Samsung Soundbar Sound+ 6-Series/HW-MS650
Physical Appearance/Aesthetics: The tastefully designed Soundbar Sound Plus’ 9 speakers are housed in a sleek, minimalist, understated-yet-sophisticated, dark titan/sterling silver-colored brushed aluminum rectangular chassis w/beveled edges/curves. The logo-free black metal speaker grill complements the substantial build quality, providing the look/feel of a hi-quality/hi-end soundbar. The small, text-only, 3-character LED display located on the far right side is hidden behind the grill, & displays audio source, sound modes, inputs, & menu options clearly. It can be toggled off if you’d rather not see it.
-A hefty 13½ lbs.
-A substantial 42” wide x 3” high x 5” deep
Con: The Soundbar+ sits too high on my TV stand in front of my Sony X900B 4K LED TV, partially blocking the bottom of the TV & hampering its ability to receive signal from the TV remote. (My TV & TV stand room placement don't allow for a wall-mounted option.)
-ARC HDMI port: clearly the best way to connect to TV/Blu-ray, as it can transmit higher res audio & specific signals that optical can’t. Yet the Soundbar+ doesn’t come w/an HDMI cable; it comes w/only 1 optical cable, & the manual shows optical as the preferred connection.
-Digital Optical (TosLink) port for non-ARC-ready TVs
-3.5mm analogue auxiliary port for portable devices
-Wireless: Bluetooth & Wi-Fi
Connectivity/Compatibility Problems: The Samsung MW-MS650 Soundbar+ functions best when paired w/the latest Samsung Smart TVs. When pairing w/competing TV brands, it seems to have compatibility issues when it comes to seamless connectivity & full functionality, especially when it comes to pairing it w/my top-of-the-line Sony X900B big-screen LED 4K TV, which IS equipped w/4K HDMI pass-thru w/ARC (Audio Return Channel). Even though I made sure that my Sony’s HDMI CEC (Consumer Electronics Control) functionality was activated in the TV’s setup menu, I still found “no joy” when initially attempting to connect the 2 units. I had great difficulty attempting to connect via optical cable (the instruction manual’s preferred/recommended method). After a full hour of separate troubleshooting sessions w/both Sony & Samsung level-2 tech support reps (w/case # documentation), both reps reluctantly admitted that there seemed to be areas of “proprietary incompatibility”. Eventually, I was able to connect via HDMI ARC-ready, but this required a cumbersome & exacting ‘power off—plug in—power up’ sequence in order to make it work. Again, this Samsung soundbar is meant, primarily, to be paired w/other newer model Samsung TVs. As proof, I was able to quickly achieve both HDMI & digital optical connectivity w/my little Samsung UN32J6300 Smart TV in the kitchen, which is neither a big-screen TV (just 32”) nor a 4K TV (just 1080p full HD). But w/my Sony big-screen, 4K Smart TV, both digital optical & even Bluetooth connectivity proved to be a bridge too far. I also tried to connect the Soundbar+ w/my new HP All-in-1 PC via HDMI & Bluetooth. While the HDMI option was successful, Bluetooth was sketchy w/a slight, out-of-sync delay while watching video. Furthermore, the Soundbar+ even gives the physical appearance of being made to pair w/their new Samsung TVs, w/its brushed metal look, the exact same power cord, & the ability to provide power to the TV w/a separately purchased cord. Samsung seems to be attempting to do what Sony tried to do in the ‘80s & what Apple has done over the last several years—create a proprietary home entertainment ecosystem. The drawback in this case, at least in my view, is that the increasingly proprietary compatibility features make it difficult to consider components like the MS650 Soundbar+ as a “universal” or interchangeable soundbar for those w/competing TV brands like Sony.
It’s worth noting that even loyal Samsung customers have complained, including on Samsung’s own website, that the MS650 Soundbar+ has ARC-compatibility issues w/2013 Samsung Smart TVs, such that the Samsung TVs don’t recognize that they have the Samsung Soundbar+ connected to them, even when receiving audio.
Surprisingly Full Feature Set at This Price Point ($450):
-3-channel (left, right, center) hi-res
-Multi-Speaker Array includes:
-9 individually-powered custom drivers
-6 woofers & 3 tweeters
-ARC (Audio Return Channel) output provides 4K pass thru w/HDR (Hi Dynamic Range)
-Built-in Bluetooth: 2.4/5GHz, but, unfortunately, no aptX support
-Built-in Wi-Fi w/wireless music streaming
-Multiroom & Surround Sound-supported app to integrate w/music services.
Note: When I connected to Wi-Fi w/the Soundbar+, I experienced frequent connect/disconnect episodes & the accompanying display message, even when I used it for HDMI audio. The irritating repeat notifications grow old quickly when watching a movie.
