- Review Price: £279.00
Among LG’s seemingly endless array of DVD home cinema systems is this typically snazzy-looking 2.1-channel affair, which is a sort of step up version of the HT32S. Unlike the HT32S, the 33S features an iPod dock, which makes this a great system for movie and music lovers alike, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg – like most LG systems you get plenty of other tasty features for a relatively modest outlay.
Despite their similar model numbers the HT33S and HT32S are aesthetically different. The HT33S features a wider and less curvy DVD/receiver control unit, but retains the ubiquitous gloss black finish and sloping top panel. Thankfully it also shares the HT32S’s wonderful touch-sensitive volume and playback controls, plus the front-mounted disc slot. It’s still great to see LG staying away from the conventional set-top style design, and as a result this system is sure to be a talking point in any living room.
The system comes with a pair of front speakers you’ll also be proud to have out on show. They’re like shorter versions of LG’s famous Champagne flute tallboy speakers, with elegant contours that taper off toward the bottom, a gloss back finish and chunky stands (which house springclip speaker terminals on the bottom). The matching powered subwoofer feels heavier and more robust than your average one box sub, mainly because it houses the amplifier and other AV circuitry. It also powers the main unit, which is linked to the sub by a single umbilical cord and makes everything nice and tidy when installing the system, while the speakers connect to springclip terminals on the back of the sub.
Weirdly, the AV connections are split between the main unit and the sub. On the back of the player you’ll find an HDMI output, component video output and an optical digital audio input, while the sub sports composite output, stereo audio input and the FM aerial input. There isn’t a great deal of logic behind this, but thankfully it’s not too problematic. The main unit sports some other interesting sockets, including the top-mounted iPod dock, USB port and 3.5mm jack for other MP3 players.
The USB port provides a quick, convenient way of playing back digital media files, and the system handles a decent range of formats. DivX, MP3, WMA, and JPEG are supported but there’s no provision for DivX HD despite the growing clamour for hi-def web video playback – a fact pointed out by some beautiful onscreen pidgin English when you try and play an HD movie: “This file has the non-supported type on the player”. Que?
The HT33S also boasts LG’s now familiar range of features. For what it’s worth, DVDs can be upscaled to 720p, 1080i or 1080p via HDMI, while the Virtual Sound Matrix (VSM) mode attempts to mimic 5.1-channel sound from two speakers and the USB Direct Recording mode lets you rip CD tracks onto a USB memory stick. It decodes Dolby Digital and DTS, plus there’s also a range of EQ presets primarily for music listening.
All-in-one systems should always be easy to use and the HT33S certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s quick and easy to setup out of the box, and once it’s booted up, the onscreen design is clear, if not particularly sophisticated. The menus are well structured and we particularly like the interface used for playing back digital media – it’s split into Music, Video and Photo menus, and you can switch between them by pressing the Title key. To rip a track from CD, simply highlight the desired track on the menu and hit the record button on the remote. For iPod playback, there are two modes – one which plays whatever the iPod is playing, and another that lets you control the content using rudimentary onscreen menus.
Elsewhere the setup menu makes the crucial options easy to find (including the HDMI resolution settings) and the cursor moves about without any frustrating pauses or glitches. The fairly large remote is a bit too busy for our liking, but this doesn’t really get in the way of day-to-day operation as the main menu and playback buttons are intuitively placed. At the top are two buttons that let you toggle through the various inputs and sources, and to top it off the remote is finished with an odd dappled texture that makes it look a little bit like leather.
Obviously the system’s sound quality can never hope to match the energy and expansiveness of a full 5.1-channel system, but as 2.1 systems go this isn’t a bad effort. With ”The Bourne Identity” DVD in the slot, the system gets its teeth into the fast, frenetic action with aplomb – Bourne’s brutal fight scenes pulsate with solid, hearty thumps and crunches, ably beefed up by the surprisingly keen sub. It also gives it a lot of welly even at low volumes – we can’t vouch for the quoted 2 x 75W power output or the 150W from the sub, but it’ll certainly wake the neighbours.
What’s more, during the breakneck car chases the LG rattles out the screeching tyres and roaring engine effects with plenty of attack and expert timing, without any overt harshness to the high frequencies. And thanks to the prominent dialogue reproduction, the actors’ lines were consistently easy to hear despite the lack of a dedicated centre channel. Sadly VSM doesn’t deliver a very convincing approximation of 5.1-channel sound, but does add a smidgeon of extra width and spaciousness.
OK so there’s no real panache to the sound, which will seem a bit crude and coloured to anyone who’s used to more expensive separates, but once again Mark Levinson (who tunes LG’s one-box systems) should take credit for making the HT33S sound as good as possible for the money.
However, music playback isn’t quite as impressive. With the retro-soul pop of Daniel Merriweather’s ”Love and War” on CD, the LG delivers an overbearing, cluttered sound that lets the sub get far too involved – the various EQ modes either exacerbate the problem or go to the other extreme and strip the bass out completely. Also, it has the annoying tendency of starting each track a second or so into the song.
But we have no major complaints with the system’s 1080p pictures, which generally look vibrant and solid with low noise levels – although we did detect some block noise and crawling on some of ”The Bourne Identity’s” interior settings. Otherwise, edge definition, fine detail handling and colour fidelity are all up to scratch.
Those looking to upgrade their sound system in a space-strapped living room or bedroom will find a lot to like in the HT33S. It looks delightful, offers very enjoyable movie performance and comes equipped with a few nifty features like an integrated iPod dock and digital media support via USB. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t play DivX HD and its music playback isn’t quite up to scratch, as they stop the HT33S being the unmitigated bargain it was shaping up to be.
Score in detail
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