Samsung HW-MS6500 Soundbar Review
The appliance of science
What is the Samsung HW-MS6500?The HW-MS6500 is the latest curved soundbar from Samsung that not only offers HDMI connections with 4K support, built-in WiFi, Bluetooth, Hi-Res audio support and Multiroom capability but also uses distortion cancelling technology that Samsung says will deliver an audio performance free of distortion. This type of innovative approach to sound has been an important element of Samsung's corporate strategy over the last few years that has seen the company release some of its most interesting products in the audio market. One can only assume that the Korean giant's recent purchase of Harman Kardon can only mean that audio will form an even larger part of the Samsung's product range going forward. The MS6500, along with HW-MS650 which is identical internally but uses a straight chassis instead, is the latest example and although it's £549 price tag isn't small change, it does offer plenty of features for the money. So let's see if the HW-MS6500 can live up to its billing of offering sound the way it should sound.
DesignAlthough the MS6500 uses some exciting new technology on the inside, the outside will be familiar to anyone who has seen a Samsung soundbar in the last couple of years. The chassis is essentially a curved rectangular block that comes in a choice of black or silver (HW-MS6501) with an attractive brushed metal finish. There's an angled edge at the top front, the grille is also made of metal and the overall build quality is excellent, with the MS6500 feeling like a well engineered and constructed product. To the far right is a small display that shows information like the source or volume level selected.The soundbar measures 1160 x 80 x 168mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 6.5kg. The Samsung uses nine forward-firing drivers in total, three for each channel. It can be positioned in front of your TV, assuming you have a wide enough surface and sufficient clearance beneath the screen. However you can also wall mount the MS6500 and it comes with a pair of brackets for the purpose. Although if you own a compatible Samsung TV, you can buy the optional One Mount (WMN300SB) which attaches the soundbar directly to the TV and allows you to power both devices from a single cable.
The design is very similar to last year, with a curved chassis to match your curved TV
Connections & ControlSamsung have simplified the layout of their connections on the MS6500 because previous soundbars had two separate recesses for different inputs but now they're all in a single recess. Here you'll find an HDMI input and an HDMI output, both of which support 4K/60p, HDR and HDCP 2.2, whilst the HDMI output also supports ARC (Audio Return Channel). There is an optical digital input and an aux input using a 3.5mm jack, along with built-in WiFi as part of Samsung's Multiroom system and support for a wireless connection to Bluetooth enabled devices. There is a connector for the provided two-pin power cable and also a connector of powering your Samsung TV in conjunction with the One Mount. There's also a connector for attaching a wireless dongle that can wirelessly connect the soundbar to surround speakers and a subwoofer.On the right hand end panel of the MS6500 you'll find some basic controls for volume up and down, source select and on/off. There are also two buttons on the underside for WiFi setup and adding the soundbar to an existing multiroom system. All the other controls are on the remote, which is small but comfortable to hold and easy to use with one hand. In the centre are the navigation and play/pause buttons and above them is the sound control button for setting treble, audio sync and, where applicable, the rear speaker levels. There's also the source select button (which doubles as the Bluetooth pairing button) and, in the top left hand corner, the power button. Under the navigation controls are the surround mode, the sound mode, the smart mode, the volume up and down control (press it to mute) and the bass up and down control.
Feature & SpecsThe HW-MS6500 comes with plenty of features, although the main one is the inclusion of Samsung's distortion canceling technology which is intended to deliver deeper bass and a clearer more detailed sound. The technology basically works by measuring the performance of the soundbar in an anechoic chamber and then applying an algorithm that predicts the distortion at the end of the driver movement and then pre-adjust for it upfront. The MS6500 uses a 3-channel configuration with nine drivers in all, six woofers and three tweeters, all the drivers have their own digital amplification and have been specifically engineered and tuned at the Samsung Audio Lab in California. The wide range tweeters use a lower crossover to deliver a more uniform sound dispersion with less of a sweet spot, which means it's better suited for living rooms where everyone is spread out. The soundbar itself uses a closed enclosure and has a frequency range from 38Hz to 20kHz, according to Samsung, and it supports Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 2-channel audio.
