Samsung HW-F751 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer Review

Go on Mark, just one more soundbar - this one's wafer-thin.

by hodg100
Home AV Review

5

Recommended
Samsung HW-F751 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer Review
SRP: £499.00

Introduction

Samsung is grasping the lifestyle audio market with a degree of relish. There’s no secret that headphones, docks and soundbars is where the money is in the audio wing of the consumer electronics business so we’re seeing increasing numbers of these products offered for review. Here, in the HW-F751, we have Samsung’s flagship soundbar product hot off the production line in Korea and featuring the valve amp technology found in last year’s premium audio dock range. But that’s not all that’s new for 2013, for the first time we also have vertical surround processing and an auto Calibration (ASC) feature that should hopefully maximise its performance in your room. That’s not all, there's a sensible new low profile design that should see it fit under most TVs without blocking remote control commands. It’s worth pointing out that the F751’s sister product, the HW-F750 is technically identical but comes in black rather than silver. It’s a competitive market but Samsung have never been ones to shy away from a fight, so let’s see if the HW-F751 has the teeth for it.

Design and Installation

After spending some time with the HW-F751 our best effort at a visual description would be to term it wafer-like. The fine mesh that encases the product is happily hewn of metal, rather than plastic, lending the product a well-engineered feel and if you’re not happy with having a slice of silver sat under the TV, there’s always more traditional black version on offer in the HW-F750. We alluded to the new low-profile design in the introduction and with a measured maximum height of under 6cm, the speaker bar should sit on an AV unit under almost any TV without intruding on either screen or blocking the infra-red sensor; something that’s annoyed us in the past. To offset the lack of height and to give the drivers more projection, the HW-F751 features a tapered design, achieved by the placement of a couple of feet on the underside. All in all, it’s a very desirable looking speaker – hardly surprising given Samsung’s design prowess.

Samsung HW-F751

To accompany the ‘sound wafer’, Samsung has considerably bulked up on the size of the subwoofer this year and with dimensions of 291 x 369 x 291mm (W/H/D) it stands as a fairly formidable looking piece of kit and far larger than the amazing, 14-inch driver-equipped sub included with the outstanding MilleniaOne CT package. Of course, all the amplification takes place within its walls but, still, it’s big by soundbar package standards. The subwoofer is a rear ported unit and communicates to the main unit speaker using the 5.2/5.8GHz band, giving it a claimed range of around 9m. Whilst we wouldn’t expect many would need such a distance between the two, there’s no doubt of the convenience of being able to place it pretty much wherever you want without having a wire trailing. The sub co-ordinates well with the speaker bar, being approximately the same hew of silver but its all-plastic construction is not quite so convincing.

Samsung HW-F751

Typically, for a Samsung product, the HW-F751 is extremely rich in connections with choices of HDMI, an auxiliary 3.5mm input, a S/PDIF digital optical audio connection and there’s also a USB adapter included to open up the possibilities, with its connection on the rear. Having the HDMI connection makes the HW-751 Audio Return Channel (ARC) capable, meaning those with compatible TVs can send audio ‘upstream’ to packages like these and AV Receivers, cutting down on the number of cables behind the TV and meaning you can use the TV’s remote to control the volume. For instance, we hooked up our Blu-ray player to the HDMI input of the HW-F751 and then, in turn, the HDMI out to the ARC capable input of our TV, allowing us to use the 5.1 audio signal in all our (many) connected HDMI devices. It’s a very useful and convenient feature that, we can tell you, greatly enhances the experience for less tech savvy members of the household. In practice, we found the HW-F751 to operate flawlessly over ARC, powering itself on as the TV went through its own warm-up routines.

This being the year 2013, you’re not limited to wired connections, however, and the F-751 will also cheerily communicate by Bluetooth with your enabled PC, Smartphone or Tablet to stream your music collection or even as an accompaniment to games and other apps. For owners of Samsung TV’s of Series 6, and above, from 2012 onwards there’s also the ability to replay the TVs audio using the Soundshare feature which employs Samsung’s own HD audio codec.

