If you want four height channels you've got 'em!
What is the LG BH9540?
Just as we were reviewing this 9.1-channel all-in-one system from LG, the news that Dolby Atmos was coming to the home was announced.This new audio format adds two or four overhead speakers to the traditional 5.1 or 7.1 channel mixes. As part of this announcement, various manufacturers released details of their latest receivers which will support the new format. There was also talk of releasing speakers with upward-firing drivers in order to deliver the effect of overhead speakers without the need to hang speakers from the ceiling. This is undoubtedly a sensible approach because it's hard enough to convince partners to tolerate five or seven speakers in the lounge, let along getting out the stepladder.The interesting thing is that whilst Dolby are talking about their upward-firing speakers, the LG BH9540TW all-in-one system already has them. This attractively designed package comes with a main unit that combines a 3D Blu-ray player and amplification, along with four 'tall boy' speakers, a centre speaker and a passive subwoofer. The 'tall boy' speakers include the upward-firing drivers and the rear speakers come with a wireless receiver, hence the 'TW' at the end of BH9540. All this comes at a very reasonable price of £849, so let's see how LG's 9540 performs.
LG BH9540 Design and ConnectionsThe BH9540 comes with a minimalist and well built main unit, in which is housed the 3D Blu-ray player and amplification. The unit uses an attractive two-tone design, with a silver brushed metal top and a glossy black lower section. The gap that divides the two sections disguises the disc slot, which is on the left hand side and under this is a drop down flap that hides a USB port. On the right hand side is a simple display and touch sensitive controls, whilst the unit itself measures 444 x 65 x 293mm and is quite heavy due to the included amplification. There is 180W for the front left and right speakers and an additional 90W for the two upward-firing drivers, along with 180W for the centre speaker and 200W for the subwoofer.
The system also includes four 'tall boy' speakers, a centre speaker and a passive subwoofer. The main front left and right and rear left and right speakers are all identical (model number S94T1-S), which is good news from the perspective of creating a tonally cohesive sound field. These speakers are well built, with nicely constructed stands for solid support, and their design is attractive with a black and silver combination that matches the rest of the system. The speakers use a 20mm silk dome tweeter and a 3" paper woofer, with a 2.5" aramid driver firing upwards.
The rear speakers are connected to a glossy black wireless receiver with built-in amplification (180W for each speaker and an additional 90W for each upward firing driver), although since you need to plug this unit into a wall socket and connect the speakers to it, the solution isn't completely wireless. However it does mean you don't have to run cables from the front to the rear. For those that are interested, the cables provided with the BH9540 are 5m long except for the centre speaker cable which is 3m long. The four 'tall boy' speakers are 1220mm high and the base has a diameter of 290mm.
The BH9540 combines an attractive design with a decent level of build quality.
The provided centre speaker (S94T1-C) follows the same black and silver design style as the rest of the system and also uses a 20mm silk dome tweeter and a 3" paper woofer. It measures 342 x 79 x 82mm (W x H x D). The passive subwoofer (S94T1-W) is also styled in black and silver, has an MDF enclosure with cloth covered sides and measures 172 x 379 x 377mm (W x H x D). There's a 6.5" sideways firing paper driver and a downwards facing bass reflex port. The overall build quality is very good across the board and setup is simple thanks to clearly labeled connectors and cables.
The BH9540 comes with a fairly standard LG remote control that is made of black plastic, well designed and comfortable to hold. All the main controls that you would need are included and the buttons are positioned in a sensible manner, making the controller easy to use. The volume control is sensibly placed in the centre, with the play controls above and the navigation buttons below. There is also a free remote app available for both iOS and Android if you prefer using your smart device as a controller.
At the rear are all the connections and here you'll find two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). This essentially means that since the Blu-ray player is built in and audio from the TV can come via ARC, you can connect two additional devices via HDMI - perhaps a PVR and a games console. There's also an optical digital input and stereo analogue inputs, as well as another USB port, an Ethernet port and an antenna for the built-in FM tuner.
Since the amplification is built into the main unit there are connectors for the front right, left and centre speakers, along with the passive subwoofer. The BH9540 uses proprietary connectors and there is separate amplification for the main drivers in the left and right speaks and the upward-firing ones as well. There is a wireless dongle that you use to connect the main unit to the wireless receiver at the rear. This has amplification for the rear speakers and again it powers the main and upward-firing drivers separately.
LG BH9540 MenusThe BH9540 uses LG's standard menu architecture for their Blu-ray players and all-in-one systems and when you first turn the main unit on, you'll see a basic Home page. It is from here that you can access all the system's features, including the Blu-ray player, the amplification and the smart features. On this Home page the available options are SmartShare, Premium, LG Smart World, My Apps, Input and Settings. In terms of the menu system itself, this comes under Settings and here you have a choice of Network, Display, Language, Audio, Lock and Others. Most of these sub-menus are self explanatory, so we'll concentrate on Display and Audio.
