LG S90QYReviewed at $896.00
Inputs and Features8.9/10
Price / Quality9.2/10
- Great front performance
- Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced
- Easy to setup
- Plenty of extra features
- No surround activity
- Only 2 HDMI inputs
- No HDMI 2.1 means no 4K@120Hz support
- The optional rear speakers kit will not bring its performance to S95QR levels
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Concerning soundbars, LG has been one of the most prominent players in the field as not only they have been refreshing their lineup every single year but also provide a lot of variations in order to satisfy all needs, budgets and configurations. And in our LG S90QY review we will be testing their second in line soundbar, just behind their 2022 flagship, the S95QR.
The S90QY is a prime example of how LG is trying to create similar products but differentiate them enough to meet your needs. And this is because the S90QY is basically the same unit as the S95QR with the same subwoofer but comes without any rear surround speakers. This can be ideal for you if you would like to have the performance of their flagship unit but don’t have the space to add its rear speakers. This way you can save money on a premium product without compromising much, considering your requirements.
So let’s go real quick over the specs and what the S90QY has to offer. This is a 5.1.3 channels soundbar-subwoofer combo that comes with a wireless subwoofer and can output a total of 570 watts of power. It supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X and IMAX Enhanced and comes with a huge set of extras including Chromecast, Airplay 2, Tidal, Spotify Connect, High Resolution Audio, USB and Bluetooth playback, voice control and mobile app support. Lastly it supports the optional SPQ8-S rear speakers kit in case you decide that you can add them for improving the unit’s surround performance.
With the main unit and the subwoofer being exactly the same we have a pretty good idea how the S90QY can perform. It is a matter of determining how much of a negative impact does the omission of the rear speakers have to the whole system. Is it still good enough to consider a purchase? Let’s start our analysis to find out.
Design, Inputs and Features
With the main unit and the subwoofer being exactly the same as in the S95QR some parts of this review will be exactly the same. We will of course make the necessary adjustments and changes whenever we deem necessary to reflect the current model.
The LG S90QY is the successor of last year’s SP9YA which we didn’t have the chance of testing so we cannot compare the two models directly. In terms of size the main unit measures 47.2 inch x 2.5 inch x 5.3 inch (1200.0 mm x 63.0 mm x 135.0 mm) and weights 11.1 lbs (5.03Kg) making it identical to the S95QR and should be used with a TV of at least 55″ and above. Not that it cannot be used in smaller sizes but its length will show a bit too much in comparison.
Just keep in mind that if you plan on placing it in front of your TV the soundbar, although it has a low profile design that can fit under most TV models, doesn’t have any IR repeaters, so if your TV’s IR sensor is extremely low then it may obstruct the signal, so you better measure first just to be on the safe side. Most TVs do have a gap of around 2.5″ below the panel so you should be ok but there are a few ones we have seen that leave less space, the Sony A95K comes quickly into mind, so always check to be sure.
Design wise the soundbar feels like an LG product as they have been using the same design pattern in many of their releases the last few years. The whole front and sides are covered by a cloth fabric hiding all the drivers and the front display while the rest of the main body is made out of the usual plastic with a brushed metal finish to it making it look more premium and good looking.
At the top face we get the built-in buttons and once again LG uses touch sensitive ones as they had done in the past. Having touch sensitive buttons is a double edged sword as we have mentioned many times in the past. On the one side they do look much better than physical buttons and make the device look more premium but on the other hand it’s extremely difficult to use them in low lit conditions making them almost unusable.
But the buttons is not the only element we get at the top face as we also find two small holes under them for the auto calibration system along with the three Dolby Atmos up-firing drivers behind their round metal grilles positioned at each side of the soundbar. The Meridian and LG logos sit on both front corners complementing the overall nice looking design.
One thing that we are very critical when it comes to soundbar designs is the use of a front display that shows various functions of the unit. Some soundbars lack a fully working display making it very hard for the user to know what the soundbar is doing.
Thankfully the S90QY comes with a fully working LCD display that LG placed to the right side of the center front driver. This display can show you various information like input source and volume among others and can show up to five characters at the same time. After 15 seconds of inactivity the display will dim so it will not be bothering you when watching the TV.
As was the case with the S95QR, the S90QY does not have the secondary, under display, array of LEDs that was used to show certain functions of the voice control feature in some 2021 models. It’s not a big omission and to be honest we prefer it this way as it feels less cluttered.