Operation & Features

The Samsung HW-F751 doesn’t feature any OSD (on-screen display) so operationally one is pretty much totally reliant on the remote control and feedback from the visual display panel(s). Samsung has, ingeniously, secreted two display panels into some of their soundbars this year, to cater for both those that sit them on AV furniture and those that want to wall-mount. Dependant on orientation, the gyroscopic sensors will then tell the unit where to send the read-out.

Samsung HW-F751

We criticised some of last year’s OSD-less packages for not allowing the setting of speaker levels and distances but Samsung has got around that quibble by including an Auto Sound Calibration (ASC) feature that immediately (almost alarmingly) springs in to action when plugging in the included Installation Sensor (mic). The speakers will then send a series of test tones of rising amplitude to the mic in order to optimise for your listening position. We found it worked pretty well, actually, but since our position is bang in front, straight on at around 10 feet from the speaker, we were already in pretty much an ideal spot and the calibration didn’t actually alter anything significantly over the pre-sets. For those housing the F751 in the corner of the room or sitting in more ‘exotic’ positions, the feature is likely of more use and it’s credit to Samsung for some forward thinking here.

Initial set up of the HW-F751 was simplicity itself and once you have the sources connected, it’s a trifling matter to link the subwoofer up to the bar before you get going. The link ID is preset in the factory, so the subwoofer should bond automatically when switched on but if you do experience any difficulties, there’s a ‘reset’ operation described in the user manual but we had no cause to access the process. The connection is indicated by the Link LED on the top of the subwoofer, which lights up blue. When the main unit has been off for over 20 minutes, the subwoofer will go into standby mode and the standby light will come on. However once you turn the main unit back on, the subwoofer will immediately exit standby mode and reactivate.

Samsung HW-F751

Besides some rudimentary touch-sensitive controls on top of the main speaker bar for standby, volume and input most of your interactions with the package will be via the remote control. It’s probably worth mention here, that the valves in the amplification stage do get very hot so keep your kids away; in fact, that’s always a good rule when it comes to your kit and offspring. Last year’s Samsung soundbars shipped with pokey little controls that had buttons placed too close together for comfortable operation. Whilst Samsung has hardly performed a major redesign, it has increased the overall surface area of the facia, giving a welcome boost to ease of use. We’d still like to see a backlight, to aid our late night use, but it’s a definite improvement.

Selecting your input is done via the Source Button and the display gives feedback as you cycle through the available options. Conveniently there are independent volume controls for both the subwoofer and main unit on the remote and a shared mute control that will hush them both. There’s also a control for setting an audio delay in case you have a ‘laggy’ display, a DRC (Dynamic Range Control) for more low-level listening and buttons for engaging the DSP (Digital Sound Processing) modes of the HW-F751 that are labelled 3D SOUND and SOUND EFFECT. We’ll discuss the merits of those later in the review but the sound modes available from the Effect button are ASC (uses calibrated settings), Music, News, Drama, Cinema, Sports and Game. Should you so wish, the Speaker button switches between the TV and Soundbar audio output in an ARC set up and there’s also the ability to dim the brightness of the visual display, via the Dimmer button. Like last year, we’d suggest the capability to pass audio and video via HDMI whilst in standby might prove useful.

Samsung HW-F751
Samsung HW-F751

Samsung are keen to stress the benefits of the valve amp technology included with some of this year’s crop. We’ll give our thoughts on it later in the review but its promise to deliver warm yet clear audio was at least partially made good on. Always big on media file compatibility, Samsung has endowed the HW-F751 with the ability to decode AAC, MP3, WAV, WMA, OGG (Ogg Vorbis) and FLAC files which does set it apart in terms of versatility when bringing to mind comparable products we’ve covered and the fact that it will happily accept 5.1 DTS movie soundtracks – as well as Dolby Digital – is also fairly rare in the Soundbar market.

Audio Quality

If you like your audio crisp and clear, the Samsung HW-F751 might well be for you. Addressing the question of how much the valve amplification tech has added a warm sound, we’d say not much in default mode but the Music pre-set definitely adds a touch more mellifluousness to everything and, provided the 3D DSP was avoided for its ‘echoey’ nature, we found it our go-to mode for, well, music but the ASC mode is also quite impressive for its neutrality and ultimately it will come down to what sort of sound you prefer and, for that matter, what you’re listening to. For something acoustic we’d certainly prefer Music - almost everything else sounds too clinical - but for things on more an electronic tip, ASC also sounded very good.

