Samsung HW-D550 Speaker Bar

Print

Product: Samsung HW-D550 Virtual Surround Speaker Bar
Provided By: Samsung

Price: Find Lowest Price Online Here


Introduction:

Over the past few years, we've reviewed quite a few Samsung products, but the last time we reviewed any speakers from them was back in 2005.  Back then we took at look at a couple of Home Theater in-a-Box solutions and today we are taking a look at something a little bit different.  While some people may think that the HW-D550 is a Home Theater speaker set, Samsung doesn't go quite that far.  Instead, they call this a "wall-mountable speaker system that is a perfect compliment to your flat panel TV".  This is exactly true.  While the HW-D550 provides a good number of features, it is my no means meant to replace a home theater setup.

Samsung has a lot to offer in the way on entertainment experience and the HW-D550 fits nicely in their product lineup.  This product is pretty affordable and offers great connectivity options and a better overall experience when it comes to watching TV and movies as well as playing games.  It won't revolutionize your home - or take the place of going to the movies to get fully immersed in sound, but they claim it provides a convenient solution for your home.

With all that said, you may expect something less than adequate for the ~$350 asking price, but you'll have to find out how this product works as we continue our review.

 

First Impressions:

The HW-D550 is billed as a "compact speaker solution", but it comes in a box that is about as long as a TV; but only about 33% as tall.  I was very curious as to why, then when I opened it up, I realized they needed a long box to hold and protect the sound bar style speaker and some size to fit in the sub-woofer.  The box is about 60% empty, but it's hard to ship a long product and a bulky product in a small box.

Box
Box

 

Samsung has included pretty much everything you need to get up and running and listening quickly.  They've included a HDMI-to-mini HDMI cable, as well as analog audio cables, a mounting bracket, remote and some instructions.  Setup should be fairly simple and the bracket is useful if you want to go ahead and wall mount the main speaker.  What I really love is the fact that there won't be any cables running to the sub-woofer.

Bundle
Bundle

 

 

The remote is very Samsung.  What I mean by this is that it has a familiar shape, look and features that we've come to expect from Samsung products.  The remote features enough buttons to operate basic TV functions as well as your HW-D550 speakers and this is a nice plus for sure.  

Remote
Remote

 

As you can see above, the remote has extra buttons specifically for speaker controls.  It has dedicated sub-woofer volume controls as well as A/V Sync (more on that in a bit) and well as support - of course - for Samsung's Anynet HDMI.  Thankfully, there is a dimmer on the speaker display.  Also on the remote are controls to enable auto-power on/off, input selection, 3D Sound, Sound Modes and more.  It's a very easy to use remote and makes the system easy to setup and use in almost any situation.

 

On the next page, we'll continue with our tour around the product before we jump into specifications and then on to testing.

 

Closer Look:

The HW-D550 is pretty compact all-in-all.  I didn't have a lot of hope for the audio quality coming from a plastic speaker bar that is so thin and light.  In fact, the HW-D550 speaker bar is mostly connectors (on the back) and a hollow tube with a few speakers on each end.  The reason for the length of the bar itself is - of course - stereo separation.  This gives you a broader sense of right to left audio and allows for a good "3D-Sound" mode as well.

Complete Package
Complete Package
Speakers
Speakers


 Long Speaker Bar
Long Speaker Bar

There appears to be a total of six drivers in the speaker bar.  When we took a closer look and a listen, we were able to confirm that Samsung uses a total of four mid-range drivers and two tweeters on the bar in addition to the main speaker in the wireless sub-woofer.  While the sound-range may not be perfect, this combination should provide a pretty good experience with most of the voice coming from the mid-range capable sound bar.  Explosions and bass from music and games should come from the sub-woofer.

 

 

Inside the sub are a couple of 80W speakers that combine (in theory only) to provide you with 150W of rated bass action.  The interesting thing with audio is that 80W + 80W = nothing close to 160W to the ear.  Still, power consumption of the product - or total actual output is probably pretty accurate.  Just keep in mind that two 80W speakers are not twice as loud as a single 80W speaker. 

Sub Front
Sub Front
Sub Back
Sub Back

 

Although I have my doubts about a wireless sub-woofer, we'll find out how Samsung implements this on the next page as we take a look at the features and specifications.


