Deciding whether a sound bar is for you is quite simple, you don’t like your TV’s speakers and you don’t want to go through the tedious process of setting up a multi-component speaker system. Sound bars won’t best some 2.1-channel speaker systems in the same price range. Sound bars are all about saving space and providing good enough audio quality for bedrooms and small living rooms. Higher-priced sound bars like the Samsung HW-H550 have bigger ambitions though and they have a lot to prove. Samsung aims to do this by providing a few essential features while focusing big on the audio experience.
The HW-H550 is well designed with a very simple front featuring mesh that carries over to the top of the sound bar. The front also houses a small display that can display the current mode and a remote control sensor just left of the display. The only buttons can be found on the top and there are not many. You can power on or off the sound bar, adjust the volume level and switch to a source by tapping the “F” button until you get the source you like. The same button also doubles as a Mute button if you hold it for a few seconds.
The rear panel offers a great selection of connection ports your TV can choose from. Both a single optical in and HDMI out jack are available along with AUX in and HDMI in jacks if you want to hook up an external component to use the sound bar. MP3 players may also connect to the USB port on the back.
Like most other sound bars that aren’t so heavy, the Samsung HW-H550 can be mounted to the wall too. All the necessary materials for wall mounting are part of the package including the wall mount guide, screws and brackets. Mounting the sound bar makes the USB port inaccessible but you can connect the included USB cable before mounting to remedy the problem.
The included remote control is a huge step up from the one that comes with the cheaper Samsung HW-H450. It is designed more like a secondary TV remote control that can only works with Samsung TVs. It comes complete with dedicated volume controls for the TV and sound bar and even channel buttons. All the other exclusive features of the HW-H550 can be used through this remote control.
Most sound bars that are priced above $300 simply cannot survive without offering built-in Bluetooth and the Samsung HW-H550 delivers nicely in that area. The Bluetooth connectivity is actually more special than other competing sound bars in the sense that it is used to connect the sound bar wirelessly to any Samsung TVs released in 2013 and later. Once paired with the Samsung TV, you also get to use the Auto Power Link function which lets you simultaneously turn on or off both the sound bar and TV. This TV SoundConnect feature makes setup a breeze and keeps the HDMI and optical ports vacant. If the TV doesn’t support TV SoundConnect or you are not using the feature, you can still change the input mode to Bluetooth and stream online and local music from a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
With a total power of 320 watts, the HW-H550 can dish out some serious sound at pretty high volumes without running into distortion. Everything is powered by the internals so you won’t need an amplifier either. In fact, it uses a technology called Crystal Sound Pro to address the distortion concern directly. The more affordable HW-H450 is powered by this technology too but the added power boost enables support for the Dolby Digital Plus format as well as DTS 2.0+ Digital Out. The included Wireless Active Subwoofer also helps with the bass and it can be placed in a more ideal spot since it stays wirelessly linked to the sound bar.
The Samsung HW-H550 has more options in augmenting the audio performance so you can try doing things like turning on the virtual surround sound function, which should improve the experience of movies and games or activate the Smart Volume option to automatically turn down the volume of any segments such as commercials that may sound too loud. The subwoofer can be tweaked as well.
$349 might be too much of an asking price for the HW-H550 if you are looking for the best sounding 2.1-channel speaker system. But remember you are paying for a sound bar with a wireless subwoofer so your money is mainly being spent on space-saving design and ease of setup. If you already own a recent Samsung TV, the Samsung HW-H550 should definitely be on your shortlist because of the extra TV remote and wireless pairing.
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