Samsung HT-E5530 3D Blu-ray Player & 5.1 Home Cinema System Review

Does Samsung's HT-E5530 5.1 system offer an audio performance to go with all the features?

Home AV Review

4

Best Buy
Samsung HT-E5530 3D Blu-ray Player & 5.1 Home Cinema System Review
SRP: £330.00

Introduction

Having conquered the TV market in the last few years, Samsung now have their sights set firmly on the audio side of the AV equation. We've reviewed a few of their new audio products so far this year and overall we've been impressed. We recently reviewed Panasonic's SC-BTT590 all-in-one system and were equally as impressed with their own combination of style, performance and price - awarding a Highly Recommended badge in the process. The Samsung HT-E5530 offers an almost identical set of features but for £100 less, so if it's capable of similar levels of performance we could be in best buy territory, let's find out.

Design and Installation

Unlike the previous Samsung audio products we've reviewed, which sported a design more in the style of their TV range, the HT-E5530 comes in a classic piano black finish. In fact it reminded us more of Panasonic's styling than the rather avant garde approach that Samsung has taken with their designs of late. We've always been quite partial to piano black and the overall look matched our reference TV perfectly, resulting in a very attractive combination. As is often the case with these all-in-one systems the overall build quality is reasonable but on closer inspection you realise that compromises have to be made to meet this price point. The system consists of a main unit that includes all the amplification and a 3D Blu-ray player and a 5.1 set of speakers. There are two floor standing front speakers, a centre speaker that matches the front speakers, two smaller rear satellites and a passive subwoofer.

The main unit looks very similar to Samsung's current range of Blu-ray players and the only clues to it dual purpose are the volume control on the front and the additional weight. The disc tray is on the left hand side behind a drop down flap and in the middle are the remote sensor and an informative display. As with Samsung's Blu-ray players the main unit has a series of touch sensitive icons that control function selection, stop, play/pause, enter and open/close. On the right hand side there are volume up and down buttons, an on/off button and a USB port. The unit measures 430 x 55 x 256mm and weighs 2.5kb, the built in amplification delivers 165W to the front speakers and satellites, 170W to the centre speaker and 170W to the subwoofer (all into 3 Ohms).

The HT-E5530 comes with two floor standing or, as Samsung call them, tallboy speakers for the front right and left channels and a very similar speaker for the centre channel. They all use the same configuration of two woofers either side of a tweeter. The floorstanders measure 90 x1200 x 70mm and weigh 3.9kg, whilst the centre speaker measures 360 x 75 x 69mm and weighs 0.9kg. The two rear speakers are much smaller, consisting of a single woofer each, measuring 90 x 142 x 69mm and weighing 0.6kg. Finally there is a passive subwoofer which uses the same glossy piano black finish as the rest of the components in the system, it measures 168mm x 350mm x 285mm and weighs 2.6kg. As with the rest of the package the subwoofer is very attractive and reasonably well built but on closer inspection you realise that this is ultimately still a budget product. Since this is a passive subwoofer, there is an included speaker cable for connecting it to the main unit.

Samsung HT-E5530

The provided remote control is almost identical to the slim-line handsets we’ve seen with Samsung's Blu-ray player range and we like it. Considering the amount of functionality present in the HT-E5530, Samsung has done an excellent job of not over cluttering the remote and it manages to fit in a number of dedicated buttons and other functions. There are the basic controls for disc playback, along with disc menu, pop-up menu, tools and info buttons. There are also dedicated buttons for the Home page and the Smart Hub, along with FM tuning controls. Given this is primarily an audio system you will also find controls for the volume, mute, subwoofer level and numerous sound effects. The remote even includes basic TV controls, so if you own a Samsung TV you can control your entire system with this one remote.