Samsung has certainly been working hard on their DSP development. We were particularly impressed by the impression of ‘vertical surround’. There’s no sense the audio is coming from below, nor from something so low-slung, and there’s no shortage of width to the soundstage and if you sit 8ft, or closer, there’s the genuine sense that rear surrounds are in place. Even without getting so up close and personal, the HW-F751 manages to defy the confines of its proportions, giving movies in particular that added dimension your TV speakers could only dream of reproducing.

Samsung HW-F751

Readers of our last few audio product reviews will be no stranger to our (guilty) love for Spartacus (not the film) but it is a most excellent test of a systems low frequency handling, with its almost constant rumbling bass notes and barbaric effects score. We were pleasantly surprised by the agility of the sub, which had an immediacy not always present in last year’s range. It could perhaps use a touch more raw power and more complicated bass arrangements could leave it a tad befuddled but the overall sense was one of richness and a solid underpinning of what goes on above. Considering the HW-E751’s subwoofer only contains a 6.5-inch main driver, it punches a bit over its weight but given the cabinets generous proportions we would ask Samsung to consider something a little more meaty next time around.

With a little bit of adjustment, we’d be very surprised if you couldn’t find settings within the HW-F751 that suited you for TV, movies and music; and with the generally high quality of sound processing, it could also certainly fill most rooms with resonant, full-bodied sound that leaves your TVs puny speakers for dust. It’s not as warm as we were expecting, in fact the HW-F751 airs to the side of the clinical more, but it is convincing and surprisingly capable of simulating a surround effect.

Verdict

7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

The Good

  • Beautiful design
  • Low-profile means it wont intrude on to screen or block infra-red
  • Excellent room filling audio, particularly with movies and TV
  • Incredibly easy setup with room calibration feature
  • Abundant connectivity options
  • Some of the DSP is very impressive
  • Generous digital music codec support

The Bad

  • Might seem a touch pricey
  • Bass could do with a bit more kick
  • Top surface can get a little too hot for comfort

Samsung HW-F751 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer Review

Followers of the AV World will know that Samsung has being pushing the boundaries of design in the mainstream market place for a number of years and they’ve hit another one over the ropes with the HW-F751. It’s a lovely wafer of sound that’s almost matched by its woofer in the design stakes, despite its intrinsically boxy nature. Setup could barely be simpler and it’s particularly impressive that Samsung has chosen to provide an auto-room calibration feature that does a very good job in adjusting its output to cater for its surroundings. Connectivity options are bountiful, especially if your TV features an HDMI input that’s ARC ready, and to supplement that there’s also Bluetooth, digital optical, USB and an auxiliary 3.5mm input. The redesigned remote is certainly a decent improvement on what went before but to truly keep us happy, Samsung will need to include a backlight in next year's version. A few glow in the dark buttons is a start but there’s room for improvement.

At default settings, the HW-F751 was almost exactly what we weren’t expecting given Samsung’s banging of the Valve amp drum. Where we might have supposed it would add a touch of warmth, at stock settings the F751 was more clean and crisp. This isn’t a criticism, the transparent nature will appeal to many, it’s just an observation and if you prefer to colour the tones with a touch more roundness, the option is always there in the Music sound effect setting. In fact, it was with some Samsung’s DSP techniques where we found ourselves most impressed with the HW-F751. It can truly fill a room, both vertically and horizontally, with mesmeric audio that particularly impressed us with multi-channel movie and TV soundtracks. That’s not to say it can’t do music, it can, just that we think its best discipline is video based. Undoubtedly, and unashamedly, Samsung is aiming this package at the ‘lifestyle’ market – and why wouldn’t they? For that purpose it ticks all the boxes – it’s a cakewalk to setup, gorgeous to look at and kicks sand in the face of your TVs speakers. At £600, the entry fee is not inconsiderable but the HW-F751 is designed for purpose extremely well.

Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
.
7

Ease of Use

.
.
8

Sound Quality

.
.
.
7

Features

.
.
.
7

Value for Money

.
.
.
7

Verdict

.
.
.
7
7
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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