After testing out LG's previous efforts, we’ve come to expect great things from one-box cinema solutions like the LG BH9520TW. Blu-ray surround systems like these deliver shedloads of features, swanky designs and surprisingly assured sound quality, making them feel like terrific value for money even if they can’t quite match the performance standards of decent separates.
So it’s with much excitement that we take on LG’s one-box ‘big daddy’, the BH9520TW. This is a 9.1-channel Blu-ray system with four tower speakers for the front and rears (with a supplied ‘wireless’ kit for the rear channels) a centre and a passive sub. That makes it ostensibly a 5.1 package, but the extra four channels of the 9.1 setup are found in the top of each tower – these are ‘upright 3D’ speakers that shoot sound upwards to give movies a better sense of vertical immersion, a bit like the tilting top drivers found in some of Samsung’s tower systems.
This clever-sounding tech is part of a staggeringly generous line-up of features, which includes 3D support, built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, DLNA streaming, an iPod/iPhone dock and web content from LG Smart TV – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At £700 it’s not the most affordable one-box system out there, but we’re already impressed by how much LG has packed in for the money. Let’s dive in and see if it’s a sound investment.
Despite its slightly plasticky build quality, LG has fashioned a gloriously good looking system here. The tower speakers are tall and elegant, finished in an eye-catching gloss black finish with two midrange drivers and tweeter embedded into the flush front section. The lines are straight as a die and there’s a real minimal vibe going on. The 3D speaker at the top sits underneath a raised grille, signposted by a glimmering brushed silver panel emblazoned with the 3D Blu-ray logo. Lovely stuff.
Each tower comes in three parts – the main speaker, a hollow middle section and a heavy square base. It requires a bit of DIY to put them together but it’s easy. The centre speaker is naturally styled in a similar gloss black finish and lies horizontally in front of your TV or in your rack – its thin, unobtrusive dimensions make this simple too. The subwoofer looks neutral enough and is remarkably compact, although build quality isn’t great, with a tacky dappled texture on the bodywork and a hollow sound when tapped. It’s a front-firing affair with a port on the back.
The main unit, however, is the most attractive part. The gloss black finish is highly alluring, but it’s the little brushed aluminium panel running along the bottom half of the sloping fascia that lifts it above mediocrity. Set into this panel is a row of illuminated touch sensitive controls, while a slick disc slot is preferred to a tray. A flap on the left hides a USB port and 3.5mm minijack input.
On the back the LG BH9520TW gives more cause for celebration. There are two HDMI inputs alongside the v1.4 output, allowing you to pass external hi-def sources through the LG’s circuits and boost their sound quality along the way. Optical digital and analogue stereo sockets offer further inputs for your audio kit, while composite video output, Ethernet, radio antenna input and a slot for the wireless transmitter complete the line up.
The main unit doesn’t have any terminals for the rear speakers, which forces you to use the wireless speaker kit for surround sound. To set it up, you have to plug the supplied TX card into the slot, and place the receiver at the back of the room in between the two rears (it needs its own power source). It’s a slim yet attractively styled gloss black box, with springclip terminals on the back that connect to the rear speakers using the supplied cables. Wireless is a bit of a misnomer but at least there are no cables trailing from the front to the back of the room.