Samsung HW-MS750 review: Samsung sound bar takes on Sonos, loses
The Samsung HW-MS750 offers a decent mix of features and performance, but it's simply too expensive for what it does.
The Samsung audio lab, which designed that product, didn't have as large a hand in the HW-MS750 reviewed here. That might help explain its much less impressive sound.
The HW-MS750 is Samsung's attempt at taking on the four-year-old Sonos Playbar, and starts its sally with more features than Sonos can muster. Samsung includes HDMI switching, a better music app than Sonos, and Bluetooth built-in. It fails the most important challenge, however, falling short of the Playbar's audio quality.
The HW-MS750 retails for $699, £799 and AU$999. In the US the Samsung is currently available on special for $550 -- but even at that price we'd recommend other models, such as the Zvox SB500, instead.
'Meh' meets mesh
For a company that prides itself on design, the boxy HW-MS750 is a little pedestrian, especially compared to products such as the egg-like WAM7500 or the sausage-like DA-E650. (What is it with the food obsession? Do they even feed those audio lab guys?)
You could be forgiven for thinking the MS750 is the latest version of the Dolby Atmos-toting HW-K950. Style-wise it is pretty much identical -- an elongated bar with a gunmetal finish. At 45 inches wide it's particularly suited to 50-inch TVs and, if you own a 2017 Samsung TV, the company also offers a bracket that connects the two together.
On the right end of the sound bar you get a set of volume and power controls. The front and top are covered in a thick wire mesh. On the front's right side there's a small LED display, but since it's only a few characters long, the text has to do a lot of scrolling. If viewed at enough of an angle the display becomes illegible behind the mesh.
The resemblance to the K950 continues with the upfiring drivers -- but since the MS750 is not an Atmos sound bar, it doesn't have discrete Atmos height channels. Those extra drivers are wide-range tweeters that activate when you select certain modes, including Movie. The sound bar also includes a Smart mode, which is designed to change the sound profile based on what you're listening.
Despite what a user review on the company's own website might imply, Samsung confirmed this sound bar will not be made Atmos-compatible with a future software update.
The remote that comes in the box is a clone of the company's TV remotes. It's attractive and relatively easy to use, but you can safely use your TV remote instead once setup.
With the HW-MS750, Samsung has taken a leaf out of Bose and Sonos' books. Here is a multiroom-capable sound bar that offers HDMI and the all-important optional subwoofer. It tries to bridge the gap between the high-end HW-K850/K950 and the more affordable HW-MS650.
If you want the full surround experience, you can add the SWA-9000S wireless kit ($150, £179 or AU$237), which includes two surround speakers and a power amp module. You can also team the HW-MS750 with Samsung's optional SWA-W700 subwoofer ($499, £599 or AU$799), which is a 10-inch, 200-watt model, but it requires a separate dongle (included).
Connectivity includes two HDMI ports, optical, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The system offers the company's very decent multiroom system for connecting to other Samsung devices, which lets you stream from a number of different services as well as Spotify Connect.
The Samsung HW-MS750 goes about its business without much fanfare or drama. It sounds perfectly fine straight out of the box. Nothing jumps out or displeases, and it's easy to listen to without fatigue. Still, for $699 we expect more from a sound bar with five channels and 11 speakers, including two top mounted speakers. The pairing routine was especially convoluted -- connecting a separate dongle and powering one speaker on at a time while holding down buttons -- so it required many attempts before the sub started woofing.
How does it sound?
We did the bulk of our HW-MS750 auditions without the SWA-W700 sub, because we imagine most people will just get the sound bar. With "Spider-Man 2" turned up loud, the HW-MS750 sounded clean and clear. Dialog was intelligible and dynamics in the special-effects-driven fight scenes were adequate, but we still wanted more. Our biggest disappointment was the "surround" sound, which even in Movie mode was narrow and dimensionally flat.
When we swapped out the HW-MS750 for a Sonos Playbar , the soundstage expanded across the front wall of the CNET listening room. The Playbar produced a far more enveloping and tonally richer sound than the HW-MS750. It was easier to focus on the movie with the Sonos, because we didn't feel most of the sound was coming from the sound bar.
Continuing with music, Roger Waters' "The Wall" Blu-ray played nice and loud without strain on both 'bars. We had the bass control set to +5 or +6 (+6 is the maximum bass level), and the bass was decent. Connecting the Samsung SWA-W700 sub improved bass significantly, of course. Not only that, the sound bar itself sounded better -- more dynamically alive, and the soundstage opened up a bit.
For a fair comparison we also tried the Playbar partnered with the Sonos Sub. That dynamic duo was more transparent and superior overall than the Samsung system pairing. The Sonos Sub's low-end definition was distinctly better on "Mad Max: Fury Road's" road-raging carnage, and the Playbar's bigger and wider soundstage clinched the deal.
The HW-MS750's sound with stereo music, with and without the SWA-W700 sub, was about average for sound bar systems, which is to say fine for background listening. Tom Petty's "Highway Companion" album sounded immediate and present, but the treble was annoyingly bright. No matter what, the HW-MS750 never lets you forget you're listening to a sound bar.
Should you buy it?
The Samsung HW-MS750 gets a lot right with its abundant features, build quality and overall design, and it sounds fine. But it just seems too expensive for what it is. We'd be a lot more excited if it was $399. At its current price the Samsung faces stiff competition from the Sonos Playbar and Bose SoundTouch 300. If you included the Samsung sub into the package, the company's own HW-K850 ($800 online) or the Sony HT-ST5000 would be worthy alternatives.