Stylish soundbar does a fine job of boosting your TV's sonic satisfaction
Samsung's HW-E450 is a classic soundbar design with its electronics, full-range drivers and tweeters built in to the main 'bar, complemented by a wireless subwoofer. The soundbar itself is long and thin, meaning it can happily sit in front of a tabletop-mounted screen without affecting the viewing area, or fixed to a wall.
Looks-wise, the gloss black soundbar is smarter than Professor Brian Cox in a tuxedo, although there’s no grille on it, which arguably makes the four full-range cones and dual tweeters visually distracting. The compact sub is ported and once you’re happy it’s made its first handshake with the soundbar (which should happen automatically) it can be hidden away. Powering on and off is also automatic and volume adjustment is made wirelessly via the remote control and soundbar. You might not want to hide it away, though – it looks pretty stylish. Build quality of both parts of Samsung's package seems robust.
Dolby Digital and DTS decoding are part of the specification here but, despite the provision of HDMI, high-res audio decoding is not. So, if the HW-E450 receives a DTS-HD MA or TrueHD mix it simply resolves the lossy core. Digital optical audio and 3.5mm mini-jacks are present but there’s no coaxial audio input.
Multimedia features aren’t ignored either. The HW-E450 offers Bluetooth audio streaming and a USB socket compatible with MP3 and WMA files stored on thumbdrives. USB aside, the sockets are side-ways facing. Annoyingly, thickly braided HDMI cables won’t fit in the space provided.
The main unit's LED display shows dark blue scrolling text and only becomes evident when the soundbar is switched on. This display is for status info only – it doesn’t provide any way of selecting tracks on a USB-connected drive.
The remote control doesn't feature tone or EQ tweaks but other operations are straightforward, including source selection and engaging the so-called 3D mode. There are also six DSP modes, but a minor irritation is that you can scroll through them in one direction only.
Despite the lack of hi-res audio decoding the HW-E450 does a fine job of boosting your sonic satisfaction with Blu-ray material. Band of Brothers exudes finely controlled muscularity as tanks rumble, guns fire and mortar shells seemingly explode across the front of your living room. The output from the sizeable subwoofer is sometimes hard to regulate, often requiring volume adjustment when changing sources.
The HW-E450 equips itself well with music, too. The instruments and vocals on the Talking Heads’ DTS disc are evenly mixed and there's good stereo imaging from the ultra-wide bar. Low bit-rate MP3 files don't sound hideous, either. With TV dramas the extra detail it picks out is profound. Mad Men is awash with atmospheric background sounds behind the enriched dialogue.
In all, this is a decent proposition – a few bonus features and a respectable price tag combining with a good all-round performance.
HCC Verdict: 4/5
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