The MS6500 has been designed to operate on its own but if you would like a full surround sound experience, then you can add the Wireless Surround Kit (SWA-9000S) which uses a wireless dongle. If you'd like a bit more bass, you can also add a wireless subwoofer using the same dongle. Other features include the ability to wirelessly connect to your Samsung TV using either WiFi or Bluetooth and you can use the latter to connect to various Bluetooth enabled sources as well. The MS6500 supports Samsung's Multiroom system, so you can add it to an existing multiroom system and control the soundbar using the Multiroom App. You can also control the MS6500 using the provided remote control and there's the option of buying the One Mount to mount the soundbar and your new Samsung TV together. The MS6500 supports Hi-Res audio up to 96kHz/24 bit with MP3, WAV, AAC, OGG, FLAC and ALAC support and, via the Multiroom app, you can stream music from Spotify, Tidal and Amazon Music, to name a few. The soundbar comes with an optical digital cable, a cable holder, feet and wall brackets all included.
The soundbar is easy to setup, has plenty of connections and a nice set of features
Setup & TestingIn terms of setting up the MS6500 it's fairly straight forward, just make sure the soundbar is level, isn't blocking your screen and also that there's nothing in the way of the drivers. For testing we connected various devices via HDMI such as a Samsung UBD-K8500 UHD Blu-ray player, a PS4 and YouView set top box. However since the MS6500 only has one HDMI input, we mostly tested the soundbar with the player and for other devices we used ARC to run the audio back from the Samsung QE65Q8C we were testing at the same time. We also connected an Apple TV via the optical digital cable, an Amazon Dot via the 3.5mm jack and we paired the MS6500 to our iPhone 7. You can connect to your TV using Bluetooth or, if it's a Samsung Smart TV released after 2014, you can connect via your WiFi network using the Samsung Multiroom app. You can also use the Samsung Multiroom app to set the MS6500 up as part of a multiroom system or to add a wireless subwoofer and surround sound speakers and set them all up correctly.
Once you have everything setup and connected, controlling the soundbar is simple, thanks to the excellent remote control, with the Source button allowing you to cycle through all the available inputs. The Sound Mode button allows you to select from five different sound modes – Standard, Music, Clear Voice, Sports and Movie – and there's also a DRC (Dynamic Range Control) mode that can be used with Dolby Digital that you can engage by pressing and holding the Sound Mode button. The sound control button allows you to set the treble and audio sync, if necessary, as well as turn the rear speakers on and off and set their levels if wireless surround speakers are connected. There's the Surround button, which adds a surround effect to the audio when engaged, along with the Smart Mode button that automatically optimises sound effects to suit the scene playing. Finally the bass control allows you to adjust the amount of bass or, if a wireless subwoofer is connected, you can adjust the subwoofer level instead.
Samsung HW-MS6500 Video Review
Sound QualityWe started our reviewing by using the MS6500 with normal TV broadcasts and here the soundbar comfortably handled any programme we watched. First of all there were the more voice-over heavy shows such as nature documentaries or Masterchef and we were immediately struck by the clarity of the dialogue. The clear voices emanated from the centre of the soundbar, whilst music was delivered in a wider soundstage across the front of the room. Shows with a lot of music sounded fantastic, with the MS6500 revealing plenty of detail and sounding extremely musical for a soundbar. When we moved on to dramas and more action orientated shows like Agents of Shield the Samsung remained equally as accomplished, delivering the dialogue with focused clarity, rendering the music well and localising the effects with precision. The bass was surprisingly deep considering the MS6500 doesn't have a separate subwoofer and the soundbar managed to deliver a decent low-end that was certainly sufficient for the majority of our TV viewing.
