Samsung's Vacuum Tube Soundbar: Style or Substance? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 06:32 AM - Thread Starter
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Audioholics.com recently published a review of the Samsung HW-F750 soundbar ($950 MSRP)—billed as the world's first to incorporate vacuum tubes in the signal path. Samsung's nearly $1000 home-theater accessory appears to promise audiophile performance, but according to the review, any contribution to sound quality provided by the tubes is irrelevant in the face of lackluster overall performance.
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"The tubes are part of the input stage of the design, meaning the signal passes through them before it reaches the main amp. I think it was a brilliant marketing idea for Samsung to include vacuum tubes in this design. Not only does it look cool (they’re backlight with dimmable orange lights), it makes a bold statement that this is a high-end soundbar. But, the real question is, “Is it simply a marketing gimmick, or is the rest of the unit also high-end audio-oriented?” - Source: Audioholics



When I first saw the HW-F750 in-person, I wondered if the tubes were anything more than a marketing gimmick—it was apparent that an amber LED was artificially lighting the tubes—which made me suspicious that their inclusion had nothing to do with sound quality. At a Samsung press event I attended, it was not possible to properly audition the new soundbar, but I did manage to snap a close-up of the tubes.


Close-up of the HF-W750's vacuum tubes - photo ©2013 by Mark Henninger

According to the audioholics.com review, any contribution the tubes may have toward overall sound quality is lost due to the relatively modest capabilities of the soundbar's drivers and wireless subwoofer.

Based on what I read, the primary issue with the vacuum tube soundbar was that it ran out of power before it reached truly satisfying listening levels, as did the wireless subwoofer.
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"the 6" driver means it likely can’t play very low, and the amp power ratings are listed in a tricky manner so as to significantly inflate the reported wattage (150w). The small port also increases the likelihood of port chuffing (which I could hear during my measurements). Samsung also fails to supply some of the most important specs for a subwoofer: how low it can play and at what SPL. For such an expensive soundbar system, I would expect a much more robust subwoofer." - Source

Samsung's inclusion of vacuum tubes in a soundbar certainly raised some eyebrows when it was introduced at CES 2013—as it turns out, the tubes did not result in an exceptional-sounding soundbar. It's too bad, because the concept really got people's attention. Did Samsung "jump the shark" when it comes to soundbars? Or is this a product that just needs some refinement?

Update

I decided to find a HW-F750 that I could listen to. I headed to a Best Buy with a Magnolia and asked if I could check out the "Samsung Soundbar with the Vacuum tubes." The employee, who was lingering in the Magnolia lobby, said "There aren't any Samsung sound bars in Magnolia, I'm not sure if we have that sound bar on display anywhere in the store."

We stepped out onto the main floor, and eventually we found it—the F750 is used as part of the Samsung 3D HDTV display. The TV was a 55" F7100, and the soundbar was mounted right under the panel, in its vertical configuration. Retail price was $750, which turned out to still be too high.


On sale for $750, the Samsung HW-F750 still costs too much, relative to its performance.

The Samsung demo was sorely lacking in terms of audio dynamics. A monotonous narrator droned on about smart features while elevator music played in the background. I asked if it was possible to demo some music instead. The employee cracked a smile and whipped out his phone. "I'll pair it via Bluetooth," he said. I pulled out my own phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4, and ran my own scan. It's amazing how many devices have Bluetooth connections these days.

My phone found the F750 and I started a connection. I cued up "Trip and Glide" by Love and Rockets. Initially, the volume was really high and the system instantly started distorting and compressing the music. The Best Buy guy scrambled to lower the volume, and I settled in for a quick listen.

There is not much to report about the sound quality, it was as thin as the soundbar itself. I was surprised that it could not project any sort of a convincing stereo image, either. I won't go into details, because I think the Audioholics.com review got it right. Even if the tubes do contribute to the overall sound quality in some sense, the end result is still mediocre.


Found it! In this Best Buy, the F750 was banished, sent to the 3D demo zone.

I figured maybe I could find one more example of the soundbar at another Best Buy, and I did. At the South Philadelphia Best Buy, the 3D demo booth was modified, removing the glasses. Instead of 3D, Smart TV features are the focus—and vacuum tubes!


Do I dare push the button?


Modified demo booth at South Philly Best Buy—so long 3D, hello Smart TV and vacuum tubes?

Pushing the button resulted in one of the poorest audio demos I have ever experienced. A completely indecipherable voice started rambling over what might have been music. I don't mean to be cynical, but this exercise in futility can only be a bad thing for the reputation of tube amps. The only thing the inclusion of this soundbar in the demo proves is how dead 3D is—as a marketing concept.

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post #2 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 12:04 PM
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Lol what audioholics were expecting, it's a marketing gimmick.

sent via Morse code...........

