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LG SoundPlate (LAB540) All-in-One System Review

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There's a lot on this plate.

by Mark Hodgkinson Jun 4, 2014

  • Home AV review

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    Recommended
    LG SoundPlate (LAB540) All-in-One System Review
    SRP: £499.99

    What is the LG LAB540?

    The LG LAB540 SoundPlate is designed for those people dissatisfied with the speakers built into their TV but either don’t want the clutter of a traditional solution or simply don’t have the room.

    We’re reaching the second generation of soundbase products now and we can already see how the manufacturers are attempting to differentiate and add value. It certainly is a very tidy solution and the fact that this model has a Blu-ray/DVD player built-in, too, means it really is a space-saver.
    Priced at just under £500, this product is what you would call upper mid-tier for a soundplate but when you take the playback capabilities into consideration, it swings it to be just above average and it’s reviewed as an all-in-one system rather than a solo soundbar product. So let’s see it truly stands out from the crowd.

    LG LAB540 Design & Connections

    The main unit of the package is reasonably large and flat and can take a TV stand up to 68cm wide and 27cm deep which, to be fair, covers most out there. You will also need to ensure your stand-mounted TV weighs no more than 38Kg which, again, means most will be compatible but the push toward 4K TVs, is seeing the average weight of a flat panel nudging upwards.

    The active subwoofer unit is also quite large but its narrow design means it doesn’t have a particularly massive footprint. The tale of the tape reveals measurements of 296 x 332 x 296mm (WxHxD) and, of course, it will need its own power supply in order for it to work.
    LG LAB540 LG LAB540 Design & Connections
    LG LAB540 LG LAB540 Design & Connections

    At the rear of the unit, in a small recess, are all the physical connections which include 2 HDMI – one input and one output for ARC (Audio Return Channel), a Digital Audio Input and a LAN port, although there is WiFi built-in. There is also a USB port for music players that support MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) and LG puts a USB extender into the box to make access more straightforward.

    LG LAB540 SetUp & Operation

    Obviously you will have bought this product safe in the knowledge your TV has at least one HDMI port, as you’ll need one to get anything like the most out of the package and, if it has ARC capability, all the better as you’ll be able to control the volume of the speakers using your TVs remote. The HDMI input allows you to connect an external source, such as a set top box, whilst the optical input gives you one more option for multichannel playback.
    LG LAB540 LG LAB540 SetUp & Operation
    LG LAB540 LG LAB540 SetUp & Operation


    It's a sleek and chic package

    For day to day use, it’s perfectly possible to operate the LAB540 without accessing the on-screen menus but for initial setup it’s a necessity, if you want to get at all the Smart features. There is a display panel to the right of the slot loading disc mechanism which allows you to set individual speaker levels (this is a 4.1 system) and see the likes of playback time and other basic info. Above the display panel are some touch-sensitive buttons for simple operations but most of your actions will be carried out by the supplied remote control which is a stock LG handset featuring clear and well-presented buttons with the most often used largely positioned around the centre.

    LG LAB540 Features

    The LAB540 has quite the set of features which really makes it stand out in the soundbar/soundplate market. OK, it’s not equipped with LG’s new webOS platform but you could hardly complain at what’s on offer. The Home Screen has four items relating to Smart TV 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 LAB540 working perfectly well with PLEX and Windows Media Player.

    There aren’t many soundbar products that can offer 4K scaling but this one can. In reality we found it a redundant feature when tested with a Samsung HU7500 and Panasonic AX802 as the scaling on both TVs was at least as good but it’s there if you want it. Naturally there’s a control app for mobile devices available, too. Both iOS and Android are supported and it’s decent enough, 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 a Nexus 7 (Android) and we found both features on the flaky side. The Private Listening mode, in particular, was unresponsive at times and kept cutting out. The WiFi remote app could also be sluggish to respond, although things were better with the iOS version here but there is undoubtedly some work to do.
    LG LAB540 LG LAB540 Features
    LG LAB540 LG LAB540 Features

    The various apps on the SoundPlate are got at through the other three portals. LG terms some of these as ‘Premium’ and they are 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 but the search function is quite useful for hunting down content to stream.

    By soundbar standards, it's extremely Smart

    LG LAB540 Video Playback

    We’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 as 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 LG LAB540 does an excellent job in handling the demands of HD 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. There is a User mode, too, which gives further control over Contrast, Brightness, Colour and Sharpness but this won’t need to be touched unless you’re embarking on an advanced calibration of your setup.