Samsung HT-E5530

At the rear there is a reasonable a selection of connections including two HDMI inputs and a HDMI output. If you're think that two HDMI inputs aren't enough, don't forget that the Blu-ray player is built in and the HDMI output has an Audio Return Channel (ARC) for the audio from a compatible TV, so two HDMI inputs should meet most people's needs. There is also a LAN port, an optical digital in, a stereo analogue in, a FM antenna terminal and a composite video out. Also at the rear there are six speaker terminals using dedicated connectors and a large cooling fan for the built-in amplification. The dedicated connectors could prove an issue if you need longer cable runs to install the HT-E5530 correctly but reattaching them to different cables shouldn't be too difficult and the provided cables are of a reasonable length. There is a TX card connection for wireless rear speakers and on the far left there is a hard wired power cable. If you want to connect your iPod/iPhone to the HT-E5530 you have a choice of using the USB port at the front or a dedicated connector at the rear. However the HT-E5530 also has built-in Bluetooth, so you can connect your iPod/iPhone wirelessly if you so wish.

Setup

The basic setup of the HT-E5530 is very simple thanks to the inclusion of colour coded cables with dedicated connectors, just make sure you connect positive to positive to avoid any issues with polarity. You need to position the centre speaker below you screen and the left and right speakers either side and then position the rear speakers where best suits your environment. Ideally you want all five speakers to be equidistant from the main viewing position but obviously this isn't always possible in someone's lounge and you can adjust for any differences in the setup menus. Then you just need to connect the HT-E5530 to your TV and any other devices to the two HDMI inputs to the main unit. If your TV doesn't have ARC, you can use the optical digital connection for the TV's audio instead. If you plan on using the FM radio, there is an indoor aerial provided for this purpose and tuning in your favourite stations is easy.

Samsung HT-E5530
Samsung HT-E5530
The menu system essentially mirrors the one used on Samsung's Blu-ray players but obviously includes a few additions to allow for the inclusion of on-board amplification. Since we encountered last year’s iterations, Samsung has had a bit of a rethink over the Menu categories but still retains the same broad structure of 4 sub-menus – Smart Hub, AllShare Play, Function and Settings. Further, under the Settings heading, there are categories for Display, Audio, Network, System and Support. We’ll cover the Smart Hub and AllShare features in detail, later in the review but the Function sub-menu allows you choose which connected device to listen to, the choices are Digital In, AUX, Remote iPod, HDMI In 1, HDMI IN 2, Tuner and Bluetooth.
Samsung HT-E5530
Samsung HT-E5530

Within Setting we have further sub-menus for Display, Audio, Network, System and Support, we'll cover Display and Audio in the relevant sections of this review. In the Network sub-menu there are options for setting up the network connection (wired or wireless), the the WiFi Direct if you have a compatible device, the AllShare Settings, the BD-Live Settings and the Bluetooth device name. Within the System sub-menu there are options for the Initial Settings, the Device Manager, Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC), Language, Security, General and DivX Video on Demand. The final sub-menu is for support and includes Software Updates, Contact Samsung, Remote Management and a system Reset.

Features

Samsung have made a very commendable job of streamlining the services that are available, beginning with AllShare Play where all playback functions are accessed. Bringing up the AllShare Menu will give further options of My List, Videos, Photos and Music. The My List option contains sub-sections for Recently Played, which is largely self-explanatory but does include your recent selections from whichever medium you were viewing – whether streamed from PC or Mobile Device or via connected storage. Similarly, opting for Videos, Photos or Music will provide the opportunity of watching or listening from the various devices. In the Music section you can select between a CD, a connected USB drive or an iPod/iPhone. The graphical interface is very attractive and navigating your content, be it music, photos or video is very easy.

Samsung HT-E5530
Samsung HT-E5530

The HT-E5530 works very well as media player, and we encountered no problems with a variety of media servers and files we tried. The built-in WiFi is very useful and the idea that the HT-E5530 is a true all-in-one system is furthered by the inclusion of a Web Browser. Having said that it is very annoying to use with the standard remote control, even if the Enter key acts as a kind of substitute scroll pad. Using the available remote control app for iOS or Android devices makes things much easier but if you've already got a smartphone or tablet in your hand it will be quicker and easier just to browse the Web on that device instead. The Samsung remote control is however very good, providing an attractive interface and a nice alternative to using the provided remote.