 

Features:

The HW-D550 speaker bar is pretty slim, but it's pretty chubby when it comes to features.  We've got a few of the features taken from the Samsung product page and posted below for your convenience.  For all the details, please head on over to the manufacturer's website, but if you're happy with the lean version, they are below.

Dual-Band Wireless Subwoofer
Combining form and function, the included 150 watt wireless subwoofer provides booming bass along with the ability to be discretely placed anywhere in the room. And with dual-band a 2.4 & 5.8 GHz operating frequency, the subwoofer intelligently switches channels when interference is detected to ensure uninterrupted, deep bass with your virtual surround experience.

Virtual Surround Sound
Samsung’s Virtual Surround delivers that sophisticated surround sound effect without the clutter of additional speakers and tangled wires. Imagine an increased sense of spaciousness from a 2.1 channel system. With 5.1 virtual surround processing, it feels as if rich, high-quality sound is all around you, especially in a smaller rooms.

Wall-Mountable
Maximize your room's potential and throw out your entertainment stand. With the included wall mount, it’s easy to secure the Samsung HW-D550 to the wall underneath or above a wall mounted HDTV. So you can enjoy an elegant, cleaner living space.


Smart Volume
Intelligent audio adjustment is enabled by the Smart Volume feature. The HW-D550 uses advanced audio levelling technology to intuitively adjust sound levels in real time and create a finely tuned sonic environment. Smart Volume achieves a harmonic balance between scenes, channels and TV commercials to provide a more comfortable entertainment experience.


2 HDMI™ v1.4 Inputs
With 2 HDMI inputs the HW-D550 speaker bar enables you to connect additional HD audio and video devices with one simple cable. With the latest HDMI v1.4 specification it supports 3D, controlling all connected devices with 1 remote and the ability to send audio “upstream” to an A/V receiver or surround audio controller, increasing user flexibility and eliminating the need for additional audio cables.

 

Specifications:

Specs

 

On the next page we'll plug this in and start listening!


Test Setup & Installation:

Testing a speaker set is very subjective at best.  For our testing we plugged the HW-D550 into an Xbox 360 through HDMI and outputted to our 40" Toshiba 1080p TV.  Other analog audio was input into the sound bar through the standard 1/8" stereo jack.  We also connected our Blu-Ray player and watched some movies, as well as HD TV and a lot more.  Overall, we used the HW-D550 like any average consumer and have come up with some impressions and thoughts on overall sound quality and usage. 

Installation, if you can call it that, is super simple.  Thanks to the HDMI-in and HDMI-out, as well as Digital-In ports, you can easily hook up the sound bar to almost everything you own.  I doubt that anyone will need a user manual as this entire process is super simple and well-labeled.  The wireless sub-woofer needs no sync'ing and it connects and works out of the box - just as it should. 

Listening Tests:

No audio review is ever complete without listening tests. To this end I invited a few friends over to provide an unbiased opinion.  These are people that know and enjoy good audio, and I feel are qualified to provide a "general consumers" opinion on this subject.  We watched several movie scenes and music tracks that I feel have great overall audio quality. I asked them to rate each of the systems based on several different criteria.

  • Crispness: Does the speaker produce high frequency sounds well?
  • Bass: Does the system produce low sounds well?
  • Accuracy: Does the system reproduce the sounds  in the way they were originally intended?
  • Annoying Resonance: Do you hear any buzzing or whining from the system?
  • Imaging: Do the speakers blend well around you, making you feel immersed?
  • Volume: Was it loud enough without being distorted?

 

Each rating was done on a scale of 1 to 5 with 0 being the blown subs in my friend's lowrider and 5 being very good. So without further delay lets see what they thought of these speakers.  I averaged their thoughts (that were very close) as well as my own observations and came up with the following chart.

Audio Quality Rating

 

Other Thoughts:

All of the inputs on the HW-D550 seem to work well.  We used mostly the HDMI and analog inputs on the device as I didn't have any extra optical cables around the shop or the house.  Samsung has included a handful of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) presets that can be used to maximize your experience - depending on what you are watching.  Included DSPs are: Game, Sports, Cinema, Drama, News, Music & Pass (none).  They don't appear to be able to be combined effectively with the 3D-Surround mode, but they do work well with Smart Volume.

