Surround Sound Speaker Systems

LG LHB535 Home Theater in a Box

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

I come from a world of slowly building a system, upgrading one piece at a time, to achieve the best performance for my dollar. So buying an entire solution in one box has never crossed my mind. The LG LHB535 was my first experience with a "Home Theater in a Box" system. Like many people's first time, I was nervous.. apprehensive.. What if the unit doesn't perform?

Specifications

  • Design: Full Home Theater System; A/V Receiver, Speakers, Subwoofer, Network Blu-ray Player
  • Surround formats: Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD
  • DAC: 24bit/192kHz
  • Inputs: iPod Dock, 2 Toslink Optical Digital, 2 HDMI, 1 RCA, 1 MiniJack
  • Outputs: 1 HDMI, 1 Component Video, 1 Composite Video
  • Internet Connectivity: Ethernet
  • Content Services: Vudu , Picasa , Netflix , Pandora , YouTube , CinemaNow, AccuWeather
  • BD Profile 2.0-Enabled, BD-Live
  • Wi-Fi: 802.11n
  • MSRP: $529.99 USA
  • LG

All-in-one home theater solutions have come a long way in the past year or two and now have features like blu-ray players and network connectivity to allow for media streaming. A unit like the LHB535 can act as a media hub for all of your downloaded music, or even as a NetFlix box. You really are getting a lot more than a disc player with some speakers. Network integration is still in its infancy, but I am glad to see devices like the LG system pushing the concept.


Design and Setup

The LHB535 is a relatively thin and small black box, especially thin when you consider it contains a network blu-ray player and a receiver inside. Hooked up to it are small satellite speakers- 4 of the same for the front and surround duty, a center channel, and a small subwoofer. Everything is quite compact and the styling is subtle so as to not stand out in your living room.

Setting up the LHB535 is very straight forward. The speaker cables are color coded and clip easily into the terminals on the satellites. Plug in the power cable and run an HDMI cable to your HDTV and you're done. If you wanted, you could also plug your cable box into one of the 535's HDMI inputs, a very nice feature that most all-in-one systems do not have. This will allow you to enjoy audio from the LG system instead of the crummy speakers they put into today's flat screens. You also won't have to worry about changing inputs on the TV as the LG will handle that for you.

After getting everything connected, including ethernet (LAN), I powered up the unit and was prompted by a new software update. I confirmed and it downloaded and installed in about 5 minutes. It's a nice feature to have since most users don't know to check for firmware updates on blu-ray players.

The on-screen menu even offers some minor speaker adjustments as well. Depending on your room size, you might have to make a few tweeks. I left everything set to default.


In Use

To see how the LHB535 performs, I tested it out with a reference disc, The Dark Knight on blu-ray. It should not come as a surprise that these small speakers and subwoofer don't quite recreate that theater impact at home. What the do accomplish is a better sense of atmosphere through the front and surrounds, and clean dialog via the center channel. The problem with many of today's flatscreen LCD and plasma TV's is that the slim cabinet means there isn't much room left for speakers. The result is a flat and empty sound from your TV. The LHB535 replaces those inferior built in speakers with something a lot more enjoyable. The subwoofer rounds the sound off a bit and offers some oomph to explosions and other bass heavy effects. Overall, I felt the sound was more than adequate given the price of this system. Picture quality was excellent and exactly what you would expect from a blu-ray player.

Blu-ray players have gotten a bad rap for exceedingly slow load times. Good news with the LG system is I felt the load times were quite reasonable and not at all distracting.

Where the LHB535 really shines is in its feature set. With both wired and wireless ethernet connections on the unit, this baby was built to be connected. Pull up the menu and head to NetCast™ Entertainment Access to access the system's built-in content services. If you have a Netflix account, then the 535 becomes your streaming device. I have had several friends ask me, "I have netflix, how do I access the streaming content on my TV?" Well the answer is to get a device like this LG. Once you enter in your login information you can browse the selection of available TV shows and movies. Also available are content services for Vudu, Best Buy's Cinema Now, YouTube, Pandora, Picasa, and AccuWeather.

The YouTube channel was easy to use and although some content was far from HD quality, it was nice to have access to the millions of random videos. It's a simple interface, but it works.

Pandora is another app that I welcome on any device. It works just like the website.

However, if you would rather listen to your own collection of music, that can also be done through Home Link. I run Asset uPnP server on my main desktop computer and this instantly popped up on the Home Link page. From there i have access to all of my music.


Conclusions

The LHB535 is meant to be a one box solution for the average person and it accomplishes exactly what it's supposed to, and more. A nice selection of content services and the Home Link make this a great media hub to access music, Netflix, and photos. The inclusion of Wi-fi built in is an added bonus as most Blu-ray players and home theater-in-a-box solutions do not have this. The speakers are small and unobtrusive and while they could sound a tad better, they get the job done. It is certainly a huge leap from the poor speakers built into today's flat screen LCD's and plasma displays. For a simple all-in-one solution, the LG LHB535 is a great buy.