Design and Installation
The build quality is reasonably good with the entire system sharing a glossy piano black finish and a stylish design. As you would expect at this price point, the construction is primarily plastic but the overall look is very attractive. The main unit sports a two tone finish with a glossy black exterior and a gun metal grey strip along the bottom half of the front facia. The left hand side of this strip is a flip down lid, behind which you will find a 3.5mm jack and a USB port that can also be used for connecting an iPod/iPad/iPhone. Above this flip down lid is the entry slot for the disc drive. On the right hand side, at the top, is the display window and beneath that are some basic controls - eject, play/pause, stop, function, volume +/- and power.
In terms of overall appearance, the main unit looks like a large Blu-ray player and measures 440 x 65 x 297mm and weighs 3.3kg. The only clue to the BH9520's dual purpose are the dedicated colour coded speaker connectors and large fan at the rear. Also at the rear are two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output, an optical digital input, analogue stereo inputs, a composite video out, a LAN port, an antenna connector for the built-in FM tuner and a slot for the wireless TX dongle. The main unit delivers 140W to each of the front three speakers, 70W to each of the two front height speakers and 180W to the subwoofer. The wireless receiving unit delivers 140W to each of the two rear speakers and 70W to each of the two rear height speakers. This wireless receiving unit also has a glossy black finish, measures 60 x 220 x 175mm and weighs 0.9kg.
The main tower speakers are tall and elegant, sharing the same glossy black finish as the main unit. The construction is again primarily plastic with three sections, the speakers, a hollow middle and a heavy base that provide solid support. The fact that all four tower speakers are identical is important from the perspective of a cohesive soundfield and they are easy to assemble and position. They use a 2-way, 3-speaker design and are 1330mm tall, with a base that is 280 x 280mm and they weigh 5.5kg. At the top of each speaker is an additional driver firing upwards which provides the additional four height speakers. The centre speaker, which matches the main speakers and is designed to be positioned sideways under your TV, measures 412 x 82 x 73mm and weighs 1.4kg. Finally there is the passive subwoofer which again shares the same styling and measures 251 x 336 x 247mm and weighs 6.3kg. The sub's build quality could definitely be better and it feels rather rather light and hollow.
The BH9520 comes with a standard LG remote control that is very similar to the ones provided with their TV and, as always, it's well designed, intuitive and comfortable to use. The remote does a great job of cramming in buttons for the Blu-ray player, the amplifier and even a few basic controls for LG TVs without becoming over-crowded or confusing. There are all the standard Blu-ray controls as well as buttons for controlling the radio, changing the volume, adjusting the speaker levels, switching between optical inputs and selecting sound effects.
Menus and Setup
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, although the receiver uses spring clip terminals rather than the the dedicated connectors used for everything else.
When you turn on the BH9520 you are confronted with a basic Home page, from where you can access all the system's features. The available options are Music, Movie, Photo, Premium, LG Apps, Input and Setup. Obviously if you choose Music you can listen to music files from any connected device, if you choose Movie you can watch video files and if you choose Photo you can look at your pictures. If you select Premium you can access LG's internet platform and if you choose LG Apps you can access the apps store. If you select Input then you can choose between all the different sources that can connect to the BH9520, including HDMI 1/2, FM Radio, USB, iPod, ARC (Audio Return Channel), Optical In, Bluetooth, AUX and Portable.
If you select Setup then you can access the BH9520's menu system where you will find sub-menus for Display, Language, Audio, Lock, Network and Others. We will cover the Display and Audio sub-menus later, in the sections dedicated to video and audio performance. In terms of the other sub-menus, Language obviously allows you to choose the languages used for menus, subtitles and audio, whilst the Lock sub-menu allows you to set the parental locks and DVD and BD disc ratings. In the Network sub-menu, you can setup the wired or wireless connection, as well as features like BD-Live, Netflix and WiFi Direct. Finally the Others sub-menu allows you setup features like DivX, Network Play and software updates.