At the back we find two insets that house all the available connection ports. As usual the power port is separated from the rest on the right side which can be slightly frustrating if you want to group all cables together and keep them hidden from plain sight. There is nothing else at the back as the wall mounting brackets hold the soundbar from underneath due to its weight.
As for the subwoofer the one that comes with the S90QY is again the same we saw in the S95QR, code named SPQ8-W and is different from previous years, at least in terms of design and looks. It is a bass reflex design with the port located at the front and the driver at the side. It uses a wood box and there is a circular fabric cloth covering the big driver.
The subwoofer is wireless connected to the main unit but it still has a power cord and a pairing button and LED at the back while we measured it at 7.9 inch x 16 inch x 15.8 inch (201.7 mm x 407.0 mm x 403.0 mm) and with a weight of 22.1 lbs (10Kg).
Closing, the S90QY is exactly the same unit as the S95QR minus the rear surround speakers. It is a premium soundbar with good quality of materials as per usual with most of LG’s releases and in this regard it does not disappoint.
The soundbar may not be the behemoth the S95QR is, as the omission of the rear speakers do limit the total number of channels available to only 9 emitting from a total of 11 drivers.
The main bar incorporates five channels with left, right and center for the main front, along with surround right and surround left which are side firing channels. The left and right front channels use a 52 x 99mm woofer along with a single 20mm silk dome tweeter each. The center channel on the other hand uses a single 2 inch (ND) woofer which is exactly the same as the ones used for each side firing channels.
For the top layer we find three Atmos channels, with the center one being a first in the soundbar market and LG has been utilizing this in a number of their 2022 models. The right and left Atmos channels use a 2.5 inch woofer each while the center Atmos one goes for a 20mm silk dome woofer.
As for the subwoofer, it comes with a single, side-firing 8″ bass driver which is slightly bigger than the 7″ driver the 2020’s SN11RG was using.
The soundbar has a total of 570 watts of power with 350 watts for the main unit and 220 watts for the subwoofer.
Here we need to make a special mention for the optional SPQ8-S rear speakers kit that the S90QY supports. In case you see that you can add these rear speakers keep in mind that these are not the same as the ones being used in the S95QR.
The rear speakers of the S95QR have two rear channels and one Atmos channel each while the SPQ8-S speakers only have a single rear channel each. As a result the S90QY with the SPQ8-S rear speakers kit will essentially be a 7.1.3 channels systems and will not perform the same as the S95QR. So in case you are hoping to get the S90QY now and reach the S95QR’s performance levels later on you are out of luck.
This is very important to consider if you are between the two soundbars and you don’t know which one to go for.
The S90QY remains a very impressive soundbar even if not on the same level as LG’s 2022 flagship. It just remains to be seen how much of an impact the missing rear speakers have to the whole system.
A problem we constantly face, even with premium soundbars, is the extremely low number of HDMI ports which results in users having to rely on 3rd party accessories to connect all their equipment together. The S90QY, being essentially a S95QR, is exactly on the same boat as the rest in this regard.
What we do get in its two special insets at the back is one HDMI input, a single HDMI output, a digital audio optical input and a single USB port for streaming content from an external storage device. And that’s all.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is that all the HDMI ports are the older HDMI 2.0 and as a result they do not support 4K@120Hz. This means that if you want to connect your gaming console in the soundbar for high frame rate gaming you are out of luck. In such a case your only options is to use the eARC and connect your console to the TV and from there to the soundbar itself.
At least this year all ports in the S90QY do support both VRR and ALLM so in case you do gaming but don’t care much about HFR then connecting your console to the soundbar and then to the TV will benefit you a lot. The HDMI ports also support 4K pass-through, Dolby Vision, HDR10 and CEC. The only thing that is not supported is HDR10+ but this being an LG product doesn’t surprise us at all.
Another potential problem by having only one input is in case you have more devices to connect. In such a case you will have to use the TV HDMI ports to rectify this problem, otherwise a HDMI switch or splitter, like an HD-Fury device, will be necessary. Although having the number of HDMI ports we see in AV receivers is not possible in a soundbar, we would like to have at least another one that would greatly help with more complex home theater systems.
Also we shouldn’t forget to mention the unit’s wireless capabilities as it features built-in WiFi (802.11a/b/g/n) along with Bluetooth v5.0 which ensures better and more stable connections.
