FOR Clear, balanced sound; high-res support; design; app AGAINST Insipid bass, coarse treble on R7; no ethernet port
Samsung R6 £330
While multi-room speakers are all about filling every room of the house with sound, the Samsung R6 is about filling every corner too. Designed to spread sound through 360 degrees so people can ‘enjoy music freely as they move from room-to-room’, it’s unusual. The dome shape – which resembles a modern kettle minus handle and spout – doesn’t just make the R6 look sleek and stylish. Samsung says it’s also the best shape for producing omnidirectional sound. But that’s not all…
Down with the bass
In order to achieve even distribution, a 12.5cm downward-facing woofer fires sound towards a conical base, while a 25mm tweeter on the R6’s peak acts in a similar fashion with a small, arched plate. And it works. With a nice open spread of sound from all directions, it doesn’t discriminate whether you’ve got the front-row seat or are in your favourite armchair off to the side.
It’s a sound you won’t mind following you around the room, either. It works its way through ELO’S When I Was A Boy with balance and clarity, and enough space, integration and organisation to keep things coherent.
Showing its dynamic talent, the track’s opening piano chords vault forward. Jeff Lynne’s melodic ramblings are articulate and solid in equal measure, and while the R6 isn’t the last word in conveying texture, there’s detectable detail within guitar chords.
A time of Reckoning
It applies enough weight and power to give the thunderous orchestrations in Hans Zimmer’s Gotham’s Reckoning (24-bit/192khz) their fair due, without giving the cold shoulder to the fainter trumpets underneath. It all allows the Samsung to communicate the track’s deliberately menacing build effortlessly.
For a humble speaker, the undertowing bass is deep and rumbling, if a little soft. The driving beat of Drake’s Hold On, We’re Going Home doesn’t kick quite as hard as it should, so a sprinkle of bass punch wouldn’t go amiss. Favouring refinement over outright attack, the R6 can feel a little too easy-going at times. Samsung hopes you have a secure wi-fi network, because with no ethernet port or physical connections the R6 can play music only via wi-fi or Bluetooth. Audio from a Bluetooth-compatible Samsung TV can also be streamed directly to the R6 via Samsung’s TV Soundconnect feature.
Whether you listen to internet radio or subscribe to a streaming service, Samsung has it covered with access to Tunein, Spotify and Deezer, as well as the lesser-known 7Digital and 8tracks services – all accessible via Samsung’s Multi-room app. Building your own digital library? Everything from low-res MP3S to WAV, FLAC and ALAC files all the way up to 24-bit/192khz can be played.
The smaller, portable sidekick to the R7, the R6 has a six-hour battery life (it can also runs off mains power) so you can DJ your afternoon picnic down the park. It’s small enough to tuck under one arm, although with the semi-exposed soft-dome tweeter and a gap between the woofer and base, we’d be careful about shoving it in a bag as you might the Bose Soundtouch 10.
Touch controls a nice touch
Across the bottom, a light indicates battery level, while touch controls are handy for switching inputs, pausing playback and changing volume.
Given a 3.5mm jack and more sonic expression and energy, we’d be looking at a full star set. But the R6 achieves what it sets out to do: produce sound all around, seamlessly throughout your home and from a neat, well equipped portable speaker.
Samsung R7 £430
A dinosaur egg prop from the set of Jurassic World? An unplugged lava lamp? Try again. The R7 is a Bluetooth and wi-fi (multi-room ready) speaker that shares a distinct likeness to its little brother, the R6. Samsung calls it a ‘standing model with deeper bass’, with the aim of delivering 360-degree sound.
“How?” you might ask. While the elongated-dome shape was designed to facilitate omni-directional dispersion, it’s mostly down to the 12.5cm downwardfacing woofer firing sound towards a conical base and out in every direction, and a 2.5cm upward-facing tweeter on the top. Peek through the gap and you can see Samsung’s ‘ring radiator technology’.
It’s more of a showstopper than the podgier R6, and it’s nice to see the offer of big-scale sound in something that’s not a bland box. The base has a rather small footprint, although Samsung will point you to its quirky tripod stand. Either way, it’s best to keep it out of reach to avoid damage to the semiexposed tweeter.
A strokable finish
It requires some willpower not to stroke its stylishly smooth rubbery plastic, and touch controls across its waistband give it a streamlined look. Its reflective base is equally unspoiled, being free of any inputs or sockets. And by ‘any’ we mean not even an ethernet port, so all network playback – that of your digital library up to 24-bit/192khz, streaming services and internet radio – is over wi-fi. There’s also Bluetooth connectivity and a TV Soundconnect feature so the R7 can play audio from a Bluetooth-compatible Samsung TV.
Streaming services include the likes of Tunein, Spotify Connect and Deezer, with the more offbeat 7Digital and 8tracks nestling in Samsung’s Multiroom app. The only oversight is Google Play Music and Tidal – which are both on Sonos’s radar.
It’s hardly surprising that the R7 shares its sibling’s weighty, laidback sonic character, its decent insight and strict balance serving up a sound that’s easy to listen to whether you play Avicii’s crashing beats or Sixto Rodriguez’s crooning nasal twang.
But where there are ups, there are downs. Like its mini-me, it struggles to get into the jollity of I Wonder, let alone get pumped up for Martin Solveig’s Intoxicated – it’s not quite the pick-me-up it is through the Sonos Play:5, which is a crisper, more upbeat listen (and takes the Samsung for clarity and bass punch too).
While it pounds out more (and deeper) bass than the R6, it can feel loose and muggy, and up top the treble has a coarse, gravelly texture to it that not even a long run-in can purge.
To boot, we find it flustered at high volumes, dynamically flat at lower volumes, and lacking a happy medium.
Which one’s better?
Why buy the R7 over the R6? In covering every angle of the room, the bigger unit offers a larger scatter of sound and has a greater presence. But, size and scale aside, we’d take an R6 (or two if you’re ready to dip your toe in the multi-room pool) for its cleaner sound and more competitive price.
In a market where speakers have to fight even against their own kind, sonic success is the key to survival. So while the R7’s app is excellent, and hi-res, multi-room and streaming service features are a highlight, overall our praise sadly stops short of ‘good’.
Download the Samsung multi-room app (free, IOS and Android) and it walks you through the business of connecting your speakers to your home network in minutes. There’s a tutorial for streaming novices too. It picks up our R6 and R7 samples in no time, and if automatic set-up fails it can be done manually.
Not only is the app your go-to for general playback (neither speaker comes with a remote), but for multi-room tasks too – where it really shines. It makes easy work of grouping speakers together – two can pair to play a song in harmony, or act as left and right channels. Two can also be used in a movie setting by pairing them with one of Samsung’s wireless soundbars for a 4.1 presentation.
For its cleaner
sound and more
the R6 trumps its
Stylish, yes, but the
shape, along with
woofers, also aids