When you have $1,000 to spare and you need to buy a home theater system to really heighten the audio experience, you will likely have to decide between a traditional 7.1-channel system and a high-end 7.1-channel sound bar like the LG LAS950M. It is a battle between superior audio quality for the price and setup simplicity but LG wants to coat those audio quality sacrifices with appealing extra features that suddenly make modern sound bars more appealing. The LAS950M certainly fits that bill if certain conditions are met.
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About the LG LAS950M
The LAS950M is the company’s flagship sound bar product for 2015 and it is a huge leap forward compared to the step-down LAS851M model. It is the only 7.1-channel model in the lineup and possesses 700 watts of power when combined with the subwoofer. It is not the widest sound bar in the block and should pair with 55-inch TVs and it certainly isn’t the thinnest. The design is actually pretty simple with some nice curves and no gimmicky accents. It also comes with a fairly powerful 175-watt wireless subwoofer. More accessories are bundled with the sound bar compared to lower-end moels. Not only will you get a remote control with batteries, optical cable and wall mount bracket but also an HDMI cable and IR transmitter. Unlike the less expensive LG sound bars, there are 3 HDMI inputs available along with a single HDMI output.
The LG LAS950M has built-in dual-band Wi-Fi which might not be so surprising for a sound bar released in 2015 but it is a major deal for LG. On the surface, you can do your usual remote streaming from a smartphone. There is a free app called the Music Flow Player available for iOS and Android. It provides a nice little hub for all your music streaming apps and local playlists so you can conveniently play them back to the sound bar. Local streaming for NAS drives and Windows desktops and laptops is supported too. Underneath that seemingly generic Wi-Fi layer is Google Cast support. Google Cast is a relatively new AirPlay competitor but it has the potential to be great once more streaming services support the open standard. Popular services including Google Play Music, TuneIn Radio and Pandora already support Google Cast which means that the sound bar can directly stream to it for the best audio quality and performance possible. Bluetooth is also present and can even be used with LG TVs with the Sound Sync technology so you don’t need a cable to connect to the sound bar.
Music Flow isn’t just about turning the sound bar into an audio streamer. It has a broader role if other LG speakers with the Music Flow technology are present in the network. Music Flow ties all of the speakers together so your audio streams come out from all speakers. Think multi-room playback since you can put say a Music Flow H7 in the bedroom and a P7 in the kitchen and stream music to the LAS950M like you normally would. Folks in the kitchen and bedroom can then enjoy the same music playing in the living room. Unsurprisingly, LG is restricting this function to Music Flow speakers only.
This multi-room concept isn’t new but LG is expanding its functionality more to cater to people that may want to put all of their extra speakers in the same room. Although the 7.1-channel specs of the LG LAS950M should mean a fairly good virtual surround sound experience, having real satellites positioned at other parts of the living room will still result to a better overall soundstage. The Home Cinema mode cleverly turns these extra speakers into extra channels.
Playing back the latest Blu-ray movies with the LG LAS950M is a real audio treat. Each of the 7 channels are positioned in a special way for the sound to be widely distributed so you can hear all the clarity even if you are not directly in front of the unit. On top of that, each of the channels have 75 watts of power which is almost double the amount of power found in lower-end models so you can really crank up the volume when playing music and not worry about distortion. It also has a high-fidelity DAC so you can play back lossless audio in true 24-bit quality.
• Wi-Fi has plenty of uses thanks to Music Flow.
• Sound Sync means no wires to connect to modern LG TVs.
• Google Cast is easy to use.
• Loud and distributes movie audio very well.
• Not getting your money’s worth if you don’t have or plan on getting any other LG Music Flow speakers.
If you don’t have a multi-audio system and sound bar in your house, the LAS950M could be the start of something special. It isn’t the most powerful sound bar in the $999 category but could serve as a building block for the most powerful and versatile wireless sound system once you add other LG speakers into the mix.