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Samsung HW-E551 review

Decent cinema sound from this likeable and versatile system Tested at £400

Our Verdict

Decent cinema sound from this likeable and versatile system

For

  • Versatile configuration
  • wireless subwoofer
  • decently weighty sound

Against

  • Could be tighter in the bass
  • processing modes don’t help much

Multichannel home cinema speaker systems are all well and good, but let’s face it: you might not have the money for one, or the inclination to rearrange your living room around a telly. So what to do if you still want to beef-up your flatscreen’s inevitably woeful sound?

Enter the soundbar. At £400, this Samsung HW-E551 model sits in the middle of the price range. But while it might look basic, it has a few tricks up its sleeve to help justify the price.

First, the subwoofer, which houses all the connections, is wireless, making positioning easier (pairing with the soundbar itself is automatic, too). Second, it supports Bluetooth audio streaming. And third, the soundbar itself splits in two – so you can have stereo speakers sitting on stands or even on the wall.

The remote control is comprehensive, and can also control your telly if it’s compatible. It also lets you choose from a variety of processing modes, which includes ‘Music’, ‘Game’, ‘Cinema’, ‘Sports’ and ‘Off’. Guess which one we preferred.

Samsung HW-E551: Sound quality

To get started we put the HW-E551 to work with a Blu-ray of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol in an external player (the Samsung doesn’t have one built in) and try to set some trousers flapping.

We have to say: for such a stripped-down system it does a pretty good job. Turn all the processing off and dial in the subwoofer volume, and there’s a nice, natural tone to voices. Big bangs, likewise, thud fairly convincingly and dynamic shifts are handled without too much trouble.

Samsung HW-E551

Samsung HW-E551

There’s an inevitable disconnect between the sub and the soundbar (pardon the wireless pun) due to their size difference, but it’s nothing you can’t moderate by playing about with the volume levels. A good, well-thought-out effort all round, then.

Verdict

The Samsung HW-E551 might not set your world on fire, but it does a far better job than a TV’s internal speakers – and its versatile configuration means it could be ideal for students moving digs every year, especially as it's available online for nearer £300.

MORE: Best soundbars to buy in 2014

See our home cinema system Best Buys

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What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, New York and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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