Samsung AKG VL5 /VL550 (and VL3 / VL350) WiFi Speaker Review

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
I have four of Samsung’s wireless speakers from the VL range - two VL550s and two VL350s and I thought I would do my own review of them….

What is the VL range?
The VL range are Samsung's latest wireless speakers - which they have developed in conjunction with AKG. There are two models - the larger VL550/VL5 and the smaller VL350/VL3. They come in black with a dark wood trim or white with a light wood trim.

Functionally the speakers are identical. They support wifi streaming using the SmartThings app, bluetooth and have an AUX input. You can also allocate the speakers to groups to have multi-speaker sound. This is Samsungs first range of speakers that use the SmartThings platform.

A key feature for me is that you can also connect wirelessly to many Samsung TVs allowing you to stream the TV audio directly to the speaker. Anything that you can listen to on the TV can be streamed to the speaker. More on this later.

These speakers were launched at £600 for the VL5 and £400 for the VL3. However, at these prices they don't seem to have been a success for Samsung. The lack of marketing did not help. I am usually quite aware of new tech product launches but I had never heard of these speakers until I came across them while looking for something else. As a result, you can now buy the VL5 for less than £200 and the VL3 for only £75 from PRC Direct.


Design and Build
The VL5 is a beast. It is Over 50 cm wide and reassuringly heavy at around 5kg. The speaker has a slab deign - very wide, quite high but relatively thin at around 3".

The build quality also looks and feels very good. It does appear to be the sort of speaker design and quality that you would expect for a speaker originally in the £500 bracket. The deign itself is minimalist with touch controls for inputs on the side and a play pause button on the top. The whole design is a symphony of right angles. Nothing detracts from its completely flat rectangular surfaces and sharp edges. Overall it looks pretty good for a big slab of a speaker - although possibly a little bit dull.

The VL3 has the same design aesthetic as the VL5. It is the same height and depth but is less than half the width at 21cm. From the front it is square. It is much, much easier to fit these into a room.

The round puck remote that magnetically attaches to the speakers has a very classy design. I like the way that as it has a magnetic base you can attach it to the speaker, or anything else metal - or leave it on a table top. The remote certainly adds some flair to an otherwise plain design. The remote does not provide much functionality though. It can change the volume and can theoretically pause and skip tracks with a single or double click. However, if using apps from another device (such as Amazon Music on a Samsung TV) then all the remote can do is change the volume and mute/unmute a track while it keeps playing.

The speaker comes with a bracket for wall mounting. This would be a reasonable option given how slim the speaker is.

One disappointment is that the VL5 speaker has an external power block and the lead from the block to the speaker is only around 1m long. Depending on where you want to put the speaker (especially if you wall mount it) this extra box could be a bit awkward. The VL3 has a large plug socket PSU rather than a separate block.


Drivers
Samsung don't publish anything about the drivers they use - other than the VL5 is two channel and the VL3 is single channel. It isn't easy to see what speakers are behind the grey metallic grill. However, looking through the grill with a torch shows that the VL3 has one speaker of around 3.5" and a tweeter. The VL5 appears to have the same pair of speakers at either end - plus a third 3.5" speaker in the middle.

The amplification in the VL550 is 155W and in the VL350 is 55W.

Sound - VL550
The VL550 speaker provides very good quality sound. The sound has a relatively flat signature- although a bit lacking in the mid range. It is not overly bass heavy, as I have found with some other speakers. Personally, I found that the sound is best with either the Flat or Jazz equaliser settings - the Jazz setting increases the mid tones to fill out the sound better.

The speaker does have plenty of bass and can certainly "fill" a room. I think that the 3rd 3.5" speaker is acting as a sub-woofer. I put the VL550 at one end of the kitchen/diner and tried listening to it from the other end of the room - about 25" away. At full volume it was too loud - unless perhaps you were having a very loud house party.

Overall the VL550 is certainly better than any other speaker that I have heard in its current price bracket (£200) Overall I would put the VL550 in a similar quality bracket as the Sonos Play 5.

