The Samsung HW-K850 soundbar takes the brilliant Samsung HW-K950 and, effectively, chops it in half, oddly enough.
Logically, it’s the rear half that you lose here – the two rear satellite speakers; the soundbar, subwoofer and Dolby Atmos support all remain fully intact.
"What’s the point of that? I hear you say" "A £900 soundbar without satellite speakers? But there is a valid point nestling somewhere within these hypothetical complaints.
Before you completely write it off, however, it’s worth bearing a couple of points in mind. First, the sound quality of this soundbar is superb and the surround sound is of a very high level. For streaming and music listening , it’s the best soundbar I’ve ever come across. It sounds as good as the £1,300 Samsung HW-K950 and is a notable sonic improvement on the Bose SoundTouch 300.
I popped the Atmos demo disc into my Blu-ray player and found there remained a convincing sense of height to the sound, and a decent sense of width and directionality, too. Clearly, it’s not as good as the HW-K950 at creating the 3D bubble of sound, but as single soundbar and subwoofer combos go, it’s the best I’ve heard yet.
Samsung HW-K850 review: Design, connectivity and features
The soundbar and subwoofer are exactly the same as in the HW-K950 package. The former has 11 drivers in total, three each for the left, centre and right channels, plus a pair of upward-firing drivers for the upper-left and upper-right Dolby Atmos channels. The latter is a huge box nearly two feet high, two feet deep and a foot wide, with a single 8in driver mounted on the side.
With so many drivers packed in, it’s a pretty big soundbar. At 121cm long, it’s best suited to TVs at least 49in in size, a word of caution, at a height of 81mm, it’s tall enough to block the infrared sensor on many TVs.
That shouldn’t be a problem if you own a Samsung TV – you should be able to control your TV through the soundbar’s Anynet+ compatible HDMI output, but not for other TV manufacturers. Despite this, it’s a good-looking speaker, and I do like the white OLED display behind the metal grille that tells you which mode you’re in.
Physical connections are a little limited. There’s only one HDMI input and one output tucked away beneath the bar. Both these are 4K-passthrough enabled, and the output supports ARC so you can pipe audio back from your TV to the soundbar. You do get optical S/PDIF and 3.5mm analogue inputs, and nothing more.
Wireless connectivity is much better, with the aforementioned multiroom support allowing you to stream music from DLNA servers and via Spotify Connect, and there’s support for Amazon Music via the Samsung multiform app. Suprisingly there’s no AirPlay support, which is a shame.
Samsung HW-K850 review: Verdict
The Samsung HW-K850 is a cracking soundbar that sounds great with most sources, from music to movies. It has a delicate touch, and can produce audio with a dramatic sense of sense of scale and slam when it needs to. There are no rear speakers here, but it’s better at simulating surround sound than any other single soundbar I’ve heard.
The Samsung HW-K850 is an excellent soundbar that sounds great with most sources, from music to movies. It has a delicate touch, and can produce audio with a dramatic sense of scale and oomph when it needs to. Altough there are no rear speakers, it’s better at simulating surround sound than any other single soundbar I’ve heard up to now.
However, it is not perfect. Firstly, it’s not cheap. Secondly, it only supports two-channel decoding for DTS tracks, and thirdly, there are plenty of products out there that deliver true surround for less money. Whether you think it’s worth it depends entirely on your own opinion, but I think if you want Atmos you should seriously consider buying the Samsung HW-K950 instead.