Samsung HW-MS650 Soundbar Review
With plenty of features and decent sound, will the price be a killer blow?
What is the Samsung HW-MS650?This is the latest 3-channel soundbar from Samsung that also features options to extend to a full 5.0 system with optional wireless rear speakers. The unit is straight, unlike the curved HW-MS6500, and features 6 woofers and 3 tweeters with 9 amplifiers meaning each driver has its own amplification. The drivers are designed to offer a wide dispersion field from the soundbar unit creating a wider soundfield with dialogue fixed within the centre speaker section. There is also distortion-cancelling technology developed for the drivers being used, along with long excursion technology to create a powerful bass response.
The Sound+ moniker being used on this soundbar denotes that there is no separate subwoofer available, but it has integrated woofer control instead for deep bass. Build quality is high with good quality materials and finishes and a nice selection of inputs along with Wi-Fi & Bluetooth connectivity and a multiroom app. So is this soundbar good value for money in the performance vs. price stakes?
Design, Connections and ControlUnlike the recent curved series of TVs and soundbars from Samsung, the MS650 is decidedly straight in that regard and is in fact a long rectangular bar that measures in at 1060 x 69 x 130mm (W x H x D) and weighs 6.2 Kg. The woofers are spaced at the left, centre and right in pairs with the tweeters at each end of the bar and one between the two central woofers. These are covered by a grille that runs the entire length of the bar and which has a small strip that is concaved at the top and sides. The top plate of the soundbar is made from brushed metal, which adds a nice feel and weight to the finish. To the right hand side of the soundbar (looking from the front) are user control buttons for volume up and down, source and power. There is nothing else on the top, front or side to clutter the look of the soundbar, which has small rubber feet at the bottom of the unit.
Also at the bottom of the soundbar is a recessed area where the connections are housed. There is one HDMI input that is HDCP 2.2 compliant and supports 4K/60P HDR pass-thru and one output which allows the same pass-thru and also supports ARC. The HDMI connections are also compatible with 3D signals. There is also an Optical digital input and a 3.5mm analogue input. Further along the bottom of the bar are two small buttons for Wi-Fi and adding the speaker to a multiroom system and app. You can also connect a Bluetooth source device to the MS650 with ease.
The supplied remote control is the same design as Samsung's small high-end TV controller, it sits neatly in the hand and is easy to use. It is sculpted to the base of your hand so you can easily use your thumb to reach all the necessary buttons. There are two toggles at the centre point for volume and bass level. Pressing down on the toggle sets the mute function. Above these are three buttons for Surround, Sound Mode and Smart Mode with a circular directional wheel above and a play/pause button in the centre. Finally there are the source, settings and power buttons. Whilst it is made from plastic, the remote does feel premium to the touch with a good weight.
FeaturesThe MS650 is very well specified and comes with a number of features to make it sound better and integrate easier within your system. The first is Samsung’s Distortion Cancelling technology, which predicts and cancels out distortion before it happens, giving you what they claim is deeper and more detailed bass without the need for a separate subwoofer. This also works with the multi-speaker control technology that moves the six woofer drivers simultaneously for more powerful bass. The Soundbar is designed with 9 separate speakers, each with its own dedicated amplifier. It has been engineered and tuned by the Samsung Audio Lab in California and points to the company taking audio quality seriously within their products.
Connecting to your TV couldn’t be simpler with ARC from the HDMI output and if it is a Samsung TV it really is painless to get it sync’d for power on/off and volume control. You can also connect by Wi-Fi with selected Samsung TVs for a wire free experience and there is even a dedicated mount for adding the soundbar to the TV without drilling more holes when wall mounted. If your TV is a little older and doesn’t support ARC you can still connect via HDMI but use the optical or analogue inputs for the sound from the TV. So all the bases are covered.