-Only 1 single HDMI port, unfortunately: a couple more HDMI ports would’ve been helpful to prevent having to connect all our sources (Blu-ray player & Xbox, etc.) to the TV & pass audio to the Soundbar+.
-Single slim remote for Soundbar+/TV w/discrete volume/bass controls
-TV power-out socket: just 1 power cable for Samsung TV & Soundbar
-Codecs: Supports both Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 2.0
-No Dolby Atmos support, unfortunately
Sound: Even w/the six 4” x 2” mid/bass drivers (2 per channel), the avg.-to-very weak bass was a huge disappointment. The Soundbar+ simply lacks the gut punch of a separate subwoofer. I’m all for clean, compact, & minimalist design, but not at the expense of such a dramatic loss of bass performance. While the Soundbar+ offered better sound than my Samsung J6300 resident rear TV speakers, it was nowhere near as good as my Sony X900B resident front-facing speakers. (The Sony X900B has Magnetic Fluid Speaker technology to reproduce faithful hi-fi sound from a compact loudspeaker. Combined w/S-Force Front Surround 3D w/virtual 5.1 sound, it creates an enlarged audio 'sweet spot'.) Add to that my small Sony SWF-BR100/B 100W Wireless Subwoofer, w/which the Samsung Soundbar+ was incompatible, & the Soundbar+ just can’t compete. Even at max volume, the Soundbar+ really isn’t that loud, & it offers nowhere near the bass of my small wireless satellite subwoofer. It certainly wasn’t “earth-shattering” as their ad claims. In fact, the increase in volume from mid-level to high is so minimal that it’s hard to tell the difference in levels w/o a sudden jump in volume. So, if the Soundbar+ can’t match the superior sound I get from my Sony TV’s resident TV speakers w/wireless sub combo, why buy the soundbar?
I scrolled thru all 5 presets & sampled the different modes:
-Standard: Sounds fairly neutral like you’d expect from a good stereo system. This is pretty much the default mode that I stayed w/80% of the time when watching cable TV.
-Movie: Offers more of a big-screen soundtrack feel, but it’s far from fully immersive. I toggled to this mode to watch a film on Ultra-HD Blu-ray. If anything, it highlights the need for a quality Surround Sound system if you want to experience a fully immersive soundstage effect.
-Music: I couldn’t tell much difference between Music & Standard.
-Clear Voice: I switched to this mode when my hearing-impaired grandfather visited, better enabling him to make out the speech/dialogue segments. But there’s a trade-off w/some loss of fidelity.
-Sports: To me, it’s just louder. But it does make voices clearer w/o diminishing the residual audio the way that Clear Voice does.
-Individual EQ Component Mode: If you’re really into fine tuning/tweaking & want to pursue some imagined perfect tonal balance, there’s a hidden setting that offers access to a 7-band EQ. But the 5 presets will probably provide more options than you’ll ever use.
Surround Sound: This mode is supposed to add depth & space, but Samsung’s decoding seems noticeably inadequate here. Unimpressed w/the simulated spatial distribution effect, I went back to the default Standard preset, which sounds fairly neutral.
Smart Sound: I also tried the Smart Sound feature, which is supposed to select the best settings via digital optimization for the particular content you’re playing. With Smart Sound, all you have to do is adjust the discrete volume & bass controls to your liking. But even w/this digital optimization & manually bumping up the bass, I never felt like the bass was adequate, as the audio still sounded tinny. So, I went back to tinkering w/the bass, treble, & audio sync settings to tweak up the bass, but I still couldn’t get the punchy bass level I was looking for, at least as compared to my Sony SWF-BR100/B 100W Wireless Subwoofer that’s paired w/my Sony X900B TV, which, in itself, has 2 subwoofers in the 6 front-facing resident speakers.
Remedy?: Unless/until I can try Samsung’s soon-to-be-released separate/dedicated subwoofer in combo w/the Soundbar+, the MS650 simply does not currently offer the depth, bass, & volume required to fully enjoy movies & music the way they were intended. Even w/total system power of 180W RMS & a +6 bass setting, there’s something major missing across almost the entire volume range. There’s simply not enough oomph or depth of sound! Unfortunately, ‘tepid’ & ‘lackluster’ are the best descriptors for the audio product delivered by the Soundbar+. For the size, weight, & cost of the Soundbar+, I expected a great deal more.
Pricing: Overpriced at $450 for a subpar value w/muted bass/volume.
Bottom Line: Due to the glaringly weak bass, the Soundbar+ doesn’t bring enough punch & isn’t ready for primetime, at least not until the Bass+ wireless subwoofer finally ships & I can test the system w/its sorely needed complement. So, I can’t recommend this in its current configuration, as there are much better options at comparable cost.