One of the best things about the Samsung DA-F61 is its incredibly lengthy battery life, which means you’re not constantly having to recharge it. Samsung quotes 12 hours, but we ran the speaker continuously for a couple of days before we had to charge it again (although the volume was turned down low for some of that time).
The Samsung DA-F61 is also incredibly easy to use. The buttons on the side are easy to access and there’s only a few of them to get your head round, plus the lights on the front give a clear indication of the unit’s status. And when carrying out certain tasks like Bluetooth pairing, the unit’s ‘Auditory UI’ gives out cute little bleeps to let you know it’s been successful.
We had no trouble connecting our iPod Nano 7G and mobile phone with the DA-F61. To enter pairing mode you have to hold down the ‘F’ key, then wait for the Samsung to appear in the list. And if that still sounds too much like hard work, NFC makes the process even easier. The addition of features like AirPlay or Allshare would have made setup more complex, but Bluetooth’s straightforward setup will go down well with most users.
The only slight downer is that the unit doesn’t come with a remote control, which could be a pain when it’s on the other side of the room. But because it’s portable you can keep it fairly near you anyway.
The DA-F61’s audio performance is something of a revelation given its compact, slender dimensions. After playing a selection of albums from an iPod Nano via Bluetooth (most of which were MP3s encoded at 320kbps) we were immediately impressed by the richness and volume range of the sound. It’s able to go fairly loud, tricking your ears into thinking they’re listening to a larger sound system.
There’s a pleasing balance across the bass, mids and treble that prevents it sounding tinny or compressed as you might expect from a speaker of this size.
It does an impressive job with the retro folk/soul of Home Again by Michael Kiwanuka. The singer’s silky yet weathered voice sounds wonderful amid the flurry of warm flutes, crisp guitars and fat drums on Tell Me A Tale. The Samsung DA-F61 manages to retain the organic feel of the songs, and retains the sense of scale and space in the production.
The unit also draws out an impressive amount of sonic detail. The hi-hats and shakers that flitter from the speakers sound crisp and airy, plus you can just about hear the twang of guitar strings being plucked and the gravelly edge to Kiwanuka’s voice. The combination of apt-X CSR and the Neodymium speaker driver clearly pays dividends.
We also like the DA-F61’s bass handling. The passive radiator gently reinforces low frequencies to give the sound subtle depth, but it doesn’t overpower the speakers. Basslines and kick drums have decent punch and tightness, making uptempo songs sound lively, accurate and rhythmic.
Even more remarkable is that the Bass Boost actually enhances the sound, rather than making it sound muddy and bloated (as we found with the DA-E751). Not only does it bring an extra touch of dynamism, but it also appears to open up the sound slightly, which is an added bonus. Some listeners may crave a little more oomph in the bass notes but we think this slightly more restrained approach works well given Samsung’s usually overpowering bass modes.
Impressive though it is, the Samsung DA-F61 does have its limitations, offering little reminders that you’re listening to portable speaker. For example, at higher volumes the mid- and high-range frequency elements begin to lose their composure and feel forced, which can get fatiguing fairly quickly.
We’re certainly impressed by how loud this little box can go but a quick comparison with other Samsung Bluetooth systems (like the DA-E751) and this lack of loud-volume composure soon becomes apparent. Keep it at a reasonable level however, and you’ll have nothing but admiration for its sound quality.
The DA-F61 defies expectations with a sound that’s richer and more ‘grown-up’ than most compact portable speakers, offering lots of crisp detail and punchy, well controlled bass. Bass Boost enhances the sound without swamping it and we love how it makes you feel like you’re listening to a much larger sound system (most of the time). The quality deteriorates slightly with the volume up high, but given its size the DA-F61 sounds more authoritative than you have any right to expect.
And despite doing a simple job, Samsung has still managed to pack it full of features, such as Bluetooth 3.0, apt-X, Near Field Communication and SoundShare. It’s easy to setup and use, streams music reliably and offers a remarkably lengthy battery life.
But the DA-F61’s most alluring feature is its design – it’s chic, compact and easy to carry around (tricking one female user into thinking it was a clutch handbag), while the silver styling, pop-out volume dial and clip-on cover provide the wow factor. The only downside is that it’s relatively expensive for a Bluetooth speaker, but its value-adding features you might feel it’s money well spent.