Sound - V350
The VL350 speaker provides good quality sound. As you would expect given that the VL350 appears to be using one pair of the same speakers used in the VL550, the sound is similar to the VL550 - and also benefits from increasing the mid-tones. However, the VL350 has significantly less low base and much lower maximum volume. It cannot fill a large room with sound in the same way as its bigger brother - but it is certainly loud enough for general use. I do not know if this lower volume is due to less powerful amplification or because of not having the 3rd (possibly) sub-woofer speaker that the VL550 has.

Overall the VL350 is a very good speaker for its current price (£75). I use them as bedroom Bluetooth speakers and for that purpose they are ideal.


Setup and the SmartThings App

The VL speakers are managed and controlled using the Smart Things app so you need to start with installing this app.

Setup was the simplest of the smart speakers that I have tried. I simply plugged the speaker in and before I had a chance to do anything else a notification appeared within the app asking if I wanted to add the speaker as a SmartThings device. I clicked "Yes" and within about 2 minutes it was up and running. I didn't even need to enter my wifi password.

The SmartThings app allows you to use a graphic equaliser with about 5 pre-sets or to manually change the bass and treble. You can adjust any of the pre-sets and then save the adjustment as a Custom pre-set.

You can also specify whether the speaker is wall mounted or on a tabletop. This does make a difference to the sound (primarily the bass) as I assume it has been tuned for handling being very close to a wall.

Smart Things only has support for 2 built in services - Deezer and TuneUP for internet radio. The VL speakers also support Spotify so if you have a Premium subscription you can use the VL speakers as one of the Spotify devices.

If you want to use anything else though you are limited to connecting to the VL via Bluetooth from your phone or tablet.


Grouping and Multiroom
You can put VL speakers into Groups for multi-speaker/multi-room sound. (The VL350s additionally support being put in a Left Right pair - the VL:550s do not support this.)

However, the use of Grouping seems to be limited to wi-fi. So I could create a group and use multiple speakers simultaneously for TuneUp and Spotify (when I used the speakers as a Spotify device) but if I tried connecting to a speaker in a group via Bluetooth, then the sound only came out of that speaker. So it would appear that multi-room/grouping will only work for Deezer, Spotify Premium, Tune-Up and use via a Samsung TV - as explained in the next section.

It isn't clear whether the inability to use bluetooth with Grouping is a bug or is as designed. The Smart Things app developers have been very responsive to my questions and are looking into it.


Use with a Samsung TV
I bought the VL550 speakers to use with a 32” TV in my kitchen. This TV is often used for Amazon Music or Spotify so I wanted to get better sound quality than you could get with the TVs inbuilt speakers. The kitchen/diner is large and L shaped and I wanted two speakers to give an immersive sound.

These speakers can be used with any TV via bluetooth. However, if you have a compatible Samsung TV you can connect to the speakers in one of two additional ways.

Firstly, in the TVs sound menu you can select to use one of the VL speakers instead of the built in speakers. This works well and seems to have minimal lip synch issues - which I have always found to be an issue when using bluetooth.

Secondly, if you have multiple VL speakers then you can allocate each speaker to a separate channel up to a 5.0 configuration. I use two VL550s in a 2.0 config as Left and Right and this works really well - with the TV recognising this as a Stereo setup.

Note - I could not get the TV to output sound to multiple VL speakers using the Group functionality. However, as I could get sound out of two speakers without using Grouping this was not an issue for me.

Using two VL550 speakers I get have great sound quality and the VLs integrate extremely well with my Samsung TV. Via the apps on the TV you can use Spotify, Amazon Music, etc. and control everything using your TV remote control. I mainly use these speakers for Amazon Music and Spotify via the TV.

Powering up and down of the speakers is automatic. When I turn the TV on there is around a 10 second delay before the VL speakers are activated and the sound switches from the TVs internal speakers. The speakers shut down automatically sometime after I turn Off the TV.


