Samsung has invested massive within the audio house in recent times, together with constructing a cutting-edge audio laboratory in California. That funding appears to be paying off handsomely, too, if the class-leading K950 and MS650 soundbars we’ve seen this 12 months are something to go by.
With this in thoughts we have been fairly stoked to get our fingers on the MS650’s smaller sibling, the MS550. If this could get near the efficiency of the MS650 whereas saving you £100, it might be a just about good choice for changing the seemingly feeble audio system constructed into your TV.
The MS550 isn’t as outright glamorous as a few of immediately’s soundbars. It’s fantastically effectively constructed, although, with sufficient weight and robustness to lift hopes it’s going to pack nearly as highly effective a punch because the MS650 with out succumbing to undesirable vibrations, rattles or dropouts.
The brushed metallic end on the highest edge appears to be like trendy however severe too, whereas the grille on the entrance edge appears to be like crisp and no-nonsense. It’s nice at this value level, too, to find an LED show beneath the suitable hand facet of this grille that tells you which of them enter you’ve obtained chosen.
The projector’s backside edge carries screw factors for fixing the MS550 to the wall if you want, utilizing a ‘One Mount’ system you may choose up for round £70 on the time of writing.
There’s additionally a recessed part on the underside edge containing the soundbar’s connections. These embrace a useful energy loop via so you may energy a Samsung TV via the soundbar; an optical digital audio enter; a three.5mm auxiliary enter; an HDMI loopthrough; and a powered USB port you should utilize for both recharging your transportable gear or enjoying media information from USB sticks.
There’s no second HDMI enter such as you get on the K850 and K950 Dolby Atmos fashions. However, for the reason that MS550 doesn’t help Atmos you may simply join your TV to the soundbar utilizing its HDMI’s audio return channel (ARC) capabilities, in order that your TV successfully turns into the soundbar’s switching field.
The MS550 is smaller than the MS650: 890mm versus 1060mm large, and 69mm versus 76mm excessive. This top distinction makes the MS550 considerably extra prone to match beneath the body of a typical TV when sat on the identical piece of furnishings.
Design TL;DR: The MS550 is superbly constructed and appears prefer it ought to price rather more than £399. It’s impressively compact, too, contemplating how a lot energy it’s obtained…
Being that a lot smaller than the MS650 does imply there’s much less house for audio system within the MS550. It solely will get six drivers versus the MS650’s 9: 4 important drivers, and two wide-dispersion tweeters.
It’s particularly designed to supply a tidy one-box answer, although you may if you want add Samsung’s SWA-9000S wi-fi rear speaker package deal for a real encompass sound expertise. Bizarrely, on the time of writing one or two shops on-line appear to be providing a MS550 plus 9000S package deal for a similar value because the MS550 alone!
While it won’t have as many inbuilt drivers because the MS650, the MS550 does retain the identical proprietary Samsung distortion cancelling expertise. This ought to enable it to ship ranges of bass and quantity that such a compact unit usually couldn’t obtain with out the sound changing into fuzzy, compressed, harsh or unbalanced.
The MS550’s connectivity initially appears to be like exemplary, with each Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming out there alongside the ‘laborious’ connections talked about earlier. Thanks to those wi-fi choices, the MS550 can play stuff saved on networked or Bluetooth gadgets; will be built-in right into a wider Samsung multi-room speaker arrange; and will be managed/arrange by way of Samsung’s MultiRoom app for iOS and Android.
It seems, although, that the MS550 suffers one important connection shortcoming versus the MS650: no help for 4K and HDR on the HDMI passthrough. This means you can’t go video via from a 4K Blu-ray participant with out dropping the most recent video disc format’s key decision and light-weight vary benefits.
This isn’t the tip of the world. You might all the time join a 4K Blu-ray participant’s HDMI output direct to the TV for 4K HDR, after which join its optical digital audio output – or its devoted audio HDMI if it has one – to the soundbar. It’s one thing else value value contemplating, although, should you’re attempting to determine between the MS550 and step-up MS650. As is the truth that the MS550’s audio system work in a 2.Zero-channel configuration versus the three.Zero-channel arrange of the MS650.
