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Friday
Jul082016

Podcast #747: Samsung HW-K450 Soundbar Review


Braden recently upgraded some of the gear in his loft because his boys were demanding a 4k television. There’s something to be said about raising a new generation of home theater enthusiasts, especially when they can help you gang up on the finance committee. They were approved for the purchase of a Vizio E70u-d3, but since we’ve already reviewed the Vizio P702ui-B3, we’ll skip the TV review and talk about what the boys decided to buy to upgrade sound in their loft, the Samsung HW-K450 Soundbar.

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Samsung HW-K450 Soundbar Review

Braden recently upgraded some of the gear in his loft because his boys were demanding a 4k television. There’s something to be said about raising a new generation of home theater enthusiasts, especially when they can help you gang up on the finance committee. They were approved for the purchase of a Vizio E70u-d3, but since we’ve already reviewed the Vizio P702ui-B3, we’ll skip the TV review and talk about what the boys decided to buy to upgrade sound in their loft, the Samsung HW-K450 Soundbar.

 

About the Soundbar

Despite the higher quoted MSRP, you can pick up the Samsung HW-K450 for just under $200 pretty much anywhere it is sold, including Amazon or even direct from Samsung. Prime shipping will save you some money and get it to you faster, unless you head out and pick it up (for the same price coincidently) from Best Buy or another brick and mortar retailer. At $200, we knew it wasn’t going to blow us away, but when you’re already $1600 in on the TV, you don’t want to push your luck.

And the Samsung does have a few features that made it a better choice than similar priced models from other models from other manufacturers.  The spec sheets lists the features as:

 

  • 300W nominal output power for dynamic sound.
  • Wireless subwoofer for powerful bass.
  • Dolby Digital decoder reproduces multichannel audio to deliver a cinematic audio experience.
  • Sleek appearance fits seamlessly along most HDTVs for a streamlined look.
  • Includes HDMI input and output
  • Built-in Bluetooth makes it easy to enjoy tracks from on a compatible Bluetooth-enabled device.
  • Supports a variety of file formats including WAV, WMA, AAC, MP3, FLAC and OGG, so you can enjoy your favorite media.
  • Wall-mountable with the included bracket.

 

 

Setup

If you aren’t wall mounting the HW-K450, setup is a breeze.  The soundbar is small enough to sit below many TVs; we have it sitting on the table below the Vizio and it doesn’t interfere with the picture at all. You plug it into power, add the cables you need for sound from your various devices, and that’s it. Then you plug the wireless subwoofer into the wall somewhere and when they start up, they locate each other and pair automatically. This all happened for us without issue and we had the soundbar in service in about 5 minutes.

If you want to mount the Soudbar to the wall, you can using the included wall mount brackets.  However, the soundbar doesn’t include the screws or drywall anchors needed to secure the brackets to your wall, so you’ll need to make a quick run to your local home improvement or hardware store for those. We didn’t wall mount ours, but it is pretty small and light, so we wouldn't anticipate any issues hanging it above or below your wall mounted TV. Just a couple screws and you’re set.

 

Performance and Use

We know what you’re thinking: you bought a Samsung for audio? What were you thinking? Samsung isn’t exactly world renowned for audio gear and sound quality. While that is true, we were pleasantly surprised by how much better it sounded than just using the TV. Audio had much more punch and we could get much higher volumes without the audio distorting or everything blending together into one big mush of sound. For music, it probably wouldn’t delight your ears, but for television and movies it does a really solid job. Without the included subwoofer, it would have been pretty lackluster. The sub certainly adds the boom you need to feel the experience of an action movie.

There were times when watching high action movies that the dialog could get lost in the rest of the action. This happens with a lot of lower end audio gear, not just soundbars.  Delivering crisp dialog even among a mess of other noise and sound effects isn’t easy to do. And as most have probably experienced, simply increasing the volume doesn’t solve the problem. While we don’t think the Samsung HW-K450 is the best audio solution out there, or even the best soundbar out there, it actually does sound really good and makes movie watching better for sure.

While Samsung talks about a feature called Surround Sound Expansion, saying it “delivers more realistic and immersive audio experience that feels like it’s coming right out of your TV”. We didn’t get any sort of surround sound at all.  The sound coming from the front of the room was great. To say we heard anything to the side or behind us would be a stretch. To solve that, Samsung offers the optional SWA-8000S Wireless Surround Kit for $130. It includes a little wireless surround sound amp and two speakers so you can truly have sound all around you.

The unit includes Bluetooth so you can stream audio to it from your smartphone or tablet. Like we already said, it isn’t a super impressive device for music, but if you’re starting with compressed audio and running it over bluetooth, you don’t really need much.  When we tested it out, we’d get the occasional hiccup in the music, most likely due to interference from the Bluetooth subwoofer, but perhaps from other interference in the house. It didn’t bother us too much, but if you plan to use your soundbar for a lot of bluetooth audio, it could be a deal breaker.

The one feature that pushed the HW-K450 over the top for us was the presence of HDMI, more specifically HDMI output and passthru. It’s odd that many soundbars on the market today don’t include an HDMI input, but that is slowly changing. However, HDMI output and passthru, especially in the $200 price range is pretty rare. The HW-K450 will pass 3D and 1080p thru to your TV, but not 4K. So we admit it isn’t a perfect match for a 4K television, but the HDMI passthru makes setup and installation much simpler.  Simpler, in fact, than we were even expecting due to the support for ARC (Audio Return Channel).

In our setup we connected the Cable Box to the Soundbar with HDMI, then ran the HDMI output from the Soundbar to the TV.  We also connected an Amazon Fire TV box to the Soundbar with an optical audio cable and ran another HDMI directly to the TV.  It turns out the optical audio cable was unnecessary. The TV discovered that the soundbar supported ARC and used the established HDMI connection instead. We could potentially remove the HDMI cable from the Soundbar input and run it straight to the TV, using ARC from the TV for all inputs to the soundbar. This would mean we’d never have to change inputs on the Soundbar, just on the TV, making setup and use super easy.

In addition to ARC, the soundbar supports HDMI-CEC, so it will turn on when you turn on your TV and turn off when you turn off the TV.  It also allows you to control volume with your TV remote. So if you don’t have a universal remote, the TV remote essentially becomes one.  That was a pretty cool surprise (we should have known had we thought about it).

 

Conclusion

At $200 you don’t expect the Samsung HK-450 to blow you away, but for us, we really enjoyed the audio experience, especially for TV and movies. The included subwoofer is a great touch and the inclusion of HDMI is stellar. If you have more money, there are better options out there. If you’re on a budget, the Samsung is great. And if you’re scared about what the finance committee is going to do to you when they find out how much you spent, the HK-450 is perfect.


 

 

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