Soundbars like the Samsung HT-E8200, with its built-in Blu-ray player and smart TV features, are a fantastic solution if you’re starting your home cinema system from scratch. But if you already own a Blu-ray deck and simply want to upgrade your sound system, then the Samsung HW-E450 might be a more appropriate choice. It’s a 2.1-channel ‘Surround Air Track’, with a slender wall-mountable speaker bar and a wireless subwoofer. There are HDMI and audio connections for your other components and built-in Bluetooth for wireless music streaming.
The Samsung HW-E450 is designed as a space-saving system, and as such the two compact components should slip into your living room discreetly. The soundbar measures just 70mm deep, so won’t look bulky when mounted on the wall, while the subwoofer’s 175mm width lets you slip it into narrow(ish) spaces beside the sofa or the TV – and because it’s wireless, there are no cables to worry about. Result.
What’s more, both components are gorgeously styled in gloss black, which is always a winner. The soundbar’s flat front panel is clean and minimally styled, with an LED display in the centre and speaker drivers (two midrange drivers and a tweeter per channel) embedded at each end. It’s quietly stylish in a way that won’t draw attention away from the TV.
The active subwoofer shares this lustrous gloss black styling, with a brushed strip on top. It’s rear ported and requires its own power supply, which means you’ll need two free plug sockets.
On the back of the soundbar are two recesses for sockets. One houses an HDMI input and output, which allows you to pass audio and video signals through the system to your TV, offering support for both 3D and ARC. The sockets are sideways facing, which means the cables don’t get in the way when it’s wall mounted, but the recess is rather small and it can be tricky to plug in the connectors. Our Peerless cable has a chunky plug on the end and it took a bit of manual dexterity to bend it in properly.
The other recess houses optical digital and 3.5mm minijack inputs. On the far right edge you’ll find a USB port for media playback, as well as power, input selection and volume controls.
Obviously, like any 2.1-channel system there are no physical rear speakers, so the Samsung HW-E450 relies on virtual surround processing to evoke a sense of surround immersion. Soundbars that pull this off successfully are few and far between, but even if it can’t replicate proper surround sound the extra width usually makes for a more open and involving soundstage.
Virtual Surround is backed up by 3D Sound Plus, a processing mode designed to add vertical and horizontal depth to 3D movie soundtracks. A range of sound presets tweak the EQ to suit different types of material, including Music, News, Drama, Cinema, Sports and Game, as well as an Off setting. Smart Volume maintains a consistent level when you switch between sources.
The built-in Bluetooth lets you stream music from smartphones and the like. Alternatively you can load music onto a flash drive device and play it via the HW-E450’s USB input. Sadly the range of supported formats is limited to MP3 and WMA – no FLAC, WAV or AAC – and with no onscreen display there’s no easy way to select specific tracks.
The system’s Crystal Amplifier Plus offers a total claimed power output of 280W, with 80W for each channel and 120W from the sub. The Samsung HW-E450 features Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, but not Dolby True HD or DTS HD Master Audio, which is a pity given that Blu-ray discs will be its most regular diet.