There's not much to budget sound bars. Sound quality generally ranges from mediocre to "good enough," there are a couple inputs around the back, and most include a wireless subwoofer--that's it.
That pretty much describes the LG LSB316, although its Bluetooth functionality is a standout feature. Bluetooth may sound ho-hum, but it enables AirPlay-like music streaming from iOS devices; you even use the same AirPlay icon to enable it. And since Bluetooth is available on non-Apple smartphones and portable devices, you're not locked into an Apple gadget.
The LG LSB316's so-so sound quality means it wouldn't be the first sound bar we'd choose, but it's a good choice for less-demanding listeners that want the convenience of wireless audio streaming via Bluetooth.
The LSB316 has a typical design, with a long sound bar and a wireless subwoofer. The real style of the unit comes in how thin the sound bar is, coming in at only 2 inches deep. There's no speaker grille up front, with three exposed drivers on the far ends.
There's a front-panel display (which isn't always a given) and it's easy to read from about 10 feet away. There are a few front panel buttons under the display and a USB port to the right, which can be used to play back digital music files.
We've made a big deal about AirPlay on AV receivers and (somewhat to our surprise) we found the Bluetooth functionality on the LSB316 works almost identically to AirPlay with iOS devices. Make sure Bluetooth is activated in the settings, cue some music using the iPod app or any other music app (including Rhapsody, Pandora, etc.), select "LG Audio" from the AirPlay icon, and then your music will stream directly to the LSB316. It's seamless as the experience with other AirPlay-enabled devices, like the Denon AVR-1912 and Pioneer VSX-1021-K. Even better, Bluetooth isn't limited to iOS devices. We used the Samsung Epic 4G Android phone, and while the experience wasn't quite as easy, we were eventually able to stream music stored on the phone and from music apps.
The LSB316's connectivity options are decent, but we'd still like more. Two optical inputs will cover, say a cable box and gaming console, but many home theaters have other devices like a Roku XDS or Blu-ray player. There's also a minijack input that's labeled as a portable audio input, although you can use it with a home theater device with an adapter cable.
The LSB316's included remote is decent, although it's more cluttered than it needs to be. We liked the centrally located input button and the volume rocker is easy enough to find. However, there are plenty of confusing design choices. What looks like a directional pad in the middle of the remote is really a set of playback controls for USB sources. Overall, it's a usable remote, but it could be a lot better.