Samsung Sound+ HW-MS750 & SWA-W700 5.1 Soundbar System Review

Samsung’s quest to up its audio game has manifested in a series of soundbars that offer great fidelity for the dollar. For 2017, the company offers its Sound+ lineup, which leverages the technical expertise and state-of-the-art measurement and testing equipment assembled at the company’s California-based audio-research laboratory. This review is about the flagship combo: the HW-MS750 soundbar ($699) paired with the SWA-W700 wireless subwoofer ($499).

A few months back, I reviewed the HW-MS650 ($420), which is the step-down model from the HW-MS750 featured in this review. At that time, Samsung had not released the SWA-W700, so I focused on the built-in bass capabilities of that soundbar. The HW-MS750, like the MS650, can play deep on its own. But a subwoofer digs even deeper, and it allows the entire system to play louder by relieving the soundbar of having to handle the deepest notes. Notably, the SWA-W700 also works with the HW-MS650 and the curved HW-MS6500 soundbars.


Features and Specifications

HW-MS750

The HW-MS750 is a 45″ wide, 5.0-channel soundbar that works resting on a TV stand or in a wall-mount installation. It comes with generic brackets for wall-mounting, but Samsung also offers a Seamless Mount bracket ($50) that attaches it directly to compatible TVs. Cleverly, this soundbar features a TV power-out socket, so you only need to connect a single power cable to an AC outlet for both devices.


Samsung’s Seamless Mount bracket allows for a clean, easy, installation. Photo by Samsung

One of the primary features of this soundbar is the inclusion of elevation channels. Although the HW-MS750 does not decode Dolby Atmos (check out the HW-K950 if you are looking for that capability), it does upmix stereo and surround content. Consequently, Samsung describes the soundbar itself as a 5.0-channel system; left, center, right, and the two elevation channels.

This soundbar includes a slim remote with discrete volume and bass controls, as well as buttons to change input, user settings, and surround mode. Plus, if the HW-MS750 is paired with Samsung’s SWA-W700 sub, the bass control adjusts the subwoofer level. It can also control a connected, compatible Blu-ray player. Finally, the soundbar works seamlessly with Samsung’s One Remote, which comes with select premium TV models.

Samsung’s newest soundbar has an impressive array of features, but the clear focus is on audio fidelity. The company is serious about sound, and its recent efforts have resulted in products that perform surprisingly well.

This model incorporates a total of 11 drivers, each with its own amp. Bass comes from an array of six mid-woofers that complement five wideband tweeters, two of which face upward. Frequency response for the HW-MS750 is specified from 35 Hz to 20 kHz without the optional subwoofer.

The HW-MS750 offers plenty of connectivity options. It supports the ubiquitous TosLink (optical digital) connection that’s popular for connecting TVs to soundbars. It’s also able to receive sound from your TV using an ARC-compatible HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 output. Plus, this soundbar provides two HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 inputs, with full support for HDR and up to 60 Hz 4:2:0 or 30 Hz 4:4:4 4K video.

It’s designed to work on its own or in conjunction with optional accessories that expand its capabilities. For example, you can add Samsung’s SWA-9000S wireless surround speakers ($180/pair) to the MS750 for an enveloping surround-sound experience. And of course, it also works with the SWA-W700 wireless subwoofer.

Samsung’s HW-MS750 decodes Dolby Digital, DTS, PCM, and a variety of audio-only formats: AAC, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, MP3, OGG, WAV, and WMA.

Playing UHD Blu-rays of various movies using the DTS-HD Master Audio multichannel soundtrack (unprocessed bitstream) worked fine. Similarly, converting that audio to PCM in the player still worked perfectly—no missing dialog or other odd behavior.

This is a large soundbar designed to go with big-screen TVs. The HW-MS750 weighs 13.88 pounds and measures 45.28″ W x 3.07″ H x 5.14″ D. The chassis and grill have an understated, sophisticated, modern minimalist look with a logo-free black metal mesh grill that covers the entire front and top of the unit.

A monochrome text display is hidden behind the grill, which renders it invisible when not in use. It conveys enough info to get the job done. Overall, the build quality is great; the HW-MS750 looks and feels like a premium soundbar.

Wi-Fi connectivity supports 2.4 and 5 GHz connections and works super seamlessly. Setup can be done using the soundbar’s on-screen menu (if you connect to the TV using HDMI) or through a mobile device running the Samsung Multiroom app. You can stream music to the HW-MS750 with that app as well as add the soundbar to a wireless multi-room network of compatible devices.

Because I already had the Multiroom app installed on my phone from my HW-MS650 review, the HW-MS750 was instantly recognized and automatically connected. A couple of taps on my phone’s screen got the system up and running with tunes streaming from Tidal.

With the app, you can adjust settings such as volume and input, enable and tweak the 7-band graphic equalizer, and play audio from the following cloud-based, ad-based, and subscription services: Amazon Music, TuneIn, Pandora, iHeart Radio, 8tracks, Spotify, 7digital, Napster, Murfie, Tidal, and SiriusXM. You can also play tracks stored on your Android or iOS device.

