Determining as to whether or not you should get a sound bar rather than traditional sound system is pretty simple. If you want better audio quality but don’t like lots of wires and components to work with, a sound bar should solve your problems. While sound bars in general are more affordable than most 5.1-channel surround sound systems, there are some pricy sound bars that are packed with more features or have more powerful internals. Once again, you have to evaluate those features and see if you actually need them. Picking a sound bar that has a very basic feature set will not only help you save money but it will make the overall usability and installation of the sound bar much easier. The Samsung HW-F355 fits in the simple category and costs less than the average sound bar. The main concern here is on how much of an improvement this sound bar is over today’s TVs with built-in speakers.
Samsung has been on a roll lately with the designs of their TVs, home theater components and even mobile devices. But the Samsung HW-F355, being a budget product, goes for a more conservative look and it isn’t a bad thing. The sound bar itself measures nearly 40 inches wide and has a very clean look with rounded corners. A very small display panel is found on the center for showing simple status messages. The front panel also features 4 basic buttons found just above the display including the usual power button and volume controls and a function button which lets you change the input. The rear panel is pretty basic with an aux in, optical in, subwoofer connector terminal and power supply input. One nice addition that is actually absent in many pricier sound bars is the USB port.
Like practically every other sound bar being sold today, the HW-F355 comes with the necessary screws and bracket in case you wish to mount the sound bar to the wall. Doing this will cover the USB port found on the back but you can still plug devices into it if you plug the included USB converter before you mount. Also included is an audio cable and power adapter.
The Samsung HW-F355 package also features an external subwoofer that must be connected to the sound bar using a cable. This limits the placement possibilities but should be understandable since this is a budget sound bar. You will have to step up to the midrange Samsung HW-F450 model if you want a wireless subwoofer.
The added USB port is great if you have a flash drive lying around with some MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG, WAV and FLAC files. As long as there is no DRM protection, these files should play back just fine. Just take note that the USB port only accepts flash drives (not external drives, cameras, mobile phones etc.). The USB drive must also be formatted in FAT16 or FAT32 in order for the sound bar to read it properly. Finally, you can upgrade the sound bar’s software through the USB port if Samsung releases any new updates.
The limited USB functionality doesn’t render your smartphone or tablet useless though because the HW-F355 has built-in Bluetooth as well. This allows virtually any smartphone and many other mobile devices to wirelessly play back music to the speaker. If you have a supported Samsung TV released in 2012 or 2013, you can also wirelessly pair the sound bar to the TV. This also allows you to control the sound bar using the Samsung remote control. The included Samsung HW-F355 remote control can control Samsung TVs as well. With the Bluetooth Standby On function, the sound bar can be switched on automatically after turning on the Samsung TV.
Sound quality is pretty good for the price which means that you can still get better audio performance if you go for a $300+ sound bar. Samsung’s own HW-F450 model and its included subwoofer for instance has more than twice the wattage. When playing back music and movies, the audio quality is noticeably better than the built-in speakers and that should be good enough for average consumers.
You can also play around with some extra features that normally come standard with more expensive sound bars like audio sync which can be used if the video isn’t properly synchronized with the audio. There is also a DRC function which balances the range between the loud and quiet sound effects. The HW-F355 offers 7 sound modes to choose from to suit different types of content.
The Samsung HW-F355 is one of the best bang-for-the-buck sound bars right now. Having a Samsung TV is an added bonus but the HW-F355 should serve as a good companion for other TVs. It is cheaper and less powerful than leading sound bars but the extra features really make this sound bar worthy of the $179 price.
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