Samsung has made the HT-E5530 as easy to set up as possible. The supplied cables feature coloured plugs at the end, which match up to the terminals on the back of the main unit, while the front speakers slot together easily. Tweaking the sound is simple too – channel levels and distances are all adjusted within the setup menu, while the sub level is controlled using the dedicated volume on the remote.
From the very first time you fire it up, the HT-E5530 is blissfully simple to use. Home cinema newbies will have no trouble finding their feet, while old hands will appreciate its slickness and logic. This is due to the superb onscreen menus, which marry sophistication and practicality in way few companies can.
The Home menu, for instance, looks great with its large, colourful icons that spring to life when highlighted, while its simple, spacious layout leaves no room for confusion. Smart Hub, AllShare Play and the setup menu continue this engaging presentation, packing in lots of information without making the screen feel overly cluttered. And despite the extra processing power these flashy menus must command, the cursor moves around quickly and pages load up without long delays.
It’s backed up by a first-rate remote, which packs a lot of buttons into its slender frame, but they’re all large, solid and clearly labelled. The layout is well thought out too, with the most-used buttons placed right in the sweet spot and lots of dedicated buttons for quick access to key features.
In action the HT-E5530 delivers a spirited performance with movie soundtracks, but inevitably there are frequent reminders of its budget limitations. The main problem is that its sound is compressed, failing to hit the highest frequencies and deepest lows like decent separates systems do, which leaves it feeling congested around the midrange.
Most of the time effects sound like they’re being spat out rather than projected, whereas we prefer a smoother, more polished tone. If you turn the volume up past its safety zone it gets really uncomfortable on the ears, as harshness increases and loud effects sound raspy. 3D Sound Plus exacerbates the situation, making effects sound even more strident.
But it’s not all bad. Its sound is undeniably dynamic, with nimble, precise steering and plenty of detail. Dialogue is clear and bass is surprisingly tight and well integrated for a passive sub.
These qualities are evident during the cave troll battle in Fellowship of the Ring – the beast slams into the chamber with a solid thump and its footsteps pound tightly from the sub without sounding bloated. Meanwhile the melee of clanking swords, swishing arrows and shouty voices is skilfully orchestrated, but without the smoothness and dynamic range you’d get from separates.
Music playback is passable, but again the limited range doesn’t allow tunes to sparkle as they should. Music also reveals the sub’s limitations, as basslines and drum hits aren’t as accurate as we’d like.
There are no qualms with picture performance though. Our LOTR Blu-ray looks simply delectable, with pin-sharp detail and a pitch perfect colour palette. 3D discs look wonderfully immersive on our 55in Samsung LED set, with fluid motion and composed layering.
There’s no doubt that the HT-E5530 offers a lot for your money. Built-in Wi-Fi, an excellent web portal, DLNA streaming, 3D Blu-ray playback and wide format support is a good spec in anyone’s book, plus it brings a bit of gloss-black glamour to your living space.
It’s just a shame Samsung couldn’t back it up with better sound quality. The congested midrange and hard-sounding effects take the shine off its performance, particularly when you crank the volume up high. So if sound quality isn’t your top priority, give it a whirl – otherwise check out Samsung’s superior step-up systems.