Hands On: Samsung's New 360-Degree Multi-Room Speakers

Buying a speaker with omnidirectional sound may sound a little pointless, but unless you're always sitting in the same spot to listen to your music or watch your movies it actually makes sense. We're seeing more and more 360-degree speakers come out, but now Samsung has two new glossy obelisks that will project sound all around your living space.

These WAM6500 and WAM7500 speakers use the same multi-room networking as the Samsung M7 and M3, meaning you'll access them through a companion Samsung app on Android or iOS and stream music from Pandora, Spotify or Rhapsody as well as your own library. If you have more Samsung gear in your house, you can connect as couple of them wirelessly to a TV to watch a movie with much better sound than a panel's integrated speakers.

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Samsung WAM6500

The WAM6500 is the smaller of the two, and more focused towards the active listener — it has an internal 6-hour rechargeable battery, and above the upward-firing 360-degree tweeter there's a movable carry handle. Its lines aren't quite as simplistic as the Ultimate Ears MegaBoom, but it's definitely more stylish and more at home in a modern house or penthouse apartment because of it.

Even from the smaller of the two speakers, surprisingly throaty and powerful bass from its central downward-firing bass woofer and passive radiator setup is joined by clear and particularly loud treble. From my admittedly quick listening period in a not-quite-silent room, I I was impressed, too, at the way the WAM6500 cut through the louder and more varied ambient noise of a busy exhibition hall during a second listening. It's not going to rival a traditional forward-firing speaker for clarity or audio power, but it gets close enough to keep most listeners more than happy.

And it is omnidirectional sound. That seems to be the audio style du jour at the moment, and it's not everyone's cup of tea, but for a party or picnic or day by the poolside it really is useful. Samsung has done an excellent job with the two WAM speakers' "ring radiators", which are internal and external channels that deflect sound waves roughly equally outwards at all angles. You can actually walk around the speaker in the centre of a room and listen to it from any location — it doesn't have a sweet spot nor a 'front' where the sound is subjectively at its best.

Samsung WAM7500

The larger WAM7500 is not portable — it uses wall power, doesn't have a battery and eschews the portable carry-handle for a thicker and more fashionable standing base. Although it still has Wi-Fi, it makes more sense to have the WAM7500 hooked up directly to your home network via Ethernet and cut out one potential point of network interference. And that's important because these speakers can handle TV and movie duty but will be equally at home with streaming Spotify, internet radio or another music library from your mobile smartphone or tablet.

Samsung also showed off a concept where a WAM7500 was wired in and hung from the ceiling, pointing downwards and radiating sound — it's still evaluating whether to actually release an installation option or mounting kit like that though. As a concept, it's a great idea especially in a high-fashion living room or cinema space. Since Samsung makes LED lights now, maybe you'll see a lamp or chandelier with 360-degree speaker in it in the future.

The two WAM omnidirectional speakers are some of the first to come out of Samsung's brand new research labs in southern California, a massive investment for the company that should see it make some more innovative, out-of-left-field devices in the next couple of years as well as refining its current line-up of TV and home entertainment products. Based on what I've seen, you should be excited for the future.

I'm not the biggest fan of omnidirectional or surround sound for in-home listening, for the most part — give me a great pair of stereo speakers and a corner to put them in, any day of the week — but as a portable or multi-room speaker goes Samsung has made two of the best that I've heard so far. [Samsung]

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