Samsung's wireless multi-room speakers are a new addition to the market, but make for strong competition against the might of Sonos, as well as upstart competitors like LG's Music Flow. As well as the largest M7 wireless speaker and mid-weight M5, Samsung has a new, smaller unit in the M3 — made for bedrooms, smaller apartments, and spaces where you can't fit a big hulking music box.
What Is It?
- Speakers: 1x 85mm woofer, 1x 25mm tweeter, 17 Watts
- Wi-Fi: Yes (2.4/5GHz)
- Bluetooth: Yes
- Connectivity: Ethernet
- Dimensions: 250x114x145mm, 1.9kg
- Warranty: 1 Year
The new $269 M3 is the smallest speaker in the three-part Samsung line-up; it largely squares off against the Sonos PLAY:1 and the LG Music Flow H3, also the smallest models in their respective brands' ranges. The $299 PLAY:1 is a little smaller than the M3, but has a pretty comparable twin speaker setup with almost identically sized individual tweeter and woofer. Where the PLAY:1 is nearly cylindrical, though, the M3 (WAM350) follows Samsung's other multi-room speakers in its wedge shape and super-glossy piano black design.
The shape of the M3 might seem annoying and unnecessarily fashion-focused when you look at it on a store shelf or take it out of the box for the first time, but it really does prove itself when you're setting it up. The wedge design, with a slightly under-square angle on the curved rear, means the speaker and its AC power cable fit perfectly into a corner, but equally so is the speaker able to stand tall and upright using the bundled screw-on stand adapter. The stand is harder to install than on the M7, where it clips onto the rear, but feels a little more sturdy on the M3.
The top, glossy piano black panel of the M3 is where all the action happens; there you'll find a touch-sensitive, iPod-scroll-wheel-esque volume control, mute button and three white light-up source icons on the speaker's top — each of which illuminates when you change from the M3's default multi-room Wi-Fi, to Bluetooth, to the TV-pairing SoundShare mode. You also get an audible alert when you change mode or change the volume, which is convenient with a non-tactile touch interface. Apart from those buttons, the only point of interest on the top of the M3 — on the whole speaker, really — is the central Samsung logo.
Just like the M7, the Samsung M3 is very well built considering its asking price. The distinctive speaker grille design wraps around the slightly curved front and runs to the back of the wedge, where you'll find a couple of real buttons and the small range of inputs. There's no direct USB playback input, and no 3.5mm auxiliary jack either; all you get is a USB port for service (firmware upgrades, or maybe for a Samsung tech to fix your bricked over-the-air update), an Ethernet jack and AC power input. There's a 1/4-inch wall-mounting thread, and the side-spaced hole for the M3's desk stand.
That Ethernet socket forms one half of the Samsung M3's main purpose, which is to connect to your home network and stream music from the 'net as well as directly from your PC, tablet or smartphone — although I expect most buyers will opt straight away for the more convenient 2.4/5GHz dual-channel Wi-Fi option rather than wiring the M3 into a network directly. The M3 also has Bluetooth, but unlike LG's offerings you can only send music over Bluetooth to one speaker at a time. If you have a Samsung TV, you have the option of connecting the M3 (and other Samsung multi-room speakers) directly over Bluetooth — this is SoundShare, and while it has niche application it might just be that extra hook that helps you buy into the Samsung multi-room ecosystem.
What Is It Good At?
For a comparatively small speaker, the Samsung M3 has a fair bit of power behind it. It's not too impressive on paper with a mere 17 Watts of full power audio output, but it makes good use of each and every one of those and actually sounds pretty good for a mass-market wireless speaker. Mid-bass is where the Samsung M3 shines; like the UE Boom it has more oomph than its small size might suggest it possesses, and while it's not going to fill more than a small room with music even at maximum volume that's a job better suited to the large M5 and M7.
