Samsung HW-K650 Soundbar Review
What is the Samsung HW-K650?We’ve become very well acquainted with the 2016 family of Samsung soundbars having already covered the budget HW-K450 and the mid-tier HW-K550. Both models were impressive in their own rights but, obviously, the product reviewed here aims to step up the performance by a notch or two, given that its priced higher, at £399, and, well, it has a bigger number. In terms of speakers and audio equipment, bigger does generally mean better although in terms of the sound output, both the K550 and K650 are rated the same. The big differences are that the K650 has a digital amplification stage and multiroom capabilities, so let’s see if they are worth an extra £70 of your hard-earned.
DesignThe K650 is available in either a silver or a black finish with both sharing the same metallic, mesh design. The HW-K650 is sensibly proportioned so that, at just 54mm in height, it won’t interfere with either your viewing or your infra-red remote control and the 101.5 cm width should see it fit on to the majority of AV furniture fairly comfortably. Just right of centre sits a useful Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD), which gives feedback on sound modes, volume and input selection.
The HW-K650 is supplied with a wireless active subwoofer, in a complementary colour scheme, a power cord, of course, and an optical digital cable. You also get a set of brackets, screws and a template for wall mounting if you prefer that to a table-mount. Said subwoofer is quite large – measuring 335x452x152mm (HxWxD) – and it has a shiny plastic finish on everything bar the side panels that are cloth on one side and matte on the other and it weighs in at 6.8Kg.
Connections & ControlAll the connections are placed in a recess on the underside of the HW-K650 and include a 3.5mm stereo jack, a Toslink digital audio input and both an HDMI input and output, with the latter giving you Audio Return Channel (ARC) functionality; that means you can cut down the cabling between the soundbar and TV to just one lead and use your TVs remote to control the volume. The K650 does feature multi-channel, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio decoding, however, so choose your most important source with that output, e.g. your Blu-ray player, for the HDMI input. The HW-K650 also has built-in Bluetooth and compatibility with Samsung’s TV SoundConnect technology which means, with the right Samsung TV – i.e. 6 Series and up - you don’t actually have to make any physical connection between the soundbar and the television.
The supplied remote control is charcoal grey and also features a mesh effect design. The volume, source and transport (Play/Rewind/Forward) control buttons are of a lighter grey colour and dominate the top portion while the Sound Effect, Sound Control and Bluetooth buttons are much smaller and sit at the bottom of the handset.
Features & SpecsThe HW-K650 is a 3.1-channel soundbar with a main unit and a wireless active subwoofer. The entire system uses 340W of digital amplification and the subwoofer is a bass reflex design that uses a 7" driver. The soundbar supports 5.1 channel Dolby Digital and two channel DTS, whilst the HDMI inputs and outputs can handle 3D. The K650 includes support for Samsung's Multiroom system, allowing you to add the soundbar to an existing system or build one around it. The K650 supports a number of file types, including AAC, WMA, MP3, OGG, WAV and FLAC, with hi-res audio supported up to 92 kHz/24-bit. There’s also support for Anynet+ (Samsung’s implementation of HDMI-CEC). In addition there's the Samsung Audio Remote app, which is available free on Android device, letting you connect via Bluetooth to control the key Soundbar functions, play music and power on the unit.
Sound QualityRight from the outset we’d have to say the differences between the, previously reviewed, HW-K550 and the K650 are pretty minimal, at least from memory. The signature clear and smooth audio quality is present and correct but, perhaps, the HW-K650’s digital amplification stage is that bit more precise with music. You still need to crank up the volume quite a bit to get this soundbar to sound anything like aggressive, which some movie sound-mixes definitely need, but that’s no particular criticism as you’re always best going as loud as you possibly can to maximise the experience and immersion factor. The real downside of this lack of impact at lower levels is that night-time listening becomes problematic with some messing about with the settings needed or it can sound mismatched between the high and low ends.
As with all recent Samsung soundbars, to get the best from the HW-K650, we would say that, at a minimum, you should be aiming for a setting of 20 – and up – for it to spring to life while a subwoofer setting of +2 provides a nice balance between impact and agility. Like the main speaker bar, at default settings, the subwoofer unit is fairly restrained but there’s plenty of capability there when you push it harder. Once you’ve found the best settings for your room, the package then integrates very well with a good tonal balance and crossover points from low to mid and on to high never sounding forced or unnatural.