    LG LAB540 Video Review


    LG LAB540 Audio Quality

    You can go out and buy a perfectly good Blu-ray player for less than a hundred quid, however, so it’s on the audio quality whereby the SoundPlate 540 lives or dies as a viable product. Owing to the nature of the TVs we had in for a review at the time, the LAB540 found itself quite the vagabond as some of the stands were just too large (or heavy) to safely place upon so it did service in no less than 3 different rooms. This is significant in terms of the subwoofer performance as it requires fairly careful placement. It really needs some room to breathe else it can be incredibly boomy and overpowering so sticking it in a corner doesn’t really work, even when you turn its levels a long way down.

    Even with correct positioning, the crossover levels sometimes don’t feel quite right and you are able to localise the position of the sub in the room too easily, as the likes of very deep voices can be audible though it. It doesn’t happen all that often but it can take you out of ‘the moment’ when it does and we feel LG needs to slightly retune. It is mitigated in the Cinema Surround mode which works really well with multichannel audio but that may not be to your taste – nor suit your room – so the natural tendencies of the sub need taming somewhat.

    LG LAB540
    Don't fence me in!

    But with some experimenting with levels, modes and subwoofer placement there is a really engaging performance to be had out of the LG LAB540 and that holds true for both TV/Movies and Music. In fact it was a lot more musical than we were expecting with a focussed performance and a nice integration between the drivers. It might be a tad bright in nature, for some, but you can always experiment with the listening modes.

    It’s with movie soundtracks where the SoundPlate 540 is at its best and it features both its own Dolby and DTS 5.1 decoding capabilities to ensure the mix down to 4.1 is handled in the best possible fashion. And it works very well indeed, managing to project a wide soundfield yet still retaining dialogue well anchored to the screen. Provided you can place - and subsequently set the subwoofer - successfully to its environment, it will reward you with enough output to fill an averagely sized living room and give some floor-shaking moments in to the bargain. As we’ve hopefully stressed sufficiently, placement is all with this subwoofer so be prepared to experiment.

    It really works as an all-in-one package

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Chic design
    • Good connectivity
    • Great Smart Features
    • Flawless Disc Playback
    • There's a very nice sound to be had

    Cons

    • Subwoofer needs extremely careful placement
    • Mobile app is no great shakes
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    LG SoundPlate (LAB540) All-in-One System Review

    LG’s LAB540 is more than a soundplate, it’s a bona fide all-in-one system that provides movies, music and Smart TV entertainment in one very attractive package. The main unit has quite a sizable footprint but that means you can get a reasonably large TV atop it; and the profile is sleek and the brushed metal finish appealing. Connectivity options include HDMI in and out, for ARC, a digital audio input and Bluetooth for streaming. You also get wired and wireless LAN and a USB port for devices that support MTP.

    The SoundPlate 540 has some on-screen menus for setup purposes but, for day to day duties, its perfectly possible to operate the audio side of the equation by relying on the combination of remote control and display panel. Of course there’s a mobile control app as well but it needs some work to be as slick as it should be. In terms of other Smart features, the LAB540 is well blessed and it has a great selection of streaming services on offer as well as a generous selection of games and lifestyle apps available to download. There’s also a very capable media player onboard able to handle almost anything you ask of it, so this is one very smart soundbar.

    As we’ve come to expect from LG, video performance was excellent. Whether it was DVD or Blu-ray – both 2D and 3D – we really couldn’t fault the LAB 540 here so it was just a question of whether it was up to the task sonically to complete the package. It took us some time to find the ideal position for the subwoofer and it can be overly boomy and predominant when hemmed in by walls or furniture but once we’d settled on a good location, the results were excellent with both music and movies.

    The LG SoundPlate is a very interesting product that combines just about every facet of home entertainment, you could wish for, into an incredibly tidy and convenient package. It may take you some time to get it setup correctly for your room but once you have, it’s a success on all fronts and if you’re looking for a ‘lifestyle’ product but not willing to sacrifice too much in terms of performance, this is one well worth checking out.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    8

    Connectivity

    7

    Ease of Use

    7

    Picture Quality

    8

    Sound Quality

    8

    Features

    9

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    8

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