Samsung has invested massive within the audio house in recent times, together with constructing a state-of-the-art 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 yr are something to go by.
With this in thoughts we had been fairly stoked to get our palms on the MS650’s smaller sibling, the MS550. If this may get near the efficiency of the MS650 whereas saving you £100, it may very well be a just about good choice for changing the possible feeble audio system constructed into your TV.
Dimensions: 890(w) x 69(h) x 130(d)mm
Speaker configuration: 2.1
Claimed audio energy: [email protected];
Connections: Single 4K/HDR HDMI loop by means of, one optical audio enter, three.5mm audio port, 2-way Bluetooth, wi-fi
The MS550 isn’t as outright glamorous as a few of immediately’s soundbars. It’s beautifully properly constructed, although, with sufficient weight and robustness to lift hopes it should 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 seems fashionable however severe too, whereas the grille on the entrance edge seems crisp and no-nonsense. It’s nice at this value level, too, to find an LED show underneath 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’ll be able to decide 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 embody a useful energy loop by means of so you’ll be able to energy a Samsung TV by means of the soundbar; an optical digital audio enter; a three.5mm auxiliary enter; an HDMI loopthrough; and a powered USB port you should use for both recharging your transportable gear or taking part in media information from USB sticks.
There’s no second HDMI enter such as you get on the K850 and K950 Dolby Atmos fashions. Nevertheless, because the MS550 doesn’t help Atmos you might 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 extensive, and 69mm versus 76mm excessive. This top distinction makes the MS550 considerably extra more likely to match underneath 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 far 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 foremost drivers, and two wide-dispersion tweeters.
It’s particularly designed to supply a tidy one-box resolution, although you’ll be able to if you want add Samsung’s SWA-9000S wi-fi rear speaker bundle 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 bundle for a similar value because the MS550 alone!
Whereas it won’t have as many in-built drivers because the MS650, the MS550 does retain the identical proprietary Samsung distortion cancelling expertise. This could permit 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 seems exemplary, with each Wi-Fi and Bluetooth streaming obtainable alongside the ‘onerous’ 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 through 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 implies you can’t move video by means of from a 4K Blu-ray participant with out shedding the newest video disc format’s key decision and lightweight vary benefits.
This isn’t the top of the world. You would 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, in the event you’re attempting to resolve 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 a must 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 simple to make use of and arrange. Particularly with that little LED show readily available to all the time assist you realize the place you’re.
It additionally helps a very good 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 decent 50Hz to 20kHz – although right here once more it loses out – doubtlessly considerably – to the MS650’s 40Hz-20kHz.
Options TL;DR: Except for not supporting 4K HDR passthrough, the MS550 is just about exemplary with its connectivity and supply help. It’s simple to make use of, too. Whereas its speaker specs look good versus many rivals, although, they do fall considerably in need of these of the step-up MS650.
In case you haven’t been fortunate sufficient to listen to the outstanding MS650 in motion, you would possibly properly 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 count on from such a compact unit. Impressively there even appears to be a robust 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 robust sense of left and proper separation that works properly with music in addition to motion pictures.
The mid-range sounds open and clear, which helps it ship a reasonably satisfying sense of swelling and enlargement when required by an motion scene.
It additionally joins Samsung’s different latest sound bars in hitting deeper bass frequencies than the vast majority of different soundbars in the identical value bracket.
The problems with the MS550 come when you think about how far it falls in need of the MS650. For example, whereas dialogue is offered with a fairly rounded tone, it feels just a little vaguely positioned within the combine at occasions versus the beautiful precision delivered by the MS650’s devoted centre channel.
Subsequent, whereas bass isn’t unhealthy by common soundbar requirements, the MS550 can’t go almost 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 motion pictures it tends to sound just a little pressured and muffled versus the opposite sound parts. This attracts undue consideration to itself and even, sometimes, begins to sound a contact distorted, regardless of the perfect efforts of Samsung’s distortion-cancelling expertise.
The distinction in bass prowess is as obvious with music as motion pictures, with the bottom music basslines tending to sound like they’re cramping the mid-range’s type reasonably than accurately slotting in under the mid-range’s backside finish like they do on the MS650.
Efficiency TL;DR: The MS550 produces a large soundstage and delivers loads of element and a fairly open mid-range. It falls means in need of the MS650 with dialogue and bass dealing with, although.
Whereas the MS550 actually isn’t unhealthy worth at £399, in reality the principle factor we took away from it was a fair 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.
Different soundbars to contemplate
In case you actually can’t afford greater than £400, the Q Acoustics M4 is value contemplating. It provides a extra refined, musical, balanced sound for round £329 – although it doesn’t go as loud because the MS550, doesn’t provide as many connection choices, and doesn’t create such a large soundstage.
Actually, 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 properly.
The issue for the MS550 is how far quick it falls of its personal MS650 sibling. The extent to which the MS650 steps up its sport over and above the MS550 is, for us at the very least, value far more than the £100 distinction in value. So in the event you can afford to make the leap up, we strongly suggest that you simply achieve this.