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LG NB3540 review

Katharine Byrne
4 Oct 2014
Expert Reviews Recommended Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
215
inc VAT

Excellent sound quality, but the good-looking NB3540 has limited ports and poor dynamic range compression

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Specifications

Speakers: 2, RMS power output: 160W, Dimensions: Soundbar: 770x75x35mm, Subwoofer:196x297x390mm , Weight: 1.3kg, Dock connector: N/A, Networking: Bluetooth 3.0

LG’s NB3540 soundbar and wireless subwoofer is a simple 2.1-channel system that’s both incredibly stylish and a lot cheaper than the competition. Measuring just 770mm long and 35mm high, the main speaker may get dwarfed by TVs that are much larger than 46 inches, but it’s slim, teardrop design looks great regardless of whether you mount it to a wall or place it in front of your TV.

The drivers are covered by a simple metal mesh along the front of the soundbar and you’ll find four control buttons on the top toward the rear. These power on the NB3540, change the volume and switch inputs, but the remote is far more comprehensive, as here you can change the sound mode, alter the volume of the subwoofer, activate dynamic range control and dim the menu display by using sleep mode.

Be aware that the only inputs available on the NB3540 are an optical audio S/PDIF port and a 3.5mm audio line input, and neither cable is provided in the box. This shouldn’t be too much of a problem, though, as optical S/PDIF cables are easy to get and shouldn’t cost more than £5 for a single cable. There’s also a USB port for playing music files from a flash drive or external hard disk, and the NB3540 supports all the main file formats, including MP3, WMA, OGG, FLAC and WAV files.

The subwoofer is wireless and will pair with the main soundbar automatically. All you need to do is plug it in. It’s compact, too, measuring 196x390x297mm, so it’s easy to tuck away in a corner. With a huge 160W output at its disposal, the NB3540 produces a palpable level of bass during films, but it’s never overwhelming, even at the highest volume setting. We set the subwoofer to its highest volume throughout our testing and couldn’t detect any distortion, even when we raised the soundbar’s volume to maximum.

The main soundbar has an equally powerful pair of 80W speakers, and its LPCM, Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0 codecs produced some of the best sound we’ve ever heard from a soundbar at this price. Dialogue was crystal clear regardless of the volume setting. When watching Avatar’s flight sequences, for example, we could hear the wind whistling beneath the wings of Jake’s banshee, and the jungles teemed with life. By comparison, the sound from our ordinary TV speakers sounded much thinner and the bass was almost non-existent.

The NB3540 can also stream music wirelessly via Bluetooth. Setting it up is simple, as all we had to do was go into our phone’s Bluetooth settings, pair it with the NB3540 and switch the soundbar’s input to Bluetooth. Here, music tracks streamed over Spotify and Google Play Music sounded just as crisp and well-balanced as our film soundtracks, with all frequencies being equally represented across the board.

There are six different sound profiles to choose from using the Sound Effect button, including, Standard, Cinema, Music, News, Sports and Bass. The Music profile was a little muted when playing music tracks over Bluetooth from our phone, and voices didn’t come across as loudly or clearly as they did when we used the Standard profile. The Cinema profile placed a little too much emphasis on bass, and the Bass profile reduced treble even further, so we stuck with Standard for the majority of our testing.

The only mild disappointment we had with the NB3540 was its poor dynamic range compression (DRC). This is supposed to reduce the ferocity of louder sounds and amplify softer sounds such as dialogue. DRC is often used as a kind of ‘night mode’ when you want to use the soundbar in the evening without disturbing your neighbours, but regardless of whether we turned the DRC on or off, the sound seemed to remain exactly the same. We tried enabling it at multiple volume levels, but the results never changed.

This is a shame, as it means you'll have to constantly change the volume manually instead of simply hitting a single button, but at least the sound was still reasonably balanced and clear even when we turned the volume down low.

The LG NB3540 is a great soundbar and subwoofer. However, it's a shame there's no HDMI input with ARC support to minimise cable routing, and its dynamic range compression is almost non-existent, but we're willing to look beyond these shortcomings in the face of its excellent sound quality. The Denon DHT-S514 has ARC-compatible HDMI ports, but it’s more expensive, and we prefer the sound quality of the LG NB5340. If you don't want to spend more than £220 on improving your home sound system, and you’re unconcerned by ARC-compatible HDMI ports, the LG NB3540 is for you.

Have a read of our guide to the best soundbars for more alternatives.

Hardware
Speakers2
RMS power output160W
Subwoofer option160W (included)
Rear speaker optionN/A
DimensionsSoundbar: 770x75x35mm, Subwoofer: 196x297x390mm
Weight1.3kg
Ports
Audio inputs3.5mm stereo, optical S/PDIF
Audio outputsN/A
Video inputsN/A
Video outputsN/A
Dock connectorN/A
USB portUSB
NetworkingBluetooth 3.0
NFCNo
Features
Video playback formatsN/A
Image viewing formatsN/A
Audio playback formatsMP3, FLAC, OGG, WAV, WMA
Smart TV appsN/A
Buying information
Price including VAT£215
WarrantyOne-year RTB
Detailswww.lg.com
Part codeNB3540

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