Setting up the LG NB3520A is very easy. Both the subwoofer and soundbar need to be plugged into the mains and then it's really just a matter of running an optical cable from the digital audio output on the back of your TV, Blu-ray player or set-top box to one of the two optical inputs in the rear of the soundbar. You can also feed another analogue source in using the mini-jack connector.
The bar also supports wireless audio streaming. Rather than going the Apple AirPlay route and relying on Wi-Fi, LG has perhaps sensibly opted for Bluetooth instead. Standard A2DP Bluetooth streaming may not offer as good audio quality as AirPlay (it has limited bandwidth to play with and so compresses your music), but it's compatible with many more devices including most smartphones and tablets on the market today.
Setting it up to work with Bluetooth was a piece of cake, too. We tried it out with a Windows Phone handset. All we had to do was select Bluetooth as the input on the soundbar using the remote, switch on Bluetooth on our phone and then select LG Audio option when the phone found the soundbar. Music streamed from the phone to the soundbar actually sounded very good - crisp and meaty - with the bar doing a good job of masking some of the limitations of Bluetooth audio.
Interestingly, there's also a USB port on the right hand edge of the bar. If you plug in a USB drive or memory keys containing MP3 or WMA (non-DRM) tracks you can play them back through the system. The navigation of tracks and folders is not too bad, as there are dedicated buttons on the remote to let you move up and down through folders. Nevertheless, it's only really suitable for use with USB keys containing a few albums' worth of tracks, as larger libraries on USB hard drives can become a bit unwieldy to navigate through.
Naturally the decoder is built into the main soundbar unit. It can handle PCM, Dolby Digital and DTS formats, but not higher quality audio such as Dolby TrueHD feeds. The unit automatically detects incoming streams and switches to the appropriate decoding mode. There's a switchable 3D pseudo surround sound mode, as well as a number of preset EQ modes including 'ClearVoice', which boosts the centre channel, 'Bass', which cranks up the bottom end, and 'Night', which reduces the gap between the loudest and quietest sounds in the mix when you're watching TV at low volume.
The LG NB3520A sounds about a million times better than the audio that even the best-sounding slim-line TVs can deliver. The subwoofer is especially powerful, delivering considerable bass kick that really brings low-end effects in movies for explosions or gun battles to life with significant sonic thuggery. It can be a tad boomy at its standard setting, but turning down the subwoofer volume level a tad balances it out nicely with the speakers in the main soundbar.
The soundbar itself also delivers pretty tight and focused audio and is strong, not just for mid-range performance, but also when dealing with the higher frequencies. This helps it to deliver dialogue with plenty of presence, and also means that it's a good performer when faced with music tracks.
That said, like a lot of mid-range soundbars, its claimed "3D" sound effect isn’t particularly convincing. It does widen the soundstage a bit to deliver a pleasing effect, but it can't create a virtual rear channel in the way that Yamaha's more expensive soundbars can. Also, the 3D mode only really works properly when the original source is a multi-channel soundtrack. Turning it on for standard, stereo soundtracks on TV shows makes the audio quite treble-heavy and brittle.
The LG NB3520A is a strong soundbar offering from LG. It looks attractive, and thanks to its reasonably-sized display, it's also easy to use. The system offers a good range of features too, with Bluetooth support a particularly welcome addition. The 300 watt total power output also means it's capable of delivering neighbour bothering levels of audio even when used in larger rooms. While the 3D sound mode could be better, on the whole it delivers satisfying sonics.
Read more: best soundbars to buy