It’s becoming more and more common that purchasers of new 4K Ultra HDTVs and even Full HD 1080p models get their new big-screen home and quickly become entranced by the immersive visual experience offered by the latest and greatest video technologies. But then comes the disconnect – the sound from the TV’s tiny speakers is flat, shrill and lacking deep bottom to match the illusion of reality on screen.

Most on-board TV sound systems today lack the punch of the bass and mid-range clarity to hear both detail and understandable dialog. An obvious solution is to purchase a full-blown multichannel surround system, but that can be very expensive and you’ll need a room with sufficient space to set up speakers and components.

The next best option then is a soundbar, which will produce fuller top-end and midrange sound along with deep bass. This usually means getting a 2-piece soundbar with an external subwoofer, but here again space is needed on the floor somewhere near the TV for the sub, presenting the challenge of hiding the black box and connecting wires within the room décor while not blocking the sound needed to complete the AV sensory experience.

Of course, one-piece soundbars have been around for years but without the sub, the tiny woofers in these thin, squat and elongated boxes are left to do the heavy lifting. The included woofers are typically small and woefully inadequate to create the deep bass and room-shaking bottom needed to sell the reality of explosions and rocket launches in a movie without introducing ear-mashing distortion at peak volumes.

Enter , created with the help of audio engineering experts at Samsung’s new and elaborate Northern California sound lab. Samsung’s audio team has created a one-piece soundbar offering a surprisingly wide, full, clear top-end and midrange plus impressively deep integrated bass that sounds as if an external subwoofer is hidden somewhere in the room.

Read more of our review of the Samsung HW-MS650 after the jump:

Without the extra components to worry about, the HW-MS650 offers easy setup, convenient connection options, and a solid audio upgrade for typically weak TV speakers. Of course, without rear-channel speakers the surround sound experience is not as full and wide as in Samsung’s impressive HW-K950 Dolby Atmos soundbar system with separate rear-channel speakers and subwoofer, but it offers a tidy workable package at a great value.

Impressive Aesthetics

True to its namesake, the is a 3-channel 450 watt soundbar that measures just under 42-inches wide x 3-inches high x 5-inches deep.

The black cabinet has a perforated metal grill that rejects fingerprints and conceals the 9 speakers (each powered by dedicated amps) and three wide-dispersion tweeters. The top cover plate is gun-metal gray and adds a nice accent to the overall package. The surface is textured to reject fingerprints while minimizing attention to settled dust. A white dot-matrix LED readout is positioned at the right end of the bar and is clearly visible through the grill. Manual on-board controls are placed on the right side of the bar.

The length of the soundbar is perfect for tabletop placement in front of most 55-inch flat-panel TVs, fitting neatly between the feet that serve as stands on many sets today. The soundbar is ideally sized for TVs measuring 47-inches and larger.

To accommodate wall-mounted displays, the HW-MS650 includes a pair of easy to install wall brackets to fit securely below the screen. Alternatively, Samsung offers an optional “One Mount” bracket that holds a Samsung TV in place above the soundbar. The bracket kit includes a single power cable that can be used for both the Samsung TV and soundbar to make setup easier and tidier than typical DIY installations.

What It’s Got

The is billed as a “premium soundbar” with 450 watts of total system power. Key features include: Multi-Speaker Control and Distortion Cancelling, which use DSP chip technology and synchronized driver control to produce an impressively powerful bass from inside the soundbar itself. No subwoofer required.

The three-channel soundbar includes six 4.3 x 2-inch mid/bass drivers (two for each channel). The Multi-Speaker Control moves all of the drivers simultaneously, enhanced with excursion technology to boost the depth of movement. This yields a powerfully deep bass that is well integrated in the overall sound without the directionality that often accompanies the use of an outboard sub.

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Samsung HW-MS650 also uses Samsung’s new Distortion Cancelling technology, which predicts the low-frequency distortion that will occur after a speaker’s movement and compensates for it to generate a deeper, cleaner and more detailed bass sound, even at higher volumes.

Samsung explained that typically, trying to get a lot of bass from a loudspeaker tends to saturate the sound creating strange wanted noise at peaks. But by perfectly controlling the displacement of the loudspeaker it can achieve greater movement for deeper more powerful bass without hitting the limits where distortion begins.

Another impressive attribute in the soundbar is its ability to virtually feel its wide-range sound through the use of Wide Range Tweeter technology. Here sound and music is given a more natural spatial sound with less coloration. This creates a more airy tone that seems to follow the listener around the room. In fact, when listening off axis, audible changes can be detected in the spatial effect.

Samsung said each channel is enhanced through a wide-range inverted dome tweeter using a wider crossover range than regular tweeters.

We found the sound to be wider than typical soundbars, but as would be expected, not as wide as an authentic 5.1-channel surround sound speaker set up. Also, we found the tweeters to be a bit bright sounding at out-of-the-box settings, particularly with compressed music and CDs, but this could be easily corrected by lowering the treble control to taste.

We were also impressed with the clarity of the dialog and midrange which stands directly out front in surround sound movie soundtracks. Samsung said voice and midrange is directed from a center speaker without an adjoining subwoofer that could interfere with the main audio track.

