Samsung R6 360 Wireless Speaker Review
Taking sound in a new direction
What is the Samsung R6 360?The R6 is Samsung’s latest wireless multiroom speaker and is intended to join the manufacturer’s current line-up that includes the M5 and M7. The R6 introduces a number of innovations designed to improve on last year’s range, the first of which is that the speaker doesn’t need a hub to connect to your network. Instead you can connect your new speaker or speakers directly to your network using your smart device and Samsung’s Multiroom app.
The other big innovation is the introduction of 360 degree omni-directional sound, which ensures that regardless of where you are in the room, the R6 can deliver an optimum level of sound quality. Aside from these new innovations, the R6 also benefits from Samsung’s usual flair for attractive design and superior build quality. At the time of writing (June 2015) the suggested retail price is £399, which means the R6 360 wireless multi-room speaker isn’t cheap but if it can deliver on its promise of quality, simplicity and performance then Samsung may be on to a winner.
DesignIn terms of its design the R6 looks like a high-tech Fabergé egg, without all the gold, and comes in a choice of either black or white with an attractive silver trim. The speaker’s unusual design helps facilitate its omni-directional sound field but the shape and overall finish also makes it an attractive addition to any living space.
The build quality is excellent and the matte soft rubber finish makes it both comfortable to hold and easy to handle which is clearly important for a portable speaker. Despite this portability, the speaker has a nice degree of weight and always feels like a premium product; although the use of superior materials does add to the the production costs. At the top there is what looks like an handle but is in fact an upward-firing tweeter, so be careful not to pick the R6 up by it.
At the bottom there is a slot that radiates out the 360 degree sound to create a balanced and spacious soundstage. Above the ring radiator are a series of touch-sensitive controls, although the R6 is primarily designed to be controlled via your smart device.
Samsung R6 360 Unboxing Video
Connections & ControlIn terms of connections, the R6 supports WiFi for connection to your home network. This allows you to control the speaker via your smart device and stream audio to it, either individually, as part of a multi-room setup or within a group of speakers. The R6 is able to stream lossless audio up to 192kHz/24-bit, although the ultimate quality will largely depend on your source.
The R6 also supports Bluetooth which, whilst not as high quality as the WiFi connection, does act as a back up method for controlling and streaming audio to the speaker when outside the range of your wireless network. That’s obviously a useful feature for a product that is intended to double as a portable speaker. The R6 also supports Samsung’s TV SoundConnect, allowing you to wirelessly stream the audio from your Samsung TV. At the rear of the speaker there is a USB port for service, a socket for the AC power adapter and an on/off button.
Although Samsung primarily expect you to control the R6 using their Multiroom app, there's a series of basic touch-sensitive controls just above the ring radiator that allow the user to play/pause, adjust the volume, select the input and put the speaker into standby mode. There is also an indicator light that shows the status of the built-in battery. If the light is red the speaker is connected to the power adapter, if it’s green the speaker is using the built-in battery and if the indicator is flashing red, the battery charge is below 10%.
There’s also an indicator LED between the radiator ring and the touch-sensitive controls that shows the audio status of the R6. The controls themselves were responsive and the R6 verbally identifies which input you have selected - Bluetooth or TV SoundConnect - but the majority of setup and control features are found on the Multiroom app.
The R6 is controlled using the latest version of Samsung's highly effective Multiroom App.
Features & SpecsThe main new feature on the R6 is its use of omnidirectional 360 degree sound to eliminate the sweet spot and deliver a spacious and room-filling soundstage. The reality is that the majority of people rarely sit down to listen to music in a critical manner these days. Music has essentially become the soundtrack of our lives and people often have music playing in the background whilst they are doing other things. This is especially the case when it comes to multiroom systems where you often listen to music as you move from one room to another. For this reason a normal mono speaker will emanate from one point and a stereo pair will have a sweet spot, neither of which is ideal for the way we consume music in the modern world.