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post #3 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 01:04 PM
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I highly doubt that the tubes are actually in the signal chain.

And if they truely are, then I would expect the drivers in the soundbar to be so poor that it wouldnt make a difference regardless of how they are driven.

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post #4 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 01:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kimeran View Post

I highly doubt that the tubes are actually in the signal chain.

And if they truely are, then I would expect the drivers in the soundbar to be so poor that it wouldnt make a difference regardless of how they are driven.
I decided, rather than speculate, I am going to Best Buy right now to ask for a demo.

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post #5 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 01:12 PM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post

I decided, rather than speculate, I am going to Best Buy right now to ask for a demo.

so you think the tubes may have an impact on the sound?

I'm not saying the soundbar doesnt have good sound, just that I have a hard time believing that tubes will have any impact on the sound quality in such a unit.

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post #6 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 01:19 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Kimeroft url= 
so you think the tubes may have an impact on the sound?

I'm not saying the soundbar doesnt have good sound, just that I have a hard time believing that tubes will have any impact on the sound quality in such a unit.
I am not convinced that tubes could make a meaningful contribution to the sound quality of a device like this.

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post #7 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 01:57 PM
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Ok, I look forward to your impressions of it.

The Best Buy here does not carry anything in that price range...

Trying to enjoy the simple things in life.

 

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post #8 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 02:01 PM
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I've listened to the HW-F750 pretty extensively via both optical and Bluetooth from my phone. I'd say one of the pluses of this soundbar is that it can fill a large space better than most soundbars, probably due to the multi driver array. I mean, it gets LOUD. Looks very high-end too. The sound quality is not very good though -- it audibly distorts at higher volumes and the subwoofer is very boomy. Even at normal volumes, midrange seems squashed and treble overextends. You can do much better for $750, IMO. And if you absolutely need a soundbar, I think the $400 Sony HT-CT660 or the Harman/Kardon SB16 at $600 sound better than the F750. The Martinlogan Motion Vision is probably my favorite soundbar, although it's significantly more at $1500.

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post #9 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 06:37 PM
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It is a sound bar! Doesn't matter what you put in it, it will sound like a sound bar-crappy! It is like putting a tube amp in a Bose cube system and expecting better sound.
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post #10 of 23 Old 06-07-2013, 07:56 PM
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I was in hhgregg about a year ago and saw Samsung's tube amp htib and thought I would take a quick listen. Overall I was not impressed, it sounded about the same as my first ever htib from RCA for $150. The Samsung's tube amp is really hot to the touch but really offers no benefit.

-Ben
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post #11 of 23 Old 06-08-2013, 06:14 AM
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The unexamined premise here seems to be that tubes improve sound quality.

I know, I know...can of worms.

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post #12 of 23 Old 06-08-2013, 08:10 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by repete66211 View Post

The unexamined premise here seems to be that tubes improve sound quality.

I know, I know...can of worms.

My impression is that the tubes do nothing, and even if they do something there is no way you would actually hear it, because this is not a device that is capable of nuanced audio reproduction.

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post #13 of 23 Old 06-09-2013, 09:08 AM - Thread Starter
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The original post now includes updates from visits to two local Best Buy stores. On my first visit, I found the F750 slumming in an unloved 3D demo booth. On my second visit, I found an updated Samsung demo booth touting "Smart TV" instead of 3D, with a dedicated button enticing customers to "Discover the Warm, Natural Sound of Vacuum Tubes."

What I "discovered" is a demo booth that will likely leave the majority of consumers with a negative impression, regarding the value of vacuum tubes. Check out the update to the original post to read more.


The Vacuum Tubes in the HW-750 soundbar are a focal point of this demo booth

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post #14 of 23 Old 06-09-2013, 11:56 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dclark View Post

It is a sound bar! Doesn't matter what you put in it, it will sound like a sound bar-crappy! It is like putting a tube amp in a Bose cube system and expecting better sound.

I remember how I walked into a home in Framingham, MA in the early 90ies where the owner was proudly showing me the Bose cubes he got his hands on two days before the official release stating: "Big speakers will be a thing of history soon".

Blessed are the believers for they need not seek further.

Why cook when one car order pizza or open a TV dinner?

'Nough said, this is AVS Forum, not the Walmart.

My system:
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post #15 of 23 Old 06-09-2013, 10:14 PM
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I've got a Samsung "7.1" blu ray HTIB and a Samsung soundbar from last year. I've had plenty of time to listen to both of them and have sat in BB to compare them to the new ones.. I can't hear a difference. The new ones look almost identical to last year's models except they have different dust caps and these tubes. I highly highly doubt these tubes make any bit of difference other then become one more thing to break. I got both of mine very cheap,, I think 350 for the HTIB and 100 for the soundbar. That's about what these are worth to be honest. Not bad for a cheap upgrade from tv speakers- but certainly not worth 750+. I'm still happy with what I've got for what I paid for them, but wouldn't pay full MSRP. No question- the tubes are a gimmick, there is no difference in sound from these with the tubes compared to last years comparable models without the tubes.

