A very discreet solution that perhaps lacks a little in the sound department
What is the LG NB3540?
The LG NB3540 is LG’s lower mid-range 2.1 channel soundbar package for 2014.We’ve already had a good look and listen with the NB5540, which is the current top dog but there are also the NB450 (upper mid) and NB2540 (entry-level) amongst the range. The NB3540 will set you back around £230 at retail, for which you get a quoted 320W total output in a package that comprises a main speaker bar and a wireless active subwoofer.
Naturally, we lose some of the refinements of the flagship product, so we don’t have the (supposed) luxury of HDMI for ARC (Audio Return Channel) and CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) but, for most, the simple set of connections will be sufficient so let’s get down to business and see what value the LG NB3540 can offer.
LG NB3540 Design & ConnectionsThis is a fairly tiny soundbar, measuring just 77cm in width. This is significant in that you’d probably not want to team it with a TV that is on the larger size as it will struggle to project the left and right stereo channels to match the sides of the screen. As such, we’d suggest if your TV is anything above a 42-inch – 47” at a push – then you’d probably be better looking at something a bit larger.
As a consequence of these diminutive proportions, there is absolutely no danger that the NB3540 will obstruct the bottom of your TV screen. It stands only three and a half centimetres high which, from a usability perspective is great, but it does pose the question on just how effective the speaker drivers will be. After all, they also must be pretty wee to fit inside the bar, although there’s no firm specs provided by LG to confirm the actual size.
The subwoofer features a ported cabinet which colour matches the main speaker bar, in gun metal, and with it being of the active variety, obviously needs its own power source. With dimensions of 196 x 390 x 297 mm (WxHxD), this is also a fairly compact proposition that most should be able to hide behind the likes of the sofa – should you so wish.
As mentioned in the introduction, connectivity options are fairly limited – but should be sufficient for most - and all placed at the bottom of the speaker bar in a small cavity. You get a 3.5mm jack, a USB port for music playing portable devices and a S/PDIF digital optical port which will be the main source for most, as many TVs have a suitable output.
We probably wouldn't go above a 42-inch TV with this
LG NB3540 Operation & FeaturesThere are four moulded buttons on top of the speaker bar which allow for selecting input, volume control and powering on and off but your primary interface will be with the supplied remote control. It’s a good size with the most used buttons placed top and centre, for maximum accessibility, and there’s an indent at the back for your index finger.
Since there’s no on-screen user interface, absolutely every function and control of the NB3540 can be taken care of with dedicated buttons on the remote and they are well identified upon it. That is, except for the display panel dimming function which is ‘hidden’ under the ‘Sleep’ button. Amongst those options, you get a discrete control for the subwoofer, a ‘Sound Effects’ toggle button and an ‘AV Sync’ which attempts to fix lip-sync issues with a delay of up to 300ms available, in 10ms increments.
The NB3540 is well blessed on the audio decoding front, boasting support for MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC and WAV files over USB and Bluetooth, whilst for movies and TV you get LPCM, Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0 codec playback. Aforementioned Bluetooth support is pegged at version 3 so it may be a little less power efficient than some of the competition but testing with a variety of devices, including iPad, Nexus 7 and Windows 7 PC, proved that it can maintain a steady and stable connection for streaming.
Like Samsung, LG has their own communication technology that allows for a wireless connection between soundbar and some of their higher-end TVs. LG call it SoundSync and the idea obviously is that it makes buying a TV/Soundbar package a more attractive proposition. We weren’t in a position to check it out this time around but there’s no reason to suspect it won’t be as slick an implementation as that of that competitors, so it should certainly add to the appeal.
LG NB3540 ListeningIt was fairly clear from the dimensions of the package that we were likely to be met with some compromises in terms of output but, considering its elegance of form, we’d imagine many would be happy to overlook them. Creating a creditably wide dispersion of sound certainly wasn’t amongst the weaknesses of the NB3540, however, and the side firing drivers made a good job of creating a soundstage seemingly beyond the narrow width of the speaker bar. We wouldn’t want to stake claims of any surround-like qualities but you’d certainly notice the step-up when switching from your TV’s speakers.
Though the subwoofer is also quite compact, it puts up a decent fight too. You can certainly notice its presence, that’s for sure, but the relatively meagre mid-range drivers mean it is, at times, called upon for duties a bit beyond its abilities. That means tonally low dialogue and notes and instruments you’d expect to be coming from centre, or in stereo, can be fairly easily localised to the sub. In reality, it’s not an effect you will notice all that often but it can break the moment when it does happen.
The lacking mid-range can place too much emphasis on the subwoofer
The signature sound of the LG NB3540 is typical of the Korean’s output, so it errs to the bright, lively and dare we say ‘poppy’ side which is great if that’s how you like it. It’s actually pretty well suited to a lot of what you’d typically find in the iTunes Top 10, so we’ll leave you to decide if that’s a taste match for you. It’s certainly worth experimenting with some of the Sound Modes, too, to see if you can tune the package more to your liking. The Music pre-set is a tad warmer than the rest and the ‘Sports’ mode actually does create more stadium like ambience. We’ve had plenty of opportunity to check that out just recently but for most movies and TV we stuck with ‘Standard’ which provides a no-nonsense stereo output.
LG NB3540 Video Review
- Great design
- Easy to setup
- 'Lively' sound
- Lacks in the mid-range
- Sub sometimes easy to localise
- Some better packages in the same price-bracket
LG NB3540 Soundbar ReviewYou certainly can’t fault the LG NB3540 on its looks. It is so slim-line and discreet that you will barely notice its presence. Naturally the accompanying wireless subwoofer is a bit more imposing but its narrow footprint means you should be able to hide it behind some furniture, if you so wish. You don’t get any HDMI connectivity but the majority of flat-panel televisions do have a digital audio out so you should be able to route all your audio through the soundbar.
Additionally, and as is almost standard in class nowadays, you also get the option of streaming via Bluetooth from your tablet, smartphone or PC. If you own a compatible SoundSync LG TV, you can even minimise the clutter further by sending audio from it to the NB3540 wirelessly, which will undoubtedly widen its appeal for those looking for an easy-to-set up home cinema package.
Like almost every audio product they send us, the LG NB3540 produced a very bright and lively sound. The subwoofer also did its bit in providing some substance to the low end but owing to the speaker bar lacking in the mid-range, it was sometimes asked to contribute where it probably shouldn’t. That meant, at times, it was fairly easy to place where the subwoofer was in relation to the room, which can be a little distracting.
There is certainly much you could like about this package and it will definitely add a real sonic presence to any flat panel TV. If your requirements are for something ultra-subtle and convenient, there are probably few better to recommend than the LG NB3540. We do feel, however, there are packages that sound better in the same price category.
Ease of Use8
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.