The R1 is the smallest and most affordable of Samsung’s new multiroom speakers, sitting below the R3, R5 and R7 in the range. It may be the cheapest of the new models, but Samsung hasn’t skimped on features – it does all the same tricks as the more expensive speakers but from a more compact enclosure. Aside from multiroom functionality, the R1’s key feature is its omnidirectional speaker tech, which delivers the same sound quality from anywhere in the room.
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The R1 is a scaled-down version of the R5, measuring around 8cm shorter. Its smaller size, upright enclosure and small footprint make it even easier to place on desktops and furniture. The speaker itself is shaped like a cylinder that flares at the top, with a gap between the base and speaker that disperses sound from the woofer.
The minimal black finish lacks the glitz of the egg-shaped R7, but it’s a memorable look. Build quality is excellent – the speaker feels weighty in the hand and it’s solidly pieced together, plus the black cloth wrapped around the edge is a classy touch.
The pièce de résistance is the UV-coated top panel, the entire surface of which is a touch-sensitive control pad. Swipe your finger to the left or right and it skips back or forward a track, while a single tap pauses playback. The R1 eschews the OLED display on the R5 for a basic LED in the middle that blinks when it detects activity.
On the outskirts of the panel are volume and Mode controls, also of the touch-sensitive variety. The Mode button toggles through the inputs – Bluetooth, TV SoundConnect and Wi-Fi. A female voice lets you know when various inputs are “ready”. A long press on the panel puts the speaker into standby, but it will shut down automatically after 15 minutes of inactivity.
A recess beneath houses the power inlet, a micro-USB for service use and a button that helps you connect the speaker to a network. There’s no 3.5mm mini-jack for external sources – this is a strictly wireless affair. A hole in the bottom edge keeps the power lead nice and tidy.
The feature list is the same as the R5 apart from the drivers – it uses a 3.6-inch woofer at the bottom as opposed to the R5’s 5-inch driver, but the 1-inch tweeter at the top remains the same. These drivers each disperse sound through an Acoustic Lens, spreading the waves evenly in all directions. Samsung calls this Ring Radiator technology.
Most people walk around doing other things while listening to music, so the aim of this technology is to deliver the same sound quality no matter where you are in the room, eliminating the so-called "sweet spot".
The R1 also boasts dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. If you have several Samsung speakers around the house you can create a multiroom system, conducted by the Multiroom App 2.0. The app is now available for the Samsung Gear S and Apple Watch, allowing you to access the song queue list and speaker list, or control playback and volume.
Using the app you can stream music from your smartphone, DLNA devices and a generous array of online services, including Spotify, Deezer, Murfie, Napster, Qobuz, 7digital, 8tracks, TuneIn and Rdio. The lack of Tidal is a shame and there’s no SoundCloud either, which I’ve seen on other multiroom systems.
The R1 plays hi-res audio, including FLAC, ALAC, AIFF and WAV files up to 192kHz/24-bit. Of course, you can also play lossy formats such as MP3, WMA, AAC and OGG. Finally, TV SoundConnect beams sound from a compatible Samsung TV to the speaker.
Unlike Samsung’s previous multiroom speakers, the R1 doesn’t need a Wi-Fi Hub, which simplifies the setup process. What’s more, Samsung’s revamped Multiroom app makes operation a cinch.
The first thing you need to do is download the Multiroom App 2.0 onto your smartphone. Select the "Add Speaker" option in the setup menu and the app searches for available speakers. Once discovered, key in your Wi-Fi password and it joins the R1 to your network. A female voice tells you that the connection is complete.
Samsung’s smartphone app is easy on the eye and even easier on the fingers. The layout is simple and streamlined in a way Samsung’s previous multiroom app never was, allowing you to dip in and out of various music sources with consummate ease. Yes the sophisticated colour schemes and jazzy backgrounds are pretty, but they don’t get in the way of usability.
Everything can be accessed from the app’s first screen. Tap the Music Source banner at the top and a dropdown menu displays a list of music services and available DLNA devices.
You can browse songs using a sidebar on the right, or edit the playback queue by tapping the track name. At the bottom of the screen are playback controls and a volume slider, while the Options menu offers an equalizer with Pop, Jazz and Classic presets. A virtual jog dial in the middle of the screen lets you skip tracks simply by dragging your finger round the edge.
Controlling a multiroom system is easy. Each speaker in the system is displayed in a box with individual volume sliders and EQ settings. You can send different sources to each speaker, or group them together and play the same thing through them all. To do that, simply drag the boxes on top of each other.
The first thing to say about the R1’s performance is how surprisingly powerful it is for such a slender speaker. It fills the room easily, and thanks to the wonders of Samsung’s Ring Radiator tech, the sound remains deep and detailed no matter where you are in relation to the speaker. The R5 is slightly more potent, but there isn’t much in it.
I placed the R1 at the other end of the room – a good five or six metres away – and controlled the music from the smartphone app. Even from that distance I could feel the rhythms and basslines pulsating, while sparkling hi-hats and tambourines give the music a wonderful sense of air and space.
Basslines are deep, fulsome and tightly controlled by the impressive woofer. The reggae-tinged bassline of "Know Who You Are" by Pharrell Williams bounces along nimbly without an ounce of fat, making head-nodding compulsory. Notes start and stop decisively and integrate well with the kick drums and keyboards. There’s a chance that some listeners might find the R1’s bass output a little too full-on, but if so, you can reduce it using the app’s equalizer menu.
Elsewhere, the R1 makes sense of intricate, multi-layered songs such as "Sleepwalkers" by Jarrod Lawson, spreading its attention equally between the vocal harmonies, drums, flutes, piano solos and basslines. There’s plenty going on, but the R1 separates the elements clearly and offers an even balance across the frequencies.
It’s an exciting listen too, thanks to the characteristically crisp treble. Snare drums snap and guitars have a textured twang, but the R1 stays just the right side of brightness. Turn up the volume loud, though, and a touch of hardness creeps in – particularly when playing certain EDM tracks and pop songs from Spotify. Play "Sax" by Fleur East and the sharp claps and synths test the limits of the tweeter, but on the whole the R1 copes well for such a small speaker.
The R1 might be the smallest of Samsung’s new multiroom speakers but it gives the larger R5 a run for its money. You get the same extensive feature set and living room-friendly design – but, most impressively, it delivers more of the same powerful, punchy sound. There are some sacrifices to be made, but on the whole it does a similar job at a lower price.
This slender cylinder effortlessly fills the room with omnidirectional sound, allowing you to walk around without any change in tone or bass depth, while crisp treble makes for an exciting listen. Its soundstage is slightly smaller than the R5, and it loses poise at higher volumes, but it still holds its own sonically against price rivals such as the Denon Heos 1.
What’s more, the smart design and small footprint make it a welcome addition to any room. Plus, thanks to Samsung’s excellent smartphone app, it’s remarkably easy to control as part of a multiroom system.
Samsung’s entry-level multiroom speaker is stylish, easy to use and bursting with features, while clever Ring Radiator tech delivers powerful and detailed sound wherever you are in the room.