Review: Samsung HW-N550 Soundbar Offers Respectable Mid-Range Performance
With the introduction of the HW-N550 3.1-channel soundbar with wireless subwoofer, Samsung continues to expand its selection of home theater audio products with a high-value add-on packages for flat-panel 4K Ultra HD and Full HDTVs.
The Samsung HW-N550 is a mid-range model in the company’s assortment and matches up well with mid-range televisions, particularly those measuring between 42- and 55-inches.
At a $344.95 retail price, the Samsung HW-N550 offers a main bar with an attractive, unubtrusive matte-black design that fits nicely below the screen of most LCD and OLED televisions.
At this position in the market, the Samsung HW-N550 doesn’t pack in a lot of extra features, but it covers the most essential ones quite well. Dolby Digital and DTS decoding are supported but not more advanced CODECs like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio. It also won’t support 3D audio formats like Dolby Atmos, DTS:X or even DTS Virtual:X.
There are no built-in streaming services or Wi-Fi features for streaming media, but these can be accessed through a connected smart TV or streaming media adapter. The soundbar also lacks linking support for any whole-home audio wireless music systems. However, the HW-N550 reproduces sound effects from movies very well with rich deep bass and clear, well-pronounced dialog from the front and center channels. The accompaning wireless subwoofer provides nicely balanced, rich deep bass and is very easy to set up and connect.
At this price the HW-N550 is a little more expensive than products like the $299 Yamaha YAS-207, which produce comparable sound experiences, but the N550 offers slick seamless integration with Samsung television sets, which should not make the few dollars extra an impediment to brand loyalists.
As would be expected, the Samsung HW-N550 matches up especially well in appearance with many of Samsung’s 2018 TV models.
The main bar measures 41.7 inches wide, 3.44 inches deep and 2.32 inches high to fit nicely below most TV screens in tabletop placements without blocking the picture. For wall-mounted applications, Samsung supplies an easily attached metal bracket. The main bar is wrapped with a color-matching matte-black metal grille. On-bar controls are push buttons mounted on the right side panel. A flourescent white onboard display a few characters long appears through the grille on the right front of the soundbar to indicate basic information like input connections, volume level and power status.
The wireless subwoofer is a pretty basic looking compact rectangular box measuring 8.46 by 15.14 by 11.97 inches. It can be easily tucked away in a corner near the television, yet emits a satisfying deep booming bass.
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It was remarkably easy to setup, requiring the user to merely plug in both the main bar and the subwoofer, with the two components automatically linking themselves together, as indicated by a solid blue LED. The sub can also be manually paired if difficulties should arise, but we didn’t find any.
At this price, the N550 doesn’t support more advanced surround sound formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD MasterAudio, but it does produce a wide sound stage from a unit’s surround mode that fills the front and center channels very well. Samsung doesn’t offer a separate center channel control, be we found the front and center channels to be nicely balanced without it. Vocals were rarely overpowered by sound effects or accompanying music.
As with the easy Bluetooth pairing between the main bar and subwoofer, the Samsung HW-N550 was easily connected via Bluetooth to a Bluetooth-enabled Samsung television. Users have the option to connect the soundbar via HDMI–the HW-N550 includes an HDMI/HDCP 2.2 input and an HDMI (ARC) port–optical digital (Toslink), analog (RCA) auxillary input or Bluetooth. The latter is easily setup up and paired with compatible Samsung televisions. Samsung also add a USB port to access music and other content from connected thumb drives or hard drives.
The Samsung HW-N550 is controlled with Samsung’s uniquely styled compact remote that has just eight buttons and a directional up/down, right/left ring. The matte gray/black remote maintains the look and feel of the remotes shipped with many Samsung mid-range televisions. Buttons control connection type, volume, muting, sound mode, settings and Bluetooth pairing. Because we were using a Samsung television in our test, we were able to control all of the basic functions with the television’s remote.
The sound produced a noticeable upgrade over the built-in speakers of a higher-end 2017 Samsung 65Q8C QLED TV model, bringing clearly defined vocals along with deeper and richer bass and mid-range in television and movie listening. However, listeners shouldn’t expect to hear any convincing surround sound effects from the extreme sides or from the rear of their seating locations without adding an optional pair of wireless surround speakers from the Samsung SWA-8500S kit.
Crashes and explosions were loud and dynamic without overpowering the room when streaming Marvel’s Black Panther via Vudu. At the same time, vocals were clear and distinct from the background if somewhat louder than they were coming over the speakers of a connected Samsung Q8F TV.
The Samsung HW-N550 does a respectable job presenting clear, full music from connected disc players and streaming services. The main bar presents nice wide 2-channel separation with deep vocal tones giving even early Beatles’ material a nice sense of dimensionality played in AAC-compression the SiriuXM app on a connected Roku player. Bass and drums were deep and well blended, without obvious subwoofer directionality.
For its price, size and tonality, the Samsung HW-N550 is a solid performer at a pretty good price. In this class there are some less expensive alternatives including some like the Yamaha YAS-207 that have a somewhat wider surround sound field. But no one integrates a soundbar with a smart TV the way Samsung does. This makes the unit extremely easy to use and a natural fit for any Samsung smart TV owner. The sound performance isn’t as astounding as the Samsung HW-K950 Dolby Atmos soundbar, but the NW-N550 is a great match for a mid-level 55-inch set.
We therefore award the Samsung HW-N550 3.5 out of 5 hearts.
The Samsung HW-N550 used for this review was a company loan.
By Greg Tarr
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