Samsung HW-E551 review

A 2.1 Air Track TV audio system that's a soundbar and hi-fi

Samsung HW-E551
You can arrange the Samsung as a single soundbar or split it in two for a conventional hi-fi style

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Assembling the Samsung HW-E551 initially appears somewhat daunting, thanks to a multitude of brackets and components. However, it does all slot together rather logically. After that it's plain sailing.

It quickly becomes apparent that the Samsung HW-E551 represents a significant step up from the thin two-channel noise typically made by modern flatscreen TVs; in its default setting, the system offers real volume and a crisp mid-range that doesn't mangle dialogue.

Samsung claims power output to be 80W per channel (albeit into 3ohms), with the sub rated at 150W. But these are marketing specifications and shouldn't be compared with rival products.

Samsung HW-E551 review

We can confirm, though, that it sounds loud enough in an average sized living room. On average, the system draws around 50W at the mains, confirming that it can pack a wallop.

The subwoofer itself delivers a sizeable level of slam, moving air and adding weight when on-screen action demands it. One reason for this potency is that all its energy is unleashed at 50Hz. The sub doesn't actually reach down as low as you might imagine.

Samsung HW-E551 review

If you feel the sub is being too enthusiastic, it can be dialled back. However, dialogue thins very quickly. And while its wireless nature does enable you to tout it around the room, the sub's actually best left in close vicinity to the soundbar, for better integration.

There are a number of DSP modes available to tune the output, not always to great advantage. News is dialogue-centric and lacks body, while Music has an overly crystalline edge. They're jointed by Sports and Game. Our favourites ultimately proved to be the Drama and Cinema, both of which are plump and appropriately visceral.

Samsung HW-E551 review

The system also boasts a 3D sound mode, which supposedly creates a virtual surround effect. While this may widen the soundstage a tad, it never actually felt as if it was enveloping anything.

An additional processing embellishment, Smart Volume, dynamically adjusts the output level depending on content, but the end result is rather unsatisfactory, with tell-tale pumping evident.

Steve May
Home entertainment AV specialist

Steve has been writing about AV and home cinema since the dawn of time, or more accurately, since the glory days of VHS and Betamax. He has strong opinions on the latest TV technology, Hi-Fi and Blu-ray/media players, and likes nothing better than to crank up his ludicrously powerful home theatre system to binge-watch TV shows.