- Robust, stylish single-body design
- Powerful bass without an external subwoofer
- Generous feature list
- Easy setup and slick multiroom streaming
- Slightly aggressive at top of volume range
- Single HDMI input
- Three-channel single-body soundbar
- Multi-Speaker Array and Distortion Cancelling technology
- Built-in Wi-Fi & Bluetooth
- Multiroom & surround sound support via phone app
- Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, TIDAL, Napster, JUKE, 7digital, Murfie, and TuneIn
- Dolby Digital and DTS 2.0 decoding
- Manufacturer: Samsung
- Review Price: £549.99/$824.99
WHAT IS THE SAMSUNG HW-MS650?
Hailing from Samsung’s new Sound range, this soundbar is a single-body affair that doesn’t rely on an external subwoofer to deliver deep bass. Instead it uses an array of custom drivers and some nifty distortion-cancelling tech to give movies some muscle, coupled with a dedicated centre channel and new wide-dispersion tweeters.
There’s no Dolby Atmos support, but otherwise the feature list is generous, including wireless music streaming, multiroom, Bluetooth and sound modes galore. But the main focus of the Sound range is simplicity – the lack of a subwoofer, coupled with minimal cabling and a single remote for the soundbar and TV keeps hassle and clutter to a minimum.
SAMSUNG HW-MS650 – DESIGN AND CONNECTIONS
The HW-MS650 is a very well-made soundbar, reaching levels of robustness and rigidity I’d expect for the money. The metal speaker grille and high-quality bodywork have the air of a high-end model. The straight rectangular shape isn’t hugely exciting, but Samsung has spiced it up with chamfered edges, gentle curves and an elegant brushed-effect top panel. A curved version (HW-MS6500) is also available to match Samsung’s curved TVs.
Clutter has been stripped to the bare minimum. At one end is a row of stylised buttons covering volume, standby and input selection. The front LED display is found on the far right-hand side, rather than the middle, which might annoy lovers of symmetry but is necessary to accommodate the MS650’s dedicated centre speaker. The display is smaller than on previous models but is typically informative, showing inputs and menu options clearly.
With a width of 1060mm the MS650 is a big soundbar, making it a good visual match for TVs over 50 inches. Unlike the Bluesound Pulse Soundbar for example, the MS650 lies nice and low on the TV stand and doesn’t interfere with the remote sensor of my Samsung UE55KS9000 TV.
But if it does cause problems, you can buy an optional Samsung ‘One Mount’ bracket that holds the TV in place above the soundbar. The bracket kit includes a single mains lead that powers both the Samsung TV and soundbar, making setup cleaner and tidier than ever. Alternatively you can mount the soundbar on the wall using the supplied hardware.
The HW-MS650 doesn’t go overboard with connections, but it should suffice for most users. The single HDMI input and ARC-ready output pass through 4K signals of the full-fat HDR, 60p, HDCP 2.2 variety – great news for owners of UHD Blu-ray decks and Sky Q.
One or two more HDMI ports would have stopped Sky boxes, disc players and games consoles having to compete over a single input. But having loads of HDMI cables poking out the back doesn’t fit with Samsung’s simplicity angle, and in any case there are plenty of ways round it.
You also get an optical input for non-ARC TVs and 3.5mm analogue input for your portable devices. The sockets are housed in recesses underneath the soundbar, which lets the cables protrude neatly and allows for flush wall-mounting. Also on the bottom are Wi-Fi setup and Speaker Add buttons that connect the HW-MS650 to a network of other Samsung wireless speakers.
SAMSUNG HW-MS650 – FEATURES
The HW-MS650’s key features are Multi-Speaker Control and Distortion Cancelling, which allow the MS650 to deliver powerful bass without the use of an external subwoofer.
The three-channel soundbar employs six 4.3×2-inch mid/bass drivers (two for each channel). Multi-Speaker Control allows these drivers to move simultaneously, while long excursion technology increases their depth of movement, all of which results in increased bass output.
But the magic ingredient is Samsung’s patented Distortion Cancelling tech, which predicts the low-frequency distortion that will occur after the speaker’s movement and adjusts it upfront, helping to achieve deeper and more detailed bass.
Each channel also features a wide-range inverted dome tweeter, which minimises sound ‘lobing’ – colouration caused by interference between drivers – using a wider crossover range than regular tweeters (from 600Hz upwards, as opposed to 2.5kHz). It claims to result in wider dispersion and sweet treble wherever you sit.
