Originally Posted by sdg4vfx
How does music sound?
Finally got around to running some music through this bad boy and have some thoughts...
First - I swear by Sonos. I am heavily invested in their gear throughout my house. Had their soundbar provided HDMI ARC/CEC & Atmos I probably would have one of those - but sadly they don't sound like they have any plans to update it.
That aside - Sonos is great for a few reasons :
- whole house audio
- excellent audio quality out of the box with minimal settings to be adjusted (even on the small Play:1)
- awesome integration into multiple sources - from your local network share of *ahem* legal MP3s, to all the latest streaming providers
In the same room, I have a pair of Play:5 in stereo pair mode for comparison.
How does the HW-K950 compare?
Here's how I tested the HW-K950 with music...
My source was my AppleTV. My music library is there as is my iTunes in the cloud, so that is where I got 99% of the time for tunes. So yes, not the highest or purest in quality terms, but its what I listen to and what I'm used to.
My library is also heavily electronic music from the 80s -> today. Very few (US) pop artists, so my ideal sound system may be different than those who are into Jazz, Rock, Classical, etc...
I tested with the following artists via Apple Music: Bob Moses, Comaduster, Depeche Mode, Front Line Assembly, Paul McCartney, Duran Duran, Radiohead, Røyksopp, Peter Heppner & Schiller
Initial play through - the sound immediately seemed off. As in, the vocals all sounded either 'airy' or flat. Only a few tracks (higher bitrate I presume) sounded the closest to ok. Comaduster (break beat, heavy base, glitchy with vocals) seemed mostly ok. Depeche Mode (Music for the Masses) sounded...off. The more popular music - Paul McCarney & Duran Duran seemed ok - as did Peter Heppner. But the vocals on Radiohead & Schiller and most others just seemed wrong. The bass was rich - so that wasn't it. So off to the manual I go...
What I wound up doing was installing the Samsung Multiroom app. This allowed me to connect my soundbar to my iPhone and thus control it as such. Once you navigate to the actual speaker and bring up its settings, low and behold there is a 5 band equalizer buried in there! (the same that my JS9500 displayed once, and only once and won't display again damn buggy TV software) So I played with that, but nothing happened. At least not until I told the app my 'source' was my TV (which it was - Apple TV via HDMI ARC). Now when I tweaked the EQ it took effect.
The default EQ is set to flat (0) across all 5 bands you get. I tried some of the various pre-set values they had (Pop, Jazz, Classical) - they all sounded janky to me. So I put the EQ in the famous 'V' and voila - the speaker sounds perfect! (to me at least) Listening to Prototype by Front Line Assembly, you could very clearly pick out the various layers and samples that put together this masterfully complex and layered track. David Gahan's voice sounded as I remembered it from the classic synth pop album, Music For the Masses. Hands to Hold by Bob Moses boomed to life and sounded very crisp. All great stuff!
I do think the Sonos must do some magical pre-processing for compressed music to make it sound better - as listening to various tracks on the HW-K950, I could still more easily pick out the differences across the tracks I played based on bitrate. But maybe its just me - I don't recall if that's actually a feature or not. (correct me if I'm wrong)
Compared to a stereo pair of Play:5s - the bass was heavier (bigger sub - but the Play:5 is no slouch in this regard either), but the sound quality of the two was about equal. Again, what's nice about the Sonos is that they are mainly plug and play. Very little to tweak to get the optimal sound out of them. The Sonos app user experience (UX) is very easy to navigate. They are built for streaming music as well - that is their main purpose. The HW-K950 will take some adjustments to get it to your liking - and its not very straightforward how you get there. The UX is just horrible. I have a feeling most people would not sort out how to drill through their app to find the EQ settings...let along put together that they needed to set the source in order for it to take effect.
So, yes, this is a very decent system for music. Just be sure to turn off surround though and then setup the EQ via the multi-room app. Personally I will still stick to my Sonos system for music most of the time - but for quick access to something via Apple TV, this does in a pinch. If the Samsung mutliroom system played nicely with the Sonos system, I'd consider moving the Play:5s into another room. (we can dream, right?)
I don't recommend this as purely a music system however - you're really missing out on the main feature if you do so and there are many cheaper alternatives for you if you just want a AVR-less music system.
But as an added feature - so you can add music to another room, or if you're already invested in Samsung's multi-room music then it fits in nicely (in so far as I can tell - honestly, until I read the manual I had no idea Samsung was trying to compete with Sonos in this way).
I did notice that you can stream Tidal via the app to the soundbar. That would make for an interesting test that perhaps I'll look at later (if I can get a 30 day free trial or something). Actual hi-res audio through this would really show it off, I think. I don't have physical media anymore, so I didn't pop a CD in to see how it sounded - those are long gone.