Samsung HT-E5530

The Smart Hub interface of the HT-E5530 mirrors that of Samsung's Blu-ray players which in turn are almost identical to those in the TV ranges. Overall the offerings from the Smart Hub are very extensive but not quite up to those in the TV ranges with the most notable omissions being the ITV Player, the BBC Sport App and Samsungs’ own Explore 3D streaming service. It’s probable the first couple of those will follow via an update, as they’re recent additions to Samsung’s Smart Universe, but it looks unlikely the 3D service is on the cards since that has been around for over 12 months. Too add to the near ubiquitous presence of the BBC iPlayer and YouTube, there are also VoD services from Netflix and LoveFilm to name but a few. In terms of apps that aren’t VoD, Samsung still leads the pack in the variety, and number it has on offer and social networkers are taken care of with dedicated Facebook and Twitter apps.

Video Performance

In terms of setting up the built-in Blu-ray player, there is a sub-menu under Settings called Display where all the necessary options can be found. From here there are options including the 3D Settings, TV Aspect Ratio, Smart Hub Screen Size, BD Wise, Resolution, Movie Frame (24FS), HDMI Colour Format, HDMI Deep Colour and Progressive Mode. The 3D settings allow the choice of auto-playing 3D content in 3D, 2D or Auto which will choose the number of dimensions based on the display the HT-E5530 is connected to; you can also set the Screen size of the connected display for optimal performance. TV Aspect Ratio is best set to 16:9 Original to preserve 4:3 material in its correct size and Shape; Smart Hub Screen Size increases or decreases the Zoom for the Smart Hub page.

Samsung HT-E5530
Samsung HT-E5530

BD Wise is only functional with compatible Samsung displays and, when activated, promises to deliver Blu-rays at their native frame rate and resolution. There’s no real need to activate it provided you have selected Auto for the Movie Frame (24Fs) option. HDMI colour format gives choices of Auto, YCbCr(4:4:4), RGB (Standard) and RGB (Enhanced). How that is set is dependent on the capabilities of the display but the safest options, for those not hooking up the HT-E5530 to a PC, are either Auto or YcCbCr. HDMI Deep Colour may as well be set to off as there’s no content to support it and Progressive Mode should be left on Auto to enable the cadence detection.

We encountered no issues with 3D playback, once we’d ensured the screen size setting in the 3D menu matched that of the display. We watched a number of 3D Blu-rays with a couple of displays and spotted no unpleasant artefacting and our 3D resolution test proved all details were present. Much as the electronics inside a Blu-ray player shouldn’t have a problem in displaying full resolution 3D, the same applies to the representation of 2D 1080p24 material. There is a small caveat to this with the HT-E5530, which stems from the Picture Modes available in the TOOLS menu, accessed using a dedicated button of the remote control. There are 4 picture modes - Standard/Movie/User/Dynamic – and that does have a bearing on things.

Where Movie is usually the most accurate pre-set of the Samsung TVs, on the HT-E5530 we found it rather under-saturated the colour gamut, particularly with red, leading to a slightly washed out picture. Dynamic did the opposite whilst also increasing the luminance of the colours and adding undefeatable sharpening. The most unadulterated mode was User but it did increase contrast, at default, and it needed its contrast control moved back a notch to stop the contrast boost making the panel clip white. The Standard mode was very similar to the User mode but it featured an undefeatable noise reduction, meaning film grain and very high frequency details were lost. It’s a shame Samsung don’t offer some kind of pure mode that does just outputs an unadulterated image direct from the disc, which is what a player should do.

It’s with interlaced signals that Blu-ray players can add value and we expected good things based on our previous experience with Samsung products. We weren't disappointed with the deinterlacing performance, it displayed the rotating bars pattern with only the tiniest amount of jaggies and handled the motion in our test clips very well. We’ve seen some inconsistencies when it comes to cadence detection in this year's Samsung products and this continued with the HT-E5530, which was unable to lock on to a 2:2 cadence at 1080i, meaning an unnecessary deinterlacing step is introduced and a loss of resolution as a result.