The S90QY has all the advantages and disadvantages of the S95QR. Only one HDMI input is simply not enough for today’s applications while these being HDMI 2.0 means that you cannot use the soundbar in pass-through for high frame rate gaming at 4K@120Hz. On the other hand VRR and ALLM are welcome if you are doing gaming but high frame rates is not a concern. Hopefully we will see more HDMI 2.1 enabled soundbars in the following years.
In terms of controlling the unit there are no surprises either and the S90QY is including all control schemes we have seen in previous LG premium releases and flagships.
The included remote is exactly the same as the one last year and the one being used in many of 2022 models. To be honest the new design looks more simple and easier to understand what does what. The number of buttons has decreased and overall layout looks easier to the eyes. Unfortunately for some functions you will still need to use the supported app as not everything can be handled by the remote. But in general it is an improvement over previous designs.
As we mentioned earlier in our review there are a few built-in touch sensitive buttons on the main unit that you can use also. These include a power button, a function button for selecting input source, volume controls, playback controls and a couple more that control the Bluetooth and WiFi. These are placed just above the center Atmos driver.
The unit also supports both LG Sound Sync and SIMPLINK which means that if your TV also supports either of these two functions you can use the remote of your TV to control certain functions of the soundbar. This way you lower the number of remotes you need to have in your home cinema and thus makes it a very practical feature.
SIMPLINK is the name that LG has given to the HDMI-CEC functionality of the unit and each brand is using their own name for it and these are LG SIMPLINK, Sony BRAVIA Sync/Link, Philips EasyLink and Samsung Anynet+. We may be missing a couple but the most known ones are those we mentioned.
Another way of controlling the unit is through your voice. Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa are both supported in the S90QY but unfortunately the built-in microphones cannot be used for voice control and you will need separate devices for this function.
The main app that you have to download to use all the soundbar’s functions is LG Sound Bar app. With it you can connect the unit to the internet, control it and even use the auto sound calibration system available. Keep in mind that the previously used LG ThinQ app will not work with this unit.
The only minus here is that the soundbar needs a separate device for voice control although it has built-in microphones that could be used for this function. Except from this the unit comes with everything you should expect from a flagship release.
Extra Features and Services
Next we will be looking at all the bells and whistles the S90QY comes equipped with and here LG is surely one of those brands that like to have their models fully packed.
The S90QY supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats which means that it can also playback all the older formats including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio along with the legacy Dolby Digital and DTS formats. In 2022 LG made an addition is some of their top tier units as they added IMAX Enhanced support also although there is still very little content available with it.
The soundbar also supports LPCM audio. Keep in mind that the optical port can support only up to Dolby Digital and DTS so for any of the more advanced formats you will need to use the HDMI port.
As with all LG soundbars the unit comes with various sound modes available that can be selected with the press of a button. The sound modes available can be selected either you have the rear speakers kit or not as the unit will use all available channels accordingly.
There is a total of eight different sound modes with Bass Blast and Bass Blast+ that reinforce the low end, Standard which uses Meridian technology to deliver the best possible experience, Cinema which gives higher priority to the surround effects for more immersion, Music that is a mode that has been balanced more for music tracks, Game which is optimized for video games immersion, Sports that is aimed at simulating the atmosphere of a stadium and Clear Voice that can be used more for talk shows and news broadcasts.
Lastly there is the AI Sound Pro which lets the soundbar to automatically decide the optimal sound mode and is for those that don’t want to mess with sound options all the time. AI Sound Pro uses Adaptive Sound Control (ASC) to automatically adjust sound levels, bringing out treble or bass based on what you’re watching.
Lastly there is a Night Time mode which is basically the Night mode we have seen many soundbars using. It is useful when you want to watch movies at low volume late at night. It can be used to reduce the sound intensity and improve fineness and softness. The Night Mode can be enabled either from the remote or the LG Sound Bar app.
LG has, as in the previous years, partnered with Meridian Audio in order to provide their higher tier soundbars they release with their advanced Digital Signal Processing technology. This is used in Standard and Music modes while with it’s HiFi DAC the S90QY also supports High Resolution Audio up to 24bit/192kHz.
Meridian Horizon upmixes two-channel stereo to any loudspeaker configuration and its adaptive up-mixing treats high and low frequencies separately, to psychoacoustically optimize sound localization cues. This results in more stable imaging, with a larger sweet-spot, and a more immersive listening experience.
