Well, I finally got my Samsung up and running. Since I've been lurking on this forum for a while researching the different bars, I figured I should do my due diligence and contribute my feedback. Since I don't have much more to say about this bar that hasn't already been said in this thread, I've quoted several other replies where I had a similar experience.
In my case, I was shopping for a soundbar to put on my secondary television in the basement, although, this is the television that I primarily use. The bar's primary purpose would be to improve the sound over the built-in speakers on my Panasonic television, especially the dialogue. In order to sell this idea to my wife, my budget was: as low as possible! Due to this, I initially looked at the pair of low-budget Yamahas: the 107 and the 207. However, this bar, as well as several others, went on sale for $300 during the Christmas sales, so I jumped. I chose this bar over other bars due to several factors: the advertised "no sub required", it's 3.0 output with optional expansion to a full 5.1 system, the ruggedness of it (ie, it has a metal grill cloth instead of a cloth one, which is important when you have kids and a cat), and of course the good reviews!
Due to a combination of the sale and some gift cards, I purchased the bar for $150 (out of pocket) from Crutchfield. As usual, Crutchfield was great, and the bar showed up in a few days. As others have noted, this thing is heavy! I was also impressed with the finishing details. The appearance of the metal brushing and the overall sturdiness of the bar are hard to appreciate until you can see and feel it in person.
I initially tried hooking up the bar through the ARC on my TV, which is connected to my cable box. That worked great...for about a day. Then the TV would randomly "forget" that it was supposed to be controlling the sound bar, and it would lose sync. Additionally, the sound bar has separate input setting for HDMI IN (from the cable box) and HDMI ARC (from the TV). So any time I tried to switch from the cable box to the Roku or Game, I would have to change the input on the soundbar, as well. Super annoying. I finally ripped out the ARC cables and connected it with a digital audio cable from the TV out and use my universal remote to control the sound bar. Oh, hey, guess what? This is exactly what Ellebob said to do!
Originally Posted by Ellebob
There is a reason why on many systems installers often turn off ARC/CEC and use optical or if the sound bar has multiple HDMI input then plug all the devices into it instead of the TV. Then use a decent universal remote to control the system.
So, now that it was set up, how does it sound? The answer is, initially, pretty disappointing. As others have noted, the volume is pretty low on this thing. I don't have an SPL gauge or anything, but I usually listen to my TV at about 20-25 (I think out of 50), and I listen to the soundbar at about...20. So volume-wise, it's about the same as my TV. After I got over the initial disappointment, I realized this is actually a good thing, as it give a more granular control at the levels I actually listen at. However, if you're expecting to blown away by sound, look elsewhere:
Originally Posted by Ellebob
If you need SPL, go big or go home. Sound bars or speakers to play louder need bigger speaker drivers. A 2.0 or 2.1 system would be better if you need more volume. If a sound bar fits your application then look for ones with larger drivers like 4" or greater and has a decent sub or can use a separate sub. Small speakers can only do so much.
But sound-wise, how is it? Pretty good, actually. Really good. I did not get the optional sub, but I found the bass response to be pretty fantastic, actually. After tinkering with the sound fields, I finally settled on "Clear Voice", although I debated between that and "Standard". Clear Voice seems to sacrifice some of the lower mid-range for an emphasis on the upper mid-range, without sounding as over-processed as "Music" or "Sports", which just seemed to add reverb. Maybe they sound OK with the surround speakers. I appreciated the depth of field that I got from "Movie", but I found it tiring to listen to after an hour or so (it actually gave me headache.)
After getting everything set up, the first thing I put on was Part 2 of "The Pacific", as I had just watched it on Prime Video through my Roku over Thanksgiving. I could tell right from the orchestral opening that this thing cranks on the low end. I was able to hear string basses and a bass drum punch in the opening theme that aren't even there when watched on my TV. Then the action kicks in. With the "Clear Voice" enabled, I could easily hear the soldiers screaming over the gunfire. I had to subtitles when playing through my TV speakers! Next up: Dr Who. I don't know what it about Dr Who, but I can never understand what they're saying. It might be the accents, but it likely has to do with how it is mixed, as I don't have a problem with the Top Gear/Grand Tour guys. This was again streaming through Amazon Prime Video on my Roku. Annnnddd...Success! I could clearly discern all of the syllables from Matt Smith.
So, it sounds great, what are the problems? I really only have 3:
1) There is no mute button. Why? I can't use the mute on my television cause I have a soundbar. Seems pretty basic to me.
2) It's advertised as 3.0 sound bar, but it only decodes DTS 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1. So the center channel actually only gets used if you feed it a DD signal, which is truly a wasted opportunity. Why waste all the effort of including the 3 speakers that make up the center channel and not give it the ability to actually decode those formats?
Originally Posted by mtbdudex
- Only decodes DD 5.1 and DTS 2.0. Critically makes actually using the centre channel of this bar difficult.
3) And this is the one that really gets me: stereo separation. My previous experience with sound bars has only really been at the store or at friend's house during noisy football games. I've never owned one, much less watched a movie on one. Although I was purchasing this primarily as a dialogue enhancer, this product is billed as 3.0 speaker system, yet the speakers are so close there is essentially no separation between any of the channels. During the ambush at Guadalcanal scene in The Pacific, all of the bullets sound like they are coming from the television. When watching on my living room system (even in 3.1), there is a clear separation between the 3 front channels. Dialogue comes of the center channel and bullets are coming from all 3. You can really tell that the soldiers are surrounded and it really heightens the drama of the situation. Maybe I got my hopes up and was expecting too much out of a sound bar and this a fault of all sound bars. Or maybe I just needed to spend a LOT more, but then, why not just buy a small system?
Originally Posted by mtbdudex
b) my expectations for sound separation were too high, or more likely my layout not appropriate in general.
I'm truly struggling with my own expectations of what a soundbar can deliver in terms of separation and imaging vs separate bookshelf speakers that are more widely seperated.
Overall, though, this soundbar not only sounds great, it does what I bought it for, and for the price I paid ($150), I don't think I could have gotten a better deal, so I am keeping it. However, I feel somewhat like it's a missed opportunity of what was advertised and expected versus what I actually received.
Let me know if you have any questions, I'll do my best to answer!
A pic of my setup, please excuse the audio cable, I haven't routed it through the wall yet!