A Samsung soundbar for those not tempted by curves
What is the Samsung HW-J650?The HW-J650 is Samsung's mid-range soundbar and, unlike the HW-J7500 and HW-J8500 already reviewed, it's not curved so will match a wider range of TVs. The HW-J650 is also considerably cheaper than those two models and will set you back a far more reasonable £320 as at the time of writing (July 2015). For that you get a soundbar and wireless subwoofer combination, along with HDMI input and output, built-in Bluetooth and support for Samsung's multiroom system that also includes the recently reviewed R6.
DesignThe look of the HW-J650 main unit matches Samsung's previous soundbars, eschewing this year's trend for a curved shaped and instead embracing a more traditional design. As we would expect from Samsung it's attractive and well made, with a minimalist approach that won't draw attention to itself under your TV. You have the option of standing the main unit in front of the TV or using the provided brackets to mount it on the wall.
There's a black metal grille around the front and top, with a silver finish at the ends. At the top rear there is a brushed metal strip where you'll find some centrally positioned controls and beneath that there is a helpful display that shows the input, the volume and any sound effects you've selected. The main unit measures 1060mm x 51mm x 72mm (WxHxD) and weighs 2.4kg, so it should be able to fit comfortably under most TVs and match screen sizes up to about 55 inches.
The design is minimalist, sitting comfortably in front of your TV without drawing attention to itself.
Connections & ControlAll the connections are in a series of three recesses on the underside of the main unit that allow for easy cable management regardless of whether you are stand or wall mounting. In the first recess there is a rearward facing LAN port and a USB connector. In the second recess is an analogue input using a 3.5mm jack and an HDMI input. In the final recess there is an optical digital input and an HDMI output that supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). That's a reasonable set of connections at this price point but more HDMI inputs are always welcome. There's also built-in WiFi for use with Samsung's multiroom system and support for Bluetooth.
As mentioned previously there are some basic buttons on the main unit for controlling power, volume and input. There's also a remote control that is small, nicely designed and comfortable to hold. All the buttons you need are on the remote including power, volume, mute and input select. There are also some basic buttons for controlling a connected device, as well as buttons for selecting the sound settings, the sound modes, turning the surround mode on or off, adjusting the subwoofer level and streaming music via Samsung's multiroom system.
Since the HW-J650 also supports Samsung's Multiroom system, you have the option of using the associated app which is available for iOS or Android. The interface has also been redesigned this year and now gives you direct access to your music as soon as you open the app. The now playing home page has all the controls that you need to listen to your music and it allows you to navigate to the speaker list and browser. It also includes wheel dial navigation to browse your music, single layer play to access music content without a screen change and background colour change by album art.
The HW-J650 is easy to connect and control and it even forms part of Samsung's latest multiroom system.
Samsung HW-J650 Unboxing Video
Features & SpecsThe main features of the HW-J650 relate to the sound quality of the main unit and subwoofer. The main unit uses four drivers in a vented enclosure, whilst the wireless active subwoofer is a bass reflex design with a 7-inch driver and there's a total of 320W of digital amplification. The subwoofer itself has a gloss black finish around the sides, a black brushed metal effect on the front and black cloth on the other side where the driver is located. The subwoofer measures 452 x 335 x 154mm (WxHxD) and weighs 6.8kg.
In terms of other features there's the HDMI input and output with ARC and 3D support. There's also Bluetooth and Samsung's TVSoundConnect for wireless connection to their supporting TVs. The HW-J7650 supports Dolby Digital 5.1, along with AAC, MP3, WMA, OGG, WMA and FLAC file support. There are also four DSP sound modes and a night mode. Along with the already mentioned brackets and remote control, the HW-J650 also comes with an optical digital cable included.
Samsung's multiroom app adds a number of useful new features, including universal search which allows you to find any music you want from diverse sources. If you're using the Android version of the app there is also the instant control by widget, which allows you to conveniently control the app via a widget function. Finally there's an improved queuing function that allows you to edit the queue and create your own music list. You can play music on your smart device, listen to Internet radio and listen to streaming music sources such as Spotify.
The app also allows you to add speakers, as well as control different speakers in different rooms or group them together, so you can listen to the same music all at once. When there are two or more speakers connected to the app, you can press the Group button to automatically run the setup group feature. You can then move to the full list of speakers and select the ones that you want to setup as a group. Finally you can also setup additional speakers as surrounds for the HW-J650 by using the Surround Mode; this allows you to select the speaker and drag and drop it into the desired location.
The HW-J650 is easy to setup and operate, either with the remote control or Samsung's multiroom app.
Setup & OperationThe HW-J650 is easy to setup and can either be positioned on a flat surface in front of the TV or it can be wall mounted using the provided brackets. The soundbar connects automatically with the wireless subwoofer when you turn it on but should you have any issues, you can pair the two units manually. As always careful positioning of the subwoofer in your room will pay dividends and the fact that it's wireless certainly makes this process easier. Although there is also a subwoofer level control on the remote for better integrating the bass with the soundbar itself. If you want to try any of the sound modes you just toggle through them on the remote and also turn the surround mode on and off. Finally there are bass and treble controls if you feel the need to adjust the sound.
