Is it worth paying the curve tax?
What is the Samsung HW-J6500?The Samsung HW-J6500 is the curved counterpart of the straight, HW-J650 we reviewed earlier in 2015 and is obviously designed to accompany the currently in vogue batch of curved televisions on the market. The designer looks do come at a premium, however, with the J6500 typically priced at around £500, whereas you can pick up the non-bendy alternative for closer to three hundred. There is another model with exactly the same specifications as this product but the HW-6501 carries a silver finish, against the black on display with the 6500. Both products come with a dedicated, wireless subwoofer, Bluetooth and HDMI connectivity plus integration with Samsung’s multi-room audio system.
Design, Control & ConnectionsAssuming you’ve already got the idea that this is a curved soundbar, then there isn’t a great deal more description we can offer other than to say the Samsung HW-J6500 spans about 108cm at the widest points of the arc and sits just 4.75cm high so it will nestle nicely in to the base stand of something like Samsung’s JS8500 4K TV, without getting in the way of the screen or interfering with the infra-red signal of the TVs remote. Speaking of remote controls, the one supplied with the J6500 is quite a chic number with a charcoal, textured finish and iconic buttons.
All the physical connections are recessed at the rear of the HW-J6500 and include a 3.5mm stereo jack, a Toslink digital audio input and a LAN port which is used only when multi-room is needed. There is both a HDMI input and output, with the latter including Audio Return Channel functionality which means you can just use one cable to connect TV and soundbar together and use the TVs remote to control the volume. The HW-J6500 does feature multi-channel (5.1) audio decoding, though, so choose your most used source with that output, e.g. Blu-ray player/games console/set-top-box, for the HDMI input. Additionally, the Samsung W-J6500 has built-in Bluetooth and compatibility with Samsung’s TV SoundConnect technology that means, with a compatible TV, you don’t actually have to make any physical connection between soundbar and TV if you would prefer to cut down on the number of cables in your setup.
Features & SpecsThe main features of the HW-J6500 relate to the sound quality of the main unit and subwoofer. The main unit uses six drivers - two tweeters for the high tones and four mid-range - whilst the wireless active subwoofer is a bass reflex design with a 7-inch driver and there's a total of 300W 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-J6500 supports Dolby Digital 5.1, two channel DTS, 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-J6500 also comes with an optical digital cable included.
Audio PerformanceThe Samsung soundbars all share a signature sound that is smooth, clear and quite refined, all of which could be taken as a positive or a negative. Whether that appeals to you, or not, will be a matter of personal taste but it could certainly never be described as offensive. If anything some may find it a little anodyne and lacking attack and that’s especially the case when listening to the HW-J6500 at moderate to low volume levels. You really need to put the pedal to the metal with this one and crank up the volume ; if you’re looking for a soundbar that’s suitable for late night use, without waking up the rest of the house, you are probably best seeking out an alternative product.
We would suggest a minimum volume setting of 20 would be where you start to hear the benefits of the engineering and the subwoofer begins to come to life. The sub does pack a punch although it is quite restrained but that’s no bad thing as we often find cheaper soundbar packages to possess overbearing bass with muffled and indistinct low frequencies; that’s not the case with the HW-J6500 which is very well integrated in to the overall soundstage so the sub becomes a reassuring presence to prop up the rest of the act, rather than a sledgehammer to beat it down.
Smooth and refined sound
Gravity remains one of our favourite test discs for soundbars claiming any surround processing credentials and as the HW-J6500 boats five channels of amplification, six speakers and Dolby Digital 5.1 decoding, it was a good place to start. There’s no doubt the HW-J6500 has a wider and more open soundstage than most of the two channel alternatives but you couldn’t really say it ever gives the sense of a ‘surround’ sound, just that there’s a little more definition and nuance. Also, just for the record and not that Samsung makes any claims for it to be so, the fact the speaker bar is curved doesn’t mean the soundwaves are bent around your ears; that might seem like an obvious statement to make but it is a question we’ve been asked on a couple of occasions regarding curved soundbars.
The Samsung HW-J6500 has 5 listening modes – Standard (passthrough), Cinema, Sports, Voice & Music – plus you can apply ‘surround’ processing to each. There’s no doubt this Digital Sound Processing is technologically impressive but they take away as much as they add so we largely ignored them in favour of ‘Standard’. Using Surround with multi-channel movie and TV audio tracks did raise the verticality of projection to impressive levels but, returning to Gravity, the opening scenes sounded quite a bit more sibilant with it on, and thus would cause your ears to fatigue more rapidly.
On the downside, we never really felt convinced with the musicality of this package, it is just that bit too smooth for our taste although, again, there’s nothing offensive about what’s on offer. It’s just that we sometimes like a bit more edge and there was just the feeling the package was polishing some of that off. The HW-J6500 features aptX Bluetooth compatibility that ensures the highest possible streaming quality from your phone or tablet and for something like Spotify it would be ideal but if you’re serious about music, a soundbar is very rarely the way to go, unless you spend very serious money. The only other negative we had, in terms of the audio performance, were related to the TV SoundConnect feature which we used in conjunction with the Samsung JS8500; quite simply it frequently kept dropping the audio, which rendered it unusable. Whether the blame lies with the TV, soundbar or our testing room remains unclear but, be warned, it’s not 100% fail-safe.
- Refined sound
- Looks lovely with a curved TV
- Good connectivity
- Quality Bluetooth Streaming
- TV SoundConnect drop-outs
- Price is toppy
Samsung HW-J6500 Soundbar Review
Should I buy the Samsung HW-J6500The Samsung HW-J6500 looks beautiful when paired with one of Samsung’s own curved TVs, where it nestles in to the base-stand for a truly stylish look. The supplied remote is also chic and the wireless subwoofer is slim enough to either be stowed away or at least not be too obtrusive if it is on show. There’s also an attractive and easy to read display panel which provides useful feedback on settings and sound modes. The HW-J6500 is also blessed with good connectivity, with HDMI in and out, including Audio Return Channel (ARC) compatibility, there’s also a Toslink digital audio in, Bluetooth and a LAN port, if you want to make it part of Samsung’s multi-room audio system.
The HW-J6500 is also blessed with a refined, somewhat understated sound quality which perhaps can be taken as both a plus and a minus point. For some, the smooth sound will suit, for others the lack of attack and dynamism could be a negative, although it has to be said that matters improve the more you pump up the volume. The five channels of amplification do provide a wide and open soundstage, although you could never really term it 'surround' but it is a tad more detailed than the clutch of two channel soundbars available. The only real problem we have the HW-J6500 is its relative pricing to a non-curved soundbar; there is, no doubt, a price premium for the looks so unless you simply must have a curved bar to satisfy your aesthetic tastes, there’s better value in the market.
What Else Could I Consider?With six hundred pounds, or so, to spend you would definitely be well advised to check out the Arcam Solo Bar Plus & Solo Sub package, which has far more power than the J6500. The Philips Fidelio B5 is another to consider in this bracket and gives the option of proper surround sound, courtesy of the detachable rear speakers. Or why not save yourself a considerable chunk of change by going for the Samsung HW-J650 which is, more or less, the straight equivalent of the J6500 save for one less channel of discrete amplification. Of course you could also look at a full 5.1 speaker system and AV Receiver for that genuine home cinema experience, but it won't look as nice, will take up more room and have lots of wires. But it'll sound superb.
Ease of use8
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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