At £527, it’s a little spendier than some, but with nine drivers and a raft of audio-wrangling technology hidden beneath its jet-black exterior, the MS650 promises serious bass from a single box.
Samsung MS650 Review:
The Samsung MS650 is seriously impressive. Its sound quality is stunning and can fill a large living room with ease. If you’ll be watching movies, it won’t eliminate the need for a dedicated subwoofer, but comes very close to it.
How does it do it? Well, Samsung’s new range of soundbars (from the MS550 upwards), have innovative distortion cancelling technology that accurately monitors the movement of the speaker drivers, and optimises the incoming audio to produce the best, lowest-distortion performance from each. Suffice to say, it works.
You’re spoilt for choice with connectivity options, as you’ll be able to use it via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, analogue 3.5mm inputs, HDMI or optical connections. It is beautifully designed and will blend into most living room setups. Its main drawback? At £527, it’s definitely not a budget option.
Price and competition
At £550, the MS650 faces stiff competition. For almost the same wad of cash, you can purchase the Bose SoundTouch 300 and for a little more, the Sonos Playbar and the Philips Fidelio B5.
Design, features and connectivity
The MS650’s brushed aluminium design and rounded edges make for a lovely-looking soundbar. However, it’s not small: measuring 1,060mm across, 130.5mm deep and 78mm tall, the MS650 won’t fit under some television stands nor might it fit on your fireplace, so you’ll want to make sure you can accommodate it in your living room.
Still, if you’re not keen on the idea of drilling holes in your walls, Samsung has created an ingenious bracket that attaches the soundbar to your already wall-mounted television. The Samsung WMN-300SB One Mount Kit can be purchased for an additional £70, and mounts directly into VESA holes found at the back of your TV. If you want your soundbar seamlessly integrate with your wall-mounted television, it’s well worth considering.
Samsung includes a sleek, easy-to-use remote. With it, you can change input modes, adjust the volume, bass, treble, surround sound, flick though different sound modes, toggle play/pause, or skip tracks. Better still, if you own a Samsung TV, it integrates with Samsung’s Eden UX, and provides access to your soundbar’s settings on your TV screen. Thankfully, you’re not out of luck if you lose the remote down the back of the sofa: there are physical buttons for power, volume source selection on the soundbar’s right-hand side.
Samsung has opted to move the LED display on its 2017 soundbars from an off-centre position to the right-hand side. The small display enables you to view key information such as the current audio source or sound modes, or precisely adjust the volume level.
Underneath the soundbar, you’ll find its connections: there’s a power input and output (so you don’t need two wall sockets to power both the soundbar and TV), an optical digital input, analogue 3.5mm input, and HDMI input and output (TV-ARC). Its connectivity options don’t stop there, as the MS650 has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity too. It’s mildly disappointing that aptX support isn’t present, though, as this would improve audio quality over Bluetooth connections.
On the plus side, the MS650 does have support for both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 2.0 codecs, and capable of handling 24bit 96Khz audio without the need to down-sample. This means you’ll be able to play hi-res lossless, FLAC, ALAC, WAV, and AIFF audio directly through the soundbar.
Samsung’s Multiroom app provides a clean, simple interface which allows the MS650 to integrate with music services such as Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn radio, amongst others. Fire up the app and you can play music directly from your device’s internal storage, or stream it from the various music services.
You can also adjust the tone of the MS650 via the app’s 7-band equaliser, and add other compatible Samsung devices to your network to create a true multi-room setup.
The Samsung MS650 houses nine drivers (six woofers, three tweeters), each of which has a dedicated amplifier that connects to a single digital signal processor (DSP). The DSP does the hard work of directing multi-channel inputs to the appropriate drivers: for example, due to the MS650 supporting Dolby Digital 5.1 inputs, and the soundbar housing a three-channel driver setup (each channel has three dedicated drivers), the DSP resamples the digital six-channel signal to suit the 3.0 output. That means true surround sound isn’t on the cards, but Samsung will be releasing an optional Wireless Surround Kit and wireless subwoofer in the coming months.
The MS650’s overall sound quality is superb. Samsung’s distortion cancelling technology seems to be very effective indeed, and this is most evident in the MS650’s potent reserves of mid-bass slam, with the nine drivers working together to produce a fantastically clear, crisp and punchy sound. In comparison to many soundbars I’ve tested, the MS650 sounds vastly more composed and accurate.
There isn’t a huge amount of truly earth-shaking sub-bass, but as the MS650’s bass output disappears below 34Hz, that’s to be expected – after all, home cinema subwoofers routinely reach down as low as 20Hz. There’s an impressive amount of bass on offer given how compact the MS650 is, but don’t expect to hear earth-shattering bass when you blow up a tank in Battlefield 1 . If you like explosions in games and movies to shake your living room dinner table, then you’ll want to budget for the matching wireless subwoofer.
Move further up the frequency range, though, and the MS650 is stunning. You might expect pristine sound to come as standard with a £600 speaker, but there are plenty of speakers and soundbars that fall short of the mark. By contrast, I found the MS650 to sound blissful: vocals are accurate and lifelike; instruments with complex high frequencies such as cymbals are reproduced flawlessly, and the clarity reveals minute details in both movies and music. No matter how loud you push it, the MS650 never sounds jumbled or congested.
The soundstage is also impressive, with a wide room-filling sound that spreads far beyond the soundbar’s dimensions. The MS650 provide oodles of depth, and instruments are all clearly positioned across a deep, wide soundstage. It’s highly impressive.
Samsung MS650 Review: Verdict
There is very little to dislike about the Samsung MS650 soundbar – in fact, it only has two flaws: the lack of window-shattering sub-bass and the absent Bluetooth aptX support. These flaws can’t take anything away from its finer qualities, though, as Samsung has concocted a winning combination of dynamic sound quality, ample connectivity and attractive design.
If you can afford to shell out £415 on a soundbar, then this should be at the top of your list – the MS650 is truly one of the best soundbars money can buy.