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Hands-on: Samsung's DA-E750 brings faux-luxury to iPhone speakers

CNET goes hands-on with Samsung's DA-E750 iPhone speaker, which has a surprisingly elegant look and promising sound quality.

Now playing: Watch this: First Look at the Samsung DA-E750

When CNET first covered Samsung's DA-E750 based on the pre-CES press release, it was easy to be skeptical.

The built-in tube preamp can seem a bit gimmicky and it's hard to not grin at the coincidence that the dock can support both iOS and Samsung Galaxy S devices.

But the DA-E750 fares much better in a real hands-on scenario. I had a chance to listen to the DA-E750 in a private listening room in the Samsung booth, where they had it matched it up to the Bose SoundDock. Listening conditions were less than ideal with the anarchy of CES just outside the room's wafer thin walls, but to my ears the Samsung DA-E750 sounded a notch or two better than the Bose. It's never a good idea to judge sound quality based on canned manufacturer demos, but I'll be interested in spending some time listening to the DA-E750 when it's released.

More striking than the sound was the build quality. A lot of Samsung home theater products can feel glossy, plasticky and cheap, but the DA-E750 has the heft of a quality product. Its furniture-style wood finish looked downright elegant sitting next to the plastic Bose SoundDock. And while I may be a skeptic that the tube preamps meaningfully improve the sound, they definitely have retro-cool visual appeal. I wouldn't put the build quality in the same ballpark has a high-quality separate speaker (which is why the headline says "faux-luxury"), but it's a big step in the right direction.

Finally, the DA-E750 is one of the more flexible systems we've seen in terms of wireless audio streaming, with both AirPlay and Bluetooth support, so it should work with any modern smartphone. That's a big plus, as it's hard to overestimate how great it is to control your music collection and streaming music apps right in your hand, rather having to use a remote or navigate from a docked smartphone.

Pricing hasn't been announced, but I'd expect something in the $400 range of the Bose SoundDock. That's a lot of money for an iPhone speaker (probably more than I'd pay), but it has a lot of charm compared to competitors like B&W Zeppelin Air.