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LG Micro HiFi System FB163 review: LG Micro HiFi System FB163

It's clad in a pretty package, but the FB163 disappoints on the performance front, offering confusing iPod features and an arguably superfluous USB recording function.

Ella Morton
Ella was an Associate Editor at CNET Australia.
Ella Morton
4 min read

The FB163 consists of three glossy black pillars: the main unit and the left and right speakers. On top of the stereo is an iPod dock, while CDs and DVDs are inserted ballot-style into a stealthy vertical slot. The lack of a loading tray for discs won't please everyone — as with Mac laptops, it requires a certain amount of faith to sink your prized CDs into that mysterious abyss. You also won't be able to use 8cm discs, as they'll get swallowed up and jammed in the FB163's innards.


LG Micro HiFi System FB163

The Good

Minimalist, glossy look. Virtual sound is powerful and full-bodied. Compatible with DivX files.

The Bad

Pointless USB recording function. Touch controls can be fiddly. Dual iPod dock modes are confusing and don't function as they should.

The Bottom Line

With its disappointing USB and iPod features, there's no big reason to recommend the FB163 above other micro systems.

To play, pause and navigate through tracks, you can either use the remote control or press lightly on the glowing, touch-sensitive circular control on the front face of the stereo. Swirling your finger around the inside of the circle adjusts the volume.

A flip-down panel at the bottom reveals a USB, line-in and headphone sockets as well as buttons for setting the clock. When the panel is closed, the front face is remarkably smooth and minimalist.

The FB163 will handle audio CDs, DVDs and discs stuffed with MP3, WMA, JPEG and DivX files. Standard inclusions like the radio and alarm clock are joined by an iPod dock, but this feature is a little more complicated than it seems. There are two input modes: plain old iPod and "iPod OSD". In the first mode, the player's battery won't be charged when it is docked, but menus can be navigated on the iPod itself, and tracks can be played, paused and skipped via the remote control. In iPod OSD mode, the player will be charged, but because the iPod's display is locked, tracks can only be played via the micro system or remote control.

A puzzling feature is the one-touch USB recording. Plug a USB stick into the socket at the front of the system, press the USB record button on the top, and the tracks on an audio CD will be copied as 128Kbps MP3s.

As far as inputs and outputs go, the FB163 gets old-school, offering up SCART and component/composite video instead of HDMI. A headphone jack allows you to nix that infernal racket, while a line-in socket accepts external audio sources such as MP3 players. Dual microphone sockets let Singstar divas do their karaoke thing — depending on the music choice, this could be viewed as a good feature or a very, very bad one.

The FB163 pumped out satisfactory sound, though there was some fizzing at the treble end of tracks. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' Red Right Hand, a song that highlights the strengths and weaknesses of any system, did not have the clean, sharp feel that speakers such as B&W's Zeppelin provide. Switching to virtual audio mode using the remote's VSM button improved matters greatly, with songs taking on an epic, full-bodied sound.

The USB recording function is, in a word, pointless. Copying appears to be in real-time — it took the FB163 20 minutes to work through five tracks. Songs are stored in a folder named "CD_REC" and given names like TRK-001.MP3, so you would need to go through and rename every song in order for the artist and title information to show up in your music management program of choice. The faster and easier way to extract MP3s from a CD is to simply rip the disc on your computer using iTunes or Windows Media Player. The only way we could see the FB163's USB recording function coming in handy is if your PC is on the blink.

They look mighty pretty, but the touch controls on the main unit can be fiddly, and adjusting the volume is not a smooth process. The reason the iPod's similarly structured touch wheel is so user-friendly is because of the size and angle at which it is held — it's easy to swirl your thumb around the circle because your other fingers stabilise the iPod and hold it at an agreeable angle. With the FB163 you need to point a finger horizontally at the control. It may seem a small ergonomic distinction, but it makes a big difference in the comfort stakes.

Though the manual states that it's possible to access iPod menus via the remote control when in OSD mode, we were unable to do so. We tried an iPod Touch and second-gen Nano, each sporting the latest software, and both stubbornly ignored our prodding of the menu buttons on the remote control. The Nano's display showed an LG logo and "OK to disconnect" message, while the Touch displayed its "Accessory attached" screen, making it impossible to do anything using the players' own controls. You can play, pause and skip tracks via the remote, but there is no way of telling what track is coming up next. Not a smooth experience.

The FB163 is a pretty looking player with acceptable audio, but its vaunted iPod and USB features didn't perform well. Bereft of these two elements, there's not much to separate the system from the heap of other models in its price range.