Samsung has surprisingly strong soundbars, as we also see in the Samsung 2018 soundbar line-up. One of the new soundbars is the HW-N650. But is this model worth your attention? It lacks multiroom functions, but shows off Acoustic Beam technology. We look at this 549 euro soundbar in this review.
Introduction Samsung HW-N650
Hardcore enthusiasts of surround ulcers with a AV receiver with half to a full dozen speakers in the room . In the vast majority of living rooms there is no room for such a loudspeaker festival. Which immediately explains why there are so many soundbars sold, because it remains true that a typical television just does not sound really deep or powerful. Something that the ultimate TV builder – Samsung – also knows. That is why it set up a special audio lab a few years ago on the West Coast of the US, which also developed some interesting soundbars in 2017. The HW-N650 we are viewing here is brand new for 2018 and is an affordable 5.1 soundbar with wireless subwoofer. We write ‘5.1’ because Samsung mentions it on product pages, but when you dive into the specifications, the company creates a 2.1-soundbar. That is also a more realistic description, we can already give that away. The eye-catcher is technology that comes fresh from the drawing board at the Samsung lab and that would send sound wide into the room. Also unusual is the presence of a real game mode.
Setup and connection
The HW-N650 is immediately recognizable as a Samsung soundbar. It is a well-known design that we get to face, with a lot of black metal, a grille that covers almost all of the device and an angular line pattern. No noticeable ‘look-at-me’ appearance, but rather a device that goes for a certain amount of subtlety. It remains of course a fairly large soundbar of 110 centimeters wide, a size that is slightly less wide than our 55-inch test TV. That subtlety also appears from the placement of the display. As with previous Samsung soundbars, it is a screen with white numbers that is mounted behind the grid, in this case a small thing in the front and on the far right. Samsung chose to display big letters on this display, so you do not get much information (but that is not necessary) that you can read from very far.
If you look at the back of the HW-N650 you will not greeted by an abundance of connections, which in itself is not that crazy about this price point. You should usually aim for a more expensive soundbar if, for example, you want multiple HDMI inputs. Here there are two HDMI ports: one that connects you to the television, one to which you can hang a source device such as a digital TV decoder or console. If you have more sources with HDMI, you have to hang them directly on your TV set. The sound of any additional devices then comes to the soundbar via the HDMI cable, thanks to the ARC function. You can also choose to connect a TV via the optical input to the HW-N650, but that is less optimal. Do not hesitate to opt for an HDMI cable if possible, because then you can simply control the volume of your soundbar with the TV cabinet. The optical input can also be used for an audio device, such as a CD player. An analogue auxiliary input (for a music player) and a USB port for a stick with music files complete the connections.
Most of the connections, including power, are located in two niches at the bottom of the HW-N650 that go to the back be open. That makes the elimination of cables relatively easy. There is enough space for stiffer HDMI plugs and cables, but not a huge amount. Anyone who has invested in more expensive cables may have to fold more than you like.
Bluetooth, no multiroom
Most Samsung soundbars that we put on the test bench in recent years were part of the Samsung Multiroom family and worked with the eponymous app. That also meant that you could pair them with separate wireless speakers elsewhere in the house. One of Samsung’s trump cards compared to market leader Sonos was that the Korean multiroom system was somewhat more flexible and versatile. As a consumer you had a choice of more soundbars (including HDMI models) and you could also do separate things, such as streaming a music CD from a Samsung Blu-ray player to another room.
It is surprising that the HW -N650 let go of all this. You can stream music to this soundbar, but only via Bluetooth. This can be done in relatively high quality, with support from aptX. It is also via Bluetooth that the Samsung Audio Remote app works. The app is not bad, because you can really use it as a full remote. Also to switch inputs, for example. The app is also a music player. But we did regret that you can only stream music files from your own phone and not files that are shared via DLNA from a NAS for example. If you want to do this, you have to work with someone else’s media player app. VLC for example, or Goodplayer. We think BubbleUPnP is also very versatile.
When we played music, we looked quite surprised. Soundbars are rarely really good in music, although you still have a good sound. Beforehand we had the suspicion that the HW-N650 would belong in the first category for one reason or another. But that turned out well. The Acoustic Beam technology provides a pronounced stereo effect, but also a sound image that blends nicely into one another. You do not suddenly have the experience of two separate speakers with a void in between, but something that can be called a deeper soundstage.
