There has been an explosion of Wi-Fi-connected speakers in the last couple of years, all fueled by the success of industry leader Sonos. Wi-Fi music is the natural successor to Bluetooth, with the same kind of convenience in using your phone for control. But it has better range, fewer dropouts, better audio quality and no interruptions from calls or other phone sounds.
Samsung's new Radiant360 series of Wi-Fi speakers replaces the existing "M" or "Shape" models, which have been around for two years, and all of them can coexist and use the same app. The cylindrical R1 is in some ways an upgrade from the M3 in that it can now be placed pretty much anywhere, but its height means it's no longer really suited to serving as a TV speaker.
The advantages Samsung's system offers over Sonos are Bluetooth support, integration with (some) Samsung TVs, and hi-res playback for the audiophiles. While sound quality takes a hit due to the omnidirectional nature of the speaker, the R1 is a unique product in the ridiculously full clown car that the wireless audio market has become. Samsung's product shows off some really good ideas, even if Sonos remains the ringmaster.
The Samsung R1 is available in the US for $179, the UK for £169 and Australia for $299.
Taking its design cues from Amazon's Echo, the Samsung R1 is a cylindrical, full-range speaker that features a 360-degree soundfield. The speaker incorporates a driver pointing upward toward two separate "acoustic lenses" which distribute the sound in all directions.
The top of the speaker features a touch-sensitive surface that supports two main gestures: swipe in either direction to skip tracks; or tap to play or pause. The other controls include a mode button which switches between TV Connect (for use with Samsung TVs), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in addition to volume buttons.
The speaker is five inches across and nine inches tall which makes it a little tall to use as a center speaker (although if you insist, you can easily stick it on either side of the TV). The speaker tapers out towards the top and is covered in black acoustic cloth. The bottom of the speaker hides the power cable and the connect buttons.
The Samsung device is controlled with the company's Multiroom app. I found it serviceable, if subject to a little bit of a learning curve. For example, looking at the image above, which button should you press to get more music? The answer is the three line "hamburger button" on the top right but it's not immediately obvious what the other speaker-themed buttons do, for example. We kept hitting the top left speaker to get more music by mistake.
In 2014, Samsung's "Shape" Multiroom speakers were introduced as one of the first competitors to Sonos. While the original Mx speakers that launched the line have been replaced, the new R1 takes on most of that series' features.