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Here’s the dish on LG’s new Sound Plate and the rest of its CES 2014 audio lineup

Following up on similar preemptive moves it made this time last year, LG is once again taking the wraps off a good deal of its latest products ahead of the big International CES 2014 shindig. Like canapés at a holiday party, LG is serving up enough details on its new audio lineup to keep us salivating until the massive Consumer Electronics Show convenes in early January. Here are the highlights.

Why snack at the bar when you can feast on a Sound Plate?

The sound bar was a wildly popular product category in 2013. And while it will probably maintain its momentum, expect the emerging sound base – or, as LG calls it, Sound Plate – to steal a little bit of the sound bar’s thunder at CES 2014. Rather than stretch long and thin to mimic the form factor of the TVs they pair with, sound bases take a literal supporting role by acting as the platform for a stand-mounted television. The short, deep cabinets provide plenty of resonance room for the small speakers built into them, allowing for fuller, deeper sound than most sound bars are capable of. LG introduced its sound plate earlier this year, but the new version the company is showing off sports some considerable advancements. 

The most obvious addition is that of a wireless subwoofer. Based on our experience with the original Sound Plate, this should provide significant benefit for those seeking big-system sound from a compact device. Looking a bit closer, though, and we see that the LG LAB540 (pictured above)  also has a built-in Blu-ray player and Smart TV interface, which makes it an attractive all-in-one option. How good it will sound remains to be seen … er, heard. But based on the list of features and our previous experience, this could be a winner for LG in the coming year. 

Sleeker and more powerful sound bars 

NB5540 Sound Bar

LG will show off two new sound bar models at this year’s CES. The NB5540, designed to underscore LG’s thin TV design, is a sleek and modern sound bar, packed with 320 watts of power and a 4.1 speaker compliment. LG promises a Hi-Fi DAC and analog class-D amplifier for superior sound, Bluetooth for wireless audio streaming and HDMI ARC for simple, one-cable hookup. 

The NB3740 is a slightly less modern-looking sound bar, but it packs some worthy hidden features. Like its more expensive cousin, sound is supported with 320 watts of power and 4.1 speaker compliment, but the 3740 also packs in Smart TV apps for streaming media from outfits such as Netflix, Vudu, CinemaNow, Pandor, and VTuner. 

Can anyone supplant Sonos?

NP8740 wireless speakerLG will show off its new networked wireless speaker solutions at CES 2014. An apparent answer to the popularity of Sonos’ wireless audio solutions, the 70-watt NP8740 and 40-watt NP8540 speakers work off an independent mesh network, which, in conjunction with an LG mobile device app, allows for several flexible playback options. Users could stream one song to one speaker and another to the next, or have an entire home’s worth of speakers playing the same song in each room, for instance. Interestingly, LG points to 24bit-192kHz DACs as a significant feature, which could allow for some very high-quality audio if the rest of the speaker is done right. We’ll be sure to have a listen on the show floor to find out. 

Blu-ray players and HTIB remain in the mix

LG will issue three Blu-ray players and one HTIB system this year. The flagship BP740 looks like the model to beat this year, with the addition of LG’s magic motion remote, and the highly useful Private Sound Mode 2.0 feature, which allows users to listen to streaming or disc-based audio via any Bluetooth headphone or smartphone. 

LG clearly put a lot of thought into its designs this year. What remains to be determined is how successful it will have been at designing audio products folks will ant to listen to. If LG’s track record of year-over-year improvement holds steady, we think we can expect some really good things. 

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