Onto sound, and we started our test with Hellboy II: The Golden Army on Blu-ray, which features a 7.1-channel DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. Skipping to chapter 11, in which Hellboy squares up to an Elemental near to the Brooklyn Bridge, we find that the HT-C9950W is an assured audio performer, well above the standard of most sub-£1,000 all-in-one systems. The first thing we noticed is how powerful the system is, delivering a rich, room filling sound with plenty of heft at the bottom end and authoritative control over the high frequencies.
When the Elemental bursts through the ground, the low-end rumble is immensely muscular and menacing, but the bass tones blend cohesively with the other speakers, something that many all-in-one systems fail to achieve. The sub doesn’t dominate the soundstage – instead it underpins and reinforces the action in a more sympathetic way. The decision to use a powered subwoofer is perhaps the key to its success, not only offering excellent integration but also reaching levels of tautness and punch that put most passive subs to shame.
The subsequent chaos as the Elemental tears up the road, scattering cars as it goes, is masterfully orchestrated by the Samsung. The soundstage is wonderfully enveloping, thanks mainly to the inclusion of surround back channels that ‘fill in the gaps’ behind you. It feels like you’re completely surrounded by sound, helped also by the wide reach of the rear speakers, which fire out effects with aplomb. And because the rears are the same full range speakers used at the front, surround effects are fulsome and there’s pleasing uniformity and integration across the entire soundstage.
Also pleasing is the detail oozing from every speaker. The HT-C9950W conjures up a crisp, subtly textured sound, brought about by its excellent reproduction of high frequencies. At the end of our test scene, leaves and flowers grow up the sides of the buildings – the system clearly teases out the delicate rustling and crunching as they do so. Elsewhere in the scene, the sound of car windows being smashed and cacophony of panicked voices is clearly reproduced, although with the volume up high there are one or two effects that sound just a little brash, such as the whirring helicopter that gets smashed up by the Elemental.
This excellent detail reproduction is even better demonstrated by the movie’s Troll Market scene, in which a flurry of subtle noises – fluttering pixies, the pounding score, garbled voices, tinkling metal – are picked out with entrancing crispness, plus the Samsung confidently places and steers the effects around the 7.1 soundstage, creating a wonderfully absorbing listening experience. The centre speaker also does a fine job, conveying speech with pleasing clarity during busy action scenes without making it seem thin or muffled.
To test out Dolby Pro Logic IIz, we placed the speakers at the front of the room and played chapter 3 of Terminator Salvation, in which there’s a shot of Sam Worthington’s character standing in the pouring rain. The way Pro Logic IIz extracts and separates the non-directional effects is impressive, making it sound as though rain is coming from above, and with scenes like this it does enhance the overall sense of all-round envelopment. That said, we do think that surround back channels are far more beneficial to sound quality than front height speakers, and for many people mounting speakers above their TV really won’t be worth the hassle.