The NB4540 shines from LG’s brand new range of soundbars and boasts you with a big home cinema sound without bombarding you with boxes and cables like a regular home cinema system. It’s the ideal upgrade if you’re tired of your TV’s tinny sound quality but hate clutter.
The NB4540 is a 4.1 system, which means four speakers in the soundbar and a wireless subwoofer handling the bass channel. The step-up NB5540 is designed for larger televisions and doesn’t include a separate subwoofer.
[divider]Design and Connections[/divider]
Soundbars and soundbases are getting slimmer every year and the NB4540 continues the trend. Height-wise it’s just 3.5cm, but the LG’s 82mm depth sets LG back with the title of the ‘slimmest sound bar’. However, don’t let this fool you. The NB4540 is perfect for any location near the tv, and with the 2 include wall mount brackets, it’s almost impossible to say you don’t have anywhere to put it.
The NB4540 may not be the slimmest soundbar then, but it’s certainly one of the most beautiful soundbars on the market to date. LG has done extremely well with the styling; boasting it up in a stunning brushed metal finish that shines and glints in the light. The curvy back end and side portholes aid a sense of elegance and the silver trim really catches the eye. Build quality is outstanding too, although the finish is more plastic-feeling than it looks when you touch it.[divider]User Ability[/divider]
The high-quality front mesh supports the useful LED display that shows the currently selected input when idle, however, it lacks a dimmer function. On top of the unit is a row of stylish round buttons allowing you to select inputs and adjust the volume.
The bar can be placed on top of a TV stand, cushioned by rubber pads on the bottom, or you can mount it on the wall using the supplied brackets. The mounting seems easy to do thanks to the supplied template for the drill holes.[divider]Inputs[/divider] On the back is an impressive array of sockets considering how little space there is to play with. There’s an HDMI input and ARC-compatible output, allowing you to feed audio signals directly from a Blu-ray deck or TV box and pass pictures on to your TV, we used this input to test the soundbar.
There’s also an optical digital input and a 3.5mm minijack port for portable devices. There’s even a USB port, which allows you to play music from flash drives.[divider]The Subwoofer[/divider]
The subwoofer is a standard, run-of-the-mill plastic box, although LG has jazzed it up with a brushed metal finish that matches the soundbar. It’s fairly sturdy and robustly built, plus the 221 x 351 x 281mm dimensions shouldn’t constitute a massive problem when installing it.[divider]Features[/divider]
LG has rammed in a decent range of features into this soundbar. First up there’s built-in Bluetooth, making it easy to stream music from phones and tablets or to beam audio from compatible LG TVs using the Sound Sync feature.
On-board power is rated at 320W, while the 3D Surround Processor aims to deliver a wide, immersing sound into your living room. There are also on-board decoders for Dolby Digital and DTS.
USB music playback is without a doubt a major feature and format support is terrific. You can play MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC and WAV.
A range of Sound Effect modes modify the EQ to suit different types of material – Standard, News, Music, Cinema, Sports and Bass – while Auto Volume keeps the loudness consistent.
Setup is a cakewalk and day-to-day operation is made simple by the legible LED display and well-designed remote.
Too many companies supply small, fiddly remotes with their soundbars, but the NB4540 boasts a proud full-size handset with large rubber buttons, much like one of its Blu-ray remotes.
That’s a luxury when it comes to operation, it sits comfortably in the hand and all of the keys are thoughtfully placed. The volume controls sit on a bump, which helps you find them in the dark. Frequently used functions like Sound Effect and input selection are given their own clearly-labelled buttons, while Bluetooth playback controls are placed bang in the middle. You can also adjust the subwoofer level and introduce an audio delay with the remote.
Simplink lets you control an LG TV using the same remote, while LG’s Bluetooth Remote app lets you control the unit from a smartphone or tablet.[divider]Performance[/divider]
Brainless it may be, but Jurassic Park on Blu-ray is a tremendous test disc for soundbars because those versed dinosaurs reveal a lot about a system’s bass performance and its ability to stay composed under extreme pressure.
So how does the LG handle this audio onslaught? Very well actually, despite some small breaks in its brushed metal armour. We’ll come to those shortly, but let’s start with the good stuff.
Firstly the NB4540 hosts a remarkably crisp sound, which will please those who like their movies open and airy. The soundstage is bristling with top-end detail. Every effect or line of dialogue is garnished with a dusting of treble that adds texture and impact.
On the downside, this stress on top-end crispness means it can sound overly bright when you turn the volume up high. Its high frequencies aren’t the most natural we’ve ever heard either, the NB454 is forced and hissy. Midrange frequencies are a little strained too
But that’s only a problem at unusually high volumes. Stick to a more reasonable level and you get a crisp, lively sound with idyllic dynamics.
Elsewhere the subwoofer does a great job. Massive footsteps are accompanied by forceful throbs of bass, which sound tighter and stop faster than expected, although it’s too overpowering in the default ‘0’ setting and takes a bit of trial and error to integrate – I found -2 to be the optimum setting.
The Cinema sound mode offers the best overall sonic balance. Dialogue is audible without being overly prominent (it’s too nasal in Standard mode) and there’s a terrific sense of width. This is boosted further by 3D processing – I could detect some sonic activity in the space to the sides of the actual speakers.
I took advantage of the LG’s Bluetooth connection to stream music and was impressed by the results. Tunes bounce along nicely thanks to the agile subwoofer while the soundbar’s crisp character brings out hi-hats and percussion while adding texture to voices and instruments. It lacks the range and neutrality of dedicated hi-fi speakers but it’s fine for casual day-to-day listening.[divider]Verdict[/divider]
The NB4540’s crisp, engaging sonic character makes it a very enjoyable listen and the sub adds a decent depth and scale, although it doesn’t like loud volumes and other soundbars offer a more natural performance.
With its slim, elegant design, generous inputs, decent features and enjoyable performance, the NB4540 will be difficult to resist. There are better-sounding models on the market but the LG’s heady combination of features, design and performance make it a terrific purchase despite its shortcomings.
Dazzling looks, decent features and crisp, detailed sound quality make LG’s soundbar system a cracking purchase, even though some rivals offer a slightly more polished performance.