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Samsung HW-N550 review: Tidy setup, tidy sound

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The Good The Samsung HW-N550 offers a decent selection of features at an affordable price. Performance in both music and movies is as good as you could expect for the money.

The Bad The Samsung HW-N550 is not as enveloping as the best for the money, and has no center channel control. The sound bar's display is hard to read on an angle. No Wi-Fi features for streaming media.

The Bottom Line The Samsung HW-N550 sound bar offers sophisticated design and high-quality sound in an affordable, easy-to-set-up package

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 8

How much do you want to spend on a sound bar? Up to $500 there are some very good products to be had, but we maintain that between $300 and $400 is the sweet spot. For this amount you can expect competent sound quality combined with HDMI connectivity and a wireless subwoofer. As such, the Samsung HW-N550 ticks all of the boxes.

The Samsung is a solid performer and will play back both movie soundtracks and the latest pop release with flair. Is it the best value for money at the price? No -- for $50 less you can get either a Yamaha YAS-207 ($230 at Amazon) with its superior surround emulation or the Polk MagniFi Mini ($239 at Walmart), which throws in Wi-Fi streaming. What the Samsung does is look good, and it's a natural fit with your new Samsung TV -- with its TV streaming-over-Bluetooth capability. It also offers easier wall-mount capabilities than either of the two competing models. 

The Samsung HW-N550 is available now for $399 ($350 street) and AU$699, with UK pricing and availability to be confirmed. Expect somewhere around £399 however.

Design

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Sarah Tew/CNET

When Samsung released the HW-K950, it established the blueprint for every sound bar the company has released since. With that model the company moved away from cheap-looking housings toward something more sophisticated. While the N550 borrows the look with its metal grille and brushed gray color scheme, it is still at its heart a plastic sound bar -- though that's not surprising for the money. The edges of the main speaker are tapered, and instead of capacitive touch controls, the bar features some still-swanky push buttons. The bar features an onboard display, but it's only a couple of characters wide, and a combination of too-fast scrolling and poor off-axis viewing mean its usefulness is limited.

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When viewed off-axis, the onboard display is a little difficult to read

Sarah Tew/CNET

The main bar is 41.7 inches wide and a fairly discrete 2.32 inches high. If you want to wall-mount the speaker, it comes with a metal bracket to support its kinda-awkward 3.44 inches of depth. Meanwhile, the wireless subwoofer is decently compact (8.46 by 15.14 by 11.97 inches) and finished in a similarly downtempo gray-and-black color scheme.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The likeable remote control is fashioned after the ones that ship with the company's televisions with its volume toggles and satin finish.

Features

The N550 is a 3.1-channel sound bar with a wireless subwoofer. It offers both Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, but stops short of advanced formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS-HD Master Audio, much less Dolby Atmos.

The Samsung website promises the HW-N550's "Surround Sound Expansion expands the listening area both sideways and up to emanate sound," but we found turning the surround mode on and off made only a slight difference.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Inputs include HDMI 2.0a in and out, digital optical, 3.5mm auxiliary, USB and Bluetooth. And you can ignore what it says on the company's specs page -- the N550 doesn't have Wi-Fi. If you own a Samsung TV the N550 is able to connect via Bluetooth for sound from the onboard tuner or smart TV apps.

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