The Samsung VL5 is a wifi speaker that can be operated with an app. You can also connect devices via bluetooth and aux. The device is not cheap and has a price tag of 499 euros. Is the Wi-Fi speaker worth this amount?
It is not the first time that Samsung has released a Wi-Fi speaker on the market. The new Samsung VL5 (VL550) is the latest iteration of this concept, which is available in the colors black and white. You control the speaker with the Samsung SmartThings application and thus gain access to many possibilities in combination with other Samsung products. The most important thing about a speaker, smart or not, is that it sounds good. Because if a speaker does not have a nice sound, it is of course not worth its price tag.
Samsung VL550 – design and specifications
Both the Samsung VL350 (the smaller brother) and the Samsung VL550 ( this model) are available in black and white with a finish of wood and aluminum. The VL550 has three woofers and two tweeters for stereo sound and is 52 x 21 x 7 cm in size. Both speakers can be connected to the Samsung televisions, so you can also enjoy stereo sound when watching movies. The speakers are able to play the most popular audio formats, but unfortunately do not offer support for high resolution audio.
You can play music in various ways via the Samsung VL550. This can be done via Wi-Fi and an app, for example via the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. There is also support for bluetooth and it is possible to use a cable by the addition of an aux connection. If you prefer not to use Wi-Fi, that is not a problem, since there is also an Ethernet connection. So you can connect the speakers directly to the router with an ordinary internet cable. The USB port is unfortunately only available for updates.
The wide speaker design is sleek and business-like, and also a bit luxurious thanks to its wood and aluminum finish. On the right side is also a touch-sensitive surface, with which you can switch sources (wifi, bluetooth or aux). On top of the device we also find a volume circle (which is a bit reminiscent of the old iPod), with in a middle a big pause / play button. In addition, Samsung provides a special puck with which you can control the music and the volume of the music.
On the back is a large, round surface that you can take off. When you do that, the remaining buttons and the available connections will be revealed. This is where you find the USB, ethernet and aux ports, as well as the connection for the plug. Also here are the reset and connect buttons, with which you can connect to the Wi-Fi network and the included puck. When you place the cover on the back, you only have direct access to the aux socket at the bottom.
Samsung VL550 – installation
Installing has been done like this. When you place the speaker and prepare it, you also need to download the SmartThings application from Samsung. With this app you can control all your smart Samsung devices at home, give orders and let them work together, including the Samsung VL550. If you give the app and the speaker a second, you will see a popup in the image asking if you want to install the found speaker. Of course we want that – the app will guide you through the complete installation process.
And actually the speaker does everything himself. All you have to do is give permission for everything that the app needs. The app asks for a lot of permissions – especially if you only use a speaker in combination with SmartThings – and that is something you have to decide for yourself whether you like it that Samsung wants so many permissions. It is of course the case that the app can also control other devices and therefore ask for it all at once – but if you only want to use a speaker it’s just too much.
It’s still good to to mention that you may encounter an installation problem (but probably not). We tried to install the speaker and app with a OnePlus 6 but ran into an unknown problem that prevented the speaker from being registered. Also bluetooth did not work then. On the recommendation of Samsung we have made the connection with a Samsung phone (the Note 8) and that went well in one go. After that we could also make the connection with smartphones from LG, Nokia and Motorola.
Samsung VL550 – in use
Within the Samsung SmartThings application you can do a number of things. So it is nice that there is an audio tuner present. You can adjust the sound reproduction to your own hearing and even use a handful of predefined profiles, such as pop. In addition, it is possible to create scenes with which you can do a number of things simultaneously with one action. This way you can immediately switch on a group of devices when you come home or between a certain time. There are quite a few possibilities for this.
It is also possible to group devices within a specific room, so that you can simultaneously control a large number of devices at the touch of a button. You do need other devices that work with Samsung SmartThings. Furthermore, it is nice that you can realize a multiroom setup with other smart Samsung speakers (after 2018) and hear the same music everywhere. All in all, therefore, quite a few things are possible; via the application, but also via the buttons on the device itself.
Furthermore, the Samsung SmartThings application supports two music streaming services from the app: Deezer and TuneIn. Do not use it, do not worry: there is also support for Spotify Connect (but you still need a separate app for that). It is not possible to play music from a USB device or NAS, which does support some other multiroom speakers. The last noteworthy feature is the sleep timer: you can turn off the speaker automatically if you want to sleep with music.
And then of course we have the special puck, or the Moving Dial Control. This is a nice accessory that allows direct operation without a lot of hassle. Before you can use the device, you still have to recharge it – but the cable for this is not in the package. Charging is done via micro-usb – perhaps you still have such a cable from an old smartphone at home. The thing is fully charged in no time. After the link (press connect on both devices) you can immediately get started.
You can then turn the edge to turn the volume up and down. You can also press the button to pause or play the music and you can press twice to go to the next song. So you do not have to constantly grab your mobile phone, you never have to leave a program open on your PC or laptop and you have access to the basic operation everywhere, provided of course you take the accessory to other rooms. Put it on the desk or counter and you can just leave the speaker in its place.
Samsung VL550 – audio quality
You could almost forget all kinds of extra functions, possibilities and accessories what is really important for a speaker: the sound reproduction. Unfortunately, we have to conclude that this is not the quality you can expect when you buy a speaker for almost five hundred euros. Initially it sounds pretty good. It sounds a bit cool, but it is supported and wide. However, if you listen a little longer, it is noticeable that some tones are sometimes measured, while the whole can sound a bit tinny.
And that is very sad, because the rest of the speaker really likes it. Fortunately, you can still adjust the reproduction of the sound via the aforementioned audio tuner, but you will never completely remove the tinny character. The tones are not very warm and also not room-filling – but you will undoubtedly be able to fill an average bedroom, but an average large living room becomes more difficult. Furthermore, it is noticeable that the bass sound is not overwhelmingly present – and that is, in our opinion, a plus point.
In short: it depends on whether you hear the tinnyness or not. Because not everyone gets that out, of course. As said, it generally sounds fine. Especially when you listen to pop music with the pop music setting, there is little to notice about the sound reproduction. Do not try to set it too hard; the harder you put it, the more the sound deteriorates. The Samsung VL550 is more than perfectly suited for (quiet) parties or music during work, but there are better options available.
Samsung VL550 – conclusion
The most important part of a ( smart) speakers is and remains the sound reproduction. The Samsung VL550 does not convince 100% of that area, but it is not too far away. Besides the somewhat cool and sometimes tinny tones, the music from the speaker often sounds good. But because of the high price tag, we are still disappointed – we had expected something more. The multiroom speakers from Sonos or Harman Kardon let you hear a better sound (even though the bass sound may be present).
Furthermore, the Samsung VL550 is actually an accessible, user-friendly and great product. The sleek design differs from other multiroom speakers, while the puck is a very handy and cool accessory, which makes operation easy and simple. So you are not constantly dependent on a smartphone or computer. Moreover, there are also enough connection possibilities, but unfortunately we miss something like a direct connection to the NAS. All in all mixed, but at the bottom of the line there are mostly positive feelings.