Like all the other LG products we have seen, the BH9520 plays a wide range of formats, including MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, DivX HD, MKV, AVCHD, M4V, WMV, FLV and 3GP. The menu pages that come up when playing any of these files back are clear, simple and responsive, showing cover art where available. Another useful feature is the inclusion of Gracenote, which means that whilst listening to music you can hit the Music ID button on the remote control, the BH9520 will then access the Gracenote database and identify the music you are listening to. If you are watching a DVD or Blu-ray, you can go into the Option menu and also access the Gracenote database from there, allowing you to obtain additional information about whatever you are watching.
The BH9520 includes LG’s excellent Smart TV internet portal, which is accessed via the section called Premium and features an interesting selection of apps which are all presented in a clear and concise manner. Among the apps available are BBC iPlayer, YouTube, LoveFilm, Netflix, Acetrax, Dailymotion, Picasa, Cinetrailers, Viewster and others. It isn’t as comprehensive as the platform you will find on LG’s TVs but it certainly helps add some smart features to an older TV. It would be nice to see some more catch-up services added but at least we were able to get iPlayer to work and access LG Apps, both of which proved inaccessible on the previous LG all-in-one system we reviewed. Speaking of apps, there is a remote app available for both iOS and Android and we found that both worked very well, providing an effective alternative to the normal remote control.
As a Blu-ray player, the BH9520 is actually rather good, delivering an impressive performance with both 2D and 3D Blu-rays and DVDs. The loading times were fast, the player was reasonably quiet in operation and the overall performance was slick. When it came to 3D the performance was excellent with the content playing flawlessly and no compatibility or handshaking issues. As with the 3D performance, the digital nature of the 2D content means the BH9520 performed equally as well here, correctly outputting the video without any issues. The images produced were excellent with all the Blu-rays we watched showing plenty of fine detail and appearing free from any judder or unwanted video processing. When it comes to 1080i content the BH9520 was able to pass all the popular cadence tests and the quality of the deinterlacing was excellent.
As with the 1080i content the BH9520 benefits from LG's excellent video processing when dealing with standard definition content, correctly scaling the full 576i/50Hz images without any loss of detail or unwanted ringing. With the video deinterlacing tests the results were also excellent, the BH9520 reproduced the rotating line without producing any jaggies, even at the most extreme angles. In the motion adaptive deinterlacing test the performance remained superb with all three moving lines being reproduced correctly, even on the bottom line. In the cadence tests the it also performed flawlessly, correctly detecting the most common 2:2 cadence without any problems. The BH9520 also had no problems with the test displaying film material with scrolling video text, the text was always clearly readable without any shredding.
However, if you're intending to use the BH9520'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.
The BH9520 offers a range of Sound Effects that can be selected using the remote control. These sound effects include Natural, Natural Plus, Bass Blast, Clear Voice, Game, Night, Upscaler, Loudness and User EQ, although for the purists, there is also Bypass which avoids any processing. To give the audio a wider presence, there are also the 3D Sound modes which has two choices, 3D Music which is designed to provide a concert-hall like experience and 3D Movie which is designed to give a more cinema-like experience. These latter two modes make full use of the upward firing height speakers on the front and rear speakers, helping to create a more immersive sound experience. There is also 3D Zooming which is designed to project sounds so they move in unison with the images on the screen.
