Regular readers will know our usual disdain for soundbars - we prefer to recommend a pair of stereo speakers (active wireless ones if you want to keep things simple). So our review last year of the frankly incredible performance from this Samsung soundbar was full of word-eating backtracking, as we enjoyed its ability to deliver not only TV and movie soundtracks with dynamism and high intelligibility, but also to play music to a quality we’d usually expect only from price-comparable standmount speakers.
Soundbars simply shouldn’t sound this good - especially given the $799 MS650 is just a bar, without the commonly included wireless subwoofer. While that limits the very lowest frequencies, the bar achieves real depth on its own, apparently the result of some clever work at Samsung’s new California Audio Lab, where former staff from Harman have come up with a way to measure the bar’s inherent distortions and then cancel them, so that in action it sounds both impressively linear and unflappable, since the DSP prevents it ever being overloaded.
It also benefits from being a three-channel soundbar which doesn’t pretend to attempt a surround effect, which so often reduces voice intelligibility and musicality in the process. Nor does it load up on unnecessary sound EQ modes; indeed Samsung’s ‘Smart’ option does a fine job of picking the best result without you needing to select anything.
You can connect the MS650 to your TV via HDMI with ARC (it has one HDMI input with 4K passthrough), or using its optical or analogue inputs. Those with a compatible Samsung TV can try using Bluetooth to connect, thereby going without wires — there’s also a neat mount which puts the TV and soundbar on the wall together, without making holes for each.
As if that’s not enough, it’s got Bluetooth music streaming, and Samsung’s multiroom networking smarts which come with app control, web radio and network streaming, even handling high-res music files.
But the win here is for its ability to sit there unobtrusively, delivering not just the usual soundbar upgrade of TV audio, but a musical performance which makes this a genuine multipurpose audio system. Every criticism we usually make of midprice soundbars simply doesn’t apply to the HW-MS650, and it has become our new reference at the price ($799), against which all future comers will be tested.