Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
The HT-DM150 may be Samsung's very first all-in-one home-theater system, but it's a serious contender. We grumbled about a few ergonomic flaws but loved this kit's look and sonics.
The satin-finished, silver-and-mirrored receiver/DVD player has a graceful look. And this entry-level system's feel is more precise than we're used to--we love the way disc tray glides out, as smooth as any high-end machine. The silver, plastic sats have gracefully curved posteriors.
On the other hand, the remote's tiny, black-on-gray labeling is nearly illegible, so we struggled to find frequently used buttons such as Menu and Surround Mode. Fast-forwarding CDs wasn't fun; instead of just speeding up the sound, this Samsung sputters ahead in 5-, 10-, or 20-second increments.
We came across one really odd quirk when we ran through the speaker-setup procedure: The DM150's test tones are unusually quiet, so we couldn't accurately calibrate the levels of the speakers by ear or with a sound-pressure-level meter. We set all five speakers and the sub to the same output level of 0dB, which sounded balanced to us.
One additional gripe: The receiver's fan-cooling system produces a low-level whooshing noise.
The DM150's receiver sports the de rigueur complement of Dolby Digital, Dolby Pro Logic II, and DTS surround-processing modes. The receiver also dishes out 40 watts to each of the sats and delivers 70 watts to the sub. The DM150's 7.25-inch-tall sats are all two-way designs, and the sub's build quality feels nice and solid--unusual for a system in this price class.
The DM150's connectivity options are average, and it can send composite-video, progressive-scan, component-video, and S-Video signals to your TV. This kit also has a pair of A/V inputs (no S-Video), an optical digital input, and a front-panel headphone jack.
We like the DM150's features, but we love those of its bigger brother, the HT-DM550. That system has a more powerful receiver and an upgraded speaker package that does equally well with music and movies. The DM550 can play significantly louder than this model without signs of duress, and it has the oomph to fill moderately large rooms with sound.
To suss out the DM150's sound, we popped in our favorite creepy flick, Frailty. This movie depends on low-frequency power to convey its ominous atmospheres, and the Samsung's sub easily pressurized our large room with bass energy. During one amazingly scary scene in a rose garden during a thunderstorm, the rain was almost palpable.
Next, we rocked out with Built to Spill's first CD, Perfect From Now On, and the little system more than held its own. This Samsung can play loud, but the tweeter sounds strained when pushed. Miles Davis's Kind of Blue immediately demonstrated that the DM150 isn't the system of choice for fans of acoustic jazz. Davis's horn was reedy, and Bill Evans's piano was lacking in presence, though Paul Chambers's stand-up bass was weighty enough. MP3 playback was free of glitches, though only the first eight characters of the file title are displayed.
A brief shoot-out with Sony's comparably priced Dream system, the DAV-C450, highlighted the DM150's skills. On the Roxanne scene from the Moulin Rouge DVD, the Sony sats' flyweight sound, as well as its puny sub, robbed the music of its power. In a direct comparison, the DM150 exhibited greater low-end punch and restored the DVD's drama and energy. The Samsung's sats had more high-end sparkle and air than those of the Sony.