£419 • From www.cramptonandmoore.co.uk VERDICT A clean, accurate sound and top-quality connectivity make the HW-MS650 an outstanding premium soundbar
IF YOU’RE LOOKING for supercharged movie audio without the clutter of multiple speakers and trailing cables, Samsung’s latest soundbar might be just the ticket. At £419, it’s a little pricier than some, but with nine drivers and a raft of audio-wrangling technology hidden beneath its jet-black exterior, the HW-MS650 promises serious bass from a single box.
The brushed aluminium design and rounded edges make for a lovely-looking soundbar, but be warned that this is no MagniFi Mini in the size department; at 1,060mm across, 131mm deep and 78mm tall, it won’t fit under every TV. If you already have a wall-mounted TV, you can get a rather ingenious bracket for the HW-MS650 that allows it to attach to your telly without the need to drill any additional holes, although it will set you back another £70.
A sleek, easy-to-use remote is included in the box. With it, you can change input modes, adjust the volume, bass, treble and surround sound, flick though different sound modes, toggle play/pause, or skip tracks. Better still, if you own a Samsung TV, it integrates with Samsung’s Eden UX, and provides access to your soundbar’s settings on your TV screen. Thankfully, you’re not out of luck if you lose the remote down the back of the sofa: there are physical buttons for power and volume source on the soundbar’s right-hand side.
Samsung has also opted to move the LED display on its 2017 soundbars from an off-centre position to the right-hand side. The small display enables you to view key information such as the current audio source or sound modes, or precisely adjust the volume level.
Underneath the soundbar, you’ll find its connections: there’s a power input and output (so you don’t need two wall sockets to power both the soundbar and TV), an optical digital input, analogue 3.5mm input, and HDMI input and output (TV-ARC). The connectivity options don’t stop there, as the HW-MS650 has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, too. It’s mildly
disappointing that aptX support isn’t present, as this would improve audio quality over Bluetooth connections.
On the plus side, the HW-MS650 has support for both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 2.0 codecs, and is capable of handling 24-bit 96kHz audio without the need to downsample. This means you’ll be able to play hi-res lossless, FLAC, ALAC, WAV and AIFF audio directly through the soundbar.
Samsung’s Multiroom app provides a clean, simple interface that allows the HW-MS650 to integrate with services such as Spotify, Tidal and TuneIn radio, among others. Fire up the app and you can play music directly from your device’s internal storage, or stream it from the various music services.
You can also adjust the tone of the HW-MS650 via the app’s 7-band equaliser, and add other compatible Samsung devices to your network to create a multiroom setup.
The HW-MS650 houses six woofers and three tweeters, each of which has a dedicated amplifier that connects to a single digital signal processor (DSP). The DSP does the hard work of directing multichannel inputs to the appropriate drivers: for example, because the HW-MS650 supports Dolby Digital 5.1 inputs, and the soundbar uses a three-channel driver setup (each channel has three dedicated drivers), the DSP resamples the digital six-channel signal to suit the 3.0 output.
The result is not true surround sound, but nonetheless, the output is superb. Samsung’s distortion-cancelling technology seems to be very effective indeed, and this is most
evident in the HW-MS650’s potent reserves of mid-bass slam, with the nine drivers working together to produce a fantastically clear, crisp and punchy sound. Compared to the LG SJ8 and the MagniFi Mini, this sounds vastly more composed and accurate.
The lack of a subwoofer means that the bass won’t exactly shatter the earth, but still, the HW-MS650 puts out an impressive amount of low end. Higher up the range, it gets even better: vocals are accurate and lifelike, instruments with complex high frequencies such as cymbals are reproduced flawlessly, and the clarity reveals minute details in both movies and music. No matter how loud you push it, the HW-MS650 never sounds jumbled or congested.
The soundstage is another triumph, with a wide, room-filling sound that spreads far beyond the soundbar’s dimensions. The HW-MS650 provide oodles of depth, and instruments are all clearly positioned across a deep, wide soundstage.
BETTER OFF SINGLE
If you’re desperate for that missing bit of extra bass rumble, you can pair up the HW-MS650 with Samsung’s wireless SWA-W700 subwoofer. We’ve tested this as well, and it does indeed take the soundbar to the next level: the bass gains much more depth and impact, without becoming too muddy or undefined, while the mids and trebles are portrayed just as wonderfully as they are without the subwoofer.
There’s a big catch, however, and that’s the price: at £499, the SWA-W700 is even more expensive than the HW-MS650 itself. What’s more, buying both would cost more than the HW-MS750, which has subwoofer-quality bass built right in.
Frankly, we’d be happy to have the HW-MS650 without the subwoofer. Besides the lack of aptX support, Samsung has concocted a winning combination of dynamic sound quality, ample connectivity and attractive design that absolutely makes it worth shelling out for.