Editors' note: The Samsung HW-C451 is identical to the Samsung HW-C450, except the HW-C451's finish is silver rather than black. We reviewed the HW-C450, but the HW-C451 should perform identically to it. The photos in this review are of the HW-C450, but we include them for context.
Sound bars aren't as thin as the slimmest HDTVs yet, but the Samsung HW-C451 ($300 street price) is getting close. It is less than 2 inches thick, which seems almost impossibly thin, considering the fact that it houses six drivers and built-in amplification. Even more impressive is that Samsung manages to get some impressive sound quality out of those cramped quarters (plus a wireless subwoofer), with better-than-average sonic detail on movies. Music, on the other hand, sounds a little disappointing, and JVC's somewhat heftier TH-BA1 is a better pick if you plan on listening to more than TV and movies. Our other main knock against the HW-C451 is the lack of HDMI connectivity, especially when the competing Sony HT-CT150 ($300 street price) has three HDMI inputs, all capable of 3D video pass-through. If the lack of HDMI connectivity doesn't bother you, the Samsung HW-C451 is one of the sleekest sound bar home theater systems we've tested, making it a good pick for style-minded buyers who mostly watch movies.
The HW-C451 is one of the most decor-friendly sound bars we've tested. At only 1.77 inches deep, its slim profile makes it easy to fit on even the most crowded TV stands. It's 3.62 inches high, so it should fit easily under an HDTV without obscuring the screen. From the front, you'll notice six total drivers, separated by a glossy silver finish. There's also a small LCD display along the top, which we appreciate, although its size makes it hard to see from far back. Next to the display are several touch-sensitive buttons, which are handy in case the remote goes missing. The lack of need for a wire to connect the included sub just adds to the minimalist charm.
The remote mostly matches the simplicity of the bar's physical design. Samsung doesn't clutter up the clicker with too many unnecessary buttons, and important functions like volume, at least, get different colors to make them easier to spot. We appreciated the ability to adjust subwoofer volume directly with the remote, which isn't always available.
The HW-C451 can be wall mounted with the supplied bracket or placed on a shelf; we went with the second option. Unfortunately, the HW-C451's 1.77 inch depth doesn't make for a stable design. Samsung should include pads or footers to prevent the speaker from tipping over.
Our sample HW-C451's wireless subwoofer automatically linked with the speaker; if it didn't work we would have initiated the simple "ID Set" procedure. The wireless sub worked perfectly throughout the testing period, and we didn't experience dropouts, noise, or other malfunctions. As with all small speaker-subwoofer systems, we recommend placing the sub within a few feet of the speaker--much further away and you start to hear the sub as a separate sound source.
If you're put off by overly complex home theater setup requirements, put the HW-C451 on your short list. It doesn't have setup menus or speaker calibration requirements. Just hook up the AC power plus analog and/or optical digital audio connections to your sources and you're good to go. The two-channel speaker levels are fixed, but you can adjust the subwoofer volume level from the remote--a feature we'd like to see on more sound bar and home theater in a box systems.
The HW-C451 hits most of the key points we look for in a sound bar home theater system. The wireless subwoofer eliminates another cord from your home theater. Included basics, like a remote and LCD display, which go missing from many competing sound bar HTIBs, make it relatively easy to use. The HW-C451 lacks any video pass-through options, so you'll need to run all video cables directly from the sources to your TV.