Internally the HW-C500 features a discrete digital amplifier design, which explains why it feels so much lighter than many other AV receivers. It musters 100W per channel, while the Crystal Amplifier Pro technology includes Multi Variable Feedback to keep unwanted noise at bay, and Intelligence Power boosts power when the volume peaks in order to avoid clipping.
But the rest of the spec sheet is disappointing. It’s unable to decode any of the HD audio formats found on Blu-ray discs, such as Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD Master Audio, DTS HD or Dolby Digital Plus – clearly a way of driving the price down. Thankfully, the HW-C500 can handle multichannel LPCM fed into any of the HDMI inputs, which means you have to tell your Blu-ray player to decode the soundtrack beforehand. The sound quality should be similar, but for people who prefer their AV receiver to do the decoding – or those who simply like seeing the name of the format pop-up on the display panel – this could be a turn-off.
Elsewhere you get the same sound modes found on Samsung’s all-in-one systems – Power Bass boosts low frequencies, Smart Volume keeps sound at a constant level and MP3 Enhancer augments MP3s. There are also 12 DSP modes to further tailor the sound to your taste.
The setup process would have been helped immeasurably by the inclusion of onscreen menus, which are found on several other budget AV receivers, but again that would have meant extra cost. Still, the front panel menu makes things fairly easy to understand, using a logical structure to make up for the lack of onscreen visuals. You can assign inputs and adjust the audio parameters with minimal fuss.
But thanks to the Auto Sound Calibration mode, you don’t have to set the levels manually. Using the supplied microphone and a repeated blast of music (which could send you insane), it measures the acoustic properties of your room and sets the levels automatically. Given the intended audience for this product, this could end up being one of the more significant features.
The remote also helps to keep things nice and simple. The responsiveness and helpful layout of the buttons cause no stumbling blocks and all of the keys are clearly labelled, so you can quickly find functions you don’t use very often.