Although most low tier soundbars opt for manual calibrations certain high end models come with some short of audio calibration system and the S90QY falls right into this category. The AI Room Calibration Pro, as it is called, uses spatial awareness technology to measure your room’s unique characteristics. It then balances the sound bar audio settings to the environment. Basically what this does is to compensate for the environment the Sound Bar is placed in, by using algorithms that improve the soundbar’s sonic performance.
The unit also comes with plenty of streaming options as both USB and Bluetooth streaming are available. From USB you can stream all kinds of files from the simple MP3, OGG and AAC all the way to High Resolution Audio files including FLAC and WAV. As for Bluetooth obviously quality is lower but is still good enough for casual listening.
But streaming doesn’t stop there as there is also Chromecast built-in and with it you can use various streaming services and platforms by downloading a Chromecast enabled app. Also in case you want to setup a multi-room environment you will need to download Google Home.
But the unit does not stop to Chromecast as LG has added Airplay 2, Tidal and Spotify Connect in case these interest you.
There is also an extra feature in case you have one of the latest LG TVs. The Sound Mode Share may interest you as what this does is to pair the TV with the soundbar and use the TV’s processor in order to further optimize sound quality. Unfortunately we still haven’t been able to test this ourselves in order to determine if there is any actual improvement in the sound output or not. But we planning on testing it in the future.
Last feature that we need to mention is the new LG WOWCAST. This is a small box that allows for your TV and soundbar to connect through a wireless connection so you don’t need any cables between the two. We plan on testing this little gadget in the future also so stay tuned for this.
No real surprises here to be honest. Being the same model as the S95QR meant that all functions and features of the S90QY are the same. The soundbar is a premium unit and the inclusion of such an extensive list gives LG a significant advantage compared to a few other competing brands.
Let’s move on to the initial setup and calibration of the unit. Having tried several LG soundbars before the S90QY is no different and the process you have to follow is rather simple compared to a full surround system which is ideal if you are not very fond of spending countless hours to setup your system to perfection.
First of all you have to connect the soundbar to your TV and you have various options to choose here. You can go either for HDMI pass-through or use the eARC functionality. You can also use the optical port or even go for the WOOCAST and connect the soundbar with your TV through wireless.
As we did in our S95QR review, we once again opted to connect our sources, a Zidoo Z9X media player, and our PS5 to the soundbar itself and use its pass-through capabilities so then we used its HDMI output that went to our test TV. Both the Zidoo and our TV supported Dolby Vision so we wanted to test if that worked also.
The soundbar comes pre-paired with the subwoofer, as most soundbars do, but even if you have a connection problem the process of pairing them is very simple and doesn’t need any major effort.
The next step you have to do is to download the LG Sound Bar app in order to connect the unit to your local network and go through its automatic calibration system. If the results are not to your satisfaction you still have the ability to go and change the volume of each channel individually.
Lastly you have to choose the appropriate sound mode and also if you want to use the Surround Sound function or not. Now, having tried all the available sound modes, in our opinion the best were either the AI Sound Pro or the Standard along with the Surround Sound turned on. But this is a personal matter so we strongly advise you to go through all of them and find the one you like the most.
We started our movies test with the 4K UHD version of the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring with its masterfully crafted Dolby Atmos mix.
The difference of the S90QY compared to the S95QR was immediately felt. Most of the action was heavy at the front and completely absent behind us. No real surprises there as most soundbars that lack rear speakers behave in a similar fashion. Virtual technologies can only do so much and the S90QY is no different here.
But what we got at the front side of things was not all that different from LG’s flagship and this was to be expected as we practically have the same unit. The main three front channels did excellent work here. Even though they are in close proximity to each other there was satisfactory channel separation between the left and the right one while the center channel kept the dialogue contained in the middle and as a result all dialogue came to our ears clear and distinct.
The front sound wall had good extension to both sides and this was due to the included side firing channels that helped audio being felt well beyond the physical limits of the unit itself. But it was not only side extension impressive as both depth and height were equally good.
In terms of Atmos effects we will repeat what we constantly say in other Dolby Atmos soundbar reviews. The kind of Atmos performance you get is good for the kind of hardware these units have to work with but in no way they can reach the level of clarity and precision of an Atmos system that uses dedicated ceiling or even height speakers.