To test the BH9520’s audio capabilities we tried out our newly acquired Blu-ray of Prometheus, which has an absolutely reference soundtrack. Overall the all-in-one system was very impressive, replicating the film’s complex audio mix rather well. The effects were delivered with plenty of detail, creating an immersive and very effective soundstage that envelopes 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 pans around the room were smooth and there was very good imaging with precise placement of effects. Yes it isn’t going to be as good as a proper separates system but as all-in-one systems go it is one of the better examples that we have reviewed. Listening to various other Blu-rays, we found the LG to be a very 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 1100W, the BH9520 had plenty of energy to deliver an effective dynamic range, imbuing louder effects with real force without distorting. With a decidedly unsubtle soundtrack like Battleship, it handled the audio pyrotechnics with great aplomb, showing a level of authority and insight rarely found at this price point. The Battleship soundtrack also has some serious bass moments and the BH9520 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. However, the sub was still able to deliver plenty of bass effects and it did feel properly integrated with the rest of the system, as long as you don't set it too high. In fact the BH9520’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 tried the various sound effect modes but whilst they sometimes expanded the soundstage, we always felt it was at the expense of the clarity and precise imaging. This was especially true when listening to two channel music, which always benefited from being listened to without any processing. What was far more interesting and the big selling point of the BH-9520, was its 3D Sound capabilities that use the additional height speakers. We tried the 3D Sound mode with a variety of content and it provided an enveloping and more complete sonic experience with a genuine sense of height. The soundstage felt more open and spacious than in the Bypass mode, which in turn made for a more involving audio experience. However, since films aren't mixed with height channels, these additional cues are still being added through processing. As a result, just like with music, we still ultimately preferred the Bypass mode but it's still impressive that LG can offer a genuine 9.1 system at this price point.
- Excellent playback of Blu-rays
- Impressive sound quality
- Wireless rear speakers
- Attractive design and solid build
- Excellent video processing
- Good remote and menus
- Built-in WiFi, Bluetooth and FM radio
- WiDi compatibility
- Comprehensive media capabilities
- No headphone socket
- Build quality could be better
- Subwoofer is limited
LG BH9520TW 3D Blu-ray Player and 9.1 Home Cinema System Review
Setup is straightforward thanks to LG's well designed menu system and colour coded speaker cables, which is quite an achievement when you consider how many features there are on the BH-9520. Aside from the 3D Blu-ray player, we also get a 9.1 speaker setup with additional amplification for upward firing height speakers. In addition, there is a built-in FM radio, built-in WiFi, Bluetooth connectivity and WiFi Direct compatibility. If you prefer a more physical connection, there are also USB ports, an Ethernet port and a 3.5mm audio jack. However, whether you choose to deliver content over your home network, through a connected device or via the built-in Blu-ray drive, the BH-9520 can accommodate your media requirements with an extensive degree of file support. If that wasn't enough you also get LG's excellent Smart TV platform with a multitude of useful apps and Video-on-Demand services, along with a remote control app that comes in both iOS and Android varieties.
The BH-9520 includes a full LG Blu-ray player which delivers an excellent performance with both 2D and 3D discs and thanks to some very impressive video processing, can also get the best from your DVD collection. The audio performance was equally as impressive and whilst we wouldn't expect it to compete with a full separates system, we were happily surprised at how effective the BH-9520 actually was. This is in part due to the use of identical tower speakers for the front and rear, which creates a tonally cohesive soundfield and the wireless rears also worked well, never losing their signal. Overall we found the LG to be a very engaging performer delivering a dynamic experience with clear dialogue, undistorted sound, a coherent mid-range and well integrated bass. It was only at the low end that the budget nature of the system began to show, with the passive subwoofer sometimes struggling, especially with the deep bass on many modern movies.
The BH-9520's musical capabilities were also very impressive and it was able to deliver a highly enjoyable stereo performance. We tried the various sound effects but as always we found that the processing ultimately muddies the precision of the audio. However, the big selling point of the BH-9520 is the inclusion of 3D Sound with its four additional height speakers. In this mode the soundstage feels more spacious than in the Bypass mode, which in turn makes for a more enveloping experience with a genuine sense of height. However, since films aren't mixed with height channels, these additional cues are still being added through processing. As a result, we ultimately preferred the Bypass mode but it's still impressive that LG can offer a genuine 9.1 system at this price point.
The LG BH-9520 is a fantastic all-in-one system that offers a host of features and a great audio performance at a very attractive price. If you're looking to add surround sound to your lounge then look no further, the BH-9520 is an all-in-one system that truly lives up to its name.
Ease of Use
Value for Money
Our Review Ethos
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