We started our audition with Mamma Mia!'s DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, and we were blown away - when Meryl Streep breaks into the title track, it soars out of the speakers with such gusto that you can't help but get swept along by the sheer energy of it all, regardless of your attitude towards this movie.
The sound is sweet and crisp with loads of top-end detail, courtesy of the smooth and well controlled treble. Dialogue is similarly clear and open, allowing you to hear Pierce Brosnan's voice in all its flat, awkward detail. It's a genuine surprise to hear such assured sound quality from a one-box system, although the lack of dedicated surround and centre channels does reduce the overall impact somewhat - we can't wait to hear what the 5.1-channel HT954PB has to offer.
We also took Indiana Jones for a spin and its Dolby True HD track is also presented with plenty of detail and vitality. Harrison Ford's mumbled dialogue, delicate background ambience, sudden crashes and gunfire are relayed with admirable attack and clarity. If there's a weak link in the chain it's the sub, which isn't quite deep or punchy enough to really knock your neighbours for six, but it still manages to lend a solid, well-integrated foundation to the action.
The system also delivers excellent picture quality, which is comparable to that of the BD370. Mamma Mia!'s bright, colourful visuals look sumptuous, oozing with rich, noise-free colours (the turquoise sea almost sucks you into the screen) and crisp detail. Indiana Jones is also full of scenes that demonstrate the system's superb detail handling, from the sharply-rendered swarms of ants to the detail inside Orellana's dingy tomb, a sequence that also reveals top-notch shadow detail and contrast.
We like surprises here at TrustedReviews, and the HB354BS is an extremely pleasant one. We admit that we didn't have high hopes given the system's inevitable build quality issues, but its sound quality is more potent and poised than expected, injecting movies with an irresistible sense of excitement despite the lack of centre and surround speakers. Add to that some excellent hi-def picture quality and you've got yourself a very satisfying 2.1-channel system.
Because we got one of the first samples, there was no price information available at the time of writing so it's hard to assess its value for money. But knowing LG it's bound to be competitively priced - and after hearing its performance, the press release's claim that it produces "a sound more typically found in systems three times the price" is an encouraging sign. For now it gets a Recommended Award on the presumption that LG will make sure the price is keen.