The Display sub-menu allows you to set all the options related to the Blu-ray player, including the TV Aspect Ratio and the Resolution. You can also choose Ultra HD Upscaling if you have a 4K display and the 1080p Display Mode gives you the choice of selecting 24p or 50Hz but no Auto. There's also HDMI Colour Setting, the 3D Mode and you can turn the Home Menu Guide on and off. If you press the Options button on the remote whilst you're watching a Blu-ray or DVD, you will get a series of selections, some of which can only be changed via this menu. In particular this applies to the Picture Mode, which can be found here and offers a choice of User, Movie, Standard and Vivid. In order to ensure the most accurate image you need to check you have selected Standard in the Options menu.
The Audio sub-menu is where you setup all the features relating to the BH9540's built-in amplifier. Here you can choose the Digital Output for the Blu-ray player itself, so if you are connecting the BH9540 to another audio device and not using its own amplification, you have the choice of sending the audio as PCM Stereo, PCM Multi-Channel, DTS Re-Encode or Bit Stream. There is a HD AV Sync control for compensating any audio delay for between 0 and 300ms. There is also a DRC (Dynamic Range Control) for compressing the dynamic range when watching content at night.
However, if you're intending to use the BH9540's own amplification and speakers then the most important option is Speaker Setup. There is no automated sound calibration feature but this page provides a graphical interface to help you set up the Distance (delay) and Volume (level) for the five speakers (although not the height speakers) and the subwoofer. To aid in correctly setting the levels for the three speakers, there is a test tone that can be measured using a SPL meter and the speaker levels can be adjusted using a dedicated button on the remote.
There's no denying you get an awful lot for your money with this particular all-in-one package.
LG BH9540 Features and Set UpThe BH9540 has a decent set of features, aside from the already mentioned built-in 3D Blu-ray player, FM tuner and 9.1 audio system with wireless rear speakers. There's also built-in WiFi to go with the Ethernet port and WiFi Direct, giving you a choice of a wired or wireless connection. The Home Screen has four items relating to smart functionalities with the first of those being Smartshare. This is your media player, whether DLNA or USB, and very good it is too with a wide-ranging list of file type support, particularly in terms of video, and it played everything thing we had to throw at it including a test suite of MKV and DivX files. LG pops a setup disc for its own Smartshare media server software in the box with the package but you don’t have to use it and we had the BH9540 working perfectly well with our Twonky media server.
The built-in 3D Blu-ray player includes 4K scaling, although it's debatable how useful this actually is in reality. Naturally there’s a control app for mobile devices, with both iOS and Android supported. The app is fairly good, offering a full remote replacement over WiFi and an interesting Private Sound mode where you can listen to audio using headphones connected to your tablet or smartphone. Most of the testing was done using an iPhone and an iPad and we found both to be quite robust. Of course there is also Bluetooth included and for those that have suitably enabled devices, the BH9540 also supports Near Field Communication (NFC). You just hold your device next to the NFC tag and the Bluetooth connection is made immediately. The same degree of simplicity applies to WiFi Direct for easy connection to other WiDi compatible devices.
There are three other portals on the home page - Premium, LG Smart World and My Apps. In the first of these you will find a selection of pre-installed big-hitters including Spotify, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, YouTube and BBC iPlayer. There are a selection of others you can install from the LG Smart World section but, in truth, most of the good stuff is covered under the Premium heading. You can edit and delete apps from the My Apps submenu although the Premium content is locked in and there’s an all-encompassing Search functionality that will scour the Web, YouTube and LG’s Smart World for matches. The browser is difficult to use with the normal remote although things slightly improve using the app and the search function is quite useful for hunting down content to stream.
LG have managed to make setting up the BH9540 as painless as possible and that's quite an achievement when you consider how many elements there are to assemble. However once all this had been done and we had positioned all the speakers appropriately, the rest of the setup process was very straight forward. The BH9540 has built-in WiFi which again is very simple to setup, although if you don't have a wireless router, there is also the Ethernet port for a wired connection. All the speaker cables are colour coded with easy to use dedicated connectors to make it simple to correctly connect the front left, right and centre speakers to the main unit, along with the subwoofer. You then insert the wireless TX dongle to rear of the main unit and plug the receiver unit in at the back of the room. You need to attach the rear speakers to the receiving unit and again the cables are colour coded to aid in connection.
Unsurprisingly, the video performance of the built-in Blu-ray player was excellent.
LG BH9540 Video PerformanceWe’d expect nothing less than excellence from an LG product carrying their processing chips, and that’s precisely what we got. Scaling of standard definition signals was crisp and clean without obvious signs of ringing or any other artefacts, whilst film cadence detection was equally was solid with both the most common – 2:2 (PAL) and 2:3 (NTSC) – effortlessly locked on to. Video deinterlacing duties were also carried out with great efficiency meaning fine details are preserved under movement and even the likes of streamed iPlayer can look great.
There are rarely player issues with Blu-ray playback, whether 2D or 3D, and the built-in Blu-ray player did an excellent job in handling the demands of high definition with flawless reproduction of every test disc we tried. We encountered no compatibility issues with recently released titles and, provided you stick to the Standard picture mode (enabled by default), there is no unwanted tampering with the signal. Our only complaint would be that for some strange reason this year the 24p mode doesn't have an auto setting and instead you manually have to select either 24p or 50Hz. So make sure you have 24p selected when watching 24p Blu-rays, unless you want to introduce unwanted judder.
