International CES is a crowded place, but it's infinitely more claustrophobic when you're at one of the larger booths. LG's CES booth, as you can imagine, is one of those. Even though the company's audio room was partially closed off, it was still jarringly loud in there. Imagine our surprise when we saw LG's flagship SoundPlate, the LAB540W, and could hear a movie played on it in remarkable clarity. What a treat!
Let's back up for a second, though. If you're wondering what in the heck a SoundPlate is, think of it as the evolution of a TV sound bar. Where the sound bar is an unobtrusive device that provides enhanced audio for your TV, LG's SoundPlate is even more discrete. Your TV sits on (or hovers over, depending on the stand) the plate, which is a flat rectangle that has speakers surrounding it—four to be exact.
The LAB540W also comes with a wireless subwoofer, effectively making it a 4.1-channel setup. Other standout features include a built-in Blu-ray player, touch controls on the device's exterior for playback, 320W of juice, WiFi, HDMI and optical outputs, and various smart TV apps. Connecting the SoundPlate to any TV will make it a smart TV, but don't expect either LG's typical platform (LG Smart TV) or WebOS. An LG rep told us that the LAB540W will offer a handful of apps like Netflix and Vudu, but not an entire smart platform.
As far as the sound quality is concerned, I mentioned that I had no trouble hearing a movie on the CES show floor. The addition of a large wireless subwoofer is definitely noticeable. You can feel the bass, as opposed to tinny and lifeless sound which is often found on TV speakers. The fact that LG's SoundPlate looks to be less than two inches thick makes its sound output all the more impressive.
LG hasn't released a firm price or release date for the LAB540W, although we know that it's going to ship in 2014. Also, a finalized remote hasn't been announced, either. We checked out LG's less powerful SoundPlate, the LAP340, and loved the sleek and minimal design of that model's remote. We're crossing our fingers that LG releases something similar for the SoundPlate.