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Samsung HW-H550 Soundbar Review

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A great all-rounder

by Steve Withers Jul 29, 2014

  • Home AV review

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    Samsung HW-H550 Soundbar Review
    SRP: £275.00

    What is the Samsung HW-H550?

    Another day, another soundbar review.

    This ever popular audio solution continues to dominate the AV market at the moment, with just about every manufacturer queuing up to release new models. We've already reviewed Samsung's top-of-the-line soundbar, the HW-H750, so now it's the turn of the more competitively priced HW-550. This particular model includes many of the same features as its more expensive stablemate but drops multi-room support and valve amplification to hit a lower price point of about £275.
    However, you still get the attractive design and low form factor, along with an HDMI input and output, plus a wireless active subwoofer. There's also support for both Bluetooth and SoundConnect, if you have a Samsung TV. The main unit houses two stereo drivers with 80W of amplification for each, whilst the subwoofer includes 160W. The result is an attractively designed and competitively priced soundbar that includes enough features to make it interesting. So let's find out whether the Samsung HW-H550 is worth considering.

    Samsung HW-H550 Design and Connections

    The HW-H550 has a very low profile with a height of only 55mm, so you should have no difficulties positioning it under your TV without blocking the screen or the IR receiver. The build quality is excellent, with an black metal finish and chrome panels at either end. There are stereo drivers built into the soundbar, with amplification for 80W per driver and the HW-H550 is designed to be used with larger screen sizes over 40 inches - as such it is 943mm wide. The soundbar sits on two small feet that angle it up towards the listener but it can also be wall-mounted. At the top there are some basic controls and in the front, behind the mesh grille there is a simple display.

    The subwoofer is designed to complement the soundbar, whilst still being able to sit unobtrusively in a corner of the room. It is a well-made active subwoofer, with a gloss black top that includes some basic indicator lights and a black cloth grille around the sides. It has a footprint of 291 x 369 x 291mm (WxHxD) making it easy to accommodate and it communicates wirelessly with the main unit, so all you need to do is find somewhere to plug in the power cable. The subwoofer should connect immediately but if it ever loses the lock with the main unit, there’s a reset button at the back. The sub has a forward-firing 6.5" driver, it is ported at the rear and includes 160W of amplification.
    Samsung HW-H550 Samsung HW-H550 Design and Connections
    Samsung HW-H550 Samsung HW-H550 Design and Connections


    The HW-H550 sports an attractive design, simple controls and an effective subwoofer.

    The connectivity options are reasonable for a soundbar with one HDMI in and one HDMI out with ARC (Audio Return Channel) support; the HDMI can also pass-through 3D but not 4K content. In addition, there is an optical digital input, a 3.5mm analogue audio input and a USB 2.0 port. Finally, there is Bluetooth built-in for streaming from suitably equipped devices, as well as SoundShare, which allows you to stream from compatible Samsung TVs (Series 6 and higher).
    Samsung HW-H550
    Samsung HW-H550

    The remote is small and black but has all the controls you will need such as on/off, tone and overall volume, along with a separate one for setting the level of the subwoofer. You also get controls for selecting the source and the sound effects, which toggles you through the various options. If you own a Samsung TV you can also use the remote to control that and there are navigation buttons for media playback. Thanks to Bluetooth compatibility, you can also turn on your HW-H550 by using your connected smart device.

    The audio codec support is excellent for a soundbar and the Samsung handled music well.

    Samsung HW-H550 Features

    In terms of features, the HW-H550 supports SoundShare, which means you can connect it wirelessly to your Samsung TV. The absence of trailing wires between the soundbar and your TV will help keep your living room free of mess and you can control the soundbar and TV from a single TV remote. You can simultaneously turn on and manage the volume of your TV and soundbar via either Bluetooth or HDMI connectivity. The performance was seamless, with an instantaneous connection, zero lip-sync issues and reliable mutual, powering on and off. The HW-H550 can also decode multi-channel Dolby Digital and DTS, as well as stream AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, OGG and FLAC files.

