Whenever people start thinking about their home theater setups, they usually think of the television first. Sure, visuals mean a lot and that's why it's worthwhile to invest in a good HDTV to go along with your Blu-ray player and wall mount kit, but what about audio? Sound is just as important as the picture and, let's face it, the speakers built into TVs these days leave a lot to be desired.
The more expensive option would be to invest in a high-quality amplifier/receiver, along with a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system. Even if we end up finding the best powered subwoofer deals, a system can still easily run you $1000 US or more. And that's not including the cables!
Offering a more affordable option with as few cables as possible is the Samsung HW-C450 Soundbar. This is about as clean an install as it gets. But how does it sound? Let's find out!
Features and Specifications
This product is of the soundbar variety, meaning that it's not a true surround sound system. Instead, you get a single "bar" of speakers in the front, accompanied by an external subwoofer. With this configuration, you can get a simulated surround sound experience. It also saves a lot of room if you are setting up in cramped quarters.
By going with this route, you can mount the main speaker bar on the wall (or just place it on a shelf), put the wireless subwoofer somewhere else and have very little in terms of messy cables to deal with. This is great for smaller spaces like dorm rooms where a true 5.1 system might not be appropriate. It's also difficult to properly setup a 5.1 system in small spaces.
Going through the specs, the soundbar itself (which measures just 92mm thick) has a total of six speakers pushing out a total of 160 watts (80w x 2 channels), plus the 120-watt subwoofer for a total of 280 Watts. The sub only needs a power cable and will "sync" automatically with the main unit. The soundbar also has a built-in amplifier.
The Samsung HW-C450 system retails for around $349 US, but you can easily purchase the system for around $249 - $314 US making it quite affordable.
Looking Inside the Box
When I opened up the box to the HW-C450, I was a little surprised to see that there was no instruction manual or quick start guide. I can safely assume, though, that this is because I have a review unit and the last person to test it neglected to return the documentation. The retail version should most certainly have some sort of guide included. This is an area where Samsung does a fairly good job so we'll assume that the HW-C450 receives the same treatment.
I was also surprised to see that an optical audio cable was included. In the day and age when most AV equipment comes bundled with virtually no cables, this was a pleasant surprise. The box also contained the soundbar itself, the wireless subwoofer, a 3.5mm stereo mini to RCA audio cable, remote control, and wall mount kit.
Setup and Input Options
The whole point of the Samsung soundbar speaker system is that it is remarkably easy to install and setup. You plug the power cable into the wall, plug in your inputs, and away you go. The subwoofer requires no synchronization or pairing process. Just provide it with power and make sure it's on.
As far as input options, you get a single 3.5mm stereo mini input and a pair of optical audio inputs. The stereo mini jack can be used for regular RCA audio (red and white) audio input too, using the supplied adapter cable. The real shame here, though, is the lack of HDMI input and the lack of an HDMI pass-through.
The limited number of input jacks also limits the number of components you can have connected to this. Connect your cable TV receiver and a video game system and that's about it. What about my Blu-ray? My HD media player? My HTPC?