We then moved on to Blu-rays and Ultra HD Blu-rays the performance was equally as impressive. Obviously the MS6500 is limited to Dolby Digital and DTS 2-channel but given it is ostensibly a 3-channel soundbar that shouldn't be an issue. The sound quality was certainly excellent and starting off with Moana the Samsung delivered the marvellous musical numbers with skill, producing an engaging front soundstage that retained both clarity and detail, whilst localising instruments with great success. The singing was clear, whilst the lower notes were handled well despite the lack of a subwoofer. The MS6500 was certainly capable of delivering a balanced sound and it could go very loud without distorting or becoming brittle. This impressive performance continued with more action orientated soundtracks like Rogue One, with the soundbar managing to to deliver a lively and very enjoyable experience. It was only in bombastic films like Assassins Creed, where the absence of a dedicated subwoofer was really felt and the lower frequencies would lack the same impact. However at least you have the option of adding a wireless subwoofer at a later date.
The MS6500 has five listening modes – Standard (passthrough), Cinema, Sports, Clear Voice, Music – and there's also a ‘surround’ effect that can be applied to each. This DSP processing could, on occasion, be impressive and the Sports mode can be effective in localising crowd noises but we largely ignored these modes in favour of Standard. The surround mode obviously couldn't actually produce a real surround effect and although it did give the audio a slightly greater sense of immersion, we also found that it tended to create excessive echo and muddy the vocals, so we left it off. We generally found that the abilities of the soundbar itself were such that in the untouched Standard mode the MS6500 was capable of delivering a good enough performance that it didn't require any additional processing. One feature that might prove useful is the DRC (Dynamic Range Control) mode that can reduce the dynamic range of content at night, so as not to disturb the rest of the family.
Finally we moved on to music, using a number of different sources including our smartphone via Bluetooth, our home network via WiFi and CD via our disc player. The MS6500 was simply the best soundbar we have heard to date when it comes to music, which makes it a viable component in a multiroom system where sound quality becomes more important. We have recently been using the cast recording of David Bowie's musical Lazarus for testing and the MS6500 handled the eclectic choice of songs extremely well. The more rock oriented 'Valentine's Day' was delivered with a percussive beat and a solid soundstage by the mid-range drivers, whilst the piano and female vocals of 'Life on Mars' were handled without sounding bright or shrill. The more complex arrangements were also handled with skill, with deliberately overlapping vocals remaining clear and defined. Overall the MS6500 delivered a great all-round performance making it an ideal soundbar for watching TV and movies or listening to music.
The MS6500 delivers a fantastic level of sound quality with lovely detail and clarity
- Great sound
- Good connections
- Plenty of features
- Solid build quality
- Attractive design
- Bass could be better
- Fairly expensive
Samsung HW-MS6500 Soundbar ReviewSamsung have released some excellent soundbars over the last few years with the HW-K450 and the Atmos enabled HW-K950 being two of the most recent examples. The MS6500, along with the HW-MS650 which uses a more traditional straight chassis, look to continue this trend with its use of innovative technology coupled with an attractive design and an extensive list of features. The build quality is excellent and the included remote control is extremely well thought out and easy to use. Setup is very straight forward and the MS6500 has a decent set of connections that include HDMI with support for 4K and HDR. There's an extensive range of features, including Hi-Res audio and Multiroom support, along with the option to add a single wall mount for both the TV and soundbar, as well as a wireless dongle and surround speakers and an active subwoofer.
Of course the most important aspect is sound quality and here the MS6500 really delivers with a wide and open front soundstage that was full of detail and clarity. The distortion cancelling technology genuinely worked and as a result the MS6500 delivered clean and distortion free sound that made it one of the few soundbars which you actually could use for listening to music. The performance with TV and movies was also extremely good, with the placement of effects across the front soundstage being very precise, whilst dialogue remained clear and music was well rendered. The bass performance was surprising given the lack of a separate subwoofer but still not quite as deep as an active sub could deliver, although you do have the option to add one later. The fact that the MS6500 only supports 2-channel DTS isn't really an issue unless you plan on adding wireless surround speakers, although if that's what you want there are cheaper alternatives.
There are literally hundreds of soundbars on the market and at £549 the MS6500 is at the higher end of the scale for a single unit with no subwoofer. However if you're looking for a simple audio solution that won't dominate your lounge, doesn't require a subwoofer, offers loads of features and can still deliver fantastic sound, then the Samsung HW-MS6500 should be at the top of your list.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £549.00
Ease of use9
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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