There were a number of audio-related items on display along with all the great HDTV sets at Samsung's recent NYC press event. Two stood out with their premium pricing and their orange glow. Samsung intends to bring analog warmth to its premium home theater sound products by including "valve" preamps—also known as vacuum tubes. The "tube" lineup on display included the HW-F750 soundbar and the HT-F6500 Blu-ray home theater in a box.Ladies and gentlemen, presenting "vacuum tubes" - photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger
Samsung's engineers sought a natural-sounding solution to some of the problems created by audio compression. Their answer was to place analog vacuum tubes in the signal path, in the hopes of "smoothing" sometimes-harsh sounding compressed digital tracks. The tubes have an unmistakable retro-tech look to them, although the orange glow seems to be just an effect coming from an orange LED behind the tubes. The glass housing that holds the tubes was warm to the touch, so they must be doing something, but they do not run hot enough to emit a glow on their own.
The HW-F750 is a decidedly premium-priced 2.1 audio soundbar; with an MSRP of $995, it can cost as much as a television. The main unit measures 37"x4"x2", with a very minimalist look to the whole unit, except for the vacuum tubes. Thankfully, it does include a wireless subwoofer, to help justify the premium price. Total system power is 310 watts; connectivity options include Bluetooth, Sound Share, HDMI, USB, and Optical. Audio processing capabilities include Dolby Digital and DTS decoding. Unfortunately, there was no way to tell how it sounds in a real-life setting. It looks expensive, but then again it is expensive. Samsung's latest, greatest soundbar is already available.The world's first-ever soundbar with vacuum tubes built-in - photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger
HTIB systems are losing popularity to soundbars, but they still appeal to budget-conscious shoppers. Every product category has to have its "top model," for Samsung that is the HT-F6500 5.1 channel Blu-ray home theater system. With an MSRP of $699, this flagship HTIB claims 1000 watts of total system power, 5.1 DTS and Dolby decoding, 2D and 3D playback, a 5.1 speaker system, and of course vacuum tubes.Honestly, if you are going to buy a HTIB, you may as well go all-out - photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger
There was an unexpected debut at Samsung's HDTV line show, a dance floor-ready DJ rig with dual subwoofers and a built-in light show. Rapper Flo Rida had the honor of appearing on stage with that new 2.2 channel MX-FS9000 GigaSound system, boasting 2560 watts of power with an MSRP of $1499. Unfortunately, the company reps on hand were not willing to "pump up the volume" on my behalf, nor for any other member of the press; its capabilities shall remain a mystery for now. I know one thing; these DJ systems are not for home theater use, not unless there is some way to turn off the disco lights. Then again, some part of me really wants the system to sound good, despite the comical appearance. Those are compression driver tweeters, six inch mid/woofers and 15" subs, all in one tight package. I know a system like that can
sound good, but does it? It would be fun to find out.If it sounds the way it looks, is that a good thing? video ©2013 by Mark HenningerGoodbye Eli, hello Flo Rida and the FS9000 - video ©2013 by Mark HenningerRequests to "pump up the volume" were politely denied - photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger