The soundbar market represents one of the very few areas of growth for the major manufacturers in the audio world, hence the reason we are starting to see so many. We can understand the reason for this because almost every flat panel TV we see – and we see our fair share – possesses puny speakers whose sound simply doesn’t don’t do justice to the glorious high definition images on screen, not to mention the fact soundbars are convenient and relatively wire-free when compared to a typical 5.1, or even 7.1, speaker set up. In other words, you’ve far more chance of the other half consenting to one or two speakers than six or eight.
The Samsung HW-E450 is a plain and simple entrant to the market, unlike the Samsung HW-E551, which featured the option of a bar or traditional stereo configuration and the HT-E8200, that packed in a Blu-ray disc drive and a ton of smart features. Whilst the former was successful, the latter disappointed for its sluggish subwoofer and ungainly proportions. Samsung love to innovate, let’s see how they get on when playing it straight…
Design and Installation
The E450 is fairly unremarkable in its design. It’s a two piece ensemble consisting of the main unit and a wireless subwoofer. Unlike the HT-E8200, the proportions of the bar itself - 906 x 45 x 70mm (WxHxD) – means it’s very unlikely to get in the way of the bottom of your screen if placing on a stand or rack, unless your TV is incredibly low slung. There is the option of mounting on a wall of course, courtesy of a supplied bracket mount. We’re not about to start drilling in to the walls every time a new product comes in but even our almost criminal lack of DIY skills wouldn’t have been challenged by the two screw (not supplied) set up. The main speaker unit weighs less than 2kg but still feels reasonably solid and well-constructed but the type of piano black plastic chosen for the casing is the proverbial dust magnet so OCD sufferers be warned.
Connectivity options are reasonable but with only one HDMI input, you’ll be hoping your TV supports Audio Return Channel through one of its HDMI inputs to effectively double the number of digital audio/video connections. The inputs and outputs are mainly spread across the rear of the soundbar in two recesses and with a bit of careful cable management it should be possible to wire everything up in tidy fashion. Elsewhere there’s a S/PDIF Digital Audio in, an Aux connector for your phone/MP3 player/tablet and a USB input on the side, close to which are touch sensitive controls for power, volume and functions. The front of the bar features a display panel showing your currently selected input and acknowledgements of any alterations in settings you may make.
he subwoofer unit is considerably more weighty than the speaker bar, tipping the scales at over 5kg, but it’s hardly a big boy in the world of subs. It too is largely encased by piano black plastic but there’s a fabric finish over to one side. The sub is rear ported and communicates to the main unit wirelessly using the 5.2/5.8GHz band, giving it a claimed range of around 9m. Whilst we wouldn’t expect many would need such a distance between the two, there’s no doubt of the convenience of being able to place it pretty much wherever you want without having a wire trailing.
The remote control is quite plain and just a little too small for our tastes but that does mean it fits comfortably into the palm of your hand. Button placement is sensible, however and all the ‘main’ controls - on/off, source selection, volume, mute, subwoofer level, DSP sound effect selection – are easily within reach. If you have your TV connected to it by ARC, then we’d imagine most of you would want to use that for volume control. Additionally, the remote can be used to control a Samsung TV, although we’d suspect the reverse case is more likely to happen.
Since there’s no GUI (Graphical User Interface) present with the HW-E450, one is reliant on a combination of the remote and visual display during operation. There’s no issue with that but it would have been nice to have had the option of configuring speaker distance. There is the small matter of linking the subwoofer up to the bar before you get going but that should be a trifling matter, since its linking ID is preset in the factory, so the subwoofer should link automatically when switched on. If you do experience any difficulties with the link, then there’s a ‘reset’ operation described in the user manual but we had no cause to access the process. The connection is indicated by the Link LED on the top of the subwoofer, which lights up blue. When the main unit has been off for over 20 minutes, the subwoofer will go into standby mode and the standby light will come on. However once you turn the main unit back on, the subwoofer will immediately exit standby mode and reactivate.
Selecting your input is done via the SAT Source Button and the display gives feedback as you cycle through the available options. Conveniently there are independent volume controls for both the subwoofer and main unit on the remote and a shared mute control that will hush them both. There’s also a control for setting an audio delay in case you have a ‘laggy’ display, a DRC (Dynamic Range Control) for more low-level listening and buttons for engaging the DSP (Digital Sound Processing) modes of the HW-E450 that are labelled 3D SOUND and SOUND EFFECT. We’ll discuss the merits of those later in the review but the sound modes available from the Effect button are Music, News, Drama, Cinema, Sports and Game. Should you so wish – and we’re struggling to imagine why you might – the Speaker button switches between the TV and Soundbar audio output in an ARC set up and there’s the ability to dim the brightness of the visual display, via the Dimmer button, and we don’t struggle to imagine why you would want to do that. All in all, the HW-E450 proved extremely user friendly and responsive but we’d perhaps suggest the ability to pass audio via HDMI whilst in standby might prove useful.
Samsung describes the HW-E450 as a Crystal Surround Air Track Active Speaker System which is just a fancy way of describing a 2.1 speaker system with an active subwoofer. The term Air Track relates to Samsung’s proprietary three-way Air Track speaker, which means that the speaker can be positioned either vertically or horizontally but that’s not really an option with this unit unless you have a penchant for the bizarre. The Crystal part of the description relates to the Crystal Amplifier Plus, which is Samsung’s proprietary digital amplifier technology. Samsung claim that the amplifier is designed to filter sound sources twice to minimise distortion.
The inclusion of Bluetooth is a genuinely useful feature and means that you can easily pair the HW-E450 to a compatible device such as an iPod or smartphone and listen to music. Once paired the device’s name scrolls across the E450’s front display before showing the word CONN and [Air Track] E450 appears on the device. The HW-E450 supports Middle Quality SBC data (up to 237kbps at 48kHz) but it does not support High Quality SBC data (328kbps at 44.1kHz). In addition, only one Bluetooth device can be paired at a time and once paired, the range is up to 10m. The E450 can also play music from a connected USB device connected to the port at the side of the speaker bar. In the case of both Bluetooth and USB connected devices, the E450 is limited to MP3 and WMA files. The USB port can also be used for any future software upgrades by downloading the update files from the internet and copying them to a USB drive.
If you connect a Blu-ray player, DVD player or digital TV receiver to the HW-E450 you can take advantage of the built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoders. This is another useful feature as it allows the user to benefit from the full discrete 2.1-channel audio, rather than being limited to a stereo downmix. Whilst the HW-E551 doesn't include Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio this is no great loss because given the limitations of the speakers and the 2.1 channels, it is unlikely you would really be able to take advantage of the higher resolution formats. Finally, the HW-E450 includes Samsung’s Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC) function, which allows you to control other compatible devices with your Samsung remote control.
Although Samsung claim the HW-E450 is capable of outputting 80W per channel through the stereo speakers and 120W from the subwoofer, clearly that’s stretching the truth somewhat as it’s nothing like that powerful. To be fair, though, there’s more than enough oomph to fill the average – and we use the word lightly – living room with sound. As we mentioned earlier, the HW-E450 is possessed of a number of DSP (Digital Sound Processing) Modes and whilst it’s certainly worth experimenting to find one that suits your taste, we were happy with the ‘vanilla’ performance. As with the HT-E8200 that went before it, the 3D modes felt a little gimmicky and unless you’re able to situate the E450 in a room incredibly sympathetic to having sound bounced around it – i.e. a box – you’ll struggle to get any sense of surround effects coming through. No matter, however, as the native performance with Dolby Digital and DTS, in particular, was very good. Despite its lesser proportions and specification, the subwoofer of the HW-E450 sounded a little more crisp and immediate than that of the 8200. It’s not going to rock you out of your armchair but it does convey a decent enough kick, far and away better than anything you’ll get from your average flat-panel TV.
We never thought we’d say these words but having been forced to endure the recent X-Factor Final, some of the performances were actually (quite) enjoyable thanks to the HW-E450 and in general it copes with musical challenges well. It lacks the separation of a conventional stereo pair but the soundstage is wide enough to be convincing and the Bluetooth streaming capabilities from your mobile device means you can do justice to those MP3’s you have stored on their or in the cloud. Moving on to a few movies and we first chucked in Happy Feet 2 and the 5.1 DTS track with its mixture of music and extensive use of surround effects sounded very pleasing indeed. If you are in a room where the surround effects get lost, engaging the minimum 3D effect should sound good, particularly if you are sat fairly close to the bar. More animated fare in Brave proved the sub was up to the task of handling most of the ‘scary’ effects dotted through the movie. If the low frequency speaker can do enough to frighten the family, it’s doing enough in our book. With the kids locked up for the night we were able to sit down to a spot of District 9 whose numerous instances of low, rumbling bass again gave the sub a good workout. There was a sense that some of that was being subdued by its technical limitations but, still, the HW-E450 never completely lost the plot and the bountiful supply of ‘splat’ effects as body parts were cast asunder were ‘sensitively’ handled.
Overall, we were generally impressed by the all-round capabilities of the HW-E450. We still prefer the separation and dynamics of a conventional speaker set up, in however many channels, but the E450 is certainly up to the rigours of most challenges and is in a whole other league compared to the paltry efforts of modern day TVs.
- Impressive sound quality
- Easy to set up
- Wireless subwoofer
- Bluetooth compatible
- Build quality could be better
- Remote is a little uninspired
I own this0
I want this0
I had this0
Samsung HW-E450 2.1 Soundbar with subwoofer Review
The HW-E450 is sensibly mainstream in design, meaning it will sit happily beneath your television on a rack or stand without impinging on to the viewing area. The piano black plastic casing of the bar whilst looking quite stylish does gather dust at an alarming rate of knots so keep a microfiber cloth handy. The rear ported subwoofer, which communicates to the main unit wirelessly, is hewn of the same material but there’s also a fabric finish over to one side. The remote is a bit basic and cramped, although easy enough to use but connectivity might be a bit limited for those without an ARC enabled TV, as it only provides one HDMI input. Set up was the proverbial breeze, thanks to the factory preset pairing of subwoofer and speaker and once you’re all connected the needful lack of options means that operation couldn’t be simpler; select input, choose preferred sound mode and set volume.
The HW-E450 is certainly capable of filling the averagely sized room with plenty of sound and whilst the pseudo-surround 3D modes aren’t likely to provide a particularly enveloping experience, for most, the native attributes of the package mean that it will put to shame those nasty little speakers hiding in the back of your TV. The sub is fairly tight and although it lacks a bit of detail when the rumble factor is very high, it’s certainly passable at this price-point. The HW-E450 seemed almost equally at home with music as it did movies but it was with DTS film soundtracks where it performed best. That said, the inclusion of Bluetooth technology is sure to please those with music stored on or through their mobile device as it makes streaming a breeze.
The Samsung HW-E450 is a pleasing little package that will brighten up the sounds coming from your TV, whilst not taking up a lot of living room space nor creating unseemly trails of cable making partner approval factor high. We’d always elect to go with separate speakers, where possible, but for those that aren’t able or not permitted the HW-E450 certainly merits audition.
|Surround Sound Formats
||HDMI with ARC
|Digital Audio Inputs Optical
|Analogue Audio Inputs RCA