It’s reasonable to expect perfection from a soundbar that sells for $1,000. That’s the price Samsung charges for its HW-F850 , and while we’re not saying the sound is perfect, it is rather engaging. More important, the system has an automatic calibration function that optimizes the sound for your listening seat. Just plug in the detachable microphone, listen to eerie noises for a few minutes and BOOM.
Specs and Options
The HW-F850 measures about 47-inches-across, making for a good match with 55-inch and larger TVs. Its slim profile and glowing-amber vacuum tubes make it quite a stylish-looking system. The soundbar’s driver array consists of four 1-inch dome tweeters and eight oval 3.5 x 1.5-inch mid-woofers, while the wireless sub has an 8-inch woofer. We’d tell you the wattage numbers if that spec mattered for choosing a soundbar, but it doesn’t.
The HW-F850’s multiple connection options are a huge plus. It has HDMI, 3.5mm analog, and optical digital inputs, a USB port, an HDMI output with ARC (Audio Return Channel) and Bluetooth. A feature called SoundShare also lets the user wirelessly connect the soundbar to a Bluetooth-enabled Samsung TV. You can either mount the HW-F850 system’s soundbar on the wall or place it flat on its back on a TV stand. If you wall-mount it underneath a TV, you’ll get to constantly muse upon the glowing amber vacuum tubes situated at its center. If you place it on a stand, an OLED display scrolls out kind greetings such as “Hello.”
The HW-F850 offers eight sound presets: Music, News, Drama, Cinema, Sports, Game, Standard, and ASC (the auto-calibration mode). It also has a Dynamic Range Control (DRC) switch that lets you toggle between minimum and maximum settings for that feature.
Setup and Calibration
I set up the HW-F850 in my bedroom and calibrated ASC from my seat at the foot of the bed. Fortunately, the HW-F850’s user manual makes the setup process relatively easy for newbies. The hardest part was linking with the system’s wireless subwoofer, which required poking a tiny “ID SET” button on its back. I tried a fork tine, a wine opener and a ballpoint pen before lucking out with an incense stick.
I started out my testing of Samsung’s upper-end soundbar during a Saints vs. 49ers NFL matchup. From my listening seat about seven feet away, game sounds were exciting and the breaks even more so since they featured music bits like Nirvana’s “Come as You Are.” Pushing the HW-F850 to its maximum volume level didn’t blow the unit up. In fact, it managed to play loud enough that I imagine it could cut through a large, noisy football viewing party with relative ease.
What more suitable situation to check out a soundbar’s Sports preset than a football game? This setting added a strange “conch-effect” echo to the voices of in-game analysts, but also really enhanced sounds from the field and made commercials even more theater-esque.
Cinema mode maintained the bigger-space feel of Sports, but without the added echoes. Since the Saints were down 14-17 to the 49ers, I also decided to check out the Drama preset. (I was on the edge of my seat, after all.) Drama allowed for a sufficient level of fan whistles and hollers to come through, and, like Cinema, eliminated unnatural-sounding echoes.
Switching to the calibrated ASC mode, the bass and treble were overall more level-sounding than with the other presets, especially Game, which was way too bass-heavy. Samsung’s Automatic Sound Calibration feature works!
The HW-F850’s vacuum tubes are worth mentioning, mainly because they contributed to my enjoyment of music with the system. Heard from my calibrated ASC seat, Kenny Burrell’s 1963 jazz album Midnight Blue sounded as warm as if I were sitting in front of a stage at a club.
Samsung’s stylish HW-F850 could adequately supply a large TV-viewing get-together with sound. Still, at $1,000, this pricey soundbar is definitely aimed at a certain class of consumer—those with enough money to buy a new Samsung 4K Ultra HDTV, for example. I loved its Automatic Sound Calibration feature, which is something you won’t find in cheaper soundbars. And its use of über-cool retro vacuum tubes is something that audiophiles are bound to dig. We award the Samsung HW-F850 four out of five hearts.
—Greg Fischer @GregDaFish
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