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post #16 of 23 Old 06-09-2013, 10:23 PM
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Anything audio from Samsung is designed for users who don't care about audio quality. Samsung has the TV part but for audio, look elsewhere.
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post #17 of 23 Old 06-10-2013, 04:26 AM
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I have a $99.00 Vizio soundbar with wireless sub;...It probably sounds as good (or the same) as this $700.00+ wonder..............cool.gif
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post #18 of 23 Old 06-10-2013, 04:36 AM
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Why on Earth would you purchase a soundbar instead of a pair of bookshelf stereo speakers? Is there any reason other than aesthetics to purchase a soundbar?

I get that this form-factor might be useful for a center channel speaker. However, we have two ears and proper stereo audio reproduction can create an awful lot of the "surround" or 3d sound-field that users seek with a 3.1, 5.1, 7.1, or 9.2 setup.

I would argue that well done two channel sound is more accurate and more pleasing than cheap or inferior 5.1+. You can get a decent pair of stereo speakers for quite cheap and a good quality two channel receiver can be had for a song. With the rush to multichannel home theater systems, the decent stereo receivers of the 70's and 80's are available for practically nothing from Goodwill, garage sales, or your local Craigslist. Why not have good audio when you can get it for less than $200 or $300?confused.gif

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post #19 of 23 Old 06-11-2013, 12:32 PM
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The reason is for consumer ease, These companies are using fantastic marketing that to you and i seems ridicules but to someone buying a samsung tv looks like a "high" end matching easy way to get sound. Same thing BOSE does.tongue.gif

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The Samsung F550 soundbar at $369 is probably a better choice for the money involved. But in the $399-$599 price range, I would probably choose Polk, Klipsch, JBL, or Yamaha soundbars.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by surendra maharj View Post

I think its quite good tube soundbar. It's both style and substance are very nice and affordable also.
That was sarcasm, right?

-Ben
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post #22 of 23 Old 06-14-2013, 07:29 PM
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That was sarcasm, right?
Personally, I'm not sure (based on the user's other posts) if he isn't a bot...


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post #23 of 23 Old 02-25-2014, 04:34 AM
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Normally hate to drag out old threads, but thought I wanted to chime in on this one.

 

I'm redoing my basement, putting in a TV, etc, and wanted a soundbar.  Upstairs, in my main room, I have my Yamaha home theater receiver driving Boston Acoustic bookshelves (which sound great, btw).    But, in the basement, I wanted the minimalist look - no amps, no receivers, no group of speakers.  So, the powered sound bar fit my bill perfectly.  Just a Blueray player, soundbar, TV and my Fibe-TV box. 

 

So, off I went to find my sound bar.  

 

Now, I'm not an audiophile in the deep sense of the word, but I love good sound. I love listening to loud, clean, crisp music.   Probably dates back to the days when I built my own 3-way speakers in 8th grade shop class.  But, I digress.   I went to Best Buy, mainly to buy the TV as I knew they had some decent pricing going on.   After finding my TV, I wandered over to the sound bar section.  

 

My criteria was simple:

1. Bluetooth compatible

2. Wireless sub

3. Sounds good

 

Pretty straight forward.   I was pretty excited when I saw Klipsh, Polk, and Boston Acoustics on the wall.  But, none of them had bluetooth (huh?? - maybe these were last year's models, who knows).   Then I saw the Samsung F750.  Niiiice, I thought.. Vacuum Tubes.. in a sound bar... My immediate thought was - smooth move Samsung.  Targeting the audiophiles who might be purists and subscribe to the vacuum tube sound quality camp.   I remember the Macintosh power amps back in the day  - tubes.  But... I thought.. it's a sound bar.  So, I spent the next 45 mins pairing my HTC One with various sound bars on the floor.   "Crank it" said the guy in the khaki's and blue shirt.  Ok. sure.. Kansas.. "Carry on my Wayward Son"  rang from the Samsung.  I moved over to the Sony's, and then the JBLs.    Does it sound like a nice set of towers?  bah.. of course not.  Not even close.   But, it sounded GREAT.  This Samsung unit has crisper highs, and good midrange depth.  I was really impressed.  The lows are "ok". 

 

Because I was picking up the TV, and blueray player, and cables, etc etc.. I got this sound bar for $549 (was on sale for $699... list $799).   For that price - it's a great sound bar. 

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