|Ratings + Specs|
In our group, this slim soundbar is dead last — in retail price, that is. But given its plethora of features, you might not guess its econo-status.
For starters, it’s Bluetooth-equipped, letting you use it to stream music from any device with Bluetooth capability. Likewise, you can stream audio sourced from a connected TV to a Bluetooth headphone — perfect for late-night viewing. As you might expect given its company here, the soundbar is accompanied by a subwoofer. What you might not expect, especially at this price point, is that the subwoofer is wireless. Not too shabby for three hundred bucks.
The bar itself is housed in a very svelte black plastic case. At first (and second) glance, its front panel looks like brushed black anodized aluminum — quite handsome. There is no grille cover; instead, four midrange drivers and two tweeters are proudly displayed. The cones are stylish — so obviously pretty that I worried whether function had been sacrificed in favor of form. Nicely recessed buttons and a front-panel display complete the look. Oh, I almost forgot about the front-panel USB port hidden behind a cover that allows you to play MP3/WMA files from sources plugged into it.
With only an analog stereo and two optical digital audio inputs, the bar’s rear panel will satisfy minimalists. Sadly, there is no HDMI connector. Two molded-in studs can accommodate the included metal bar for wall mounting.
LG also includes an optical cable and a remote control. The latter provides several features that I appreciated. A Folder button helps you find a particular piece of music on an attached device. Another nice touch: If Leno makes you sleepy, a Sleep feature automatically turns the bar off after a specified time. The soundbar provides Dolby DRC (Dynamic Range Control), which is useful for late-night listening. AV Sync lets you adjust audio delay times in case sound and picture need to be synced up. Also onboard are preset surround sound modes like Bass, Clrvoice, Virtual, Game, and Loudness. Finally, I also appreciated that I could separately control subwoofer volume from the remote.
LG’s subwoofer is a straightforward affair, with a front-firing woofer and port and a plastic face with a punched-metal grille. Around back is a small button to sync the subwoofer’s receiver with the soundbar’s wireless transmitter. (An LED tells you when sync is achieved.)
The LG soundbar provided satisfactory, reasonably neutral sound quality. On the Eagles’ “Busy Being Fabulous,” the tweeter sounded a tad harsh on high hat and cymbals, but its overbite was certainly within acceptable limits. The midrange mostly fared better: Instruments sounded natural, although Don Henley’s slightly pulled-back vocals could have used more presence. The subwoofer had nice, round-sounding kick but overindulged on its own goodness, becoming boomy- and tubby-sounding on tracks with punchy bass like “Fast Company.”
Unfortunately, the LG suffered from the frequency-response hole between the soundbar and the subwoofer that’s all too typical with this kind of system. Performance here partly depends on soundbar and subwoofer placement in the room; I tried various locations but just couldn’t get the two to mesh. I didn’t particularly expect the sub to reach up to higher frequencies, but sound quality could have been improved if the soundbar reached down another half-octave. The system held together fairly well at loud playback levels, with the subwoofer coming unglued before the soundbar did.
As noted, the system offers a host of signal-processing modes. Some of them (Upscaler, Loudness, and Natural) provided frequency-response changes that were quite nice, while others (Clrvoice, Virtual, and Game) were just too wacky for my taste. The Bluetooth feature worked as advertised. As you would expect, however, audio fidelity is diminished compared with hard-wired connection methods.
The hotel scene in Inception’s Chapter 6 is a textbook example of subtle, effective sound design. Soft, mechanical elevator sounds and slices of ethereal-sounding synthesized effects are used to build tension; the system handled these nicely, with enough left/right separation to support a sense of space. Dialogue was well articulated — the problem of pulled-back vocals, sometimes apparent on music tracks with the system, was not a problem on Inception — though it wasn’t as crystal clear as on some of the other soundbars. The Clrvoice setting overcame this, but, as noted, the change in frequency response was too extreme for my taste.
With a list price of $300, this LG system has a lot to offer: Bluetooth connectivity, wireless subwoofer, USB port. Although not stellar, its sound quality with both music and movies was fully acceptable. In short, this system offers tremendous value. On the other hand, you might want to consider others that cost a bit more to get an HDMI port (or two) and better sound.