To eliminate the sweet spot and create a more balanced sound, Samsung are using ring radiator technology to create a omnidirectional 360 degree soundstage. The R6 uses a 1” tweeter at the top and a 5” driver at the bottom which, when combined with acoustic lenses, radiate audio in a 360 degree sound field via a slit around the bottom of the speaker. This approach not only creates a more spacious omnidirectional sound but it also means the speaker isn't visible, giving the R6 an unconventional appearance. The slit isn't just cosmetic however and in conjunction with the acoustic lenses, driver design, oval shape and dual air gap technology, reduces resonance and air noise to create a tonally-balanced and higher quality sound.
Aside from the design of the speaker itself, the other major feature is the multiroom capability. We had two R6s available for review, one in white and one in black, and this gave us a chance to test the various capabilities of the speakers. As already mentioned , the R6 has built-in WiFi for connecting to your wireless network, along with Bluetooth 4.0 and Samsung TV SoundConnect. The R6 can be setup as an individual speaker or it can be used as part of a multiroom system with speakers in different rooms. In our test we had one in the living room and one in the bedroom. You can also group speakers together, which we also tested using the two speakers as a stereo pair, and you can use them as surround speakers in a multi-channel setup.
The R6 uses Samsung's Multiroom app and the version 2.0 introduces a number of major changes for 2015. The biggest is that you no longer need a hub to connect your speaker to your wireless network, you can now do this directly via your Smart device. The interface has also been redesigned 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, depthless play to access music content without a screen change and background colour change by album art.
The latest version of the Multiroom app also 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 access and play various sound sources and streaming services with the Multiroom app. So you can listen to music on your smart device, you can listen to Internet radio and you can listen to streaming music sources such as Spotify.
The Multiroom app also allows you to check the battery status of any speaker connected to your smart device and you can easily install additional speakers by selecting the Add Speaker icon on the app. As well as controlling different speakers in different rooms, you can 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 set the speakers up as surrounds in a multi-channel set up by using the Surround Mode; this allows you to select the speaker and drag and drop it into the desired location.
Setup couldn't be easier and the R6 connects directly to a wireless network.
SetupThe R6 couldn't really be easier to setup, all you need to do is connect your smart device to your WiFi network and download and install the free Samsung Multiroom app for either iOS or Android. Then connect the power cord on the R6 to an outlet and press the power button at the rear for two seconds. Launch the Multiroom app on your smart device, type in your WiFi password and you're good to go. It's as simple as that, although if for some reason the auto setup fails you can enter manual setup by pressing the play/pause and standby buttons simultaneously for 5 seconds and then pressing the Next button on the app screen.
Whilst the primary method of connection should be over your wireless network, you also have the option of using Bluetooth. To do this all you need to do is turn on the speaker and enable Bluetooth on your smart device. Then select [Samsung] R6 from your Bluetooth list and the two devices will be paired. Finally if you own a recent Samsung TV you can wirelessly connect the speaker to it using TV SoundConnect. To do this just press and hold the Input button until you hear “TV SoundConnect” is ready, then a pop-up will appear on your TV screen and you just need to select continue.
Samsung R6 360 Video Review
PerformanceThe first thing to note about the R6 is that it's as easy to setup as Samsung promise and once we had installed the Multiroom app on our smartphone, it was a matter of seconds before the first speaker was connected. It was an equally simple task to add the second speaker and we were then able to listen to music in both of the rooms in which the speakers were setup. We could listen to different tracks on different speakers or group them and play the same music on both. We could also put both speakers in the same room and operate them as a stereo pair, although we weren't in a position to test them as surround speakers. In addition the latest version of Samsung's Multiroom app is excellent, making it easy to setup and control both the speakers.
The redesigned interface means that finding and playing your music is simple and the wheel dial navigation is great. We were quickly playing music from our smartphone, both lossy and lossless, along with Internet radio and various streaming services. Everything worked exactly as it should and the wireless connection was robust, with no dropouts or other issues. We also tested the Bluetooth connection and this worked equally as well, although obviously it could only connected directly with one speaker at a time. So whilst the wireless connection is preferred, it's good to have Bluetooth as a back-up. Unfortunately we were unable to test the TV SoundConnect feature because we didn't have a suitable Samsung TV available.
