearly a hole at the rear in these sequences but you could fix this by adding additional MusicFlow speakers as surrounds, although this would add to the cost and at that point you might as well consider an AV receiver.
In terms of music, the superior mid-range definitely paid dividends and the HS9 was surprisingly good for a soundbar. This improved musical performance certainly means that the HS9's support of lossless high resolution audio makes more sense than it does on the cheaper HS7. The performance with music was suitably nuanced, there was a nice degree of clarity and localisation, whilst the crossover between the sub, the woofers and the tweeters worked well, ensuring a balanced overall sound. The HS9 handled higher frequencies without sounding sibilant and delivered a decent low end presence when needed. The inclusion of MusicFlow makes the HS9 a genuinely useful addition to a multiroom system, providing a decent way of listening to your networked music. The MusicFlow system itself works very well, with the app providing an effective way of controlling both the HS9 itself and any other speakers in the network.
The size of the main unit coupled with the active subwoofer resulted in big room-filling sound.
- Wide and open soundstage
- Attractive looks
- Well integrated bass
- MusicFlow capability
- Plenty of connections
- Main unit too high for some TVs
- Expensive if you don't want MusicFlow
LG HS9 (LAS950M) MusicFlow Soundbar Review
Should I buy one?If you're in the market for a decent soundbar that can deliver big room-filling sound and compliment a larger flat screen TV then the LG HS9 should definitely be on your shortlist. The HS9 is attractively designed and very well made, it has excellent connections including three HDMI inputs and the addition of a wireless active subwoofer means it can deliver a decent amount of bass. The use of seven speakers in the main unit results in a wide and open front soundstage, with dialogue remaining anchored to the centre. The larger speakers result in a superior mid-range performance and the built-in amplification can fill even the largest living room with relative ease. Whilst the HS9 does have a wide front soundstage, claims that it can deliver a 7.1-channel performance are slightly exaggerated unless you actually add two rear speakers using MusicFlow. It's the inclusion of LG's multiroom system that adds to the price of the HS9 but, like the soundbar itself, MusicFlow is easy to setup, simple to control and very effective.
What are my alternatives?If you already have a MusicFlow network in your home then the HS9 is an obvious choice but you could save yourself some money and get the HS7 instead. It's low enough to sit in front of most TVs and would match smaller screen sizes but it does lose some mid-range performance as a result. If MusicFlow is of no interest to you, then the Yamaha YSP-2500 is a real alternative, offering superb features and performances for less money. Alternatively, if you have a curved TV you could consider either the Samsung HW-J8500 or HW-J7500, depending on the size of your screen; both offer great build quality, features and performance. Of course if the simplicity and ease of a soundbar isn't essential then you could even consider a receiver/sub/sat system for around the same price. Ultimately the LG HS9 is a great all-round soundbar with impressive looks, features and performance but you are paying a premium for MusicFlow, so bear that in mind.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £799.00
Ease of use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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