Samsung sells sound to beat 'saturated market'

Samsung Smart TV
Virtually all of Samsung's Blu-ray gear features Smart TV, though without a web browser or 'social TV' apps

"We've got a saturated market where most people have more than one flatscreen TV - and people aren't forking out on a new one just to make it smart," says Chris Moseley, AV product manager at Samsung.

So what to do? Sell 'em a home cinema, of course - and preferably one that includes 3D capabilities and Samsung's Smart Hub.

Away from the Galaxy Tab, the Slate, the Samsung Galaxy Note and a vast array of Smart Hub innovations - including the launch of a YouTube 3D app - a rather quieter corner of the Korean giant's IFA booth in Berlin saw some intriguing home cinema 'solutions'.

We use that term wisely since the two systems that really caught our eye - the HT-D7100 and HT-D7200 - might upset some old hats. But, as Moseley explains to us, these 2.1 systems are just what the buyers of Samsung's ever-slimmer LED TVs need.

"Home theatre isn't necessarily something that only happens in the cinema," he says. "It's going backwards because people aren't always using the full surround set-up."

The HT-D7100 array is nicknamed the 'cube' after the shape the small wireless subwoofer, tiny amp-cum-3D Blu-ray player and twin speakers create if placed together, but it's better thought of as a bookshelf system.


It's designed for a 'second zone', such as a kitchen or living space where speaker clutter is anathema, but we can see it sitting quite happily in a small flat's TV area - ideally below a very flat, wall-hung TV - with the various components hidden between games, books and Blu-rays.

"You can literally lay it out like a bookshelf, or you can put it in with books, or as a cube or as a contention 2.1 layout," says Moseley. The only trouble is, the HT-D7100 is rated at just 110W; don't expect miracles.

Convenience vs quality

That's still a huge improvement on all flatscreen TVs' native sound quality, which Moseley freely admits is pretty woeful. "TVs have less and less usable speakers - the law of physics says that as the TVs get thinner, the speakers get smaller, and the sound gets worse."

Isn't that the fault of Samsung, the undisputed king of thin when it comes to TVs? Of course not - it was you lot that bought them. "Consumers are generally more bothered about convenience than quality," says Moseley.

"Just look at where CD went. It had a choice of going towards Super Audio CD or DVD-Audio, but it actually went to MP3, which doesn't sound as good but you can fit tons of it in your pocket. We're not saying that the TVs aren't good quality, but consumers are saying that they want them to look good when they're switched off as well as on."

Another eye-catching audio product at IFA was the HT-D7200, a £550 system that features bottom-weighted - and rather dangerous-looking - stereo speakers and an upward-facing subwoofer.

At 400W it's a much more powerful product, but it won't be for everyone. "It's a Marmite product," says Moseley, "though those speakers are actually fairly stable."


With all this talk of 2.1, and the encroachment of soundbars, is the traditional 5.1 home cinema a dying art?

"No I don't think so," says Moseley. "If people are after the ultimate quality of surround sound then they go for 5.1 It's understood by me, by you and by the industry, but you ask the layperson on the street what 5.1 is - they'd have no idea." For them, the idea of simple boosting sound quality using stereo speakers is a more understandable proposition.

What about 7.1 - the latest must-have for home cinema aficionados ... or is it? "7.1 is slightly different - it's very niche now. The people that do want 7.1, and want it as separate speakers in a living room, have generally crammed it in. It's pretty hard to create a decent 5.1 in a living environment, let alone 7.1, so it probably won't work as well as a properly set-up 5.1 system."

7.1 in 5.1

With that scenario in mind Samsung has come up with the HT-C6750, a 7.1 system with a 5.1 footprint. "The sixth and seventh channels are in the position that Dolby ProLogic IIz would use," says Moseley.

"If you have a two-channel feed it would post-process into a pseudo 7.1 using those speakers. If you have a DTS-HD feed with speaker re-mapping, it takes a particular extension to the core that will allow those speakers to be positioned at the rear."

Moseley also discusses with us the merits of Samsung's 3D sound, an EQ enhancement that looks at the depth of the footage and tweaks the soundstage appropriately to lend depth to audio, too.

Moseley tells us it's on every single home theatre except the two entry-level products - and that some audiophiles will hate it.

They will, however, love what's coming up from Samsung's AV division. "There's a couple of very interesting things I'm working on that I can't talk about, he says. "I'm working to bring something that we'll be the first to do, but it will be adopted very quickly throughout the industry, so I can't say much - but hopefully it will be very groundbreaking."

That particular breakthrough is penciled-in for a pre-Christmas launch, and a CES showing. We'll be all ears.

Jamie Carter

Jamie is a freelance tech, travel and space journalist based in the UK. He’s been writing regularly for Techradar since it was launched in 2008 and also writes regularly for Forbes, The Telegraph, the South China Morning Post, Sky & Telescope and the Sky At Night magazine as well as other Future titles T3, Digital Camera World, All About Space and He also edits two of his own websites, and that reflect his obsession with travel gear and solar eclipse travel. He is the author of A Stargazing Program For Beginners (Springer, 2015),