Of course the big question is how does the R6 sound? Well overall the sound quality was excellent and the speaker's main selling point - omnidirectional sound - was very effective. The R6 was able to produce a balanced and spacious soundstage that really filled the room, no matter where we stood. The absence of a sweet spot made the speaker ideal for listening to music whilst doing other things and as we moved around the room, or even in the garden, the sound remained balanced and very listenable. That was perhaps the biggest surprise. We expected the speaker to create a 360 degree sound field but we didn't expect it to sound so good. The tweeter handled the higher frequencies well, whilst the main driver delivered an excellent mid range that never sounded wooly.
Our only compliant was that the R6 was slightly lacking in bass but given its size there is very little that Samsung can do about that and there was still sufficient low frequency presence to not distract from the overall performance. The R6 could also go quite loud without distorting, which meant that the speaker could fill even a reasonably sized room with a big and open sound. However, if you feel you want to beef things up a bit, you can always run two R6s as a stereo pair. We found that doing this created a very big room-filling sound, that once again sounded good no matter where we stood and the two speakers remained perfectly synched without any delay.
We listened to our usual test music and the R6 handled it all very well, producing a sound that was tonally balanced, with well defined high frequencies and a warm mid-range. When listening to female vocals the speaker never sounded harsh or thin and there was sufficient bass to give the harder tracks plenty of attack. We listened to Ben Watt's album Hendra and enjoyed his melancholic vocals and Bernard Butler's melodic electric guitars. Conversely the country-tinged rock of Modern Blues by The Waterboys was equally as well rendered with clarity and detail in the complex arrangements. Finally a blast of Futurology by the Manic Street Preachers proved that the R6 could also keep pace with faster tracks.
Although we primarily listened to the R6 with the speaker connected to a power outlet, we also tested its portability by using the built-in battery. You can fully charge the battery in about two and a half hours and Samsung claim a maximum life of six hours, although that will depend on the volume you're listening at and the source. We usually got about four to five hours, listening at a sensible volume and using our smartphone as a source. The size and shape of the R6 meant that you could put it just about anywhere and it would look attractive, whilst the omnidirectional nature of the audio meant that for sound quality it was also very flexible in terms of placement.
The R6 really delivered in terms of design, build quality, setup, usability and performance.
- Excellent sound quality
- No sweet spot
- Effective multiroom app
- Easy to setup and control
- Flexible and portable
- Slightly lacking in bass
- More expensive than competition
Samsung R6 360 Wireless Speaker Review
Should I buy one?That very much depends on what you are looking for but if it's a multiroom speaker you're after then the Samsung R6 should certainly be on your short list. The attractive design, impressive build quality and ease of setup distinguish the speaker from much of the competition and the latest version of the Multiroom app is excellent. It allows you to setup and control your speaker or speakers, whilst listening to music from your smart device, Internet radio or streaming services. The R6 offers a degree of flexibility in terms of multiroom, group or surround use, whilst the portability is another handy feature. There's also the option to connect via Bluetooth and if you own a recent Samsung TV you can use SoundConnect.
Of course if you're interested in omnidirectional sound, your options are limited, making the R6 an obvious choice. The 360 degree soundstage really works, creating a balanced and spacious sound that fills a room and eliminates any sweet spot. So if you want music in the background, the R6 is ideal and wherever you are in the room, the sound remains tonally balanced. What's even better is that if you stop to critically listen to the Samsung you'll realise that the sound quality is actually excellent. The speaker produced a sound that retained clarity and detail, with a decent high-end and a well-defined mid-range. The bass could have been a bit better but there was still sufficient low-end to give the audio impact.
What are my alternatives?Well there are certainly no shortage of competitors in this particular market place, with Sonos remaining the leader when it comes to multiroom systems. Then there's Denon with their new HEOS 1 wireless multiroom speaker, that also includes Bluetooth capability, stereo pairing and a portable battery, all at a list price of £280. Another alternative would be LG's MusicFlow system or there's the Pure Jongo wireless multiroom system. All of these alternatives are cheaper than the R6, so Samsung might find the £399 asking price a little high in what is a competitive market place. However the Samsung R6 does include impressive omnidirectional sound, superior build quality and an excellent set of features, which should help justify the higher price tag.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £399.00
Value For Money8
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