Samsung R7 360 Wireless Speaker Review
Banish the sweet spot
What is the Samsung R7?The Samsung R7, or WAM7500 as it's also known, is the big brother to the R6 wireless speaker that we reviewed recently and it shares many of the same features. Like that smaller model it forms part of Samsung's multiroom system, offering the ability to form a network without the need for a hub. Instead you can connect your R7 directly to your network using your smart device and Samsung’s Multiroom app. It also uses 360 degree omni-directional sound to ensure that regardless of where you are in the room, the R7 can deliver an optimum level of sound quality. Unlike the R6, the R7 isn't portable but it does offer some interesting installation options. At the time of writing (July 2015) the suggested retail price is £499, so the R7 isn't cheap but, if it manages to deliver the same winning combination of simplicity, design and performance as the R6, it might be worth it.
Design & ConnectionsThe overall design of the R7 is essentially the same as the R6 with a basic egg-shaped enclosure that comes in a choice of black or white. 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 with a resin enclosure a matte soft touch outer coating with a sliver trim. The R7 is 422m high, it has a maximum diameter of 181mm and weighs 3.4kg. At the top is a tweeter and at the bottom there is a driver that radiates out in 360 degrees through a special ring radiator. Since the R7 is not portable it comes with an attractive chrome stand, although there's also the option to buy a tripod floor stand or even a ceiling mount.
The R7 includes a built-in wireless LAN (2.4/5GHz dual band) 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 R7 is able to stream lossless audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, although the ultimate quality will largely depend on your source. The R7 also supports Bluetooth 4.0 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. The R7 also supports Samsung’s TV SoundConnect, allowing you to wirelessly stream the audio from your supporting Samsung TV.
Samsung primarily expect you to control the R7 using their multiroom app but there's also 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’s also an indicator LED between the radiator ring and the touch-sensitive controls that shows the audio status of the R7. The controls themselves were responsive and the R7 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. We will cover the multiroom app in more detail later in this review.
The R7 is attractively designed, beautifully made and even offers the option of a tripod floor stand or ceiling mount.
Samsung R7 360 Unboxing Video
Features & SpecsThe main selling point of the R7 is its use of omnidirectional 360 degree sound to eliminate the sweet spot and deliver a spacious and room-filling soundstage. The reason that Samsung developed both the R6 and R7 at their Audio Lab in Los Angeles is that they realised the majority of people rarely sit down to listen to music in a critical manner these days. More often than not it's just on 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 given the behaviour we've just mentioned.
The solution is to eliminate the sweet spot and thus create a more balanced sound. To do this, Samsung are using ring radiator technology to produce an omnidirectional 360 degree soundstage. The R7 uses a 25mm tweeter at the top and a 125mm woofer at the bottom which, when both are combined with acoustic lenses, radiate audio in a 360 degree sound field. This approach not only creates a more spacious omnidirectional sound but it also means the speaker isn't visible, giving the R7 its unconventional appearance. The ring radiators aren't just cosmetic however and in conjunction with the acoustic lenses, driver design, oval shape and dual air gap technology, reduce resonance and air noise to create a tonally-balanced and higher quality sound.
Aside from the omni-directional design of the speaker itself, the other major feature is the multiroom capability. We had two R7s 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 R7 has built-in WiFi for connecting to your wireless network, along with Bluetooth 4.0 and Samsung TV SoundConnect. The R7 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 even use them as surround speakers in a multi-channel setup.
The R7 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. This eliminates additional cost and the need to connect the hub to your router via an Ethernet cable. The interface has 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 add extra speakers by selecting the Add Speaker icon. In addition to controlling different speakers in different rooms, you can also 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. In terms of audio files the R7 can handle AAC, OGG, MP3, WMA, WAV, ALAC, AIFF and FLAC - with the latter four file types supported up to 24-bit/192kHz.
The R7 is easy to setup and control thanks to Samsung's highly effective multiroom app.
Setup & OperationIn terms of setup the R7 couldn't be much easier, especially now there's no hub, and 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 R7 to an outlet and 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] R7 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 R7 360 Video Review
PerformanceWhilst cutting-edge technology and space-age design is all well and good, the real question is how does the R7 actually sound? The answer is that, aside from a couple of caveats that we'll come back to, the R7 sounds superb. Samsung's goal of creating a great sounding speaker without the limitations of a sweet spot has certainly been achieved. We could place the R7 anywhere in the room and wherever we stood the quality of the audio remained excellent, producing a sound field that remained cohesive. It was also capable of going loud without distorting, making it ideal for filling an average sized room with sound.