Other features in the HW-MS650 include streaming features such as built-in Wi-Fi networking and multiroom audio support using compatible Samsung wireless speakers. The soundbar enables accessing songs from streaming services and personal playlists on network attached storage devices and other DLNA-connected components like PCs, all of which can be passed on to wireless Samsung speakers in other rooms. In addition, a pair of Samsung wireless speakers can be connected to the soundbar to create a wireless 5.1-surround system.

The wireless streaming and multiroom audio features are all easily controllable from a newly designed Samsung mobile device app.

Setup

Samsung includes a box with the crucial accessories needed for installation and setup including cables for HDMI, optical audio, a black plastic remote styled around the One Remote form-factor of Samsung TVs, supporting AA batteries and a clearly printed guide.

Connections are placed on the bottom of the soundbar with a center-positioned back cutout to run cables to source devices. The soundbar offers one HDMI input, one audio return channel (ARC) output which passes through 4K/HDR signals with HDCP 2.2 content protection that is required for Ultra HD Blu-ray players and similar source devices. A 3.5mm analog audio input is included for hardwired connections to portable devices.

The spartan input selection on the soundbar enables connecting a Blu-ray deck to the HDMI input enabling use of the built-in Dolby Audio and DTS 2.0 decoding. When additional sources are used, they can be connected to the TV, which will pass audio to the via optical S/PDIF, ARC or Bluetooth. This will also enable listening to music and movies via the TV’s built-in streaming apps.

A pair of tiny buttons are placed on the bottom of the soundbar for Wi-Fi and Bluetooth setup. Using these the soundbar can be connected to wireless Samsung multiroom audio speakers to listen to music in other locations of the house or to add a pair of wireless 5.1 rear channels.

As mentioned earlier, Samsung offers a Multiroom app with an easy to navigate menu layout offering control of network attached storage (NAS), DLNA devices and available streaming services.

The menu indicates all available speakers in a multiroom audio network.

Built-in Bluetooth support enables linking a mobile device to the sound bar for audio streaming, but this will require a compatible TV and also needs to be configured in the set’s setup menu. Alternatively, the soundbar can be connected to a Samsung TV to streaming music movie services through the smart TV operating system.

Remote

The HW-MS650’s uncluttered IR remote features six buttons and a center-positioned circular play/pause control inset in a ring supporting left-right-up-down commands. Basic command functions are clearly labeled for each button although the two toggle controls will perform additional functions depending if they are toggled or pressed inward. Users will find commands for surround sound, sound mode (offering: movie, music, clear voice, sports and standard, each tailoring the sound to fit the specified genre).

The remote is nicely sized and balanced for comfort and ease of use in one hand. Controlling the soundbar’s various setting was very intuitive and effortless. Despite the lack of backlighting, the decent tactile feel of the button layout made adjustments a piece of cake in darkroom viewing conditions.

Additionally, the “One Remote” design enables the soundbar to be controlled by a Samsung TV remote when connected via HDMI, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or optical cable. The TV remote will then control basic functions including volume, power and sound modes, through the TV’s Home screen.

Adjustments

As mentioned, the HW-MS650 offers a range of equalization presets or modes – Standard, Music, Clear Voice, Sports and Movie. Each mode provides the sound adjustments optimized to fit the labeled genre of content. A separate Surround mode control adds depth and space. In addition, users can further fine tune the sound using bass, treble and audio sync settings, or Samsung offers a Smart Sound control that auto adjusts the settings to fit the content being played.

Ears on

We started the evaluation of the Samsung HW-MS650 using music from the multichannel Blu-ray version of Yes’s Tales From Topographic Oceans using the DTS-MasterAudio HD remix from Steven Wilson. The music was full and spacious coming from the 3-channel soundbar. Jon Anderson’s vocals were clear, and direct while layered between Rick Wakeman’s synthesizer accompaniment and Steve Howe’s staccato guitar rhythms. Cymbals were bright but not overly shrill with Alan White’s bass drums and Chris Squire’s brilliant bass lines exercising the dynamics of the HW-MS650’s distortion-free engineering. We’re happy to report that the soundbar has a lot of musicality. CDs and MP3 weren’t as clear as the uncompressed Blu-ray music disc but still not irritatingly shrill. A remastered CD version of Journey’s Evolution required a volume boost and a few notches down on the treble control, but the MS650 handled the task competently.

The HW-MS650 is also adept at providing a rich, immersive movie surround sound experience.  The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray version of I Am Legend gave the wide tweeter technology a real torture test by standing up to the pain-inducing screeches of the zombies attacking Will Smith in his desolate Midtown Manhattan future world. Yet we heard no distortion from either the woofer or tweeter driver arrays. Gun shots and explosions were punchy and convincing.

On more conventional television content, the dialog from news and sports programming was always clear, out front and understandable.

Bottom line

impressed us with a simple to setup, clean and unobtrusive cabinet design, with a wide and spacious sound and amazingly deep bass for a single-piece sound bar. Indeed, eyes closed we would have thought this soundbar was connected to an outboard subwoofer with at least a 6-inch cone. The enveloping surround sound we would expect from a traditional 5.1-home theater or a four-piece Dolby Atmos soundbar system with separate wireless rear channel speakers wasn’t quite there in this unit but for those challenging rooms and decorating situations that won’t permit multiple speaker units, this is a solution to consider.

We therefore award the 4.5 out of 5 hearts. 4.5 out of 5

 

The Samsung HW-MS650 used for this review was a company loan.

 

By Greg Tarr

 

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