Samsung's 2004 lineup of home-theater-in-a-box (HTIB) systems consists of a whopping nine models--some feature skinny towers, some offer virtual surround from fewer than five satellites, and there's even a stereo home-theater package. The HT-DB390 boasts the tiniest satellites and subwoofer of the bunch, wireless surround speakers, and an autosetup feature. The $499 mini system won't wow audiophiles, but it's ideal for space-conscious buyers. We just wish the autocalibration system actually worked and that the "wireless" rear speakers had fewer...wires.
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.The HT-DB390's all-in-one receiver/DVD player measures 14.25 inches wide and a space-hogging 16 inches deep. It feels unusually solid, certainly more than its 15-pound fighting weight would imply. The blue-haloed volume control is easy to find in a dark room, but the somewhat noisy cooling fan will be audible in otherwise quiet home theaters. Oh well, at least the remote control minimizes button clutter by stealthily hiding most of the keys under a slip-down cover.
The 4.3-inch tall satellites are among the smallest speakers we've ever seen, and the 4.3-inch-wide center speaker comes with its own tiny cradle; it's downright cute. Speaking of size, the curvy subwoofer is also commendably compact at just 9.6 inches wide, 15.9 tall, and 13.1 deep. The speakers and sub are finished in tasteful dark-gray and silver plastic.
What sets the HT-DB390 apart from other HTIBs are its wireless rear speakers. They're driven by a 15.6-inch tall wireless receiver/amplifier tower you place at the back of your room, plug into an AC wall outlet, and connect via wires to the left and right surround speakers. In other words, the only advantage of the "wireless" feature is that you don't have to run wires across the room from the receiver/DVD player to the surround speakers.
The design is similar to every other wireless HTIB we've seen, except for one gimmicky difference. The DB390's wireless receiver is spiffed up with a mood light that lets you select among seven colors: blue, yellow, pink, and so forth. Perhaps you could color-coordinate with the Department of Homeland Security's color-coded alert advisory system.
We didn't experience any bothersome dropouts or problems with the wireless system, but be advised it operates on the crowded 2.4GHz spectrum. That same hunk of airspace is prone to interference from cordless phones, wireless networking equipment, and even microwave ovens.The receiver/DVD player delivers 60 watts to each of the satellites and 100 watts to the passive subwoofer. Unlike the many multidisc changer HTIBs you'll find (such as Samsung's step-up HT-DS690 model), the HT-DB390 handles only one disc at a time. Surround-sound options are limited to standard 5.1-channel Dolby and DTS modes. Samsung doesn't specify the satellites' or subwoofer's driver sizes, so we assume they're on the small side of average.
This is the first HTIB we've seen with plug-in speaker connectors that can be inadvertently inserted backwards, with their plus and minus connections reversed. Such a mishap won't harm the speakers or amplifiers but can significantly degrade the HT-DB390's sound quality. So take care to match them correctly when inserting the surround speakers' wires into the jacks of the receiver/DVD player and the wireless receiver. Connectivity is otherwise no great shakes; you get the usual set of video outputs (composite, S-Video, progressive/component), two AV inputs, and one optical digital input.