As we found with the K550, the addition of a new centre speaker driver has definitely provided benefits with 5.1/7.1 channel movies and TV. Dialogue is even better anchored and it allows the left and right speakers more room and space to shine; effects are crisper and better localised, especially with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, which is not surprising given the decoding capabilities but DTS tracks benefit too. We would suggest connecting your primary movie playing device, e.g. Blu-ray Player, to the HDMI input of the HW-K650 as most TVs won’t pass a multi-channel signal over ARC, thus leaving you at the mercies of its down-mixing capabilities which are likely not as good as those of the soundbar.
The Samsung HW-K650 has six listening modes. The default, Standard, option is quite clinical and if you prefer something a little warmer, Music is probably your solution. You can alter the characteristics of any of them to give you a ‘surround’ effect but we can’t say that ever did anything for us with it sounding lik a mixture of hollow, overblown and echoic depending on the scene. It’s not entirely without merit but there are too many downsides and the K650 produces a convincingly embracing soundstage, as it is. The other modes include ‘Clear Voice,’ which might be useful if dialogue comes over as particularly indistinct but we never felt the need; ‘Sports’ extends the left and right channels, which sounded pretty good where rival supporters were at either end of a stadium, so worth experimenting with in the right context; the Movie mode features needlessly over-powered bass while the ‘Night’ option provides a reasonable starting point for what it’s billed as, although it wasn’t quite right for our listening environment and needed further adjustment.
As well as the noticeable improvement the centre speaker has added, the Samsung soundbars also sound better with music in 2016. They are better rounded and thus more full and detailed with musical tasks, whether streamed from Bluetooth, used from connected players or via the USB interface. We hooked up one of our hi-res audio capable media streamers and the results were predictably good but we would have to question whether anybody bothered enough to collect hi-res files would feel a soundbar is doing them anything like justice. Still, for some background or party listening, the HW-K650 should prove more than sufficient.
- Unobtrusive & stylish
- Well connected
- Centre speaker provides benefits
- Sub is decent
- Reasonably accomplished with music
- Only a very small upgrade over cheaper model
- Remote buttons not satisfying
Samsung HW-K650 Soundbar Review
Should I buy one?The Samsung HW-K650 is an accomplished package of speaker bar and wireless subwoofer. There’s enough connectivity options to keep most happy with stereo, optical digital, Bluetooth and both HDMI in and out – for Audio Return Channel (ARC) – covering most of the necessary bases. You can even integrate it with Samsung’s multiroom audio range to widen the appeal. The black mesh metal design (also available in silver) is discreet and stylish and the same can be said of the compact remote control, although it isn’t the most satisfying to use with its ‘soft’ button feedback.
In terms of its sonic capabilities, the HW-K650 is versatile and the inclusion of a new centre speaker benefits multi-channel movies and TV shows in particular. We did feel the need to crank up the volume to get the most out of the package, however, but that’s what we’d recommend you do in any case, whenever possible. The K650 produces clear and distinct dialogue, very well localised effects and there’s no lack of low-end, either, with the subwoofer a pleasing mix of speed and power. The digital amplifier seems to lend a little more precision to streamed music and it’s no slouch of a performer in this aspect of operations, although you wouldn’t want the Samsung as a direct replacement for a decent set of speakers if you are in to your music in any serious way. That’s not a criticism when you consider we’d say that about almost every soundbar and the Samsung HW-K650 is possessed of more than ample qualities to justify an AVForums Recommended Award.
What else is there?The obvious candidate here would be Samsung’s own HW-K550 which, at £40 -£70 less, produces more or less identical performance with perhaps just a little less exactitude with music. There’s also the Cambridge Audio TVB2 that is priced lower still and it has four HDMI ports but, arguably, a less impressive sub. The Q Acoustics M4 currently costs £329 but lacks a sub altogether, however it has more refinement, especially with music. Another decent choioce is the Yamaha YSP-1400 although that doesn’t have HDMI connectivity but it does have a dedicated subwoofer.
Ease of use8
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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