In addition to Wi-Fi, the HW-MS750 has Bluetooth connectivity, making it easy to stream audio using most phones, tablets, laptops, and audio players. And if you need it, there’s a 3.5mm stereo-analog auxiliary input.

This soundbar offers numerous listening modes.

Surround is the one most listeners are likely to use, so it gets a dedicated button. It upmixes stereo (2.0) and surround (5.1) sources to 5-channel output (5.1 with the sub) including the elevation channels, or to 7-channel output (7.1 with the sub) when the system is equipped with the optional surrounds.

Standard mode is neutral and sounds a lot like a good stereo system. It’s a good choice for music, perhaps better than the Music mode. It does not utilize the elevation channels.

Music mode emphasizes bass and midrange, with a peak in the treble as well. It also does not upmix 2-channel source material and does not utilize the elevation channels.

Clear Voice is intended for watching TV in situations where hearing dialog is difficult. It may be useful for the hard-of-hearing, but the HW-MS750 is so clear in other modes, I suspect it will rarely be used. It too skips the elevation channels.

Sports mode concentrates dialog in the center channel for maximum audibility of announcers. Aside from the Surround mode, it’s the only one that upmixes to the elevation channels. This creates an enveloping effect with ambient sounds like crowd noise.

Movie mode makes things sound more expansive without mucking up the tonal balance. Since it leaves out the elevation channels, it would not be my first choice compared with Surround mode. But, it sounds good and also works great with music—especially electronic music.

Among the available modes, Surround is the top choice. It provides the full immersive effect this soundbar is designed to deliver and sounds great with a wide variety of content.

Based on what I heard and measured, the default EQ setting of the HW-MS750 should please most people. However, if you want or need more control over tonality, you can always tweak the 7-band EQ with the Multiroom app or using the remote control.

A key feature of this soundbar is Samsung’s Distortion Canceling technology. It can predict anomalies in the driver’s behavior and compensate for them, resulting in unadulterated sound.

SWA-W700

The new SWA-W700 ($499) is an optional wireless subwoofer designed to provide deep, powerful bass in conjunction with Samsung Sound+ soundbars. It comes with a USB dongle that attaches to the HW-MS750 (and other Sound+ soundbars) and supplies the wireless link.

This is a sealed 10″ subwoofer of considerably higher quality than the subs typically bundled with soundbars. It’s substantial but compact at 32 pounds and measures 13.31″ H x 12.6″ W x 12.6″ D. The enclosure features unibody construction for maximum strength and a seamless look. Because it’s designed to work with Samsung Sound+ equipment, it does not provide inputs for compatibility with other surround systems.

This subwoofer includes the Samsung Distortion Canceling technology also featured in the soundbar.

In an interesting design twist, you can choose whether the driver is front-firing or rear-firing. The AC power cord connects underneath the sub, and there is no wired input (and therefore no back panel) resulting in a clean look on all four sides. Notably, if you aim the driver at the wall, it’s protected from kids and pets.


Connecting a power cord to the Samsung Sound+ SWA-W700 wireless subwoofer. Photo by Mark Henninger


Setup

The whole point of a soundbar is that it should be simple to install and use. For this review, I connected the HW-MS750 to a Samsung 65″ Q9F QLED—which I reviewed here—using the ARC-compatible HDMI input on the TV. I placed the soundbar on the stand, directly in front of the TV.

I tested the two HDMI inputs with a variety of sources, including a Windows 10 PC (with Nvidia GTX980 graphics), a Sony PlayStation 4 Pro, and a Samsung UBD-M9500 Blu-ray player. I also tried out the TosLink digital-optical connection with all three devices, and I also used it with a Chromecast Audio. Furthermore, I streamed music to the HW-MS750 using the Samsung Multiroom app running on a Galaxy S7 Edge. Finally, I set up Bluetooth streaming with my phone.

The Wi-Fi setup with the Multiroom app was fast and easy. When prompted, I pushed the speaker-connect button, and the system auto-configured in mere seconds. To start streaming, I set Tidal as the default music source in the app.

I did not encounter any glitches during setup. It was super easy, and the manual was thorough. Adding the sub does require a couple of extra steps—namely connecting the dongle and plugging it in—but that takes only seconds.


Performance

The HW-MS750 is a highly capable soundbar that benefits from the elevation channels. While the sound profile is the same, the HW-MS750 exceeds the HW-MS650 in terms of soundstage and imaging as well as bass extension. But the addition of the SWA-W700 transforms the HW-MS750 from a soundbar into a truly high-fidelity sound system.

Deep-bass response is a crucial ingredient in making home-theater experiences visceral and immersive. With the SWA-W700, Samsung has elevated the soundbar sub to genuine hi-fi status.

Before getting into music, movies, and games, I ran some test tones through the system, with and without the sub. I confirmed the credibility of Samsung’s performance specs—the SWA-W700 does get down to 27 Hz as claimed, and with significant output. The sub’s built-in DSP-based EQ, limiting, and distortion cancelling provide a highly linear response curve. The crossover to the soundbar begins at 80 Hz and the slope becomes steep at 100 Hz. I had zero localization issues with this soundbar/sub combo.

