Take a gander at Samsung's radical HT-DB660TH--this isn't your father's home theater in a box. The "form follows function" main speakers actually handle the front and rear audio channels by radiating sound in multiple directions: straight ahead like standard satellites and to the sides to create a surround effect. So, instead of the usual five speakers, you get just three, and they're all up front. But the trick sats aren't the only big attraction. The system's receiver/DVD changer offers automatic setup and calibration. This Samsung, which is listed at $699, certainly has a wow factor, but while that looks good on paper, the HTIB's sound quality left us wanting more.
The DB660 promises wraparound surround sound without rear speakers. To accomplish that ambitious goal, Samsung designed radical-looking front units. They're 12 inches wide and 7.5 inches high and deep, and wings sprout from their backsides to spray the surround channels' sound out to the sides. The center and the sub are more conventionally shaped. All of the speakers feature a high-gloss, silver finish worthy of a pricier system.
Our main listening room is pretty large, so the side walls were too far away to reflect surround effects. We were able to hear them after we'd moved our testing into a smaller space, where the system worked fairly well, but we had to spend some time experimenting with speaker placement.
The user manual's illustrations depict the left and right speakers on the floor and the center on top of the TV, but that placement scenario resulted in muffled sound (duh!). The booklet never refers to the DB660's included all-metal stands, which you can adjust to raise the speakers 24 to 42 inches off the floor. Unfortunately, while the stands' individual parts are solidly constructed, they don't fit together at all well. Worse yet, each speaker ends up dangling from a single small screw--maybe the engineering crew took a lunch break and forgot to complete the design. The system sounded best when we set the stands at their lowest position.
On a positive note, the large receiver/DVD changer feels solid; its aluminum-clad faceplate and its tasteful styling stand in sharp contrast to the more garish look of many packages. The receiver's automatic setup and calibration work well. After you've plugged in the supplied microphone and pressed a button, the DB660 takes over and adjusts the volume levels of the satellites and the subwoofer--pretty neat, especially considering that this is only the second HTIB with automatic setup we've seen. The first was the $3,000 Bose.