Sound tapes they are usually something you would associate with home theater. They offer most of the advantages of a complex sound system, but in a much more convenient package. This is a concept that seems to lend itself well to a board game platform, but few companies have even tried it. LG’s experience is the most ambitious so far, but if this is an indication of where the market is, there is a long way to go.
LG’s UltraGear GP9 is a 20-watt mini soundbar with a diameter of just under 15 inches. It has two 20mm speakers and two 2-inch speakers. It also includes a 2600-mAh battery, which allows it to act as a portable Bluetooth speaker. Most of all, it includes a built-in in-game chat microphone with teammates, which may be the most shockingly well-implemented feature here.
Everything but the kitchen sink
On paper, the LG UltraGear GP9 looks like the perfect soundtrack. It can be connected to your computer via USB-C or an optical audio cable, and switching inputs is as easy as pressing a button on top. Right next to these buttons you will find a huge volume knob that controls the internal volume of the speaker, with a large mute button in the middle. This means that even if you can’t find which app is making noise, you can reduce the volume very quickly.
This is especially useful when the GP9 is used as a Bluetooth speaker, one of its cleanest tricks. Because it has a built-in battery, it can be disconnected from the wall. It’s very liberating to know that the sound system I use for my desktop can just as easily go with me to the beach or, more likely, to be honest, downstairs for an evening of board games. I usually need a completely separate device and this is a huge factor when it comes to price. Sure, $ 500 would be a lot for desktop speakers, but what about desktop speakers and portable bluetooth speaker? Well, that’s still a lot. But the value is close to reasonable.
On top of that, GP9 took another trick out of its hat: it can also be used for team chat. As in world can you handle that, you ask? Pure magic is my best guess. The microphones are inside the same soundtrack that emits sound in your face. This is usually a recipe for feedback, echo and noise. Still, intelligent echo and noise reduction are able to distinguish your voice from the sound made by the soundtrack itself.
I tried it and my teammates told me that it sounds clear, without major sound problems, which feels like a miracle. Being able to talk to your team while listening to audio from the game, all without any hardware on your head, is a kind of futuristic feature that would normally sell a device on its own.
But unfortunately, it is at this point that the reality of UltraGear GP9 performance crashes back to earth. As many great ideas as this little soundtrack is put together in one package, it has one job above all others. That’s where the problems started.
A race with the past
Nearly two decades ago, I entered the Micro Center and released only $ 100 for a Logitech desktop speaker with 5.1 surround sound. It wasn’t the highest version even at the time, but it came with five speakers with some really, really long RCA cables and relatively strong bass that included everything. I stopped using the rear speakers a long time ago and haven’t tried to update or even slightly improve this system since I first bought it.