The MS650 also has 4K Ultra HD pass-thru for video signals up to 4K/60p. There is a smart audio mode that will detect the audio source and set the soundbar to the best mode, or you can manually choose a sound mode via the remote. The soundbar is a 3.0 unit with a centre speakers and left and right speakers positioned within it, however you can expand this by buying the optional (SWA-9000S above) wireless speaker pack. This adds a wireless module to the rear of the room with two wired speakers connected to create your surround channels for a 5.0 system. If you don’t have the room for these you can still get a wide sound stage with the MS650 thanks to its wide dispersion tweeters that project the sound nicely across a wider area of the room. This means that you don’t need to be perfectly straight on with the soundbar to still get a good stereo sound field. You can’t be huge degrees off axis, but you can sit wider than usual off centre.
Finally with Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on board you can of course stream audio to the soundbar in a number of ways. The best is with the Samsung Multiroom app available on iOS and Android platforms. This has all the major streaming services built-in and allows you to sign in to Spotify, Tidal or the many others and use the app to choose the music you want to listen to.
We used the MS650 soundbar with a Samsung KS9500 TV and as such were able to benefit from all the features it comes with, including simple set up. You can use the soundbar with other makes and models of TV, but you will likely get the most bang for your buck from the features when using it with a modern Samsung TV.
PerformanceIf you have the space and desire for a full-on 5.1 or higher audio system in your living room then you will always get a better performance from a separates system with proper 5.1 speakers and subwoofer, so this product is not for you. However if you don’t have the room or desire for such a system and you want to keep the clean look of your living space and still have decent sound from your TV then a soundbar is usually the best option. You don’t need to own a Samsung TV to benefit from the HW-MS650, which will work with any modern set, but to make the most of the design, finish and some features then partnering with a Samsung set does have some further benefits. The purpose of a soundbar is to vastly improve the sound quality of the tiny speakers used within most modern flat panel TVs, but without dominating the room with wires and speakers. The MS650 certainly achieves that.
We have been suitably impressed with the sound quality produced by this soundbar within the constraints that such products have to work in. There is no separate subwoofer with this model, instead it uses the six woofers in tandem to produce the deeper bass of soundtracks and it works surprisingly well. The frequency response is quoted as 40Hz~20KHz and in use it certainly has a bass response that gets down to around the 60Hz or slightly lower mark, a frequency that is known to work well in most rooms. It also does this with no audible distortion even at higher than normal listening levels. With each driver having its own amplifier it does help to make the MS650 a very capable performer within reasonable volume limits without getting brittle or sibilant as it runs out of power. The listening experience will get uncomfortable volume wise before the MS650 starts to fall apart sound quality wise.
With normal TV programing the Samsung produces the goods with ease, adding a nice weight to proceedings and keeping dialogue anchored to the centre channel within the bar. Even daytime TV classics likes Homes Under the Hammer benefit from the upgraded sound performance of the MS650. The music supervisor on that program is a genius and their selection of ‘tunes’ used while renovating auction properties sound downright special. There is a nice dynamic range present to the audio quality of Snap’s The Power (used to explain that the electricity board have finally attached mains power to the house in question).
Moving to more quality programing and BBC documentaries are usually a hidden gem of high quality audio for voices and music. Pretentious longhaired Scottish historian Neil Oliver has been back on BBC 4 with a rerun of his series The Vikings. The narration is crisp and clear from the centre speaker in the bar while music and the use of effects are well placed within a large stereo sound stage. There is a good weight and authority to the soundmix especially when compared to the TV speakers, which sound weedy and thin (and that’s on a 2016 high-end model). There is no surround element to immerse the listener without adding the optional rear speakers, but that wide front soundstage creates a pleasant listening experience if you stick to the 3.0 system.