It’s a little careful with the placement of the wireless subwoofer. As is often the case with sound bars, the sub plays relatively high tones. If you place it too far from the soundbar – for example behind you – you sometimes hear, for example, part of the voice and instruments coming from there. Place the sub in the front of the room and the integration is better. We can not take the HW-N650 too hard for it, because as said, more soundbars suffer from this. This all has to do with the limitations of the shape of a soundbar. If you want to know more about it, read our guide on subwoofers, for example.
Even mention that the included physical remote control is very good. It is a compact, best premium-sensing remote that looks like the slightly curved cabinet that Samsung sometimes provides as a second remote control with their televisions. Nice and handy, although you have to get used to the volume knob that you push up and down. Of course, if your TV is connected to the HW-N650 via HDMI, you can simply use the volume controls of the TV cabinet. The supplied remote does have a handy pair button to quickly connect a new Bluetooth connection with your smartphone and you can quickly adjust the bass.
The HW-N650 dares Samsung in some countries as a ‘panoramic’ soundbar in the store. With that they refer to the Acoustic Beam technology. What this means in concrete terms is that the soundbar at the top has a waveguide with a series of openings pointing upwards. On the outside these openings are larger than on the inside, to ensure that the sound sounds the same over the entire width.
You do not see this acoustic diffuser because it is under the soundbar’s grid is mounted, but it is there. Because of these openings especially higher frequencies occur. The advantage of Acoustic Beam is that details and voices over the entire length of the soundbar come out, giving you a very broad look. Especially dialogues seem to come from all over the screen, instead of from the middle. This technique – which we also saw at the Philips B1 mini soundbar – is quite effective. The difference is that with the B1 a waveguide was only used to send sound very wide into the room, Samsung also introduces a bit of positioning of sound effects and voices. This would, for example, result in dialogs from the right place on the screen. Provided the source soundtrack is set up correctly, of course.
With the HW-N650, the Acoustic Beam guide is controlled by multiple drivers, which means that the positioning and positioning are indeed quite good. It is this technology that ensures that even during hectic moments in ‘Final Fantasy XV: Kingsglaive’ the comprehensive dialogues remain intelligible – because yes, this continues to stand out from Japanese anime and a speech while you are struggling with demons the size of an apartment block. . The downside is that the sound from the HW-N650 lingers in the front of the room. It still comes from the TV, with a piece of soundstage that also goes left and right. Is that bad? Not quite. It is not surround – or an attempt at – but a much more open, detailed view than you get from the TV speakers or a cheap mini-soundbar.
What it promises, this Samsung does very well. The N650 sounds undoubtedly broader and more detailed than you might expect from a soundbar of this type, especially in the Surround Mode. The Standard Mode really sounds too flat and not very exciting. But he does not really wrap you up, something that can, for example, make the more expensive HW-K850 better. Samsung does have an answer. You can expand the HW-N650 with two wireless speakers that you place behind you in the living room. We have not tested this, but based on previous reviews of sound bars with similar extra rear speakers, this usually works pretty effectively. A disadvantage with Samsung is that there is apparently a cable between the two extra rear-speakers.
We also tested the Game Mode with ‘Zero Horizon Dawn’ and ‘Gran Turismo Sport’ from a PS4 Pro and HDMI. In itself we find the game mode not very different from the Surround mode, with a small but nice difference that the stereo effect becomes even more pronounced. This gives you a larger spatial feeling. If a rival overtakes you in his Porsche GT3 on the right, then that movement is really on your right and it moves forward. Sounds in the back of the surround mix do not come out like that, that optional wireless speaker set. It is only a guess, but judging by these performances, we think that the HW-N650 can still produce a nice stage effect when you watch football. Interesting to know perhaps, given the W.K. that it is coming.
The HW-N650 is a soundbar that does some things very well. The N650 does what it promises, thanks to the Acoustic Beam technology. It has a real added value and distinguishes this Samsung in terms of audio reproduction of many rivals. Film sound may not be enveloped, but it is wide in front. With busy action films that brings a bit more definition in the chaos of exploding cars and transforming robots. But it is mainly dialogues that appear fuller and better placed. That is already a nice step-up from TV speakers. We miss the streaming options, as well as a night fashion. We expect them at this price point.