LG’s UltraGear gaming monitors are fan favorites — LG’s one of the top five vendors of them — and given that the company also makes TVs, sound bars and Bluetooth speakers, a product like the UltraGear GP9 Gaming Speaker seems like a natural fit. And it’s a nice little stereo soundbar with a varied skill set, but for $500 it’s too much of an odd mishmash to justify the price.
Plus, it’s telling that LG’s been pushing the speaker via bundles with its monitors, offering $200 off if you buy them together. At that effective price of $300 for the speaker it’s a lot less painful, but it still feels too high.
- Fits in front of or under a monitor without requiring an external subwoofer
- Multipoint Bluetooth is convenient
- Works well as a conferencing speaker
- Big buttons
- Decent bass considering there’s no external subwoofer
- No HDMI connection for Xbox Series X/S or PS5, so can only connect via TV’s optical port
- Only can customize it via Bluetooth and mobile app
- Not great for music given the price
- Despite how big the mic button is, it’s finicky about where you press it
- Battery life isn’t great
The GP9 is a 20w stereo speaker bar with a built in 2-inch woofers. It has wired USB and optical inputs plus 3.5mm headphone and auxiliary output. The headphone and auxiliary jacks differ because the former supplies DTS Headphone:X virtual 7.1 surround sound to a connected headset.
The speaker also incorporates LG’s Quad DAC, a sound processor that does help improve the quality of audio — and it’s a remnant of the company’s now defunct phone business.
You can also use the speaker wirelessly via Bluetooth, and it supports multipoint Bluetooth. That’s nice if, for example, you want to connect to both your laptop and phone simultaneously in order to get notifications while in game, and it works pretty well swapping control between two devices. But you can’t use Bluetooth and USB connections simultaneously to do the same thing — a technical limitation that probably not LG’s fault, but one of the ways a lot of people would like to use it.
And many Bluetooth speakers have batteries that last upwards of 10 hours, which makes LG’s five hour rating (and my experience) disappointing. Especially since it takes up to 3.5 hours to charge again and can’t charge (or be powered when connected to a system) through the USB-C connection. There’s a separate power brick. And given the size and weight of the speaker (3.3 lbs/1.5kg), you’d think LG could have crammed in something a little better than a 2,600mAh battery, a lower capacity than those you find in most phones these days.
Given its specs, this isn’t a speaker you’d really want to use in your living room connected to a console, which is why it’s odd that LG included an optical input specifically for console input; odder still, since both Sony and Microsoft jettisoned the connector for their most recent consoles. You can use it with a console via a TV, but an HDMI input might have made more sense. (It would have made the most sense if Sony and Microsoft supported USB for audio.) It’s almost as if the speaker was designed more than a year ago. But if you’ve got an older Xbox One X or PS4 in your bedroom, or feel like running a long analog line from your controller to the speaker, it might be a good (albeit expensive) match.
The built-in mic really is a great convenience and a novelty among gaming speakers. It’s a solid mic optimized for chat, and really handy for conference calls but its Clear Voice Chat technology, which “distinguishes surrounding noises and game sounds from your voice,” couldn’t even distinguish my keyboard from my voice. Not even a loud, clicky mechanical keyboard: a quieter membrane SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL. I really like how big the button is — it illuminates when the mic’s active — but it’s a bit persnickety about where you have to press it.
The audio doesn’t sound bad for music and movies, but it doesn’t really stand out either. Unsurprisingly, there isn’t much stereo separation. The FPS preset adds virtual 7.1 surround simulation and RTS expands the soundstage. You can definitely hear the difference between the two and the surround is pretty good for such a compact device. To me, it sounds more like five front and side channels than seven — I really don’t get the sense of anything behind me — but I don’t expect magic either.
If you connect a headset, it’s great. The DTS Headphone:X delivered some really accurate surround, even with a relatively inexpensive Astro A10 stereo headset. But you can also get it in any number of cheap headsets. It may not sound quite as good, but money.
When you toss in the fact that you have to use the mobile app in order to update the firmware, set the single-zone lighting, and edit and select among equalization profiles — there’s no desktop app — it really seems like LG initially planned this to be a wireless gaming speaker.
Basically, you’re paying a lot for LG to combine all these different features — which I don’t think people have been clamoring for — into a single speaker. And if you’ve been longing for a USB gaming speaker that’s also sort of a a headset amp and that you can take with you for a few hours of PC play-with-chat, then go for it. If the price drops to under $250, then this Jack-of-all-trades may become a little more to get excited about.
If LG just pulled out the wireless speaker and mic and charged a lot less it would be a solid, recommendable option that fills an underserved set of gamers and would probably be a no-brainer choice for mobile gaming.