Movies also sound good with audio through the ARC feature or direct from our UHD Blu-ray player. The soundbar features Dolby 5.1 audio and DTS 2-channel, and there is now DTS 5.1 support, but no Dolby TrueHD or DTS MA on board. However as it is a 3.0 soundbar with only an optional surround capability for 5.0 perhaps there is only really a need for the DTS 5.1 option to even out the performance from the formats. We would encourage Samsung to do so going forward. For the vast majority of users of this soundbar the lack of immersive formats or 5 channel DTS is probably not going to be a deal breaker within the most common of set-ups using ARC. Going back to the goals of what this soundbar is for, then most users will benefit from a decent performance from the HW-MS650 with movie content either from the TV or via a disc player. There is no immersive audio from behind or overhead, but there is an excellent full-on wide soundfield to the front with excellent dialogue and vocals mixed with decent bass that adds a nice weighty dynamic to the sound. Explosions have impact without bottoming out or distorting and music is wide and expansive without drowning out what is being said on screen. It doesn’t have the same impact as a dedicated separate speakers system and AV Receiver, but for the role it plays for some users we have been really impressed with the audio quality on offer for the situations it is designed for. We have been using it for around 6 weeks now and it has melded into the TV stand and added the benefit of much superior audio quality over the built-in speakers and with the connected flexibility of using one remote etc. and that’s even before we mention music streaming and the app.
With such a nice and wide sound stage music can be enjoyed even from a soundbar that is only the same width as a 50-inch TV. Most soundbars offer nothing more than some background sound with music as there is no stereo separation unless you are sat directly in front of them. The MS650 offers a little more than that with decent separation even sitting slightly off axis thanks to the wide dispersion of the tweeters. There is a nice warm signature to the Samsung with all kinds of music genres and it even has a decent mid-range performance with vocals benefitting. Classical also has a decent full range sound with a nice weighty bottom end to tracks like ‘Raiders March’ giving it a full on dynamic. It is in no way going to compete with a dedicated Hi-Fi set up and a pair of decent stereo speakers, but within the constraints of its role and design, the Samsung produces a very pleasant musical experience. Where it really shines is when used as part of a multiroom system and streaming from Spotify, Tidal or other available services in the background. Here the weighty sound and decent volume works well as background music to whatever you may be doing. I have used it in this role for several weeks now and it certainly offers a decent solution if you don’t have great sound from your PC or laptop. The ability to also add more speakers in other rooms expands the usefulness of the Samsung app and the MS650.
- Excellent sound quality with TV and Movies
- Decent music performance
- Good bass without a dedicated subwoofer
- Easy to use
- Excellent array of features and multiroom streaming app
- Looks expensive when compared to competition
- Only one HDMI
Samsung HW-MS650 Soundbar ReviewThe Samsung MS650 is a very well built soundbar that offers genuinely great audio for your TV and movie viewing in an easy to use package. It will never compete with a full-on home cinema system with separate speakers, AV Receiver and all that wiring, but that is exactly the point of this product. It offers a solution for those who want to improve the sound of their TV, add some multiroom flexibility and audio streaming and do all that without placing speakers and wires all over the living room. When used with a mid to high-end Samsung TV it also unlocks more features and even has the option of adding wireless rears for a better stab at surround sound. There is also a dedicated mount so you can attach this to the TV and then wall mount without drilling extra holes. Plus you get a multiroom app that gives access to all the latest streaming services including Spotify and Tidal via Wi-Fi and the ability to add more speakers to create a multiroom system.
The performance of the MS650 is what we would expect from a modern Samsung soundbar. The company have made great strides with their audio products, which now produce sound quality to compete with other long established brands like Yamaha and Q Acoustics. Although there is no subwoofer with this model it does have the ability to produce a decent bottom end within the constraints of the soundbar and the drivers used, but it offers a good weight to the sound. The wide dispersion tweeters also allow the soundbar to project a very wide sound field that helps improve the stereo separation and performance for those sitting slightly off axis. It certainly improves ten-fold on the sound quality of the built-in speakers of our relatively high-end Samsung KS9500 test sample and that is what it sets out to do.
The issue we do have though with the HW-MS650 is its price and we feel it is a slight miss-step compared to what you are getting performance and features wise. At the time of testing it was £599 and at the time of publishing (August 2017) this has come down to £499 through the Samsung online shop. However we still feel that compared to the competition in this very competitive market it is perhaps still a little toppy and that stops it getting a highly recommended badge, as there are similar performers out there that are more competitively priced. It does however come Recommended for those people looking at such a solution to at least demo, especially if you have a Samsung TV.
Ease of use9
Value for Money7
Our Review Ethos
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