The HT-E5530 was also unable to detect 2:2 cadence correctly with standard definition content, although we suspect very few will choose 576p as the output resolution in the settings menu. Samsung's scaling is always a strong point of their video processing and the HT-E5530 was no exception, delivering an excellent performance with no loss of detail and haloing which is good news for broadcast material. Most Blu-rays loaded up to show copyright warnings in under 30 seconds and menus around 15 seconds after that. DVD’s were ready before we were sat down, in most cases.

Audio Performance

When initially setting up the HT-E5530, there are a number of menu options dedicated to optimising the sound quality. The Audio menu includes options relating to both the built-in Blu-ray player and the amplifier and it includes settings for the Equaliser, Smart Volume, Audio Return Channel (ARC), Digital Output, Dynamic Range Control and Audio Sync. To set up the audio system itself, there are options for Speaker Settings and Speaker Selection. The Speaker Selection lets you choose which speakers you want active, the TV's speakers or the home theatre's speakers. The Speaker Settings allow you to optimise the setup of the speakers based on their distance from the prime listening position. You need to measure this distance and put it into the HT-E5530 to set the time delay, which ensures the sound from each speaker reaches the main listening position at the same time, even if the speakers are at different distances. You then need to use a sound pressure level meter to set the levels for each speaker, so that they are all at the same volume level. Once this is done, you are ready to start listening to content.

Samsung HT-E5530
Samsung HT-E5530

In terms of the audio formats that the SC-BTT590 can decode, all the main audio formats are covered including Dolby Pro Logic II, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, DolbyTrueHD, DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS-HD High Resolution Audio. There are a number of settings for sound effects which can be accessed directly from the remote control including DSP modes, Dolby Pro Logic II and SFE modes. The DSP modes are MP3 Enhancer, Power Bass and Virtual 7.1, whilst the Dolby Pro Logic II modes are the standard Movie, Music, Game, Matrix and Prologic. The SFE modes included replicating the acoustics of a symphony hall in Boston, a philharmonic hall in Bratislava, a jazz club in Seoul, a church in Seoul and a rock amphitheatre. Finally there is the 3D Sound mode which has four options - high, medium, low and thankfully off. As is almost always the case with the various sound settings, we find that we preferred listening to content in its original format and there is no need to add any additional processing.

Once we had worked our way through the options and around to actually performing some subjective listening tests we were pleasantly surprised by the HT-E5530. We mentioned in our review of the Panasonic SC-BTT590, that manufacturers are getting better and better at producing excellent sounding systems for surprisingly little money. The HT-E5530 was a good example, delivering a very assured performance given the amount the entire system cost. Of course we aren't expecting the HT-E5530 to compete with a 5.1 system composed of separates at five times the cost. That isn't the market these all-in-one systems are aimed at but as a first step into a multi-channel world, it makes a great starting point. Samsung's attention to detail and overall audio quality has resulted in an all-in-one system that can hold its own against the competition.

Since we had both the Samsung HT-E5530 and the Panasonic SC-BTT590 in for review at the same time, it gave us an opportunity to conduct a direct comparison using our current reference soundtrack Battleship. Although we also used The Hunger Games, which is a much better film and still delivers a highly effective audio experience. The HT-E5530 handled the sonic assault of Battleship as effectively as it handled the more subtle forest sound effects in The Hunger Games. The cheaper Samsung system revealed excellent levels of authority and insight but in the final analysis the Panasonic system had the edge, in part due to the use of identical speakers for the four main satellites resulting in a very well balanced sound field. As a result pans around the room were smoother and the overall imaging was better on the Panasonic system. That's not to say the HT-E5530 didn't also perform well and it had a very lively presence with some quite precise placement of effects and clear dialogue that was effectively anchored to the centre speaker.

