Home Reviews Entertainmnent Samsung raises the bar in 2017 for sound bars and TV (review)

Samsung raises the bar in 2017 for sound bars and TV (review)

Samsung’s latest Quantum Dot TVs and its Sound+ range of sound bars are among the best on offer in 2017. And they all work together flawlessly.

Samsung’s journalist in-situ review programme allows media to see, hear and play with the latest entertainment tech. This review included:

So how do you review this kit? Simple, check into a nice nominated hotel, sit for a few hours watching a 4K HDR movie, look at 4K Netflix content and try out every possible permutation of TV, sound bar, subwoofer, effects and room position.

Q9 – a UHD, 65” flat, Quantum Dot TV

I have spent a lot of time with both the top-of-the-range Quantum Dot (QLED) and the top-of-the-range OLED – which is better in 2017?

 SS Q9 TV

There is but a hair’s breadth between them. Samsung’s QLED has an amazingly good picture, is perhaps a little punchier in daylight, and fits into the Samsung Smart Home, Smart Hub, smart phone, smart everything ecosystem. In other word’s there can be other reasons to buy Samsung other than its TV quality.

And yes, I will mention its South Korean rival LG who make the world’s best OLED TVs. Its 2017 models have Dolby Vision (a superset of HDR10) and Dolby Atmos sound. The difference is that OLED has self-illuminating pixels which can be individually controlled whereas QLED uses an edge-lit system and a number of dimming zones. That is why only OLED can support Dolby Vision in a similar way AMOLED can support VR in smartphones whereas LED/LCD cannot.

But back to reality – these are the best of the best TVs, and are eye wateringly expensive – $6498 for the 65” Samsung Q9, and a Dolby Vision equipped LG from $7999. If you are looking for a sub-$1000 TV, please don’t read on.

And you have to ask if the picture quality is that different over a sub-$1000 TV or for that matter Samsung versus LG?

The simple answer is that 50% of people buy in the value-range, 40% in the mid-range, and 10% in the stratosphere and all are happy.

I have seen Hisense, TCL and other low-cost brands and they do a creditable job of displaying a clear and colourful image. If that is all you can afford, go for it and forget QLED, OLED, Dolby Vision, HDR10, Dolby Atmos – ignorance is bliss.

But sit back, relax, put on 4K HDR content and it must be shown on a premium TV. I don’t know how better to describe it – the pleasure of having the world’s best picture (be it QLED or OLED) and an amazing sound system to complement it.

The Q9 has:

  • Quantum Dot technology: which produces 100% of the colour volume in bright or dark environments
  • Resolution: 3840 x 2160 or UHD
  • Colour: 10-bit for 1024 (Red) x 1024 (Green) x 1024 (Blue) = Over 1 Billion Colours
  • High Dynamic Range: Samsung claims QHDR 2000 (2000 nits) which is its marketing term for HDR10 compatibility combined with a larger contrast and brightness range
  • Motion rate: 200Hz
  • Sound: Dolby Digital, DTS
  • TV Sound: 60W
  • Comms: Ethernet, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, 4 X HDMI, 3 x USB, 1 x Component, 1 x Optical – all via a separate breakout box that attaches to TV via an almost invisible clear cable.
  • Size/Weight: 7 x 829.3 x 24.9 mm x 291.kg (plus choice of stands or wall mount)

SS MS750 wall mount

After watching Expendables 3 — a 2014, 4K, UHD, HDR, 7.1 sound movie  I can say that I was thoroughly impressed with the TV. The movie well, OK it was a good, old school, action film that I selected not because of the cast or plot, but because very little green/blue screen CGI was used was shot outside in the fictional country of Azmenistan (pronounced Arse-meany-stan) in a fictional deserted, derelict, high-rise hotel/casino.

There were massive explosions, fires, dark scenes, and bright outdoors – the HDR and QLED handled these with aplomb. I switched HDR off and it was like stepping back in time – very flat colours, lack of detail in shadows, overexposure in bright areas etc. Quick turn it back on!

Sound – the MS750, optional subwoofer and wireless satellite rear speakers.

The MS750 sound bar is essentially a 3.1.2 - 11 speakers and amplifiers for a combination of left/centre/right (3), sub-woofers (6 but technically these handle much of the mid-range - the .1.), and front top left and right (2). Note that the front top speakers are up-firing but these are not Dolby Atmos.