Samsung also reckons its dedicated centre channel improves voice clarity compared with traditional soundbars, as the sound comes from a single unit with no subwoofer to muddy the water.
Elsewhere the HW-MS650 offers Samsung’s usual bevy of streaming features. Built-in Wi-Fi and multiroom support let you play music from NAS drives, PCs and streaming services and send it to other Samsung speakers around the house. You can even create a wireless 5.1 system with a pair of Samsung speakers as the surround channels.
It’s all controlled by Samsung’s multiroom app, which offers a superb choice of music streaming services, including Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz, TIDAL, Napster, JUKE, 7digital, Murfie, and TuneIn radio.
There’s built-in Bluetooth too, which not only works with phones but also Samsung TVs, allowing you to cut down cables even further.
There’s a range of EQ presets – Standard, Music, Clear Voice, Sports and Movie – plus a Surround mode that adds ‘depth and space’. Bass, treble and audio sync settings let you tweak the sound to taste, while Smart Sound selects the best settings for the current content.
The only thing missing is Dolby Atmos support, reserved for the HW-K950 and HW-K850 which continue this year. The forthcoming HW-MS750 has upfiring drivers but no Atmos support.
SAMSUNG HW-MS650 – OPERATION
Samsung has gone to great lengths to ensure a simple installation, from the removal of an external subwoofer to the single-cable connections. You’ll be up and running in minutes.
You can channel your Blu-ray deck through the HDMI sockets and take advantage of the built-in Dolby Audio and DTS 2.0 decoding. Alternatively, connect all your sources to the TV and pass audio to the MS650 via optical, ARC or Bluetooth – including sound from your set’s built-in streaming services or tuner.
To use ARC, you need to make sure HDMI CEC functionality is activated in the TV’s setup menu. Bluetooth requires a compatible TV and also needs to be configured in the set’s setup menu – thankfully it’s remarkably easy to do.
The ‘one remote’ concept allows the soundbar to be controlled by a Samsung TV remote when connected via HDMI, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or optical. As well as volume and power, you can use the TV remote to adjust EQ and sound modes, which appear as an option in the TV’s Home Menu.
The HW-MS650’s own handset takes its cue from the Smart Remote that accompanies Samsungs latest TVs. Its curved ergonomic shape and pared-down button array make it pleasure to use. There are dedicated keys to toggle through sound modes and two flick switches to adjust volume and bass. To keep the button count down the treble controls have been relegated to a separate menu with audio sync, which can be adjusted using the main direction pad.
Samsung’s Multiroom app is similarly impressive. It ditches the flashy graphic devices of Samsung’s earlier phone apps, opting instead for a sparse, straightforward layout that neatly organises your NAS drive content and streaming services.
A sidebar menu shows all available speakers in your multiroom system, while the intuitive Now Playing screen provides access to frequently used functions, like the equaliser and playback queue.
Grouping speakers together is easy, although unlike some apps you can’t drag and drop speakers onto each other– you have to tap the ‘group’ option and choose which speakers to link. But once grouped you can easily control individual volume levels and choose what songs to play.
SAMSUNG HW-MS650 – SOUND QUALITY
When auditioning a single-body soundbar, the big question is whether or not it can generate enough bass to keep movie fans satisfied without an external subwoofer. The good news is that the HW-MS650 does so with aplomb, mustering a massive soundstage with oodles of bass.
There’s plenty of power under the bonnet, allowing it to go remarkably loud when needed and easily fill a large room. It’s a muscular and entertaining performer, the perfect antidote for underpowered TV speakers.
The amount of bass it generates is remarkable for a soundbar with such limited cabinet volume. For proof, play perennial subwoofer bully Pacific Rim on Blu-ray – the epic robot-versus-monster fight scenes show off the soundbar’s bass talents clearly, particularly in the opening scrap between Gipsy Danger and Knifehead.
The MS650 generates a huge rumble as the monster rises from the ocean and roars. Every subsequent punch and collision has lots of weight behind it, easily conveying the scale of these two battling giants. Switch to The Force Awakens, and when Kylo Ren reads his captors’ minds the rumble is suitably deep and shuddering.
But what’s most impressive is how well the soundbar controls this bass output, keeping overhang and bloating to a minimum. It doesn’t interfere with midrange or treble clarity, instead adding a natural sense of depth and maintaining a pleasing overall balance.