The Battleship soundtrack also has some heavy duty bass moments, although not to be outdone The Hunger Games has some nice low end moments too, especially when the cannon fires to announce the death of a contestant. Here the HT-E5530 more than held its ground, although in terms of low end presence, its budget status did start to show. Whilst the amplification delivered reasonable levels of volume without distortion, the passive sub is never going to compete with a dedicated active unit. However, the sub was still able to deliver plenty of bass moments which felt better integrated than they did on the SC-BTT590. Like the more expensive system the HT-E5530 was also able to deliver plenty of clarity and detail in the mid-range and high frequency moments could be picked out, even in the most active of soundtracks, without sounding abrasive. We tried the various effects modes but whilst they sometimes expanded the soundstage, we always felt it resulted in a more muddied sound stage with dialogue in particular suffering.

The HT-E5530 was also no slouch in the music department, no doubt due to the effective front speakers and well integrated bass. In stereo we found the localisation of instruments and voices to be very precise and the clarity was excellent, with plenty of detail on orchestral recordings. The impressive mid-range, along with the well integrated bass meant that rock music was also effectively reproduced. However, the HT-E5530's effective reproduction of the higher frequencies meant it could also handle acoustic music with a delicate touch, delivering pianos and female vocals without any harshness. If you like dance music then the well integrated bass could certainly give the beat plenty of emphasis without overpowering the rest of the mix.

Verdict

8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Very good sound
  • Built-in 3D Blu-ray player
  • Excellent video performance
  • Smart features
  • Built-in WiFi
  • Attractive design
  • Smartphone remote
  • Built-in Bluetooth
  • Price

The Bad

  • Build quality could be better
  • No headphone socket
  • 2:2 cadence detection is ineffective
  • Slight alterations to video signal with all Picture Modes

Samsung HT-E5530 3D Blu-ray Player & 5.1 Home Cinema System Review

The HT-E5530 scores big marks in the looks department, sporting a glossy piano black finish that we would normally expect to see on a Panasonic product. We actually prefer this look to the more avant garde approach on some Samsung products and it complimented our reference TV, resulting in an attractive package. The overall build quality is reasonable and whilst it could be better, it is worth remembering how little the whole system costs. The system itself comprises a main unit which includes a built-in 3D Blu-ray player, two floor standing front speakers, a centre speaker, two surround speakers and a passive subwoofer. In addition, there is a reasonable set of connections and a sensibly laid out remote control. The HT-E5530 also has a built-in wireless capability, a WiFi Direct feature, a FM tuner and Bluetooth. Setup is easy thanks to the well designed menu system and the colour coded speaker cable that comes with the HT-E5530.

The features on the HT-E5530 are excellent, with an impressive smart TV hub and extensive media playback capabilities. The smart platform provided by Samsung is one of the best available and whilst it doesn't include all the features found on their latest TVs, it is still a wide selection and will help up the IQ of older TVs. There is also a useful remote control app available for iOS and Android that allows you to control the HT-E5530 with either a smartphone or a tablet. The built-in 3D Blu-ray player is identical to the current Samsung range and, as such, it inherits a couple of nagging problems, one of which relates to the picture modes, that all impact on the image in some way, and the other is an inability to correctly detect the 2:2 cadence. However neither of these are major issues and overall it's a great all round performer, providing excellent video regardless of source.

In terms of the audio performance, the HT-E5530 was very impressive, delivering a nicely detailed and lively sound stage. It was particularly effective with film soundtracks, being able to deliver even the most active mix with authority. That isn't to suggest that it can compete with a more expensive separates system but the HT-E5530 can certainly hold its own, delivering an impressive performance with both movies and music. The amplification also had enough power to drive all the speakers, including the subwoofer, without distorting at higher volumes. The subwoofer was certainly well integrated and managed to deliver some effective bass moments despite its passive nature and budget status and overall the HT-E5530 was a very enjoyable audio performer.

When you weigh up all the benefits of the Samsung HT-E5530 - the attractive design, the extensive features, the effective video and the great sound - it is easy to recommend it. However once you take into account the price, things get even easier and it becomes a very tempting choice for anyone wishing to add surround sound to their TV. A definite best buy!

Best Buy

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
.
7

Connectivity

.
.
8

Ease of Use

.
.
8

Picture Quality

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
8

Features

.
.
8

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
.
8
8
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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