Samsung's latest packaged home-theater system, the HT-DB600, is one of the best-sounding affordable kits currently available. Its list price is $349, and its features, cosmetics, and build quality are as good as it gets for this kind of money. In today's crowded HTIB field, you can spend a lot more and get a lot less.
The entire DB600 ensemble is decked out in a silver finish. Chrome trim graces the satellite speakers.
The 23-pound receiver/DVD changer feels remarkably solid and well constructed. The tray glides open with unusual grace. While disc swapping took a fairly long 19 seconds, it occurred without the usual clunking mechanical gyrations. The receiver's large, rear-mounted cooling fan is whisper quiet. The one catch is that this bad boy is rather big: 17 inches wide and nearly 18 inches deep.
The five sats are 6 inches tall and surprisingly hefty. The subwoofer is relatively bulky, measuring 16 inches tall, 9.6 inches wide, and 13.1 inches deep.
Large and relatively sparsely populated, the remote is uncommonly easy to fathom, and a lot of the less-used keys hide stealthily under a slip-down cover. The quirky Menu button is a bit of a pain: it brings up the player's setup options instead of the DVD's menu, and the remote doesn't have a Top Menu selection.
Setup hassles were minimal, and we had everything up and running in less than 15 minutes.
The receiver pumps out 80 watts to each satellite and 100 watts to the sub. Samsung doesn't specify the sizes of the two-way sats' woofer and tweeter or the sub's woofer, but the latter looks to be about 7 inches. Surround formats include the basic Dolby Digital and DTS for DVDs, and Dolby Pro Logic II for music.
Connectivity selections are more than adequate for small systems. For audio, there are two sets of stereo inputs and one optical digital in. On the video side, you get two composite-video inputs; composite and S-Video outs; a progressive-scan component-video output for optimal DVD quality on digital TVs; and a set of component-video inputs, which let you easily switch between the unit's DVD player and a high-definition satellite or cable box.
Our DB600 played media in all the standard formats, such as CDs, DVD-Video discs, CD-R/RWs, MP3-encoded CDs, and every kind of recordable DVD except DVD-RW.
Samsung also offers a nearly identical step-up model, the HT-DB650. For a retail price just $50 more than the DB600's, the DB650 provides an automated setup feature that measures speaker-to-listener distances and adjusts the levels of all the speakers and the subwoofer.
Few budget HTIBs can match the DB600's supple and powerful bass response, and the satellites' midrange and treble clarity was likewise more refined than the competition's. The advantages of the sats' two-way design were obvious.
The Good Thief DVD is a soulful and artsy variation on the classic heist movie. The action itself didn't present much of a sonic challenge, but the funky soundtrack fully exercised the system. As we watched the thieves drill, grind, and torch their way to the booty, the DB600 pulled us into the story and let us feel the sounds' textures. Speaking of physical sensations, during one of the Spider-Man DVD's early fight scenes, the sub's front-mounted port blew out a gust of air when Tobey Maguire landed a punch! Furthermore, the DB600's center speaker handled dialogue as if it were a much bigger model.
Even at the maximum volume, the DB600 never distorted the sound or seemed strained, but we couldn't play the Apocalypse Now Redux DVD very loudly. This kit certainly performs best in rooms 160 square feet or smaller.
When we compared the DB600 directly with Sony's DAV-FC7 Dream system (listed at $600), we gave the decisive nod to the Samsung for music. On DVDs, the sound-quality competition essentially ended in a draw, but the Sony played movies a little more loudly.