The HW-J650 becomes discoverable when you select the Bluetooth input mode, making it easy to pair with your smartphone or tablet and, if you have a Samsung TV, you can also connect wirelessly using TV Sound Connect. Alternatively you can connect to your TV via HDMI output, which means taking advantage of the ARC support, and you can connect an additional device using the HDMI input. Other devices can be connected via optical digital, USB and auxiliary analogue. There's a LAN port for a wired connection and built-in wireless capability, both of which can be used in conjunction with Samsung's multi-room system. There's a free Samsung multiroom app that takes you through setup of the system and allows you to control all the connected devices in the system.
Samsung HW-J650 Video Review
HW-J650 PerformanceThe HW-J650 delivered a sound that was precise, clear and well defined; although to get the most out of the soundbar, 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 nicely anchored to the screen despite the absence of a centre speaker. The higher frequencies are well served by the HW-J650 but, unsurprisingly for a slimmer soundbar, the mid-range was slightly limited. However the bass response was good thanks to the active subwoofer, which integrated well with the soundbar itself using a seamless crossover.
As a result there is a decent low-end foundation to the overall sound field and the general sensation is of a competent performer with an enjoyable and lively audio that is unlikely to offend anyone. The front soundstage is suitably open and there's a reasonable amount of stereo separation. The localisation and placement of effects is good, whilst the soundbar is generally able to retrain a good sense of clarity and detail. The HW-J650 can go quite loud, allowing it to fill the average living room but careful placement of the subwoofer is important, otherwise it can get a little 'boomy'. A recent heavy-hitting soundtrack like Godzilla sounded good but could occasionally push the subwoofer to its limits
In its marketing Samsung claim that the HW-J650 can deliver a 'cinematic surround effect' but unless you plan on adding rear speakers via the multiroom system, that isn't true. The front soundstage is wide enough to create a certain sense of envelopment but not an actual surround experience. It's easy to test this by just playing the opening scene from Gravity, which uses a lot of directional sound effects, and you'll quickly realise the limitations of any system claiming to offer 'surround' without actually have rear speakers. Despite the lack of true surround, the HW-J650 did a great job of reproducing effects and dialogue, maintaining a cohesive sound field even when the mix was complex.
The HW-J650 has five listening modes – Standard (passthrough), Music, Clear Voice, Sports and Movie plus a Night Mode for when you don't want to annoy the neighbours. You can also apply ‘surround’ processing to each and there’s no doubt this DSP is technologically impressive but it can't work miracles. We tested the HW-J650 with a number of Blu-rays soundtracks including Thor: The Dark World and Guardians of the Galaxy and overall it did a good job of delivering an enjoyable audio experience. However we generally used the Standard mode because we found that with the other modes and the surround effects they just added too much echo or muddied the vocals.
In general the HW-J650 was rather adept at handling music and the excellent file support also helped in this particular area. There's no doubt that the more 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 and found that the HW-J650 performed very well regardless of whether it was acoustic, orchestral or rock to which we were listening. This is good news if you plan to take advantage of the HW-J650's multiroom capabilities and use it as p[art of a system.
The HW-J650 delivered a great all-round audio performance with both movies and music.
- Decent sound quality
- Attractive design
- Good build quality
- Multiroom capability
- Flexible subwoofer
- Mid-range slightly lacking
- Limited connections
Samsung HW-J650 Soundbar Review
Should I buy one?If you're in the market for a reasonably priced soundbar that has a decent set of features and can deliver a good performance then the Samsung HW-J650 should certainly be on your shortlist. It sounds great with movies or music and the wireless active subwoofer provides a decent amount of low frequency support. The soundbar itself is well made, understated in its design and can be stand or wall mounted. It not only has a reasonable set of connections including HDMI and Bluetooth, but also offers good file support. The latter is important because the HW-J650 forms part of Samsung's multiroom system, allowing you to stream music wirelessly from a number of different sources. The provided remote control is useful but there's also Samsung's excellent multiroom app for both iOs and Android. The result is that the HW-J650 makes a great all-round soundbar for anyone with a flat screen TV up to about 55 inches.
What are my alternatives?If you don't use Samsung's multiroom system then there's a huge range of alternatives on offer to cover every requirement and budget. Of the soundbars that we have reviewed to date, the Yamaha YAS-203 is a possibility as it offers a great performance at a similar price. Alternatively you could go for Yamaha's YSP-1400, you lose the subwoofer but gain sound projection technology that actually results in a more immersive experience. Other possibilities include the Philips HTL5140 and Panasonic SC-HTB680, both of which offer HDMI inputs and a wireless active subwoofer. Finally if you use LG's Music Flow multiroom system then you could go for the LG LAS455H, which delivers a good performance for a very reasonable price. However despite all the other options available, if you do decide to go for the Samsung HW-J650, you won't be disappointed.
Ease of use8
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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