 

Smart Volume itself works not too bad.  The idea here is that the volume of the sound bar will be boosted if the content on the TV is quiet and it will scale down a bit during an excessively loud scene.  It works pretty decent, but I do find myself still reaching for the remote to adjust in some areas.  

If you are having a bit of an "echo" between the sound bar and your TV, Samsung has equipped the HW-D550 with an Audio Sync feature that allows you to increase the audio lag on the sound bar up to 300ms in 25mn increments.  If you are using a simple pass-through from your TV, I'm sure that this won't be required at all, but because it does do 3D HDMI pass-through, at times there may be some processing delay and this may be required.  For Skyrim on the Xbox 360 - it worked fine out of the box.

On the last page we'll put together our final thoughts as we wrap up the review.


 

Final Thoughts:

The HW-D550 from Samsung is a product that arrived here without a lot of anticipation.  Samsung requested that I look at this product, and after taking a look at a lot of their other consumer electronics products over the past few years, I thought it would be a bit interesting to look at a sound bar, so I agreed.  Overall, the build quality of the HW-D550 is not too bad - for a plastic speaker.  There is no getting around the fact that it feels cheap; at least the sound bar part does.  The sub-woofer feels more solid and the cabinet is made of wood with some plastic accents, and it should hold up pretty well.  In fact, both items should hold up well under normal use.

Samsung has included a single HDMI-to-Mini HDMI with the speakers and I do wish they'd include at least one more to output back to your TV.  As all of the HDMI ports on the device are mini, most people don't have extras of these and you'll need to head to the store and pick up a few more - probably at an overly inflated price.  The other extras are well-received though and the remote, mounting bracket and analog cable are appreciated.


Installation and use is super simple - if you have the appropriate cables.  Everything works great out of the box and setup and picking a DSP to match your media choice is simple and easy.  If you're a hardened geek, or a 91 year young grandma, you'll be able to unpack this and get it working in a matter of minutes.

Overall performance wasn't too bad, but it lacks the hi-fidelity sound of a high-end product.  I currently have the Axiom Audiobytes hooked to my TV + the EPZero Subwoofer and they sound significantly better in terms of clarity, crispness, accuracy and resonance.  The Axiom package retails for $200 more than the Samsung HW-D550 and they only have a single analog input.  It isn't a fair comparison for sure, but this is what I had available to "test" for comparison.  The Samsung product is much more robust in terms of connectivity and features, but for raw audio enjoyment, spending more always gets you better results.

The value of the HW-D550 is kind of hard to nail down for me.  While it does offer a lot in the way of features and has decent performance, for ~$400 it's not an easy or an impulse buy.  There are some basic packages that will probably get you better sound for the same money, but they probably won't give you a wireless sub-woofer and all of the input options, DSP, etc.  If you could snag this for $300 and it came with a few extra cables, I'd find it an easier pill to swallow.   

Overall though, it's still pretty hard to dump on the HW-D550.  It works well and the best part is how seamlessly it integrates into your TV/Console/Music experience.  With a simple two minute setup, it can easily provide much better audio than your TV set alone and makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable.  Even though it's not perfect, there certainly is nothing wrong with the HW-D550 that would make me say not to go out and buy one.

All things being equal, this is a pretty good product, but at ~$400 it's a little pricey to have as a "Highly Recommended" product.


Pros:

  • Excellent input options 
  • Good sound quality
  • Wireless sub-woofer doesn't receive interference and just works
  • USB port for firmware updates
  • Lots of DSP, 3D, Auto-Level options
  • Separate bass control and lots of bass

 

Cons:

  • Speakers aren't as clear as other similarly priced stereo speakers
  • Plastic enclosure feels pretty cheap
  • Needs to include more mini-HDMI cables
  • Pretty expensive way to get better sound from your TV

 

 BCCRating

Silver

 

I'd like to thank Samsung for sending over the HW-D550 for us to review.  If you have any thoughts, comments or questions on this product and this review, please post them in the forum at the "Comments" link below.