AV receivers aren’t high on the list of things you’d associate with Samsung, but the Korean giant has been turning out a nice line in home cinema amps for quite some time. Its latest range includes this entry-level 5.1-channel model, which is designed to provide a basic introduction to the world of surround sound – a fact reflected by its low price tag.
Aesthetically the HW-C500 is a break from the norm. It’s slimmer than most AV amps and Samsung keeps the front panel free from dials and physical buttons, opting instead for a minimal gloss-black design. It’s possibly one of the best-looking AV receivers we’ve clapped eyes on, but then again what else would you expect from Samsung?
But look closely and the front panel is busier then you might think. A silver strip on the right lets you adjust the volume, while a bank of touch-sensitive controls on the left lets you navigate menus and switch between the various sound modes. They’re so discreet you might not notice them from a distance.
An LED panel in the centre displays key info like the selected input, while a flap at the bottom drops down to reveal a further smattering of buttons, none of which seem important enough to earn pride of place on the front of the unit. We’d rather this space was used to provide a decent array of auxiliary AV inputs for on-the-fly device connection, but disappointingly there are none.
All of the sockets are therefore confined to the rear, and although the selection covers most bases it’s hardly the sort of generous selection Onkyo, Yamaha or Denon would offer at this price. Taking pride of place are four HDMI inputs and one output, and thankfully all of these are specified as v1.4, which will please anyone hoping to bag themselves a 3D Blu-ray deck and TV in the near future.
On the video side, the HDMIs are backed up by two sets of component inputs and one output plus three composite inputs, while audio sockets include four digital audio inputs (three optical, one coaxial), four sets of analogue stereo inputs and 5.1-channel inputs, which will come in useful for Blu-ray decks with built-in HD audio decoding and analogue outputs. In the box, you also get an iPod/iPhone dock that plugs into the terminal on the back.
Also on the back, you’ll find spring-clip speaker terminals in place of more robust binding posts, which is the clearest indication of the Samsung’s budget nature and lack of audiophile ambition. One minor upside to this is that the speaker cables are easier to plug in, which inexperienced (or impatient) users might appreciate.