If you own a flat-panel TV, there is a good chance you aren't satisfied with the quality of the sound it produces. As nice as these TVs look, the speaker systems often tend to be neglected. The best way to improve your home cinema experience is to add an external system.
The £380 LG HT762TZ is a 5.1 surround sound speaker system, with an upscaling DVD player thrown into the mix. Will it be the speaker system complement to your lovely flatscreen?
We're always thrilled to see a unique design rather than the same old square box. Worse yet is a design that has been 'borrowed' from another company. Happily, the LG has a style all of its own, which we rather like. The corners are rounded, with smooth lines and attractive glossy black surfaces.
The satellite speakers -- the ones that deal with front left and right and rear left and right channels -- are what LG describes as champagne flutes. Indeed, we can see why they've compared them to the world's favourite fizzy wine. We also think the whole package works really well together.
Although we like the flute speakers and the centre channel, we weren't so crazy on the subwoofer, which is both ugly and slightly flimsy. That said, this speaker will spend its life hidden away somewhere, so we're not going to criticise LG for not lavishing extra design pennies on it.
At the rear of the DVD player are, as you would expect, speaker terminals for each of the six speakers. Each is colour coded, and the supplied speaker cable should match up. This is done so the cable lengths can be kept short for the front speakers and more generous for the rear channels.
You also get an HDMI, composite, component, S-Video and Scart outputs for getting the video to the TV. There's also an optical audio input so you can hook up an external source like a Blu-ray player or games console.
The remote control for the unit is fairly large, but it's got buttons for everything, which reduces the need for menus.
The LG has a built-in radio and we can see this being less relevant with digital TV, which has a good selection of radio stations already. Those stations are over-compressed and FM still has its charms, so the radio may be of some use. Shame LG didn't include DAB on this machine.
The HT762TZ is also a pretty useful media playback device. You can plug in a USB stick with DivX video or just bung in a DVD with AVI files burnt on to it. Either way, the machine is comfortable with the files.
You also get a phenomenal amount of disc support. There really isn't much aside from Blu-ray and HD DVD that this player can't handle. Even SACD and DVD Audio are supported, and DVD+/-R, DVD+/-RW and DVD RAM are all playable. That's pretty impressive.
To find out how good the HT762TZ is, we tested sound and picture quality from the built-in DVD player, as well as the sound from an external Blu-ray player. Watching Blade on DVD using the LG's player showed us a couple of important things. First, the upscaling on this player isn't the greatest. When we selected 1080p output, the player left a large black line down the left-hand side of the screen.
We were also generally unimpressed by the upscaled picture quality. Setting the player back to 576p and letting our TV do the hard work was much better though, and generally speaking, TVs have much better upscaling hardware in anyway, so this is not a problem.
We also noticed that although the picture quality via HDMI was generally good, there was red bleed. The start of Blade features red credits on a mainly dark background. This player had red spilling out of the sides of text, a problem that plagues many players, but this was worse. Still, this is an exceptional test and most other material looked great.
Sound from the built-in player was excellent. The bass from the LG was tight and hard hitting in the right places. Surround effects were subtle too, but very much appropriate to what we were watching. The centre channel was the highlight, making dialogue much easier to hear and understand in loud action scenes.
Although we liked the sound, we did notice the system didn't go especially loud, despite its very high watt rating. We suspect the system is loud enough for most users, however.
Our Blu-ray player, hooked up via optical digital, proved that the system has the right stuff for external inputs too. The Blu-ray player outputs a Dolby Digital mix, which is downconverted from the TrueHD soundtrack on the Blu-ray. We found this surround track to be full of life, and the demo tracks on the Dolby disc sounded as brilliant as we would have expected.
As an upscaling DVD player, we weren't that impressed by the LG HT762TZ. Still, it's not a major concern because, when you can use your TV's upscaling capabilities anyway. In terms of sound, we found the system to be clear, crisp and well balanced.
Although it's not the cheapest product on the market, it's a
strong contender and will offer people who want an all-in-one solution
a great introduction to the world of home cinema. If you're looking for
an alternative, consider the older LG model, the HT902TB, which is a good performer and cheaper. You could also take a look at the Samsung HT-X30, which we rated as excellent just a couple months ago.
Edited by Shannon Doubleday