After receiving a lot of positive feedback on our recent article that was prepared to provide a general overview of what soundbars there are and what they are good for, we decided to focus on one set and try it out in detail. We decided to go for a mid-range solution from Samsung. We tested and reviewed the Samsung HW-M450, which is the soundbar itself that comes with a separate subwoofer unit and added the Samsung SWA-8500S Wireless Rear Speakers Kit to get a sound that’s a little bit more room-filling.
The design of the products is quite simple but elegant. All in all, there’s a lot of black involved, so they easily match most of the already existing living room electronics. The cabinet of the subwoofer at least seems to be real wood and is also painted black. The soundbar itself has a central display that only lights up when you give a command via remote control. After being inactive for a couple of seconds, it turns off, and you can’t spot it anymore.
For me, it’s been a while since the last time I set up a consumer audio system for a TV, so I was positively surprised how easy Samsung makes the initial setup even for users that are not that tech-savvy. You don’t need to call the Geek Squad, you can do everything on your own. At least that’s how I judge it, but of course, you should always check the manuals well. If you decide to wall-mount any of the components, make sure you follow general safety precautions. Mounting brackets are included in the set.
First, you connect your units to get power from the wall socket and then they already pair each other wirelessly on their own. Really simple – I love it. You no longer have to conceal huge amounts of cabling in all directions to reach all speakers. The only thing you need to deal with is being more or less close to a wall socket to get electricity. You only need to connect your TV with the soundbar to get your sound, and you’re done. I used the optical cable for that, which was part of the box.
The Samsung SWA-8500S Wireless Rear Speakers Kit is optional to this, and they are compatible with various other Samsung soundbars too. If you choose to go for a surround sound effect. You also get those. The box consists of one receiver unit that provides power (amplifier) and is actually connected to the small rear speaker satellites via cable. So the term wireless here solemnly means that you don’t need a cable from the soundbar (next to your TV) to the spot behind your couch. The wireless connection is made from the soundbar to the rear kit receiver unit which then distributes the sound to the left and right surround satellite speakers through cables.
I think this product combination of the Samsung HW-M450 soundbar and the SWA-8500S Wireless Rear Speakers Kit is a really nice choice if you want to up your home entertainment game just a little without sacrificing a “home cinema budget” in the thousands. You can also go a little cheaper on your soundbar, but personally, I found this to be a great mix of affordable components and audio quality.
This Samsung soundbar and rear speaker solution augments the sound of your TV a lot in my opinion. You can hear a lot more of the frequency range than only with the inbuilt TV speakers. It works fine for any kind of TV shows and movies, but you can get more sound quality if you’re playing music (comfortably played back from your smartphone via Bluetooth), watch a movie, or play video games. Overall, you get a lot more sound in your room, and it’s not only filling quite well but also gives an excellent quality boost in comparison to the average TV sound. It goes without saying that the output quality depends on the quality of the media you are playing. Poorly decoded mp3 files will not give you the same experience as the sound that was mixed on a Blu-ray disc for example.
I think the subwoofer is a little too big for what it does, but if you manage to “hide” it somewhere in your living room, it’s okay. It has to be noted, however, that the rear speakers (if you also bought them) are not as loud as you’d suspect them to. Even if you configure the maximum offset of +6 volume in the settings, they are not that audible and only support the front speakers to a degree. The rear speaker satellites should definitely be placed close to where you are sitting. In best case that would be right behind you or next to you.
Unfortunately, the officially distributed technical spec details are a little vague or missing entirely for the case of the rear speakers. I suggest you to try these out if you can as my ears might be different from yours.
- Samsung HW-M450 Soundbar: 2.1 Channel, 320-watt, 40Hz~20KHz,
- Samsung HW-M450 Subwoofer: 7-inch; 160-watt
- Samsung SWA-8500S Wireless Rear Speakers Kit: 2.0 Channel, no spec data disclosed
- Works with Bluetooth, HDMI in, HDMI out, 3D Video Pass, Optical In
The Samsung HW-M450 soundbar and the SWA-8500S Wireless Rear Speakers Kit were connected to a consumer-grade Samsung TV which is already a couple of years old. The TV was attached to the central soundbar unit via an optical cable. I tested the speakers with common TV sound, music, movies, and games for about a week before writing this review. My audio background is that I have been working as event technician and audio engineer in the pro audiovisual industry a couple of years. I’m not saying I got the most professional hearing out there, but I believe I am able to distinguish poor audio quality from good audio quality. However, please consider this review as my personal opinion.
In summary, I think the products we tested here give a lot of quality for their cost. Indeed they might be no match for soundbars worth one or two thousand dollars or home cinema installations of an even larger budget, but they really do an excellent job on giving you much better quality than the TV speakers that are built into your display.
- Easy to set up
- No cable madness
- Rear speakers a little too silent
- Subwoofer a bit too big
Samsung frequently releases new versions of their products so it can be that by the time you are reading this there will be a newer model. These however often only add a few features here and there but not significantly change the quality within the product positioning. So you can expect the HW-M450 to have a similar audio quality like the HW-N450 would have for instance.
You can get these on Amazon if you like, the Samsung soundbar overview page can be found here. You can get the HW-M450 soundbar and subwoofer bundle currently for around $220 and the SWA-8500S Wireless Rear Speakers Kit for about $110. I don’t think you’d regret buying these, but if you’re like me, you might enjoy the option of relatively easy being able to return things on Amazon if something didn’t work out after all. If you’re more of a retail person, then that’s also absolutely fine but the boxes are heavy so bring a car in that case.
If you do happen to buy these products, make sure to share your thoughts with us and drop a message below in the comments or mention us in a tweet. And now, you may enjoy our unboxing video of these. Enjoy!
YouTube: Samsung Soundbar Unboxing and Review (HW-M450 / SWA-8500S)
Photo credit: All user images are owned by Samsung. The video was done by Pupu Liang and Christopher Isak.