LG has been responsible for some rather good soundbars - one of which even won an Award in 2013 - so it was happy news when we heard there was going to be a new one.
If you want a soundbar for aesthetic and space-saving reasons, this is just the ticket. The NB5540 is very pretty.
Elegant and understated, it’s one of the sleekest, most visually appealing soundbars we’ve tested. The body is mostly plastic, but it’s high-quality plastic with a brushed-metal effect on top.
Four drivers (driven by 40 watts of amplification) peek out from behind the grille. It’s all beautifully finished and solidly put together. As far as perceived value is concerned, this one goes far.
One of the attractions is the soundbar’s ability to sit in front of your TV and not obstruct anything.
Some chunkier rivals practically demand a dedicated shelf, but not this LG - standing a mere 40mm tall.
Two HDMIs – one in, one out – sit alongside USB and 3.5mm inputs. File-format support is good too
The accompanying wireless subwoofer isn’t quite so spectacular or space-saving, but then again subwoofers don’t tend to be. It’s essentially a cloth-covered cube.
Its wireless connection to the soundbar gives you some flexibility over placement. The set of connections is fairly generous. You get one each of HDMI in and out, optical, 3.5mm and USB.
Supported formats include MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG (up to 48kHZ) and FLAC (to 24-bit/192kHz).
The remote handset operates a wide range of functions, including sub levels, lip sync and inputs
There’s Bluetooth for music streaming, even if it doesn’t support the higher-quality aptX variety.
The connection is stable, although LG recommends avoiding metal furniture or operating microwave/medical equipment nearby.
You may be tempted to try the LG Bluetooth Remote app, but we found it buggy and uncooperative.
Thankfully the proper remote is very good. It’s nicer than the typical ‘credit card’ alternative, and controls subwoofer levels, sound effects and USB folders, as well as the usual volume and channel control options. Operation is slick and responsive.
More after the break
So far so good. Unfortunately the sound isn’t so impressive. We connect the bar to the TV (via optical) and tune in to a bit of tennis from Wimbledon.
The LG succeeds in making the TV sound wider, more spacious and more full-bodied. There’s also a good deal of detail, with voices and handclaps sounding convincingly textured.
The bass is quite overbearing straight out of the box, but this can be managed with the remote control. Once toned down, it’s fairly weighty yet nicely defined.
What’s not manageable, however, is the thin sound at the top end, which can edge into sharp and harsh territory.
This is accentuated by a poorly integrated midrange, which lacks weight and dynamics.
Make sure you turn the subwoofer down a few notches to keep it under control
The effect is that there appears to be a gap between the top and bottom of the frequency range, which is rather distracting.
This is more apparent when we play music through USB or Bluetooth: despite a good deal of detail, the top and bottom end hog the spotlight while the midrange is obscured.
There are various sound modes, but like most we’ve heard these are not particularly effective.
The only one we’d use is ‘Music’, which rounds off the top end, but this makes the performance less punchy and dynamic.
We find ourselves disappointed with the LG NB5540. It’s hard to get past the flaws in the sound, even if we do love the design and features.
Ultimately, similar money can get you similar features with much better sound.