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

cennis

Member
Late reply.....
Thanks, great insight.

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

I observed the same exact things as you, I thought it was an issue with my set up. However, fyi that google assistant is also able to control switching inputs aux/bluetooth/wifi.

The only "smart" feature I use is smarthings scene to turn on my vl550 pair on/off/set volume to the same levels. Then I audio pair and play to the primary via bluetooth.
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
I observed the same exact things as you, I thought it was an issue with my set up. However, fyi that google assistant is also able to control switching inputs aux/bluetooth/wifi.

The only "smart" feature I use is smarthings scene to turn on my vl550 pair on/off/set volume to the same levels. Then I audio pair and play to the primary via bluetooth.
I have had similar results. :(

First the speaker disappeared as an Alexa speaker and when it reappeared it was a power switch - with the only functionality being on and off.

Now it is a speaker again but I cannot choose it as an Alexa speaker for direct streaming. However, I can turn it on and off and change volume through Alexa voice controls. It sits next to the Alexa anyway so for now I have just connected the two via aux.

It does appear that Samsung launched these without having fully sorted out the Smart Things app. For a while they improved things but now they have moved backwards somewhat. However, Smart Things generally does seem much more stable now. previously every now and again one of the speakers would become unreachable from the app or from the Samsung Tv and I would need to set it up again. That has not happened for months now.
 

keithwiggins

Well-known Member
I have had similar results. :(

First the speaker disappeared as an Alexa speaker and when it reappeared it was a power switch - with the only functionality being on and off.

Now it is a speaker again but I cannot choose it as an Alexa speaker for direct streaming. However, I can turn it on and off and change volume through Alexa voice controls. It sits next to the Alexa anyway so for now I have just connected the two via aux.

It does appear that Samsung launched these without having fully sorted out the Smart Things app. For a while they improved things but now they have moved backwards somewhat. However, Smart Things generally does seem much more stable now. previously every now and again one of the speakers would become unreachable from the app or from the Samsung Tv and I would need to set it up again. That has not happened for months now.
Good morning, just purchased the vl5 nice speaker, crap app, poor alexa integration, as a workaround i just connect it via a cable to a Dot problem solved all sounds pretty good.
What i have found is when using the full graphic equaliser, i find it seems to introduce a level of distortion on tracks so just use basic set on 0, so guess that problem solved.
I have one question for you from your first post?
you mention audio settings such as Jazz or flat etc? are these in the smart things app? i ask as i really cant find them so any help appreciated, thx in advance.
 

GadgetObsessed

Well-known Member
Good morning, just purchased the vl5 nice speaker, crap app, poor alexa integration, as a workaround i just connect it via a cable to a Dot problem solved all sounds pretty good.
What i have found is when using the full graphic equaliser, i find it seems to introduce a level of distortion on tracks so just use basic set on 0, so guess that problem solved.
I have one question for you from your first post?
you mention audio settings such as Jazz or flat etc? are these in the smart things app? i ask as i really cant find them so any help appreciated, thx in advance.
Jazz, Flat etc are pre-sets for the graphic equaliser. You can access the graphic equaliser with the SmartThings app.

If you select the speaker in the app then you get a set of options - volume, music services, input source, equaliser and sleep timer. (See first screenshot.)

Select the equaliser and you can then select one of the pre-sets such as Jazz or Flat or create your own custom equaliser setting. (See second screen shot.)
 

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keithwiggins

Well-known Member
Jazz, Flat etc are pre-sets for the graphic equaliser. You can access the graphic equaliser with the SmartThings app.

If you select the speaker in the app then you get a set of options - volume, music services, input source, equaliser and sleep timer. (See first screenshot.)

Select the equaliser and you can then select one of the pre-sets such as Jazz or Flat or create your own custom equaliser setting. (See second screen shot.)
Fab many thanks for your help, will have a play! Keith
 

silverfox666

Novice Member
Jazz is the better option , many thx
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
 

Tiihokatti

Novice Member
There is also one other issue that has been bugging me from the beginning about the speakers... Where. Are. The. Wall. Mounting. Brackets.

My VL5 and VL3 don't have those brackets needed for wall mounting included. And it was one of the primary features that made me buy these speakers.
 

silverfox666

Novice Member
There is also one other issue that has been bugging me from the beginning about the speakers... Where. Are. The. Wall. Mounting. Brackets.

My VL5 and VL3 don't have those brackets needed for wall mounting included. And it was one of the primary features that made me buy these speakers.
Despite what the manual says, I don’t believe there are any wall mounting brackets.
I’m a big fan of Samsung, but this range was seriously overpriced and undersupported. I have bought a VL3 at the sub £90 discontinued price and will keep it due to looks and sound as a stand-alone speaker. It could have been so much more.
 

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