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Arriving in its coffin-sized box, the BH9520TW was daunting to unpack; it was almost clown-car-esque, the way in which a seemingly endless array of plastic-wrapped parts were revealed. In truth, the system was actually fairly simple to set up, given its range of features.
LG's BH9520TW is, at its core, a 5.1-channel home-theatre system with 3D-capable Blu-ray playback. However, LG has added four 3D speakers, which are designed to deliver multi-directional sound. These are integrated into the four standard tallboy speakers, rather than requiring additional placement around a room.
The rear speakers are wireless, plugging in to a relay station while a front speaker and a 180W subwoofer round out the set. The rear speakers have to be set up wirelessly — there aren't actually any plugs for them on the rear of the head unit — so you'll need a power point somewhere for those. Physical set-up is simple, with the speakers using colour-coded proprietary plugs to make things as easy as possible. The speakers and head unit are, sadly, the dreaded piano black that seems designed purely to attract fingerprints and dust. While they look a little glossy and plasticky, the fully assembled tallboy units have a solid, comforting weight, and won't be knocked over too easily.
The head unit has a nice range of connectors on the rear, including optical in, a LAN port for a wired net connection and even two HDMI-in ports, letting you use the system as a mini receiver of sorts — it's great adding a game console and still being able to enjoy the surround sound. Once everything is plugged in, the BH9520TW runs an automatic set-up wizard, guiding you quickly and cleanly through speaker placement and wireless networking: the works.
The remote control deserves a mention, too, for being well designed and very simple to use. The buttons are rubberised and large, and the only problem we encountered was that the enter button in the centre of the remote was a little fussy if you weren't pushing it directly from the middle.
Sound-wise, the BH9520TW is, in a single word, great; it produces good, heavy sounds, with clear dialogue and a genuinely immersive surround effect. LG is touting its 3D Sound Zooming feature, where real-time 3D image depth analysis results in the sound actually zooming in and out in sync with the 3D film, so we tested it with both the 3D and 2D versions of Clash of the Titans across two different panels. The 3D zoom initially felt like it wasn't doing much, but it was some of the bigger action sequences — such as the scorpion fight — where we noticed a difference. You do get a real sense of height; when the scorpion stings are lashing down, it genuinely seems like the sound is coming from above. It's not something that's essential, but it's certainly something we enjoyed.
The Blu-ray playback from the system was as good as anything we'd seen, with crisp action and good colour across the panels. Both Clash of the Titans and the (relatively) more sedate Source Code looked great. It wasn't the fastest-loading Blu-ray player we've used — just under a minute from inserting the disc to being ready to play — but it's a very long way from the worst. We did note that the front unit has a very high-pitched whine when initially loading the discs, which was a little irritating, but it wasn't present during playback, so it shouldn't be much of a problem. Using Batman Begins for DVD playback was equally good. The head unit uses slot loading for the discs, which initially confused us, as we repeatedly pressed the eject button waiting for a disc bay to pop out.
The network features were also quite sophisticated, with the system able to quickly find networked media storage servers. There's also Wi-Fi direct to connect phones and other wireless devices. We played with the YouTube feature, linking our HTC One X to the system. It let us search on the phone for clips, then play them on the TV via the BH9520TW with just a quick screen touch, which was all very simple and well done. We weren't huge fans of the interface, however; it felt a bit like we were in a setting section, rather than a proper user interface, but we didn't have any massive issues with finding our way around — it just wasn't quite as slick as we might have hoped.
The front unit has a USB port just under the loading slot for discs, and the system happily plays a variety of files straight from a thumb drive or any USB device. LG claims that the BH9520TW supports MP3, WMA, AAC, FLAC, DivX HD, MKV, AVCHD, M4V, WMV, FLV and 3GP — and we certainly had no issue with any of the files we tested.
By today's standards, AU$1099 is a reasonable chunk of change for a home-theatre system, but the LG BH9520TW has more than enough features to make it well worth the money. When combined with the good sound reproduction and simple set-up, we're more than happy to recommend this system.