    Samsung HW-H550 Video Review


    Samsung HW-H550 Sound Quality

    The HW-H550 retains the same refined sound that we often hear with their soundbars, although the absence of the valve amplifier means that it isn't quite as warm and smooth as the HW-H750. Still if you like your sound precise, clear and well defined, then the HW-H550 might be for you. What is immediately apparent is that to fully get the most out of the Samsung, you need to keep it at a decent volume. This might be difficult at night but, if you can, the results will pay dividends with a broad and open front soundstage.

    There is an immersive quality to the audio, even without resorting to the listening modes, but dialogue is always anchored to the centre. The higher frequencies are well served by the HW-H550 but, unusually for such a slim soundbar, the mid-range is equally as present and correct. The bass response is also very good thanks to the excellent subwoofer which integrates well with the soundbar itself using a seamless crossover; the result is a decent low-end foundation to the overall sound.

    The general sensation is of a competent soundbar with an enjoyable and lively sound that is unlikely to offend anyone; although it could perhaps be a bit more aggressive and exciting. A fairly heavy soundtrack like Pacific Rim shows that the HW-H550 can handle the low frequency effects in a way that remains sensible, without ever becoming excessive but it's also quite 'polite'. However a more subtle soundtrack like Inside Llewyn Davis also showed the Samsung's ability to handle both dialogue and music well.

    The HW-H550 has five listening modes – Standard (passthrough), Cinema, Sports, Voice & Music – plus you can apply ‘surround’ processing to each. There’s no doubt this DSP is technologically impressive and, indeed, the Sports mode can be effective in localising crowd noises but we largely ignored these modes in favour of Standard. We tend to find that when a soundbar claims to have surround properties this isn't really true and any surround modes often add too much echo or muddy vocals.

    A film like Gravity, with a lot of directional sound effects, will quickly reveal the limitations of any system claiming to offer 'surround' without actually have rear speakers. We would certainly encourage any owners reading to experiment but, for us, Standard was definitely all we ever really wanted. Despite the lack of true surround, the HW-H550 did a great job of localising effects and dialogue was generally very clear within the mix, even when the sound design was complex.

    The HW-H550 was surprisingly adept at handling music and the excellent file support also helps in this particular area. There's no doubt that the refined nature of the Samsung soundbars might cause them to struggle with the more bombastic movie soundtracks, but they're well suited to most music. We tried a fairly eclectic mix of musical styles, such is our music collection, and the HW-H550 handled them all very, making the soundbar a good all-rounder.

    A lively and enjoyable performance, with a decent mid-range and a well integrated sub.

    Conclusion

    8
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Lively and enjoyable sound
    • Attractive design
    • Effective subwoofer
    • Good connectivity
    • Useful features

    Cons

    • Possibly a bit too refined
    • Slightly lacking at lower volumes
    You own this Total 1
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Samsung HW-H550 Soundbar Review

    The Samsung HW-H550 is an attractively designed soundbar at a very tempting price. The build quality is excellent and the contemporary styling will match many of today's TVs and not just those from Samsung. The low form factor means that it won't block your TV's screen, whilst the size of soundbar itself means it can compliment larger screen sizes above 40 inches. The soundbar has feet that angle it towards the listener but it can also be wall mounted. The accompanying wireless active subwoofer is discreet and easy to install, whilst the small remote has all the controls you need. There is an HDMI input and an HDMI output, along with Bluetooth and SoundShare, whilst the music file support is excellent.

    In terms of audio quality, the HW-H550 retains the same refined sound that we have heard with other Samsung soundbars but the results are still lively and enjoyable. The larger size of the main unit provides a wide front soundstage, whilst the subwoofer is well integrated thus helping boost the low- and mid-range. The higher frequencies are also well served, the listening modes interesting and overall the HW-H550 proved to be a competent performer with both movies, TV and music. Some listeners might feel the soundbar lacks aggression and it certainly needs to be loud to perform at its best but the Samsung HW-H550 proved to be a great all-round soundbar that is definitely worth considering.


    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    8

    Ease of Use

    8

    Sound Quality

    8

    Features

    8

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    8

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