Onto performance, and although the HW-C500 does a passable job with Blu-ray soundtracks, it simply isn’t in the same league as entry-level models from the likes of Onkyo, Denon or Pioneer. It lacks the control, presence and finesse needed to steal your breath away, a fact exposed by Avatar’s DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack – decoded into PCM by our Blu-ray player first, of course.
Yes, it’s feisty and dynamic, with deep bass and impressive surround channel performance – the HW-C500 conjures up a wide and absorbing soundstage, helped greatly by crisp reproduction of rear effects and smooth steering. But when the action really hots up (during the Battle for Pandora for example) high frequencies begin to strain with the tell-tale signs of harshness, and with the volume approaching maximum there’s an edge to the sound that makes it uncomfortable to listen to for prolonged periods.
We’re painting a negative picture here, and it’s worth reiterating that the HW-C500 is by no means a disaster. For the most part its movie performance is actually quite enjoyable. But when you can pick up a receiver from a dedicated audio brand for around the same price, offering more assured sound quality and lots more features, this Samsung doesn’t really stand a chance.
If you own a Samsung TV and Blu-ray player and want a matching AV receiver, then the HW-C500 might be an appealing option. It’s a highly stylish piece of kit with a decent amount of sockets, plus the supplied iPod dock and support for 3D signals is not to be sniffed at for this sort of money. But that’s where the praise ends – its sound quality isn’t up to the standards of similarly-priced rivals like the Onkyo TX-SR308, which also decodes HD audio signals and throw lots of other features and connections into the mix.