The HLX-56S is an all-in-one home cinema system cast in the shape of a soundbar. With integrated Blu-ray player, digital amplifier, net portal and media streamer, it’s pretty much all you need for instant AV gratification.

Now I know what you’re thinking: a shove-it-all-in soundbar can’t possibly deliver a credible home entertainment experience. But if you’re tight on space, want something extremely simple to use, or just need to upgrade a flatscreen in a den or bedroom, then it’s well worth investigating.

Of course, at £750 it’s not exactly a cheap option, but you do get some refinement for your cash. From the chirping touch-sensitive controls ranged across the top, to the smooth slot-loading disc mechanism, it’s a nice system to drive.

The ‘bar itself is accompanied by a standalone 150W subwoofer. Rather thoughtfully, this is wireless (using the 5.8GHz band) which makes placement/cable management a doddle. The display glows blue in contentment when it auto-connects to the main player.

LG rates its wireless range at 20m, but you won’t need to test this. It can sound directional, so keep it near to the ‘bar for best integration. The HLX-56S has two HDMI inputs and one out. Other connections includes an optical digital audio input, a terminal for a wired iPod dock, FM aerial and Ethernet LAN. Wi-Fi is built-in. Once networked, the HLX-56S can see and stream from networked PCs and NAS boxes, as well as access LG’s Smart TV portal.

The Blu-ray player secreted within the HLX-56S offers a performance comparable with entry-level, stand-alone BD decks. It’s compatible with 3D discs and offers a decent level of picture clarity. Loading speeds aren’t great, though. The HLX-56S lacks LG’s MediaLink functionality, but USB and network media streaming is excellent regardless, with MKV, AVI and MOVs all playing nicely. The player is also compatible with AVCHD content, MP3, WMA, WAV and AAC/M4a.

Know your presets

The bar itself offers a variety of acoustic presets. You can choose from Bass Blast (don’t!), Natural, Clear Voice, Virtual and Game. However, I preferred to run the system on Bypass.

As with all soundbars, there’s some pretence at virtual surround post-processing, but it’s more like wide, curvy stereo. I particularly like the mid-range clarity and heft attributed to vocals/centre channel.

Overall, the LG HLX56S is a refreshingly successful example of all-in-one convenience. Blu-ray playback and media streaming is solid, IPTV provision is generous and the audio presentation effective. Check it out if you’re after a space-saving entertainment system that doesn’t suck.


HCC VERDICT

LG HLX- 56S
Price:
£750 Approx

Highs: Convenient all-in-one design; wireless subwoofer; gutsy audio; plenty of features
Lows: More wide stereo than surround sound; slow-loading BD deck

Performance: 4/5
Design: 4/5
Features: 5/5
Overall: 4/5


Specifications

3D: yes
Upscaling: yes to 1080p
Multiregion: no Region B BD/R2 DVD
Connections: 2 x HDMI in; 1 x HDMI out; 1 x optical digital input; 1 x Ethernet; 1 x USB; 1 x composite video
SACD/DVD-A: no/no
Profile 2.0: yes
Dimensions: 196(w) x 770(h) x 40(d)mm
Weight: 6.8kg
Features: Network media streaming; integrated Wi-Fi; FM tuner; wired iPod dock; Smart TV portal; power output of 4 x 70W; wireless subwoofer 150W