I'm not a hi-fi purist, I swear I'm not. I adore Samsung's The Frame TV, which happily becomes an electronic art gallery when you're not on a one-day full season TV show binge, or playing on your PS5 – and as our IKEA-meets-Sonos Symfonisk Picture Frame with Wi-Fi Speaker review proves, we love an audio solution boasting space-saving style and substance.
Samsung tells us that its new Music Frame is the ideal bit of audio kit to pair with your Samsung TV and/or soundbar, "to be used as a TV speaker, rear speaker, or a subwoofer – and even pair two for more surround sound options."
Is it though? Is it? OK, maybe I prioritize the best wired headphones over the best wireless earbuds for hi-res audio fidelity, but then again, I keep some of the best Bluetooth speakers to hand for their convenience and fun.
As with IKEA's picture frame speaker, Samsung's Music Frame is meant to be hung on your wall and from there, deliver sound. We covered the launch of the Music Frame alongside Samsung's 2024 soundbar rollout, but this is the Samsung CES product that most intrigues me by a wide margin. And it also alarms me.
As with LG's new OLED-toting valve amp DukeBox, Samsung's progeny is the audio innovation we either didn't know we needed or simply didn't ask for – or both! But that's OK, some stonking smash hits are being unveiled at CES 2024 and not all of them will be well-received initially (hello, last year's weirdest products of CES 2023 roundup).
A picture paints a thousand words
The Samsung HW-LS60D (aka the technical name for the Music Frame) is, says Samsung, the world’s first customizable and personalized wireless speaker with a built-in IoT hub.
The Music Frame is unique in that it’s a speaker with the look and feel of a picture frame – where IKEA's is the picture too. You can also use the Music Frame as a standalone Bluetooth or wi-fi enabled speaker (IKEA's option is wi-fi only – although you can use AirPlay) and furthermore, where IKEA's solution requires you to choose from a selection of inoffensive design prints (a visual representation of music and sound; a paint splatter design; something resembling a turntable) the Music Frame lets you display any photograph or printed image, or you could digitally print your favorite memories onto the accompanying 'Art Panel' (a diasec matte acrylic plate).
Music Frame boasts Dolby Atmos sound too. It hides two woofers, two tweeters, and two mid-drivers behind your photo. With Samsung SpaceFit technology, it can also calibrate your audio to your environment. Samsung also promises it has a "wide radial sound range, delivering high-quality and balanced music playback no matter where you’re sitting".
All art is subjective – we decide if it's good or bad
Here's the thing: when I cut my teeth reviewing passive speakers for What Hi-Fi? I learned all about the merits of a two- or three-way speaker pair; towers of passive sonic deliverance that accepted power from a dedicated pre/power amp, then split the frequencies using a crossover, to send to the specific drivers optimized for dealing with them.
I learned the benefits of bass reflex ports to control bass in some of the best stereo speakers; of infinite baffles; of careful placement where one must angle each speaker in towards the ideal listening position – and above all, make sure each speaker is given enough space to operate, at least two feet from the nearest wall to eradicate the pesky sound reflections which negatively impact playback clarity.
And now, here is a speaker whose makers claim you can just stick it on a wall and get excellent immersive sound clarity. Am I convinced? Not initially. You see, dear reader, from an audio perspective this wall-mounted design is everything I was taught to shun. It's literally on a wall, which should mean vibrations, articles, echo – all of the audio nasties.
Then again, I'm a Londoner and I live in a small one bed apartment. From a 'this will beat the audio coming from my TV and won't clutter my home with various dust-gathering speaker boxes' perspective, yes I'll take two, thank you.
Will one of my colleagues actually attending CES 2024 trounce me by going to hear the thing in real life – and then tell me all my concerns are unfounded? Probably. Is it actually one of the best wireless speakers going? Watch this space, I'm coordinating some 'on the ground' coverage as I type…
Check out our CES news page for all the latest news from the show as it happens. We'll be covering everything from 8K TVs and foldable displays to new phones, laptops, smart home gadgets, and the latest in AI, so stick with us for the big stories.
And don’t forget to follow us on TikTok for the latest from the CES show floor!
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Becky is a senior staff writer at TechRadar (which she has been assured refers to expertise rather than age) focusing on all things audio. Before joining the team, she spent three years at What Hi-Fi? testing and reviewing everything from wallet-friendly wireless earbuds to huge high-end sound systems. Prior to gaining her MA in Journalism in 2018, Becky freelanced as an arts critic alongside a 22-year career as a professional dancer and aerialist – any love of dance starts with a love of music. Becky has previously contributed to Stuff, FourFourTwo and The Stage. When not writing, she can still be found throwing shapes in a dance studio, these days with varying degrees of success.