LG BH9540 Video Review
LG BH9540 Sound QualityThe BH9540 might well be a complete system in a box but the resulting audio performance was vastly superior to many other such 'convenience' options. LG have concentrated on delivering a well designed and well matched set of speakers with more than enough amplification to drive them. The use of identical speakers for the front and rear means that tonally the sound field is highly cohesive. Sounds can pan around the room without changing tone, so the audio steering is seamless and really adds to the sense of immersion. The centre speaker anchors dialogue to the screen and has been designed to complement the front and rear speakers. Certainly with multichannel film soundtracks the BH9540TW could deliver a lively and enjoyable experience, with a wide front sound stage and plenty of surround presence.
To test the BH9540’s audio capabilities we tried out a number of Blu-rays including Pacific Rim, Oblivion and Gravity, all of which deliver reference soundtracks. Overall the BH9540 was very impressive, replicating the complex audio mixes rather well. The effects were delivered with plenty of detail, creating an immersive and very effective soundstage that envelops the listener. There's no doubt that the use of identical speakers for the front and rears results in a well balanced sound field. As a result the pans around the room in Gravity were smooth and there was very good imaging with precise placement of effects. Whilst it might not be quite as impressive as a full-on separates system, as all-in-one solutions go it is one of the better examples that we have reviewed. We found the LG to be a consistently engaging performer delivering a dynamic experience with clear dialogue, undistorted sound, a coherent mid-range and well integrated bass.
Thanks to the combined power rating of 1200W, the BH9540 had plenty of energy to deliver an effective dynamic range, imbuing louder effects with real force without distorting. With a decidedly unsubtle soundtrack like Pacific Rim it handled the audio pyrotechnics with great aplomb, showing a level of cohesion rarely found at this price point. The Pacific Rim soundtrack has some bass moments as big as its Jaegers and the BH9540 held its ground, although in terms of low end presence, its budget status did start to show. The passive sub is never going to compete with a dedicated active unit but was still able to deliver plenty of bass effects and it did feel properly integrated with the rest of the system most of the time. Although on occasion it could become slightly unruly and careful placement and set will be required.
The BH9540’s strong point was its ability to deliver plenty of clarity and detail in the mid-range and high frequency moments could be picked out, even in the most active of soundtracks, without sounding abrasive. We found that using the height speakers certainly added a greater sense of overheard presence and the result was a more immersive experience. It might not be appropriate for all material but certainly for the more active film soundtracks it can be highly effective. The soundstage felt more open and spacious than in the Bypass mode, which in turn made for a more involving audio experience. We wouldn't recommended using any processing whilst listening to music but to our surprise, the BH9540 proved quite capable when it came to two-channel audio, delivering a rather pleasant and balanced stereo experience.
The BH9540 delivered an open, room filing sound, with the upward-firing drivers adding greater immersion.
- Detailed and immersive sound
- Excellent video playback
- Attractive design
- Plenty of features
- Good build quality
- Great value
- No 24p auto option
- Bass could be more controlled
LG BH9540 9.1 Channel All-in-One System ReviewThere's no denying that LG's BH9540TW all-in-one system delivers plenty of bang for your buck and certainly represents great value for money. In fact if you shop around, you can pick it up for less than £800 which, when you consider you're getting a 9.1-channel system and a built-in 3D Blu-ray player, is very tempting. The good news is that LG have managed to hit this price point without compromising on the build quality, the main unit is solid and well made, whilst the 'tall boy' speakers are also nicely constructed and stable. The centre speaker and subwoofer aren't quite as well engineered but they certainly get the job done. The BH9540 includes a wireless receiver with built-in amplification for the rear speakers and if that wasn't enough you also get a remote control, an FM tuner, built-in WiFi and Bluetooth. In fact there's very little this package doesn't include, with two HDMI inputs and one output, a decent set of smart features and a remote app for iOS or Android.
Thanks to some clever design and colour coded cables, setup is very straightforward, although there is a fair bit of construction before you start deciding where to put your speakers. LG include test tones and levels to help you once you have decided and the use of identical speakers means the resulting sound field is nicely cohesive. The front soundstage is open and suitably room filling, whilst dialogue remains clear and centred on the screen. There a lively and detailed sound, with plenty of presence at the rear and a reasonably well integrated subwoofer. The bass response is probably the BH9540's weak spot and at times could be a little unruly but the added height presence provided by the upward firing drivers certainly helps to create a more immersive surround experience. The performance with movies was as good as we'd expect but the front stereo performance with two-channel music was also quite impressive.
Overall the LG BH9540 is fantastic all-round package that delivers in all the key areas - with looks, features and performance. It also provides you with a relatively easy and surprisingly reasonable route to surround sound at home. The launch of Dolby Atmos might be grabbing the headlines right now but if you want added height in your system without getting a divorce, LG already have a solution.
Ease of Use8
Value for Money9
Our Review Ethos
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