With a price of 349 euros, the Samsung HW-R550 is not the cheapest budget soundbar of the moment – but is it the best? In this review we take a closer look at the device.
Samsung HW-R550 – design and specifications
The Samsung R550, or HW-R550, is a 3.1-channel soundbar with a maximum power of 320 watts. The wide speaker with a 6.5-inch wireless subwoofer and can be paired with wireless surround speakers (SWA-8500S, sold separately). The device has HDMI in and out, can play music via the USB port and of course has Bluetooth. There is also support for Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1, but thanks to the embedded virtual surround sound mode, this does not really come into its own.
You can read more about the sound quality later in this review. Just like many budget sound bars, the Samsung HW-R550 is a compact, narrow speaker that fits best with 4o-inch televisions. On the right are some buttons (on and off, input and volume), while on the back are the two HDMI ports and an optical audio port. It's nice to see that Samsung has installed an extra HDMI port on it, so that you can use it for another device from now on, so you don't have to miss the port on your television.
Samsung HW-R550 – installation
Installing is a piece of cake. You can connect the soundbar to the television with an HDMI or optical cable. Samsung supplies an optical cable as standard, so in principle you don't have to invest extra in a cable. However, connecting via HDMI gives the great advantage that you can use the soundbar with your own remote control and that the bar switches on and off when you switch the TV on and off respectively. We have therefore started using the soundbar with its own HDMI cable.
If you nevertheless choose to use an optical cable, then it is good to switch off the speakers of your television. If you do not do this, the sound will be sent over both the speakers and the soundbar, and no one is waiting for that. Furthermore, it is good to know that when you use the optical cable, you also need to use the Samsung HW-R550 remote control for volume management. If you use an HDMI cable, then you have the second remote a lot less in your hands.
Samsung HW-R550 – in use
You can use the soundbar in three ways take. The most basic functions can be controlled with the buttons on the right side of the soundbar, while other basic functions can in principle be controlled with the TV remote control. Of course you get access to all functions when you put the ergonomic remote control in your hand. The remote is not flat, wide or short, but relatively long and narrow and somewhat curved, making it comfortable to hold. With the remote control you can, among other things, set the sound modes and more.
In addition, it is possible to use the remote control to set things such as treble and audio sync. You do that with the gearwheel knob on the right. In addition, there is a button for bass playback. It's always nice to be able to influence things like that, since some sounds can be predominant in some modes. It is also possible that the image and the sound are not completely synchronized (something that we did not notice, incidentally) so that you can brush away any irregularities in the sound.
We are furthermore happy that the Samsung HW-R550 is provided of a small LED display. This screen is on the far right of the device and can show different types of information, such as which input is selected and the volume is set high. The latter is especially useful when you often switch between sources and apps: Netflix often has to be set harder than when you play a game on your PlayStation or Xbox. This way you can anticipate what you will do in advance and you will never be unpleasantly surprised.
Samsung HW-R550 – audio quality
In general we are very satisfied with the audio quality of the Samsung HW -R550 and that, in our opinion, is still the most important part of a soundbar. Many sounds have a warm undertone and are hardly measured at the top, because there is a reasonable dynamic and broad sound reproduction. Of course you have to take into account that you do not pay the main price for the device, but with 349 euros you are still reasonably on the high side of the current budget segment of the market.
So you can certainly expect a few things in terms of audio and luckily, Samsung does not disappoint. The standard and smart audio mode in particular come out well, with a dynamic and controlled display in which details can be clearly distinguished and dominated little. But the virtual surround sound and game modes do not work as well. Some sounds disappear into the background, such as spoken text. This makes characters more difficult to understand. If you turn the soundbar a bit louder, then everything immediately sounds much louder – and you don't always have to feel like rock-hard explosions or sounds.
A mode that shines in absence is the music mode. Fortunately, that is only a problem at first sight, since the smart audio mode can take on the tasks perfectly. This is the fashion that we have often used, whether we were gaming, watching a series or listening to music. The bass can sometimes be a bit predominant, but luckily that sound can be adjusted directly with the Woofer button on the remote control. There you can adjust the subwoofer to six different sound levels. In general, however, the HW-R550 manages to create tight dialogues with emotion, nothing really comes across as forced, and the device manages to display everything neatly and with sufficient detail during intensive scenes.
Samsung HW -R550 – conclusion
At the bottom of the line, Samsung delivers an attractive budget soundbar with the HW-R550 that is particularly convincing with its sound reproduction. The sound sounds relatively deep and wide and is never measured unpleasantly or very strikingly. Unfortunately, not all modes are good for the sound, but luckily you can adjust the sound to your own taste with the fine remote control. And although that also applies to the subwoofer, we often came to the conclusion that the sound is predominant – so you don't have to set it very high.
For 349 euros you don't pay the top price for a soundbar, but then you can you still expect something from it. Fortunately, the soundbar scores well in terms of sound and operation. But in terms of extras, we expected a little more. We are happy that it has an HDMI-in port, but we are missing a WiFi connection that could have made the convenience and use of the soundbar much wider. If you find that not very important, there is pretty little in the way between you and this sleek Samsung R550 soundbar.