Final Words
For my particular use the two VL550s are pretty much perfect. They look good, sound good and integrate with the TV extremely well giving me great multi-speaker sound. The VL350s work well as bedroom bluetooth speakers.

At their current prices the VL range are hidden gems. Samsung really should advertise them, and capability of Samsung TVs to utilise wireless speakers, more prominently.

If you are looking for a multi-room setup though these speakers will only work via Spotify Premium, Deezer, TuneUp or a compatible Samsung TV.


Professional Reviews
There are a couple of professional reviews of the VL550 at Trusted Reviews and Expert Reviews - I have not seen any reviews of the VL3:
Samsung AKG VL5 Review | Trusted Reviews
Samsung AKG VL5 (VL550) review: An innovative smart speaker
 
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GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
Update - these are now available at £199 at Currys which is an excellent price for the quality available.
 

SpeakerMad

Novice Member
Thanks for the great review GadgetObsessed!

I'm actually looking to get one of these from Currys very soon. How do they perform when watching movies or playing games?
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
Thanks for the great review GadgetObsessed!

I'm actually looking to get one of these from Currys very soon. How do they perform when watching movies or playing games?
Sound quality wise it is an excellent speaker for TV viewing. However going from the Samsung TV to the speaker using wifi introduces a small delay so you can see that the lip synch isnt quite right. This may be resolved using bluetooth instead but i have not tried that.

This small delay isnt an issue for me as we dont use the kitchen tv to watch TV as such - it is there more for news and casual watching while you are doing something else in the kitchen. Generally we use the speakers for when we are listening to a music app on the TV
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
Currys have just put the price of the VL550 up to £499. Not a very attractive price given that I bought one from Currys for just £186 (I get 7% off Currys vouchers) a short time ago.
 

juglandblues

Active Member
Received the vl550 last week and really happy with it. Not sure if 2 of the smaller models might have been a better deal for the same price though. Noticed random cut offs with Spotify over WiFi but that could be my phone rather than the speaker.
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
All included in the original post now....
 
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GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
Update that I have tried putting the VL350s (smaller speakers) into a Left Right pair and this works for both bluetooth and for Spotify/TuneIn via wifi.

Cannot get grouping on the VL550s to work in the same way. (Although as I use them via the TV this does not matter.)
 

curiouscat67

Novice Member
Update that I have tried putting the VL350s (smaller speakers) into a Left Right pair and this works for both bluetooth and for Spotify/TuneIn via wifi.

Cannot get grouping on the VL550s to work in the same way. (Although as I use them via the TV this does not matter.)
Hi Gadget, I have bought a couple of the VL350s (partly off the back of your review and flagging the bargain). I can testify that i am also really enjoying them.

I had a couple of questions that I thought you could help me answer:

1) How did you do the Left/Right pairing - I was looking for this through the smartthings app, but couldn't find it (I am using Spotify Connect)
2) If I am buying either 2 more VL350s or 1 VL550 as a speaker for a TV, what would you recommend given your experience?

Thanks for all your help

Curious
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
Hi Gadget, I have bought a couple of the VL350s (partly off the back of your review and flagging the bargain). I can testify that i am also really enjoying them.

I had a couple of questions that I thought you could help me answer:

1) How did you do the Left/Right pairing - I was looking for this through the smartthings app, but couldn't find it (I am using Spotify Connect)
2) If I am buying either 2 more VL350s or 1 VL550 as a speaker for a TV, what would you recommend given your experience?

Thanks for all your help

Curious
Sorry for the long delay for my reply.

Glad to hear that you like the speakers. At current prices they are really good value.

In answer to your question:
(1) For the pairing you have to go into the smart things app and select one of the two speakers. When you have selected it click on the three dots at the top right of the screen. The option for Grouping or Pairing will then show up. For the VL350s there is an option for Grouping (all speakers play all channels) or Left Right pairing so that one speaker is for the left and another for the right.

(2) Personally for TV I prefer the sound of one VL550 over a pair of VL350s. The VL550 sound has more power and depth. For music though, the advantage of a pair of VL350s is that you can get some physical separation of the left and right channels.

