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Samsung R5 Wireless Audio (WAM5500) review

Richard Easton
24 Dec 2015
Samsung R5 office shot
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
350
inc VAT

The Samsung R5 easily fills a room with sound in every direction, and looks fairly gorgeous too

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Specifications

Speakers: 2, RMS power output: Not disclosed, Dock connector: None, Networking: Bluetooth (SBC), dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi, Dimensions: 166x313x166mm, Weight: 2.7kg, Streaming formats: Samsung Mesh, UPnP

Samsung isn’t a new player when it comes to multiroom audio. Its SHAPE series of speakers, like its rivals, had different models to suit different requirements and budgets. However, while sounding good and having a unique triangular design, none of the SHAPE speakers were drastically different from competing multiroom models. The company's new range is built around the ‘Wireless 360’ range of speakers, initially launching with the futuristic-looking R7 and smaller R6. As the name implies, these were designed to project sound in every direction in order to fill a room, and should help differentiate Samsung from the likes of Sonos.

Now Samsung has released a new ‘Classic’ collection. The Classic range consists of the R5, R3 and R1, with the main differentiator between models being the size of the dedicated woofer.

Samsung R5 lead image

Design

All of the new Classic speakers use a similar cylindrical design. In the case of the R5, it tapers in towards the middle and flares back out in size towards its top. It’s 313mm tall with a diameter of 166mm on each end. The R5 is the heaviest in the range at 2.7kg.

The R5 is all-black and its inconspicuous shape and design means it can easily pass as a slightly abstract vase or item of furniture. Its design is certainly more subtle than the egg-shaped R7 and kettle-shaped R6.

It’s covered in black speaker cloth around its edge, with the visual flair reserved for its top panel. It looks plain upon first glance but is in fact a touch panel, with an integrated OLED display. This lets you swap between the main modes using a dedicated Mode button, and adjust the volume by giving a delicate tap to the subtly textured surface.

Samsung R5 top volume

It’s the centre of the top panel that is the most delightful. Tapping here plays and pauses tracks as you would expect, but horizontal swipes can also be used to skip tracks. A touch and hold for five seconds puts the speaker into standby, which will happen automatically after 15 minutes of inactivity. Holding for 10 seconds will turn the speaker off. It’s intuitive, never missing an input, and means reaching for your smartphone isn’t always necessary.

The OLED display in the centre of the panel is nice and bright, and shows you the speaker’s volume level and operational mode with fun little animations when it powers on or skips tracks. As well as the OLED display giving you a visual indicator of what’s happening, you also get audio cues in the form of a female voice. This is slightly jarring, however, and the accent is a little odd.

The bottom of the speaker has a button for setting up the Wi-Fi. You no longer need to use a separate hub to create a multiroom environment, with the Wireless 360 range able to communicate directly with your router. There's neat cable routing for the power cable too.

Samsung R5 bottom

You can set up the speaker by using the Samsung Multiroom app for iOS or Android. With the speaker in setup mode, the app will search for a broadcasting speaker and the app will then run you through adding your network settings to the R5. There isn’t an Ethernet port for a wired connection.

Samsung Multiroom App

The Samsung Multiroom app has been drastically improved in terms of visual design since I last saw it with the SHAPE speakers. It’s considerably more colourful than the drab, white user interface of the previous version.

The new look app uses far more visually enticing colours and transparency effects, with slide in panels that let you access volume and music streaming service controls intuitively. Album art is also presented in a far more attractive way than before. A ring that surrounds the album art lets you skip tracks by sliding your around its circumference as though it were a virtual dial, which is a nice touch. All of the functions you need are within easy reach.

Samsung R5 multiroom app menu

In terms of streaming service support, you have Spotify Connect (so you’ll need to use the Spotify app), Deezer, TuneIn, Rdio, Qobuz, 8tracks, Napster and Murfie. It doesn’t quite rival Sonos for compatibility, but it’s still more than many other rivals.

The app will also let you access music stored on your devices or networked storage, and there’s a universal search to make finding tracks easier. The R5 is able to play high-resolution tracks up to 192kHz/24-bit in FLAC, AIFF and ALAC, as well as the usual other formats. Pairing different Samsung multiroom speakers is easy and you can link them together, so that volume ratios are maintained as you adjust the volume.

Samsung R5 multiroom app grouping

As well as operating as an internet-connected speaker, there’s built-in Bluetooth as well. You can’t, however, use Bluetooth as a multiroom source, as you can with Philips’ Izzy range, which is a shame. Still, it means you can get audio from a source that isn’t supported as an internet service, such as your favourite podcast app or YouTube. Bluetooth can also be used for Samsung’s TVConnect feature, pairing with a compatible Samsung television for audio.

Sound Quality

A dedicated 5in woofer in the bottom of each R5 is paired with a 1in dome tweeter on the opposite end. The way that the R5 delivers its omnidirectional sound is that the woofer and tweeter both fire into acoustic lenses in the bottom and top of the speaker cabinet. There’s a slight gap in the cabinet out of which the sound emanates in every direction and resonates equally. This is something Samsung calls its ‘Ring Radiator’ technology. It’s a clever solution to the problem of directional sound.

Samsung R5 acoustic lens

In testing, there really isn’t a noticeable drop off in sound in any direction, as you would get with any traditional front-firing speaker. Place the speaker in the centre of a room and you get the same listening experience regardless of where you are. It means to really take advantage of the omnidirectional sound, you’ll want to place the speaker near the middle of a room. It means the speaker is great for a communal room or an office environment. Place it in a corner or on a bookshelf and you lose the impact.

The only issue is that with a solitary tweeter, you of course only get mono sound. So listen to a song like Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’ and the stereo separation is gone. Granted, the mono sound is delivered equally wherever you are, and if you have deep pockets you can pair two R5s for proper stereo.

Otherwise, the sound quality is very respectable. The sizable woofer delivers lots of impactful bass that stays the right side of distorted or muddy. The mids and trebles aren’t quite as crisp as I would like but they’re well controlled. The speaker will also reach a medium-to-large sized room filling volume with consummate ease.

Conclusion

All in all, the R5 delivers on its promise of omnidirectional sound. Its classy design lends itself to taking the focal point in a room, giving you a pleasurable listening experience no matter where you are, but unless you can place it centrally you’re not going to be using it to its full potential and you’ll be better served by a more traditional speaker.

Samsung R5 top

Putting aside the omnidirectional sound, it’s a little expensive for the audio quality it delivers. So unless you’re dead set on a 360-degree listening experience you might be better served by a speaker like the Sonos Play:5, which granted costs more but does sound better. Otherwise, the Samsung R5 is a top-notch speaker that delivers on its 360-degree sound better than the Crystal Acoustics Cuby 7 WiSound that promised a similar experience.

Hardware
Speakers2
RMS power outputNot disclosed
Audio inputsNone
Audio outputsNone
Dock connectorNone
USB portNone
Memory card supportNone
NetworkingBluetooth (SBC), dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi
NFCNo
App supportiOS, Android
Battery capacityNone
Dimensions166x313x166mm
Weight2.7kg
Streaming
Streaming formatsSamsung Mesh, UPnP
Supported serversDLNA
Audio formatsAAC, MP3, Wav, Ogg, WMA, Flac
Internet streaming servicesSpotify Connect, Deezer, 8tracks, TuneIn, Rdio, Qobuz
Buying information
Price including VAT£350
WarrantyOne year RTB
SupplierJohn Lewis
Detailswww.samsung.co.uk
Part codeWAM5500