The Samsung HW-E450 soundbar can be wall mounted using the supplied bracket in the box, or you can place it on a TV stand thanks to the rubber pads on the flat underside. Once in place, setting it up is a piece of cake. The soundbar and sub pair automatically, and you can tweak the subwoofer level using the dedicated controls on the remote. There are also controls for the Audio Delay to correct lip sync problems (up to 300ms) and the main volume.
The remote is small and stumpy, but its shape allows it to fit snugly in the hand. The direction and playback keys are conveniently placed, but the volume buttons get a bit buried in the clutter and the lettering is quite small. Still, not a bad effort.
You can toggle through sources and sound presets using the Source and Sound Effect buttons on the remote – the front panel displays the name of the selected input or sound mode.
To test the Samsung HW-E450’s audio chops we loaded up The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers on Blu-ray, and were highly impressed by its talents. The sound is rich and hearty, delivering sound on a much larger scale than any flat TV could muster but with a satisfying level of poise and control.
The Battle of Helm’s Deep provides a terrific showcase for the Samsung’s skills. The orchestral score drives along urgently, arrows whizz by the camera with a crisp ‘swish’, swords clank against each other cleanly without any harshness and the Orcs’ roaring battle cries have a menacing rasp. It’s stirring stuff.
What’s more, dialogue cuts through the melee of battle and despite the lack of HD audio decoding, high-frequency detail presentation is generally clean and crisp. Select the 3D Sound mode (available in Low and High settings) and the soundstage feels fuller, but you lose detail clarity. The sound presets are less than ideal – we preferred to turn them off.
The subwoofer also does a better job than expected, provided you use the volume judiciously – anything above 1 starts to sound bloated. Transient bass notes are reasonably quick and punchy, and it adds convincing depth to Treebeard’s rich voice. In Chapter 41 when the Deeping Wall is breached by a suicide Orc, the explosion is deep and powerful but doesn’t outstay its welcome.
The Samsung HW-E450’s greatest weakness is that its virtual surround processing and 3D sound fail to live up to Samsung’s enthusiastic claims – there’s no sense of surround envelopment at all, although the stereo soundstage is pleasingly wide.
Music sounds great through the Samsung HW-E450, reproduced with a fluid balance between the low, mid and high frequencies. The sub is surprisingly agile, keeping funky live basslines tight and on tempo, while the crisp hi-hats and smooth vocals top it off nicely.
Anyone seeking to upgrade from their TV speakers without committing to a full 5.1 system would do well to consider the Samsung HW-E450. It looks striking, with a slim, compact design that’ll make a minimal impact on your living space. It lacks HD audio decoding, but there are some nice features like USB music playback and Bluetooth streaming to make up for it. The best part, however, is that it delivers a rich, room-filling sound with great composure and solid bass from the impressive wireless sub.