Disc loading is surprisingly slow, given how speedy LG’s previous players have been. It took 71 seconds to reach Terminator Salvation’s first image after shoving the disc in the slot, and a minute to load up our 3D copy of Avatar.
But the wait is just about worth it. Once you’ve got over the fact that the HLX56S’s sound quality is never going to rival the expansiveness and immersion of a full 5.1 system, you start to appreciate what an decent performer it is. First of all, LG has achieved a very sharp and dynamic sound, which conveys the excitement of Avatar’s action scenes in no uncertain terms. Effects ping from the four drivers at great speed and with real purpose.
Skipping to the Thanator Chase in chapter 8, high-frequencies and fine sonic detail – such as the rustle of undergrowth and the hiss of the waterfall – are crisp, while dialogue comes through loud and clear and the subwoofer renders loud thumps and bumps with a reasonable level of punch. Also notable is the unit’s ability to give the soundstage plenty of width.
On the negative side, the slight overemphasis on treble and lack of midrange solidity make the sound a little grating on the ears, particularly with the Thanator screeching at the top of its lungs, and most of the time the subwoofer’s output amounts to an indistinct rumble. But to anyone making the jump up from TV speakers, the LG’s sound quality will seem like something of an epiphany thanks to the scale and volume of its sound.
Visually there are absolutely no question marks over its performance. 2D images look every bit as dazzling as you’d expect thanks to the meticulously rendered detail and rich colours, while the composure with which it layers the various objects and scenery on our 3D Avatar disc is impressive. Even DVDs scrub up nicely, and with our Silicon Optix HQV disc it passed all the tests no problem.
You can quite comfortably use the HLX56S to play CDs and digital music files, but don’t throw out your hi-fi just yet. The naturally treble-heavy sound makes music sound crisp and sprightly in a way that might win you over at first, and the subwoofer lends a deep, rhythmic foundation, yet prolonged listening reveals a slightly fatiguing sound.
As a way of ticking lots of home entertainment boxes but avoiding the usual clutter, the HLX56S is a fantastic proposition. The feature list is extremely generous, taking in all of the latest cutting-edge tricks like 3D, DLNA and internet streaming, plus it’s one of the most gorgeous-looking pieces of AV kit we’ve seen in a long time.
For the most part its sonic performance is impressive, providing a dynamic and detailed presentation of Blu-ray soundtracks, yet for all its verve there’s an overemphasis on high-frequencies that prevents it from being the out-and-out barnstormer we hoped. But that aside, LG should be applauded for packing so much good stuff into this slim and surprisingly affordable soundbar.