SS Q9 header

Add the external wireless sub-woofer and two wireless rear speakers and it becomes a 5.1.2 system.

The MS750 is the latest result of Samsung’s California based Sound Lab (iTWire article here and it is worth reading to get specifications) and it is impressive because of what it has done to the humble sound bar – mainly in increasing its sound dispersion and the ramped up the bass. For a typical apartment lounge up to 25m2, all you need is the sound bar.

But add the extra Woofer, rear surround speakers and the Expendables can blow up everything – and sound good too.

SS MS750 spread

I did not have my decibel meter with me, but to put it in some perspective it was at least twice as loud as the 60W speakers in the TV with far better stereo separation, directionality, and depth – call it a sound stage expansion.

At a guess, I would say it is capable of 110dB (a chainsaw is 120dB, a typical TV speaker is 70-80dB, and conversation is 70dB) – that is very good.

The sound signature presets – standard, music, clear voice, sports, and movie work very well. Although when listening to Stallone not even clear voice stands a chance!

Why is the MS750 ground breaking for a sound bar?

In part, it is because it has 11 speakers and amps but the reality is that six are woofers, five are tweeters (Left/Centre/Right/Front top left/right) – there are no midrange speakers at all.

To do this it has taken the subwoofer cut over from about 150Hz to 700Hz and the tweeters handle 700Hz to 20kHz. This has the effect of making the sound waves “larger” and more coherent. The optional sub-woofer has a lower bass level of 27Hz. In essence, it uses two different types of speaker to do the jobs of three.

SS MS750 distortionThe second is its electronic distortion reduction circuitry. Assume that the sound wave (like a sine wave) is close to perfect in the amplifier but once it hits the speakers it distorts. Here the amplifier analyses how to change the sine wave to match a speaker’s analogue acoustic capabilities to produce as close as possible to the original sound. All I can say is that it works very well with virtually no distortion at any or full volume.

It also has a Smart Sound mode that analyses the audio content and automatically tailors the amp to the best sound.

The final revelation is that it upscales all audio to 32-bit which is superior to 24-bit and 16-bit CD.

This is an impressive Soundbar+. The price is $999, the SWA-W700 subwoofer is $799 and the SWA-8500S wireless rear speakers are $179. But buy the sound bar first and see if you really need the woofer or rear speakers – in most cases for areas up to 25m2 the answer is no.

As the total kit costs nearly $2000 you could be forgiven for looking at Samsung’s 500W, Dolby Atmos, 5.1.4 Series 9, K950 system for $1999 or a dedicated AV amp and 5.1/5.1.2 or 7.1. speaker system, especially if you have a larger lounge room.

Q8 - a 55” curved, Quantum Dot, TV

I had an hour with this 55” curved TV, set up in a typical bedroom setting with the MS750 sound bar so I went Netflix and Stan surfing.

SS Q9 interface

Putting aside that I prefer flat screens, the bedroom setting (where you watch TV from hopefully a sumptuous king-sized bed – doesn’t everyone?) the curvature adds a degree of intimacy as you view it typically from the “right spot” about 3-4 metres away.

It is a series 8 – very much a current model but has HDR 1500 (marketing speak for HDR10 and a 1500 nits brightness/contrast) but again in a bedroom setting where lights are lower it did not make a difference.

It too has a breakout box and near invisible clear cable so it can be wall mounted – important where space saving is an issue.

It has the “one remote”, UHD resolution, 200Mhz motion rate, 60W sound, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

SS Q9 one remote

While Samsung would like me to say that it needed the MS750 sound bar — in this specific bedroom setting — it did not. It produced delightful sound from the TV suitable for smaller spaces. That same delightful sound comes from its Q9 big brother too. Sure, the MS750 adds more oomph but that is not always what you want.

Summary

The Q8 and Q9 Quantum Dot TVs are a visible improvement over the 2016 Q7 series that first used the technology. Apart from the additional HDR rating either series is worthy of the flagship moniker – these are premium, top-class TVs.

And the Soundbar+ series from its Californian audio labs have raised the sound bar from a sound reinforcement speaker to compensate for inadequate TV speakers, to real competition for dedicated 7.1 AV Amps and speakers.

SS MS750 options 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!