Its tight, transient bass gives action scenes a terrific sense of drama and momentum. A great example is The Force Awakens’ ‘Falcon Flies Again’ sequence, which is delivered with gusto – exploding TIE Fighters and the roar of the Falcon’s engines have plenty of depth and body, but the pace and rhythm of the scene is never slowed down by muddy, overzealous rumbling.
Elsewhere, there’s a bold midrange and plenty of bite in the treble, something we’ve come to expect from Samsung soundbars. It lends instant excitement and impact when watching movies – gunshots snap and shattering glass has a crisp leading edge.
The MS650 also makes dialogue reproduction remarkably clear – you won’t miss a word during even the busiest action scenes, while TV show speech has pleasing presence and clarity. The built-in centre channel is crucial here, giving speech an obvious boost. An A/B comparison with my resident Canton DM100 – itself a highly impressive soundbase – shows that the Samsung’s vocals are clearer and more pronounced with both movies and music, but not in a forced way.
Increase the volume past the 70% mark and the bar’s upfront presentation results in a hint of brashness – the sound of screeching Kaiju smashing up skyscrapers during Pacific Rim is a little aggressive. But 70% is well beyond what would be deemed ‘comfortable’, and the beauty of the MS650 is that you don’t have to push the volume level anywhere near that high to get an exciting, authoritative sound. At lower levels the MS650 delivers a dynamic listen with just the right amount of attack.
Admittedly, rival soundbars like the DALI Kubik One have a smoother presentation and cope slightly better at stupidly loud volumes, but the Samsung’s vigour is what makes it such an entertaining listen (and it’s cheaper to boot).
At the top end, the MS650 digs out plenty of high frequency detail, resulting in a crisp and airy sound. Quieter scenes during The Force Awakens, such as Rey’s trips into the Takodana forest, are teeming with subtle effects like chirping birds and rustling footsteps. The MS650 maintains its superb treble clarity from anywhere in the room thanks to the new tweeters’ wide dispersion.
In fact this is one of the most insightful soundbars Samsung has produced, putting some of its big-name rivals to shame. The Bose SoundTouch 300, for example is a similarly priced single-body soundbar that offers a big, cohesive soundstage, but when it comes to top-end detail, definition and excitement, the Samsung wins hands down.
Activate the Surround mode and the Samsung generates a broad soundfield, throwing effects deeper into the room than the Standard setting, but ‘Surround’ is something of a misnomer – effects don’t come anywhere near the listening position. But that’s something that can be said about the vast majority of soundbars and certainly isn’t a deal breaker. I tried the other sound modes but ended up sticking with Standard.
Swapping movies for music, the HW-MS650 does a top job across a wide range of material. In fact this is possibly the most musical soundbar Samsung has made. Key to its success is bass reproduction – its ability to muster deep yet agile bass helps the overall sense of rhythm, with notes that stop and start accurately and integrate seamlessly with the rest of the music (much more so than with Samsung’s previous models).
Higher up the spectrum, treble is crisp and precise. The hi-res version of Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories really sparkles thanks to the silky cymbals, detailed vocals and twanging basslines. But it also does a good job with lower-quality MP3 files – the hi-hats in ‘Deacon Blues’ by Steely Dan tick along precisely, while the brass lines have a crisp top edge. The multi-tracked vocals are well articulated and sit clearly in the mix through the dedicated centre speaker.
Again there’s a hint of hardness at loud volumes when the saxophone solo kicks in, and treble was initially on the bright side with more recent pop songs, but it’s nothing that couldn’t be resolved by a quick fiddle with the tone controls. On the whole the MS650’s music performance is highly enjoyable, making it a decent music system for those who don’t want to go down the hi-fi separates route.
SHOULD I BUY THE SAMSUNG HW-MS650?
Samsung has come up with the perfect soundbar for those who crave huge home cinema thrills but can’t accommodate a subwoofer. Thanks to some clever sonic science, the MS650 delivers room-filling bass from a single enclosure, which is remarkable given the limited driver size and cabinet volume. Throw in a premium design, easy installation and a feature list that puts pricier rivals to shame and you have yourself a certified must-buy.
The MS650 is also Samsung’s most musical soundbar to date, offering a detailed, dynamic sound, but the clincher is its easy installation. With no subwoofer, and just one remote, power lead and TV connection to worry about, setup is a quick and simple process. So if you’re looking for a soundbar that delivers maximum sound with minimal fuss then the HW-MS650 demands a place on your shortlist.
With oodles of features and massive movie sound, the HW-MS650 is Samsung’s best single-body soundbar yet and a fantastic choice if you can’t accommodate a separate subwoofer.