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LG HRT403DA Home Cinema System - LG HRT403DA
Using the HRT403DA isn't the hassle-free experience we hoped for; as the remote's buttons are all over the place and some of the functions (particularly channel tuning) are a tad slow to respond. But the operating system does boast some very nice touches, such as the way the menus dissolve into each other and the clever Home menu that lays out all of the various functions in a bar across the top of the screen.
And in terms of performance, there's very little wrong on the digital TV side of things. The Freeview tuner produces crisp and vibrant pictures, particularly with brightly-lit studio programmes, with impressive depth, sharp detail and reasonable block noise suppression. Slip the recording mode to XP and you can capture these images without any drop in quality. SP and LP modes deliver solid results too, but the EP and MLP modes border on the unwatchable - save these for emergency use only.
As a DVD player the LG isn't bad either. It serves up The Return Of The King's epic visuals with a great deal of sharpness, both in terms of edge definition and fine detail retrieval, while colours are fulsome yet natural and blacks actually look black. It lacks the subtlety and refinement of a decent dedicated player but as one-box systems go this is a fine effort.
So far so good, but the LG slips up where so many all-in-ones have slipped up in the past - sound quality. There's no denying that the system can deliver an energetic and surprisingly expansive soundstage, but sadly the sound is too harsh to enjoy at loud listening levels.
At times during The Return Of The King's big battle scenes, the brash, rasping treble had us wincing and reaching for the volume control, plus the sub offers little support at the bottom end, leaving the whole thing sounding more unbalanced than Kerry Katona. The harsh tone also has a negative impact on dialogue - Gollum's voice, for instance, is delivered with far too much sibilance.
Music playback doesn't fare much better, with CDs, MP3s and WMAs sounding thin and uninviting - none of which is helped by the sub's lacklustre contribution.
The HRT403DA offers a phenomenal amount of features, leaving virtually no home entertainment stone unturned, and in most respects its performance is impressive - particularly when it comes to Freeview, recording and DVD playback. But sadly the system's lacklustre sound quality is a real let-down and spoils what would have been a must-buy system - we expected better for this sort of money.
Scores In Detail