As we ran through our usual set of specially selected test tracks, courtesy of Gerry Lemay of the Home Acoustics Alliance, we were constantly surprised by the effectiveness of the R7. It produced a lively and open sound field, with well defined high frequencies and a nicely balance mid-range. As we ran through various music tracks designed to highlight any issues, the R7 was able to reproduce female vocals without sounding shrill or sibilant. It could also handle more complex orchestral pieces without losing focus and becoming muddy. Whilst more rockier tracks were delivered with plenty of gusto and excitement.
The only area where the R7 didn't completely impress was when it came to bass but then, given the size of the speaker itself, we couldn't expect miracles. The 125mm woofer was certainly able to put some decent low frequency energy into the overall sound but the R7 could never add the kind of bass performance that you'll get from a larger, more traditional speaker. Its low frequency performance can also depend on where the R7 is situated in the room, near a wall or corner can give it a boost but if you position it too low to the ground, the bass energy can be easily lost.
The other caveat worth mentioning is that although the R7 is extremely successful in creating an omni-directional sound field and is certainly preferable to a single wireless speaker, where the sound will collapse to a specific point, it can't compete with the precise imaging of a stereo pair. Of course that isn't the point of the R7 but if your intention is to create a stereo setup, you might be better off choosing a more traditional configuration. The R7 can be used as a stereo pair but we found that localising of instruments was somewhat vague, so for creating a soundstage with greater accuracy, a normal speaker setup is obviously the preferred option.
However as we ran through some of our current favourite albums, the R7 did an excellent job of reproducing the music. The recent Waterboys release Modern Blues was delivered with great verve, with plenty of mid-range clarity and a dynamic range. When we listened to the breathy vocals and acoustic guitar of Senegalese musician Amadou Diagne, there was a crispness and detail to the recording. Our comments about the bass response not withstanding, the R7 did a great job of replicating Leonard Cohen's gravelly, almost spoken, singing on Popular Problems. Conversely the more epic production of M83's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming was delivered with an openness that retained the texture of the original recording.
The R7 combines stylish elegance and simplicity with a great sounding performance.
- Excellent sound quality
- No sweet spot
- Effective multiroom app
- Easy to setup and control
- Flexible installation
- Slightly lacking in bass
- More expensive than competition
Samsung R7 360 Wireless Speaker Review
Should I buy one?If you like the idea of an omni-directional speaker then the answer is probably yes. The appeal of the Samsung R7 is very much dependent on how you intend to use it but if you plan on listening to music whilst doing other things then the R7's 360 degree sound field is the answer. The fact that it manages to achieve this effect whilst still delivering a great sound is even better. The technology and build quality employed in the R7 might not be cheap but the result is a speaker that sounds as good as it looks, with an open and detailed sound field that retains a well balance combination of high and mid-range frequencies. The bass could sometimes feel a little lacking but that can be mitigated by careful placement and the R7 couldn't be easier to setup. The multiroom capabilities are excellent, the remote app is very effective and the file support is impressive. Overall the R7 delivers a great combination of design, features and performance and whilst it can't compete with the precise imaging of a traditional stereo pair, that would be missing the point.
What are my alternatives?Well if you like the idea of omni-directional sound but would rather have a portable speaker then you can always go for the Samsung R6, it delivers a similar level of performance but has the added advantage of being £100 cheaper. Alternatively if you prefer the idea of more traditional wireless speakers but still want to remain committed to Samsung's ecosystem then there is their M5 and M7 multiroom speakers. Of course there's always the market leader Sonos and there's Denon's new HEOS wireless multiroom speaker range to consider. Another possibility would be LG's MusicFlow system or there's the Pure Jongo wireless multiroom system. All of these alternatives are much cheaper than the R7, so Samsung might find the £499 asking price something of a hurdle. However once you take into account the R7's impressive omnidirectional sound, superior build quality and an excellent set of features, the rather steep price tag should be easier to justify.
Value For Money8
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