If you have a compatible Samsung TV then you can set the VL350/VL550 up directly using the TVs sound menus. If you have a different TV then I would recommend using the audio ut on the TV to the audio in on the Samsung speaker. Alternatively you could use bluetooth but you will get a noticeable audio delay/lip-synch issue. (Even with a Samsung TV the wireless sound isn't perfectly in sych but it is close enough to not be an issue for me for a kitchen TV.)
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
A few updates after some more experience of use:
(1) Amazon Alexa integration - I now have an Amazon Echo Show (v1 7" screen) in the kitchen. I have set up the VL550 as the default speaker for this device. So now I can say "Alexa play <something>" and the sound will come out of the VL550. This works very well and I can then use the puck remote to skip tracks (double tap) change the volume and pause.

There are limitations. I can skip tracks and stop playback with voice control via Alexa - but I cannot change the volume. I also cannot seem to get Alexa to show what track is playing or the lyrics. I am not sure if these limitations are because these options are not possible or because I have not worked out how to set it up or what I have to say to Alaexa to achieve it. (My main issue with Alexa is finding out what you can do.)

(2) Spotify - if you use the VL550 as a Spotify device then I can use the puck remote to change volume but I cannot skip tracks and all the pause does is mute the speaker - while the track still plays.

(3) Using the VL speakers with the Samsung TV. I have set up the TV to stream to two VL550s - one as the left speaker and one as the right. I have found two issues with this.

Firstly when the speaker is used this way you cannot change the sound of the speaker using the graphic equaliser - as it is disabled in the smart things app. I change the sound to give the speaker more mid-range as by default it has too little mid range for my taste. There isnt anything on the TV that allows me to change the sound either.

Secondly, every now and again one of the speakers will drop off the list of wireless speakers available to the TV and I have to remove and re-add it to Smart Things to get the TV to see it again. This is nearly always the speaker furthest away from the TV. This speaker is about 10m from the TV at the other end of the room. I tried swapping round the speakers but it had no effect. I wonder how the TV communicates with the speakers. I had assumed that it was via wifi but now I wonder if the actual audio is streamed using bluetooth or another protocol with a limited range.

In practice this is not a big issue for me now. My wife really didn't like the TV sound coming from two VL550s in the same room. I primarily used the VL550s with the TV for when I used a music streaming app, Spotify or Amazon, on the TV - rather than for for regular TV viewing. Instead of listening to music via the TV I generally now do so via the Amazon Echo with the sound coming out of just one VL550. (I may have to sell the other VL550 for reasons of marital harmony.)

(4) Smart Things app and Grouping and Left and Right. When I first got the speakers neither Grouping nor setting up speakers in a L+R pair (VL350s only) worked. I contacted SmartThings and got into email contact with their development team. They have since made changes that have fixed the L+R pairing and this works well. It seems to work with bluetooth and using the auxilary input - which i wasn't expecting. Some changes have been made for Grouping but it still does not work. They have said that they have another release which should fix this.
 

prmbasheer

Novice Member
I picked a Samsung VL350 for CAD69.96. It is a well made good sounding speaker. The controls through SmartThings app is too limited and slow. The app and integration is buggy. Very limited streaming options through the app. Alexa integration is very limited and buggy. This speaker is not worth its original price. For the price I got it for, it is fine. I am just gonna use it as a Bluetooth speaker or use line in.
 

smoisan

Member
Is there a possibility to stream your own music collection over WiFi using the Smartthings app or any other app for those devices (VL3 or VL5)?
I read an old review on the Samsung UK website where someone mentions that it is not possible but over time things may have changed. The VL5 is still expensive but the price of the VL3 is attractive. But I want to be able to stream from my own music library preferably over wifi (like I can do with a small Sony wireless speaker).
 

prmbasheer

Novice Member
Is there a possibility to stream your own music collection over WiFi using the Smartthings app or any other app for those devices (VL3 or VL5)?
I read an old review on the Samsung UK website where someone mentions that it is not possible but over time things may have changed. The VL5 is still expensive but the price of the VL3 is attractive. But I want to be able to stream from my own music library preferably over wifi (like I can do with a small Sony wireless speaker).
To start with, the functionality of SmartThings app for Samsung VL3 is very limited. It can stream from Deezer or TuneIn. I haven't seen an option to stream local files. However you could play your local files using bluetooth. I also believe there are some apps in Play Store which might be able to achieve this through Wi-Fi. You could start with "BubbleUPnP ".