The S90QY relies a lot on the design of your room in order to produce good Atmos effects so if you have a straight ceiling that is not more than 9 feet (3 meters) high then you will certainly get some short of elevated action. You are not going to feel sound coming directly from above but at least in our case we could sense the height of the Atmos effects a bit above our TV which is better than nothing.
Also with up-firing Atmos channels you have to sit at the sweet spot which in the case of the S90QY is rather narrow. Too far away or too close and the Atmos effects loose a lot of their clarity and precision.
In terms of bass, the S90QY did really good and we even found the subwoofer a bit overpowering the rest of the action. This forced us to lower its volume a couple of notches but again this depends a lot on your tastes and you will have to try it out to find the best level for you. But in general we can say that we were pleased with the subwoofer included. Eruptions from mount Doom felt menacing, the cave troll gave some nice growls and had good weight and composition while you could almost feel Balrog breathing to your face during the encounter on the Bridge of Khazad-Dum.
In terms of sound quality you will get your usual soundbar treatment. The S90QY can create a very nice cinematic experience just like any premium soundbar should be able to. It has all the merits of LG’s flagship unit minus its surround performance which unfortunately is missing in action. But what we got at the front was really good and the soundbar will take advantage of all its channels to deliver a very convincing and immersive performance.
With the S90QY we had three options when it comes to music playback. Either through its Bluetooth connection, the USB port or through the HDMI connection by using the media player as our source. For this review, just as we did in our S95QR review, we opted to use our Zidoo media player in order to playback some FLAC music files we have at hand for our tests.
As we always say, choosing a specific sound mode has to do a lot with the personal preferences of each user so we strongly advise you to try them all and decide for yourself which one sounds better to your ears. In our case, although the S90QY does have a dedicated Music mode we preferred the Standard one. But for you it may very well be the other way around. So always test them all just to be on the safe side.
The unit is obviously meant to impress with movies but its music qualities are not to be underestimated. The LG makes good use of its hardware and all it available channels to render a very characteristic music quality. This is not the HiFi experience you get with a dedicated music setup but we would call it more of a casual kind of performance, one that you will never pay too much attention to details and mostly focus of the fun part of the music.
The unit has very solid sound imaging with good separation of the rendered sources and enough clarity to pinpoint them in 3D space. Audio resolution was more than average and will satisfy most of its users while the dedicated center channel provided very clear performances with enough energy and emotion.
Having the same characteristic as the S95QR meant that certain traits of LG’s flagship are also found here. The mid-range was good enough and stable most of the time as we didn’t notice any major unbalancing no matter the content we threw at it. And it provided a nice binding between the upper frequencies and the lower end.
And since we talked about the bass we should note that the subwoofer did an excellent job here. Yes, its ported nature is not ideal for music and we did notice that some times it was trying to catch up in extremely intense bass songs but 90% of the time it was able to follow through with remarkable precision while also giving a very powerful tone to the whole audio.
We threw a few different genres on the unit from rock, pop, electronic, classical, Jazz and even some heavy metal for good measure and we did hear all the same characteristics in all of them.
The soundbar has specific strengths and weaknesses and if you are able to live with them then surely the S90QY can be an excellent companion not only for your cinematic entertainment but for your music one also.
It is very obvious what LG tried to do with the S90QY. Many consumers looking for a soundbar would like to have flagship performance but do not have the space for surround speakers. So what LG did was to take the S95QR, throw away the rear speakers and call it S90QY. This way they offer a flagship unit at a reduced price that aims at a part of the soundbar market that wants top soundbar performance but cannot afford the extra speakers.
The S90QY has all the merits of its bigger brother. Meaning it is relatively an easy to setup and to use soundbar, its front performance and bass power are unquestionable, it has plenty of extras and gives you a lot of options in terms of connecting and controlling the unit. And all these at a vastly reduced price compared to the S95QR.
On the other hand the soundbar has all the same weaknesses and then some. First of all no rear speakers means no real surround performance. And even if you decide to buy the optional SPQ8-S rear speakers kit the output you get will not be on the same level as LG’s flagship. Also one HDMI input may not be enough to connect all your devices while the inclusion of only HDMI 2.0 means that the soundbar cannot pass-through 4K@120Hz high frame rate signals which is a bummer for hardcore gamers.
In our opinion LG played it very smart with the S90QY. It will give you flagship performance minus the surround speakers at a vastly reduced price which is surely something many will crave for. Many go for a soundbar just for this reason, less speakers in your room, and the LG S90QY is the perfect one for this job. Highly recommended.
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