Fundamentally, the sound of the HW-MS750 has much in common with MS650 (reviewed here), but offers notable improvements in soundstage and imaging. The contribution of the upfiring drivers is far from trivial. It lifts the entire soundstage vertically, so that it’s at the same level as the action on the screen. Also, the elevation effect makes everything sound more open. Add the SWA-W700 to the mix and this system delivers fidelity that has more in common with AVR-based speaker systems than other soundbars.

Now, just because the HW-MS750 has elevation channels does not mean it explicitly supports 3D immersive audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Instead, it depends on upmixing standard surround and stereo into something more immersive. Both Dolby and DTS offer similar upmixing capabilities in their systems.

This approach does not allow for discrete sound effects, but it works well for ambience extraction, so you get a sense of enhanced height and space from sounds like rainfall, wind, reverb and echoes, flyovers, etc. Since the vast majority of content, be it movies or music or TV, does not come with a 3D immersive audio mix, upmixing has a lot of value.

On its own, the HW-MS750 measured well for a soundbar. Frequency response at 1 meter was smooth from 60 Hz on up. The response extended past 20 kHz in Surround, Sports, and Movie modes, but rolled off a bit earlier in the other sound modes. Because Surround and Sports modes engage the elevation channels and measure the best, I suggest using one or the other for most viewing and listening.

Adding the SWA-W700 sub provided a large boost in overall system capability. At 10 feet from the soundbar, I consistently measured levels above 100 dB (C-weighted, averaged) while playing Bassnectar’s album Cozza Frenzy, with lots of deep, clear bass in the mix.

Blasting pink noise is a tough test of any system because it contains all frequencies. Here, the HW-MS750 surpassed the HW-MS650’s measured output by 10 dB, with or without the sub.

Regardless of genre, listening to music on this system in a 5.1 configuration was a pleasure. I settled into using the Surround mode for just about everything.

In the following video, you can see the subwoofer playing a track I composed called “Pro Fun Ditty.” It contains a continuous barrage of bass, but the sub and soundbar combo handled it without breaking a sweat. I quickly concluded that the SWA-W700 is the best-sounding wireless sub for a soundbar that I’ve heard to date.

This system is good for more than bass-heavy electronic music. You can play “Strawberry Fields” by The Beatles and appreciate the heft of McCartney’s bass, the inflections of Lennon’s voice, and the details in the thick mix of Mellotron sounds. There’s a cornucopia of sound in the track, and the HW-MS750 does not bury any of it.

My go-to torture test for any system is “Disc Wars” from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack. I have never heard a soundbar/subwoofer system (or even a bookshelf-speaker system) do justice to this track. But this time, the Sound+ combo had some real feeling to it, and the London Symphony did not turn to mush when competing with Daft Punk’s synths. In soundbar terms, that scores it an A+.

Of course soundbars are designed for watching TV shows and movies, not just blasting music. And this Sound+ combo handled both tasks well. In today’s movies, bass is a huge part of the immersive experience; it makes explosions feel real, and ominous bass growls and sweeps and drones set the mood of many films. Here, the advantage of going 5.1 by adding the SWA-W700 to the system is clear. Without the sub, the HW-MS750 is a great soundbar. With the sub, it’s simply a great sound system.

I love rewatching Tron: Legacy because it’s essentially one long music video set to Daft Punk’s soundtrack. It’s also a movie full of surround effects and, like the track “Disc Wars,” represents a reference-quality torture test for any system. And the HW-MS750 rose to the task. The Surround mode provided an expansive, enveloping listening experience that transcends what you might think a soundbar can do.

Last night, as my final act before publishing this review, I queued up Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 in UHD on Vudu, set the soundbar to Surround mode, turned up the volume to 11, and pressed play. What I heard was sound that immersed me in the movie; I completely forgot about the fact I was listening to a soundbar. Sure, I probably should have asked Samsung for the wireless surrounds, but this simple setup delivered more immersion than you’d imagine by just looking at it.

The overall effect was more intense than I’ve heard or felt from a soundbar system at this price. Aside from the aesthetic advantages soundbars enjoy, $1200 for this kind of audio fidelity and capability is practically a bargain.


Conclusion

How good is the combination of the HW-MS750 and SWA-W700? On several occasions, I was in my kitchen and forgot that the soundbar was creating the sound I heard. I tried turning down the volume of my stereo, and when nothing happened, I laughed. The bass, the fidelity, and the maximum volume level all surpass what I’m used to hearing from soundbars.

Samsung’s Sound+ HW-MS750 is undoubtedly one of the best performing soundbars you can buy today, and a bargain at $700. It plays deeper and cleaner than competing products at its price point. But when you add the excellent SWA-W700 subwoofer to the mix, magic happens. If you are looking for a soundbar system that can truly compete with an AVR-based system in terms of bass, dynamics, and clarity, this combination should be at the top of your list.