There are plenty of people who, for one reason or another, are averse to the idea of having to partner their new TV with a dedicated sound system. That’s why the current trend is leaning towards TVs with upgraded integrated speakers.
It’s a trend that LG aims to address with its E9 model. Here’s a TV that offers the picture of the excellent Award-winning C9, but with an upgraded sound system that, in theory at least, should negate the need for a separate soundbar.
While some brands have essentially built an obvious soundbar into the TV’s chassis, LG’s sonic upgrade is more subtle, with a thin band of speaker grille separating the screen itself from a glass panel that serves as the TV’s bottom edge and wraps more thinly around the entire display.
This grille is important, as it allows the speakers to fire forwards, towards the listener/viewer, whereas the C9 fires downwards. That’s a big first step in ensuring an audio improvement.
That glass bottom section is something of an issue, though, in that it’s designed to make contact with the furniture upon which the TV is placed along its entire length. The TV can overhang a narrower piece of furniture, but it looks awkward doing so. The thin forward edge also requires a counterweight that adds both depth and weight to the TV. It looks very smart from the front, but a degree less so from the side.
Of course, if you’re wall-mounting, the counterweight can be disregarded, but, like all OLEDs, the thin panel has a plastic enclosure on its rear for the processing hardware. At its thickest, without the stand, it’s 5cm deep, but it is still an elegant wall-mounted proposition.
The connections housed in that rear-mounted enclosure include four HDMIs, three USBs, optical and headphone outputs, and both aerial and satellite sockets.
While most manufacturers have integrated HDMI 2.1 features into their HDMI 2.0 sockets, LG has gone the whole hog with full HDMI 2.1 certification. That means there’s full support for eARC (Enhanced Audio Return Channel) and VRR (Variable Refresh Rate), which you might use now, and the ability to handle the higher resolutions and frame-rates of potential future formats.
Powering the E9 is the second-generation version of LG’s Alpha 9 processor, first seen in the company’s 2018 sets. This adds AI technology designed to automatically optimise picture and sound based on the content being played and the room in which the TV is located. The new chip also means 2019 sets are smarter, allowing for more advanced interactions with LG’s ThinQ, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.
The general user experience is strong, with colourful cards used to represent each source and app. These cards are automatically ordered based on usage, but can be manually arranged in a more useful position, if you wish.
The selection of apps is one of the most comprehensive around. Netflix and Amazon Video are on board, in 4K and with Dolby Vision HDR (the TV also supports HDR10 and HLG, but not HDR10+), and pay-as-you-go movie streaming is available via Google Play Movies & TV and Rakuten, both also in 4K and HDR.
All of the UK’s main catch-up apps are here, and Now TV gives you subscription-free access to Sky content. Plex, meanwhile, allows for streaming of your own digital media files. The only absence of real significance is the excellent Apple TV app, which is now available via a number of devices, including Samsung’s 2019 TVs.
But, while the TV’s front-end is colourful and intuitive, the menus are a bit of a labyrinth. There are separate picture presets for standard dynamic range content, HDR and Dolby Vision, and the individual settings available in each shifts in a way that’s not replicated on TVs from any rival.
Serious tweaking is a tricky affair, but you can avoid much confusion by sticking with the standard preset, switching Energy Saving and all noise reduction settings off, changing Aspect Ratio to Original, and adding a few points to Sharpness. You should also experiment with the motion processing, as the default Clear setting results in overly processed and artificial movement.
With the E9 sharing its panel and processing tech with the Award-winning C9, we aren’t expecting anything other than an exemplary picture performance. Sure enough, that’s precisely what we get.
We begin with the 4K Blu-ray of Captain Marvel and are dazzled by the futuristic cityscape of the film’s opening scenes. Blacks are typically, dramatically dark, but LG has also managed to eke out more brightness from its OLED panels for 2019, and the result is stars and neon lights that punch proudly out of the darkness.
Screen type OLED
Operating system webOS
HDR formats HDR10, Dolby Vision, HLG
This year’s LG OLEDs also dig up more dark detail than ever before, which helps the set to make sense of the murky action on the planet of Torfa. Most rival OLEDs go as black, but few reveal as much detail. Move away from OLEDs and Samsung’s Q90R reveals a touch more detail in near pitch-black parts of the picture.
The E9’s colour balance is a touch richer than is truly neutral, but that slightly warm balance lends itself beautifully to the saturated colours used for the scenes that take place on Earth in the 1990s. And that richness doesn’t come at the expense of subtlety: the picture is replete with fine, nuanced shading, ensuring everything looks natural and realistic.
Switching to the 1080p Blu-ray of Looper, we’re delighted by the rich but authentic approach to colour and the combination of dark depth and shadow detail. Here the E9 also continues LG’s fine form in terms of upscaling, with a detailed and sharp image with no evidence of over-enhancement.
Drop down to a standard-def DVD or TV show and the upscaling job is close to miraculous. Few rivals can match LG’s 2019 OLEDs when it comes to cleanliness, control and balance from standard-def sources, which is something to consider if you’ve got a much-loved collection of classic DVDs.
Other than the slight lack of black detail, this LG’s only real issue is the motion processing. As with many other models, the E9 lacks a ‘Goldilocks’ setting with the right combination of sharp motion without shimmer or unrealism. The closest it’s possible to get is with Dejudder switched off and Deblur set to its maximum. This smooths and sharpens and avoids introducing the dreaded soap opera effect, but rivals such as the Sony KD-55AG9 and Panasonic TX-55GZ2000B do it better.
The real differentiator of the E9 over the C9 is the speaker system. Here you get a 4.2ch setup rather than 2.2ch, an increase in amplifier power from 40W to 60W, and that all-important move from downward-firing drivers to forward-firing.
The set can tweak its own audio performance to your room using a One Touch Sound Tuning feature, and we find this to be most worthwhile. We also find the Dolby Atmos mode to be quite effective. It won’t convince you that you’re listening to a genuine Atmos surround sound system, and you don’t get the height effects that Panasonic GZ2000 delivers, but it does make the sound broader and more expansive.
The AI Sound feature is more of a mixed bag. It’s designed to create a virtual surround sound effect and while it creates a wider, taller soundfield, it sounds a little less weighty and solid than when the mode is switched off. It’s certainly worth experimenting with, but for everyday TV viewing we feel it’s best disabled.
Once you’ve selected the appropriate settings and have settled in for a proper session, you’ll discover a sound that’s markedly bigger and bolder than that produced by its C9 sibling, and that makes for a much more cinematic experience. However, while the audio performance can still be beaten by a good soundbar, if you’re determined to use the integrated speakers of your new TV, the E9 is certainly worth paying extra for.
If you are looking for an upgraded audio experience from a TV but aren’t prepared to add a soundbar to your set-up, the LG E9 makes a great deal of sense. It takes the awesome picture quality of the Award-winning C9 and adds an extra dose of scale, weight and directness to the sound.
There is now a TV that does the same job even better – the Panasonic GZ2000 (which we’ve reviewed in 55in guise) – but the 65in model will set you back a good deal more than an OLED65E9, so not even that can prevent this LG getting a hearty recommendation and the full five stars.
- Picture 5
- Sound 4
- Features 5
Read our Panasonic TX-55GZ2000B review
Read our Sony KD-55AG9 review
Read our LG OLED65C9PLA review