Samsung's Newest Soundbar Took 300 Years To Develop

Images: Samsung

...Sort of. 300 years worth of audio engineering experience, at least. Samsung's brand new MS750 all-in-one soundbar is the result of a huge amount of exacting — and genuinely world-first — audio development at the company's multimillion-dollar Los Angeles lab. The end result is a soundbar that massively improves the sound from your TV, and it doesn't even need a subwoofer to hit the low notes.

The LA audio lab has grown from its 2015 launch to triple its staff, into a building twice as large, with a new anechoic chamber — its third — with an ambient noise floor so low it can't even be measured. It has four PhDs, seven Masters, eight actively performing musicians, and 300 years of audio engineering expertise.

That new anechoic chamber, lab director Allan Devantier tells Gizmodo, is the best in the world. The very best. With no exceptions. "It's second to none in the world — including specialist audio companies. There is nobody in the world that does it better."

The new chamber distinguishes itself with an array of measurement-capturing microphones that move in an arc around any speaker, giving Samsung a huge array of frequency capture across both polar and equatorial orbits. Other companies can capture the same data, but move the speaker itself using robotics — robotics that introduce secondary or tertiary audio reflections and spoil the perfect silence and sound-dead environment of the room.

Smaller hemi-anechoic chambers simulate the effect of wall-mounting TVs and speakers, too, and test how Samsung can use walls to amplify the sound that its speakers produce. Blind-testing listening rooms let engineers A/B test stereo or soundbar or wall-mounted speakers against well-regarded and much more expensive studio monitors, and rapid prototyping labs let engineers build their own products to see how they perform.

Having such a chamber lets Samsung do some really wild stuff with its new speakers, including the new MS750 soundbar. All the speaker drivers in each product, for example, add their own unique distortion profile to the audio signals delivered to them by amplifiers — and that distortion makes music sound different to how it was recorded. Samsung's Audio Lab tests each speaker's frequency output compared to the signal that was initially input, and if there's a discrepancy, frequency-specific adjustments can be made.

This means Samsung's speakers can hit lower bass frequencies with equaliser tuning than they've ever been able to before, without distorting, even at maximum volume levels. The MS750 soundbar isn't even sold with a subwoofer — it's a single enclosure with 11 speaker drivers inside doing some pretty magical stuff to optimise their sound.

Samsung uses the lab to build new tech, but also improving existing speaker designs to optimise them: "The split is basically 50/50. Samsung believes in incrementally improving what you already have, but at the same time, to always looking forward to developing new ideas to push the boundaries further.

"For example, one thing we’ve been examining is the idea of refining existing transducers. In the HW-K950 and the MS750, a second-generation tweeter is used. Development of that tweeter involved taking the original design, and tweaking and refining it. This is a new way forward for Samsung and the sound industry as a whole, as the approach was originally always develop new transducers, every time. Improving existing speakers is an important part of what we do, as well as developing new technology."

Backward-firing tweeters in the top of the soundbar reflect high-frequency audio off your TV screen or the wall that the MS750 is mounted to. The wide-range tweeters at the front, which extend to the 700Hz midrange rather than higher 2000Hz frequencies, disperse sound less directionally — so there's a wider sweet spot where audio sounds crisp and rich and full. Bass drivers have been tuned to punch lower than just about any other soundbar you've heard.

You can buy a wireless subwoofer for the MS750 Sound+, as well as wireless rear speakers. The subwoofer looks more like a proper hi-fi subwoofer, with a sealed front-firing driver, than the usual side-firing ported subwoofers Samsung's previous soundbars have had. It lowers total frequency response as far as 27Hz — impressive. But for apartment living, where simplicity is a bonus and low-frequency booms can annoy the neighbours, the MS750 functions just fine — and sounds better than any Samsung soundbar before it.

At the end of the day, the LA Audio Lab let's Samsung develop and refine its sound products using world-class tech, but the speakers have to sound good, too. And that comes down to good ol'-fashioned listening, Devantier explains: "The most important thing about measurements is that they help you get to good sound quality quickly. When measurements are done well, you get to hearing good sound products and prototypes right away, and you’re not listening to something sub-standard. But another important thing is what your ears tell you, rather than a meter.

"When it comes to sound, we rely on our ears the most. At the Samsung Audio Lab, we don’t have a single ‘golden ear’, as we respect the opinion of the group. Specifically, we’ll conduct blind listening tests where we’d have eight to 16 listeners evaluate our prototypes against competitive benchmarks. Based on this, we calculate a plethora of statistics to make sure that we sound better than the industry standard."

The end result is a soundbar that sounds a lot mightier than you might expect. The MS750 will set you back $999, and the SWA-W700 wireless subwoofer is another $799. [Samsung]

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