Our regular Terminator Salvation disc loading test showed the Samsung to be surprisingly slow, taking 55 seconds to reach the Sony Pictures logo. Even Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen took 45 seconds to start playing – strange for a company that once set the benchmark for disc loading speeds.
Picture quality is very impressive though. The abundant detail contained in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on Blu-ray is expertly handled, making the picture look utterly sharp despite the presence of Michael Bay’s customary film grain. From the texture of sand in the Egyptian desert to subtle indentations on skin, the Samsung renders everything with superb clarity. This is even maintained during dark scenes like the astounding night sequence in Shanghai, in which the flurry of moving mechanical parts and busy backgrounds stay clear and focused.
The picture also boasts impressive levels of depth, colour and contrast, while motion tracking is excellent at 1080/24p – as the camera moves through Sam’s kitchen with utensils morphing into robots all around, the frantic movement is smooth and easy to follow.
As for audio quality, the 1,000W amplifier and speakers team up to deliver a loud and energetic sound, with decent cohesion across the front and solid dialogue reproduction that gives Megatron’s dulcet tones real warmth and body. Surround effects are expansive and smoothly-steered too, which breathes life into busy action scenes.
The fronts pick out a respectable amount of sonic detail. For the most part, high frequencies sound clean, with smashing glass and whizzing bullets punching through the melee, but despite this the sound still feels boxy, lacking the openness and sparky dynamism of the best separate systems. Some loud crashes also sound a little on the harsh side.
The other problem is that the subwoofer is far too dominant. Rather than underpinning and reinforcing the other channels, it overpowers them, which leads to a very boomy sound that gets out of control during explosive action scenes. You can alter it in the setup menu, but we couldn’t find a completely satisfactory low-end balance.
With an iPod plugged into the supplied dock, the system handles music with surprising aplomb. Spies by Coldplay has a pleasant richness and fluidity, and the heavy bassline is handled with more restraint than we expected. CDs also sound enjoyable, but with a little more clarity and detail in the mix. It’s by no means audiophile standard but fine for everyday use.
Provided you don’t approach the HT-C5530 expecting the same sound quality you’d get from decent separates, you should be very happy with it, particularly when you consider the amount of features you get for your money. It ticks all the boxes – PC streaming, Web content, wide format support, HD audio decoding – plus it’s stylish and extremely easy to use.
Sure, the sound quality is flawed, the front speakers are flimsy and you have to pay extra for Wi-Fi, but if you’re willing to overlook these shortcomings then the HT-C5530 represents great value for money.