With great sound and superb design, the LG SH5 is a brilliant entry-level soundbar and subwoofer combo
LG’s new SH5 is one of the most attractive soundbar and subwoofer combos I’ve seen in some time. From the subwoofer’s cuboid-patterned finish to the almost book spine-like design of the soundbar itself, the SH5 has a classy yet understated look that immediately sets it apart from Samsung’s similarly priced HW-K450.
Admittedly, the SH5’s silver body might not suit everyone’s living room, but at least its compact design means it will be fairly inconspicuous if it does end up clashing with your décor. Standing a mere 53mm talwwxl, the soundbar should easily slot underneath most TVs, and its length of 945mm means it’s best suited to screens that are 42in or larger. The subwoofer is equally compact, measuring 171 x 320 x 252mm, so you shouldn’t have too many problems slotting it behind your sofa or next to your AV cabinet.
Ports and connections
It comes with a good selection of ports, too, including a pair of HDMI connections, one of which supports ARC (audio return channel). This means you can send audio from your TV to the SH5 as well as from external devices, and only have one wire connecting the soundbar to your TV.
It’s worth noting, though, that these HDMI ports only meet the 1.4 standard, rather than the newer HDMI 2, so they won’t be able to handle 4K passthrough from an Ultra HD Blu-ray player. There’s also an optical S/PDIF output, a 3.5mm stereo input and a USB port. These are all located in hollowed-out cubby holes at the rear of the SH5, making it possible to either set the soundbar on a surface or wall-mount it.
Bizarrely, LG has also decided to place the power, source function and volume-control buttons on the back of the soundbar. This makes little sense if you want to wall-mount it, and even if the soundbar is perched in front of your TV reaching the controls is awkward.
Fortunately, the small, chunky remote control supplied with the SH5 replicates these buttons, and provides direct access to several other options as well, including the SH5’s night mode, media-playback controls and EQ settings, so you shouldn’t have to reach around the back of the soundbar too often. Unless, of course, you’re careless enough to lose the remote control.
Since this is only an entry-level 2.1 channel system, the SH5’s audio won’t exactly rattle your insides, but it’s still a worthy upgrade from standard TV speakers. There’s plenty of volume on hand, for starters, and its subwoofer adds meaty, solid bass. In our Batman vs Superman test soundtrack, the drums and double bass were delivered with warmth and depth, while the whining guitars on top came through loud and clear.
Lighter scores, such as the How to Train Your Dragon 2 soundtrack, sounded equally deft and sprightly. Cymbals and hi-hats were a little clipped and artificial-sounding at times, but vocals carried well and there was a good level of separation between all the different instruments. You’ll probably want to keep the sound profile set to Standard or Adaptive Sound Control (ASC) for general music, though, as Cinema mode places a far heavier emphasis on the bass and sometimes muddles the mids and trebles.
According to LG, its ASC mode is meant to automatically analyse vocal levels in real-time. It should reduce the bass when it senses more prominent dialogue, for example while you’re watching the news or EastEnders, and ramp up the bass again when voices are less prominent. In this mode I found it was definitely a touch clearer than Standard when listening to vocal music, and I also preferred it for listening to classical tracks as well. Lizst’s “Liebestraum No.3” was a fraction clearer and more defined than in Standard mode, for example, and it sounded more realistic to my ears.
Unsurprisingly, Cinema mode came into its own when watching films and TV shows, with much clearer-sounding and pronounced dialogue than the other two modes. Speech was still a little muffled for my liking, even in Cinema mode, but on the whole I found the SH5 enjoyable to listen to.
Another handy feature is the SH5’s Night Mode, which cuts down the bass so you can carry on watching films late into the evening without disturbing your neighbours. It works brilliantly, too: the rest of the frequency range remains intact, so it doesn’t feel like you’re compromising the overall sound quality by having it turned on. It certainly beats having to constantly change the volume during loud scenes, and even if you don’t get on with the balance of sound it provides, you can always adjust the treble, bass and subwoofer’s EQ values to get it just right.
With its good looks and great sound, LG’s SH5 is an excellent entry-level soundbar. I much prefer listening to this than Samsung’s similarly priced HW-K450; there’s more definition to the sound here, with better bass, and its various sound profiles do a better job of adapting to different source material. Its extensive selection of ports also gives it plenty of flexibility.
I’d also say the SH5 is a worthy upgrade over some of our other top budget soundbars, such as the Steljes Audio Calliope. The SH5’s dedicated subwoofer makes a big difference to the overall depth and warmth of the music, and the LG’s superior build quality represents is a big step up too. With so much going for it, it wins a Best Buy award.
- RMS power output-320W
- Subwoofer option-200W (included)
- Rear speaker option-N/A
- Dimensions-945x53x85 (soundbar), 171x320x252 (subwoofer)
- Weight-2.6kg (soundbar), 4.2kg (subwoofer)
- Audio inputs-3.5mm stereo
- Audio outputs-Optical S/DPIF
- Video inputs-HDMI 1.4
- Video outputs-HDMI 1.4
- Dock connector-None
- USB port-USB
- Networking-Bluetooth 4.0
- Video playback formats-None
- Image viewing formats-None
- Audio playback formats-MP3, WMA, WAV, OGG, FLAC, Dolby Digital, LPCM
- Smart TV apps-None