Sound bars in general serve as the most basic audio upgrade for a TV. Due to the way these speakers are designed, sound bars can provide wider audio ranges, louder volumes and even better bass if it has a subwoofer. Depending on the model that you pick, a sound bar can also be a cheap upgrade compared to traditional speaker systems. Although there are plenty of models to choose from that should be compatible with your TV, it is normally best to pick a brand that has a good reputation in audio products if you care most about audio quality. If you care more about features, picking a sound bar that has the same brand as your TV is a better choice. The Samsung HW-F550 is an example of a sound bar that focuses on features and works best with the latest Samsung HDTVs. But at $399, the HW-F550 must also perform well in the audio quality department too if it hopes to trounce the other strong competitors in this price point.
The design of the Samsung HW-F550 isn’t as daring as some of Samsung’s other home theater products but it is clean and sleek enough to nicely match other TVs. While the HW-F550 measures close to 40 inches wide, Samsung advertises this product as a 46-inch sound bar so it should be able to provide decent audio improvements to 40-inch and above TVs. The slim design of the sound bar makes it look quite elegant and the extension of the speaker grille to the top is a nice touch. The curved corners give the sound bar a more modern look too. If for some reason you are not a fan of the generic black design, a silver variation of this sound bar (HW-F551) exists too and it looks stunning.
The front of the speaker is pretty clean but switch it on and you will see some text on the very center of the sound bar. The 4 front controls can be found on the top of the sound bar where you can adjust the volume, power on or off the sound bar and change the function. All the connection ports are found on the back including the USB port, aux in, optical in and HDMI input and output jacks.
A wall mount bracket is included along with a couple of holder screws in case you wish to mount the Samsung HW-F550 to the wall. Before you do this, you should use the USB converter which is also included so you can still plug in flash drives to the port while it is mounted.
The HW-F550 relies on its own included subwoofer to improve bass performance. Unlike Samsung’s low-end sound bar, you don’t have to physically connect the subwoofer to the sound bar. Instead, you can effortlessly pair the subwoofer after both components are plugged in and turned on. If you decide to get the silver HW-F551 model instead, the subwoofer matches with a silver finish as well. You also have the option to attach the included toroidal ferrite core to the power cord to help prevent possible RF interference coming from radio signals.
The SoundShare feature is the main highlight of the Samsung HW-F550 and its siblings. It uses Bluetooth to wirelessly link the sound bar to the TV so you can essentially have a truly wireless setup. The only catch is that it only works with select Samsung LED and PDP models released in 2012 and 2013. The feature works well though and once linked, you can power on the TV and sound bar at the same time using any Samsung remote.
The Bluetooth functionality can be used on its own too in case you have a mobile device or other portable device that can pair with Bluetooth accessories. Just pair the device with the sound bar like you normally would do in any other Bluetooth device and you can wirelessly play back music files or apps to the HW-F550.
Thanks to the USB port, the Samsung HW-F550 can read any FAT/FAT32 formatted flash drives too. The file format support is surprisingly vast including support for MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, OGG and even FLAC files.
The HW-F550 lacks the tube input section featured in Samsung’s flagship HW-F750 model but the audio performance is still very good as it still sports the same specs (310-watt internal class D amplifier and 150-watt subwoofer) as the HW-F750. What you get is pretty clear and crisp sound at high volumes when watching movies or music. If you want to add more depth to your sound you can also try turning on the 3D Sound Plus function. There are options for both music and movie so the improvements properly adjust to the type of audio content.
The Samsung HW-F550 is one of the best $399 sound bars right now as it balances the features and audio quality nicely. It could even be a better deal than the $799 flagship model if you don’t care about the tube input section and auto calibration.
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