Speaking of maximum volume, Samsung has unrestricted the M3 relative to its competition; this is more of a party speaker than the H3 or PLAY:1 purely because it can reach louder volumes. It does sacrifice a small amount of aural fidelity to reach that point, but if you were going to pick a single speaker to suit an apartment or office space of these three, to fill out as much audio as possible, the M3 would be it. It doesn't distort per se, but the sound is a little less composed at maximum power than it is at half that volume, for example.
The design of the M3 is, like the M7, particularly attractive; the eight-segmented-triangle pattern of the grille looks simple until you take a closer look at it and notice the intricacy. The glossy black finish picks up fingerprints like nobody's business, of course, but it's easy to clean with a microfibre cloth and, if you're using Bluetooth or the multi-room app over Wi-Fi, there's no reason to touch it too often.
Using the multi-room app with more than one Samsung speaker is simple enough, once you get through the initial setup process of hooking up the M3 or M2 Hub (optional) to your wired network, finding it with the app, then adding any additional speakers one at a time and grouping them together if you want. You can play music through speakers individually, you can play the same music through all speakers at once, or you can have individual users accessing speakers simultaneously — in a multi-user office setup, for example. The app is lightweight, does its work quickly enough, and doesn't get in the way of actually listening to music.
What Is It Not Good At?
Not having NFC, USB input or a 3.5mm auxiliary audio jack, the M3 is definitely the runt of the Samsung multi-room range. If you want to use Bluetooth, you'll need to set the M3 to its Bluetooth pairing mode and search manually for the connection on your smartphone; not having NFC means it misses out on that incredibly simple ease of use factor of the larger M5 and M7. We can live without the other features, but no NFC is a disappointment and it does slightly restrict the utility of the speaker as a single device. Of course, if you're using the M3 as part of a larger ecosystem, this doesn't matter one iota.
If you are intending to use the M3 at near its maximum volume most of the time — playing music to a large room, or as part of a home theatre system, or if your musical tastes run to the especially loud and especially musical — it reaches its practical volume limit before it reaches the very top of its output power. If you're going to be blasting music from the M3, it's worth giving it a test run in the store if possible and deciding whether a larger M5 or M7 is more suited to your requirements.
And, of course, as with the M7 we have to say that the styling might not be to your tastes. The black grille is certainly distinctive, and while we think a couple of M3 speakers would actually look quite nice hidden away in the corners of a bookshelf or hanging from the cornice on your ceiling, they won't fit in as seamlessly as the more monolithic Sonos PLAY:5 or PLAY:1. The slightly under-square shape might send you crazy, too.
If you want to use Samsung's stereo mode, which doesn't give you true stereo like Sonos' system (which is in itself a pity), you'll have to pair the Samsung M3 with another M3 — you can't hook up an M3 with an M5 or M7. This makes sense on the face of it, but considering these are $269 speakers — or $399, or $499 — you should really be able to use them a little more flexibly. You also don't want to have to buy two of each speaker just to get that paired stereo effect. This is something that can presumably be unlocked with a simple firmware update, and we'd encourage Samsung to do exactly that to make the ecosystem slightly easier to buy into.
Should You Buy It?
Considered on its own, as a Wi-Fi-enabled speaker with the extra feature of integrated Bluetooth, the Samsung M3 is an impressive and capable little device. When you add it into the larger infrastructure of Samsung's multi-room family — perhaps if you already own an M7 or two, and want a smaller unit for a secondary or tertiary listening space — it becomes even more impressive.
To my eyes, it's an attractive piece of technology, both as a speaker and as an exercise in design. That off-square design and smoothly curving edges, along with that super-glossy finish, might not be to everyone's tastes, of course, but it should suit the decor of all but the most avant garde interiors. The touch controls take a little getting used to, but once you're au fait with them they're no different to physical buttons.
The M3 is, as a speaker, a solid achievement from Samsung considering its power versus its size. The extra technology inside is an advantage, and it doesn't have too many pitfalls; if you can drive an app and if you can handle a bit of Wi-Fi trickery during the setup process then you'll be happy with the M3 as part of your new multi-room system.