The other option is to hook it to a Chromecast Audio and stream music. Chromecast Audio is discontinued but I was able to find it for CAD15 and bought a couple.
 

smoisan

Member
To start with, the functionality of SmartThings app for Samsung VL3 is very limited. It can stream from Deezer or TuneIn. I haven't seen an option to stream local files. However you could play your local files using bluetooth. I also believe there are some apps in Play Store which might be able to achieve this through Wi-Fi. You could start with "BubbleUPnP ".

The other option is to hook it to a Chromecast Audio and stream music. Chromecast Audio is discontinued but I was able to find it for CAD15 and bought a couple.
Thanks for the reply. I do have a Chromecast plugged into an older device. It's an option but I don't see the advantage of buying another device although I like the style of those Samgsung units. I'll look into BubbleUPnP.
 

Sleepfast101

Novice Member
Hi. Sorry, all. I'm very confused by all this Bluetooth / WiFi pairing. I wish to create a stereo pair of the VL3s but I am limited to streaming music to the units via Bluetooth as i use Apple Music (due to limitations on Spotify library size). Can i stereo pair the units and stream music to them exclusively via Bluetooth?

Many thanks

A few updates after some more experience of use:
(1) Amazon Alexa integration - I now have an Amazon Echo Show (v1 7" screen) in the kitchen. I have set up the VL550 as the default speaker for this device. So now I can say "Alexa play <something>" and the sound will come out of the VL550. This works very well and I can then use the puck remote to skip tracks (double tap) change the volume and pause.

There are limitations. I can skip tracks and stop playback with voice control via Alexa - but I cannot change the volume. I also cannot seem to get Alexa to show what track is playing or the lyrics. I am not sure if these limitations are because these options are not possible or because I have not worked out how to set it up or what I have to say to Alaexa to achieve it. (My main issue with Alexa is finding out what you can do.)

(2) Spotify - if you use the VL550 as a Spotify device then I can use the puck remote to change volume but I cannot skip tracks and all the pause does is mute the speaker - while the track still plays.

(3) Using the VL speakers with the Samsung TV. I have set up the TV to stream to two VL550s - one as the left speaker and one as the right. I have found two issues with this.

Firstly when the speaker is used this way you cannot change the sound of the speaker using the graphic equaliser - as it is disabled in the smart things app. I change the sound to give the speaker more mid-range as by default it has too little mid range for my taste. There isnt anything on the TV that allows me to change the sound either.

Secondly, every now and again one of the speakers will drop off the list of wireless speakers available to the TV and I have to remove and re-add it to Smart Things to get the TV to see it again. This is nearly always the speaker furthest away from the TV. This speaker is about 10m from the TV at the other end of the room. I tried swapping round the speakers but it had no effect. I wonder how the TV communicates with the speakers. I had assumed that it was via wifi but now I wonder if the actual audio is streamed using bluetooth or another protocol with a limited range.

In practice this is not a big issue for me now. My wife really didn't like the TV sound coming from two VL550s in the same room. I primarily used the VL550s with the TV for when I used a music streaming app, Spotify or Amazon, on the TV - rather than for for regular TV viewing. Instead of listening to music via the TV I generally now do so via the Amazon Echo with the sound coming out of just one VL550. (I may have to sell the other VL550 for reasons of marital harmony.)

