With the proliferation of thin TVs and race-to-the-bottom pricing, many manufacturers have ditched any sense of sound quality for the displays. This makes most TVs artificially $200-$300 cheaper. But at the same time, even if you want to just listen to a newscast, you'll need to buy a soundbar to enjoy better-quality sound. The problem is, small soundbars tend to sound bad, and good soundbars are either expensive or relatively gigantic in size.
Deciding to search for something that would still sound nice but wouldn't require a separate subwoofer, I browsed through my local Best Buy and found the Samsung HW-MS650, which is sold at an MSRP of $600. It caught my eye for being very attractive, with no-nonsense, industrial rectangular sculpting. Add to that the brushed finish on the top, and the industrial-style grille over the speakers, and everything harmonized together beautifully. So I brought it home with me.
The MS650's connections include a 4K-capable HDMI pass-thru system, optical and auxiliary audio inputs, an output for adding an optional subwoofer, and support for both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless streaming. As I absolutely abhor the use of ARC due to its instability, I connected the HW-MS650 via optical from my Panasonic 65FZ1000 OLED TV.
The most important technological feat of this soundbar is its innovative distortion-cancelling technology, developed and refined by Samsung at its sound lab in California. This is the reason the soundbar can reach down to a physics defying 36Hz (based on my measurements) without the need for a subwoofer.
The Samsung HW-MS650 soundbar ships as standard with a Dolby Digital and DTS decoder on board, down-converting multi-channel inputs to its three-channel, nine-speaker configuration unless you add an external subwoofer and Samsung's wireless rear speakers. It's also able to deal with various file formats: AAC, MP3, FLAC, WAV, OGG and ALAC are all on the list.
As soon as I turned on the unit, it became apparent that all that marketing of distortion-cancelling technology is not hype. In fact, the MS650 is the best single-body soundbar (read: sans subwoofer) I've heard to date, regardless of brand and price.
Starting off with movie playback, the breadth and dynamics of the HW-MS650 delivers the UHD soundtrack. It is phenomenal for a three-channel system, especially when I selected Surround Mode, which expands the height and width of the soundstage into an enveloping wall of sound with hardly any negative impact on the dialogue. The bass extension was phenomenal, too. No boomy bass here. Virtually all details were presented in a clean and clear manner.
Usually, soundbars that excel for movies can not deliver the goods with music, but the HW-MS650 is the exception to that rule. Its smooth, rich bass handling is impeccable for a speaker of its size, without sounding in any way forced or, for lack of better word, baggy.
I was pleasantly surprised by the musical qualities of the HW-MS650. It handled pretty much every musical genre I played with equal tenacity and precision, from Diana Krall tracks to various songs sourced from Roger's 4K Music Video Channel.
I'm not saying it's perfect, but if you're like me and looking for a soundbar you can use without a subwoofer that sounds more than just "acceptable," this soundbar is the answer to your prayers.