Samsung HW-E551 review
If you want to enjoy films at home, you should invest in a set of speakers because the speakers built into your TV or projector simply won’t be up to the task. You’ll have no problem picking a pair if you have room for all the satellites, but if you lack space then Samsung’s HW-E551 sound bar could be just what you need. It can switch from a single sound bar to two satellite speakers, which means it has the versatility to suit your living room.
Samsung has adopted a minimalist approach with the HW-E551, using a mixture of brushed metal and glossy black plastic to give the system a stylish and ultra-modern appearance. The HW-E551 is cylindrical, so you’ll need to position it on the included stand or wall mount if you’ll be using it in sound bar mode or on the provided floor stands if you’ve split it in to two speakers. In sound bar mode, you only need to worry about hiding the power cable from view, but in free-standing mode you’ll also need to use speaker wire to connect one satellite to the other.
The rear-firing subwoofer continues the same design approach and is compact enough to place in a room easily. It’s wireless, so you don’t need to connect it to the speakers, but bear in mind that it also contains the video inputs so you must place it relatively close to your AV rack. As well as a single HDMI output, it has two 3D-compatible HDMI inputs, digital optical and analogue 3.5mm audio inputs and a single USB port for local music playback. The HDMI ports are Audio Return Channel (ARC) compatible, so you can use the speakers even when you’re watching TV using its integrated tuner. The system is also Bluetooth compliant, so you can stream audio straight from a smartphone or tablet.
The bundled remote control is roughly half the size of the average TV remote but still has room for all the usual buttons, including power, volume, input selection and limited TV controls. With no onscreen interface, the only visual feedback comes from the single line LCD display hidden behind the speaker grilles.
The lack of an interface isn’t much of a hindrance because there aren’t many settings to change. Apart from volume, you can also control subwoofer levels, equalizer modes and audio sync, as well as enable or disable the 3D sound mode.
Few of these modes made much difference to sound quality, so we tested using the default values. For the most part it worked well, easily filling a medium-sized room with audio. Even with the 3D sound mode enabled, there’s no believable sense of surround sound, but it’s a major improvement over the basic audio you’d get from your TV.
Our main criticism is with the subwoofer frequency response; it simply doesn’t go low enough. It provides reasonable levels of bass at the lower-mid range, but real thumping rumble was missing from the most explosive of our test scenes. The high-end was also a little too sharp, which makes it less than ideal for complicated audio.
We loved the HW-E551 for its design, even though its audio quality didn’t blow us away. It isn’t designed to compete with dedicated surround-sound systems, so there’s understandably a few weak points. Even so, the HW-E551’s still a massive improvement over the integrated speakers of your TV. It’s a fantastic system for anyone who lacks the room for a full speaker system but wants to have decent and stylish sound.
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