(4) Smart Things app and Grouping and Left and Right. When I first got the speakers neither Grouping nor setting up speakers in a L+R pair (VL350s only) worked. I contacted SmartThings and got into email contact with their development team. They have since made changes that have fixed the L+R pairing and this works well. It seems to work with bluetooth and using the auxilary input - which i wasn't expecting. Some changes have been made for Grouping but it still does not work. They have said that they have another release which should fix this.
 

Juno2018

Novice Member
Hi. Sorry, all. I'm very confused by all this Bluetooth / WiFi pairing. I wish to create a stereo pair of the VL3s but I am limited to streaming music to the units via Bluetooth as i use Apple Music (due to limitations on Spotify library size). Can i stereo pair the units and stream music to them exclusively via Bluetooth?

Many thanks
Update - these are now available at £199 at Currys which is an excellent price for the quality available.
T
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
Thanks so much for the review. One question - I have two VL5s and want to hear them both when watching Samsung tv. You mention ‘allocate them to different channels’. What and how do you do that? Thanks
This only works if you have a Samsung TV that supports streaming to wifi speakers.

On my UE32M5520 TV the menu option to use wifi speakers is:
Settings -> Sound -> Wi-Fi Speaker Surround Setup

You then can select which speaker to use for each of the channels as in a 5.1 sound setup - Left, Right, Centre, rear left and rear right. (Not sure if there is an option for a sub.)

I select and use one of the VL5s as the left channel and the other as the right channel and use them as stereo.

Note that there is a bit of a delay - so not ideal if you are watching a movie but not an issue for my use - streaming music from the TV via one of the apps - or watching the news - where I am not really watching the Tv but rather just listening to it.
 

cennis

Member
Great review regarding the VL series. I too bought a couple of VL550s when they are on sale, but was hesitant to open the second one.

You mentioned that you were in contact with smartthings regarding the grouping/stereo pair, which I am curious about
1. Does grouping two VL550s for Aux/bluetooth work now. i.e. if I want to plug one of them into my PC via aux?
2. Does L+R stereo pair work on VL550s now?
3. Is there any delays if I am using this for video watching?
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
Great review regarding the VL series. I too bought a couple of VL550s when they are on sale, but was hesitant to open the second one.

You mentioned that you were in contact with smartthings regarding the grouping/stereo pair, which I am curious about
1. Does grouping two VL550s for Aux/bluetooth work now. i.e. if I want to plug one of them into my PC via aux?
2. Does L+R stereo pair work on VL550s now?
3. Is there any delays if I am using this for video watching?
Late reply.....
1. My wife was never happy with me having two VL550's in the kitchen so I sold one of them and I have not really tested this via Aux. I have done this with the VL350s and it works well - but with a delay as one speaker encodes and streams to the other over wifi. Fine for music but you would probably not want to do this for TV/video.
2. No - the VL550s were never intended to operate as a left right pair - which given their size is reasonable. Instead they can be grouped but then each speaker plays the left and right. Only the VL350s can do L+R stereo.
3. If you are using them wirelessly then there is a delay. There is also a delay if you group them.
 

Tiihokatti

Member
I wonder if Samsung has dropped the development of VL350/VL550 for SmartThings completely...

Google Assistant will only see the speakers as a device that can't be controlled, before it used to be recognized as a "ON/OFF switch" which was still better than what it is now.

And now that I got Amazon Alexa running, even Alexa doesn't work well with the speakers. The speakers are recognized properly and even the commands work (volume, power, etc.), but when I try to stream music to the speakers there is no sound. SmartThings notices that Alexa is streaming audio to the speakers but there is still no sound at all.

At least Home Assistant connected with SmartThings can read sensor data from the speakers and turn the speakers ON/OFF. This would allow for some decent automation via Bluetooth/AUX. But the wi-fi capabilities of the speakers are pure trash... Even Home Assistant can't pair with the speakers properly via wi-fi.

Also, it seems that the speakers are utterly incompatible with the modern Intel AX200 wifi+bluetooth card. After trying to pair the PC with the speaker it throws the PC to an infinite limbo where it connects and drops the BT-connection until you shut down the speaker.
Intel AC9260 card works fine though.
 
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