It’s a strange feeling to spend the night in a hotel when you’re looking out over your own city. But there I was listening to the new digital audio line-up that Samsung first previewed at CES in January. The HT-F9750W 7.1 channel home theatre system; the HW-F751 vacuum tube Sound Bar; and the $299 DA-F61 portable Bluetooth speaker. Updated industrial design, warm sound and a distinct lack of wires are this year’s audio hooks. Here’s why that’s fine by me...
Samsung invited a group of tech journos to rooms decked out with the flagship Series 9 HT-F9750W rig. The bundled premium Blu-ray player was there. Vacuum-tube pre-amplifier and distortion-reducing Gallium Nitride hybrid power amplifier at the ready. Throw in a Blu-ray copy of Skyfall, plenty of red wine -- and a wife sold at the first mention of a good excuse to skip boxing class -- and you’ve got a heady recipe for an evening of audiophilia. It was, at any rate, more efficient than temporarily setting it all up myself at home.
The F9750W construction includes ceramic polypropylene to further maximise its 1,330-watt sound. Its silver finish complements Series 8 and 7 Smart TVs. The tweeters swivel slightly and the rear speaker pair plus subwoofer are wireless.
Also welcomed: The Blu-ray player supports apps and multi-tasking, 3D sound, and upscales Blu-ray discs to ‘near 4K’ quality (we couldn’t test that part). Our impression on the audio: The amp setup delivers a sound that’s clean and true, while warm enough that even the pithy John Mayer concert Blu-ray Samsung left lying around got a decent workout. It could be Stockholm syndrome, but he really is kind of dreamy. [$1,499]
You really need to hear audio gear for yourself and form your own conclusions. Being Gizmodo, we wouldn’t recommend anything less. Samsung seems to get this and have developed what it calls the ‘Samsung Blue Shirt’ program: Select Australian retail staff educated in the Korean giant’s complete home audio range and trained in actually listening to the customer (versus the random factoids and options shoved down your throat experience that we've all had at one point).
Brad Wright, Samsung Australia’s director of AV, told Giz that “when you go into store and you do the ‘Pepsi challenge’, you can hear the difference.” We agree that you should get off your bum: there are worse places to start than the select metro Harvey Norman, Good Guys, JB Hi-Fi and Bing Lee stores where Samsung has recently built lounge room environments for demonstrations.
Meanwhile, the new Vacuum Tube Sound Bar is the company’s first to connect wirelessly to compatible TVs via Bluetooth. SoundShare also lets it play tracks from your phone while AirtrackON powers on the sound bar whenever you fire up the TV -- and lets you control everything using the TV remote. The aluminium-finished package also includes a wireless subwoofer.
Samsung claims the HW-F751’s gyroscope sensor lets it gauge the height, rotation, slope and orientation to optimise sound. I’m intrigued, but I’d like to see how the setup compares to the fantastic IntelliBeam automated calibration of Yamaha’s soundbar range.
At home, I actually bought an old series 6 Samsung LED TV. The sound is woeful. I'm talking make it stop bad. That’s why I’m personally interested in something like the F751. That, and because I don’t quite have the floor space for a full 7.1 surround setup. I’m also more likely to actually be able to afford: [$799].
Finally, meet the boringly-named DA-F61 portable wireless Bluetooth speaker. Though the name sucks, this thing is a beast. I can’t help but listen to old school favourites like Dave Brubeck’s Take Five through it -- such is the sophisticated retro styling and surprising clear low-frequency response. The 1.1kg, 20-watt unit incorporates neodymium magnets and plays louder than you’d imagine, with minimal distortion.
Always listen for yourself, of course -- but seriously -- damn. Two notable extra features: NFC support (tap your NFC phone or tablet to pair audio) and SoundShare (the DA-F61 can be serve as an extra wireless Bluetooth speaker to compatible TVs). I have still have my review unit and Samsung knows where to find me if they want to pry it back. [$299]