Getting again to the great things, other than the buttons it’s important to press so as to add audio system or get the speaker onto your Wi-Fi system being unhelpfully positioned on the speaker’s underside, the MS550 is admirably straightforward to make use of and arrange. Especially with that little LED show available to all the time assist the place you might be.
It additionally helps vary of multimedia information, together with the ALAC and FLAC excessive decision audio codecs, performed at 24-bit, 96kHz.
Its frequency response, lastly, is claimed to be a good 50Hz to 20kHz – although right here once more it loses out – doubtlessly considerably – to the MS650’s 40Hz-20kHz.
Features TL;DR: Aside from not supporting 4K HDR passthrough, the MS550 is just about exemplary with its connectivity and supply help. It’s straightforward to make use of, too. While its speaker specs look good versus many rivals, although, they do fall considerably in need of these of the step-up MS650.
If you haven’t been fortunate sufficient to listen to the outstanding MS650 in motion, you would possibly effectively suppose the MS550 sounds fairly good.
It achieves loads of ‘throw’ from these six drivers, for starters, making a sound presence far bigger than you’d anticipate from such a compact unit. Impressively there even appears to be a powerful sense of top in addition to width to the sound stage, regardless of the MS550 not sporting any up-firing drivers. The audio system are delicate sufficient to pick even small particulars within the sound combine, and there’s a powerful sense of left and proper separation that works effectively with music in addition to films.
The mid-range sounds open and clear, which helps it ship a reasonably satisfying sense of swelling and growth when required by an motion scene.
It additionally joins Samsung’s different current sound bars in hitting deeper bass frequencies than the vast majority of different soundbars in the identical value bracket.
The points with the MS550 come when you think about how far it falls in need of the MS650. For occasion, whereas dialogue is introduced with a fairly rounded tone, it feels somewhat vaguely positioned within the combine at instances versus the gorgeous precision delivered by the MS650’s devoted centre channel.
Next, whereas bass isn’t dangerous by common soundbar requirements, the MS550 can’t go practically as deep because the MS650. Worse, the bass doesn’t combine as cleanly and successfully into the remainder of the soundstage because it does with the MS650. With films it tends to sound somewhat compelled and muffled versus the opposite sound components. This attracts undue consideration to itself and even, often, begins to sound a contact distorted, regardless of the very best efforts of Samsung’s distortion-cancelling expertise.
The distinction in bass prowess is as obvious with music as films, with the bottom tune basslines tending to sound like they’re cramping the mid-range’s model relatively than appropriately slotting in under the mid-range’s backside finish like they do on the MS650.
Performance TL;DR: The MS550 produces a large soundstage and delivers loads of element and a fairly open mid-range. It falls approach in need of the MS650 with dialogue and bass dealing with, although.
While the MS550 actually isn’t dangerous worth at £399, in reality the principle factor we took away from it was an excellent larger sense of simply what nice worth the MS650 mannequin is. The step-up in efficiency that mannequin delivers is value far more than a mere £100 distinction.
Other soundbars to contemplate
If you actually can’t afford greater than £400, the Q Acoustics M4 is value contemplating. It presents a extra refined, musical, balanced sound for round £329 – although it doesn’t go as loud because the MS550, doesn’t supply as many connection choices, and doesn’t create such a large soundstage.
Really, although, the principle competitors for the MS550 is Samsung’s personal MS650, which delivers an entire different stratosphere of sound high quality for simply £100 extra.
The MS550 is in itself an honest sufficient soundbar for £399. It helps a powerful vary of audio sources, and is superbly put collectively for its cash. It additionally produces a big sound stage for a sub-£400 single-body soundbar – and other than some occasional bass muffles, it controls that sound stage surprisingly effectively.
The downside for the MS550 is how far quick it falls of its personal MS650 sibling. The extent to which the MS650 steps up its recreation over and above the MS550 is, for us not less than, value far more than the £100 distinction in value. So should you can afford to make the leap up, we strongly advocate that you just accomplish that.
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