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0305wv28 Sammy system
DVD home cinema system
Can Samsungs HT-DM550 match the impressive performance of its Best Buy DM150 system? David Smith reveals all
These days, 450 for an all-in-one system is par for the course. Samsungs HT-DM550 sports the usual Dolby Digital, DTS and DPL II decoding, plus an AM/FM/LW RDS tuner and a respectable 5 x 60W of power, with a further 100W going to the passive subwoofer. A decent enough specification for the money, but can it cut it sonically and visually? to the right it really is a minimalist delight. To the rear are the vital connections. The single Scart socket is RGB-capable, and the unit can also output a composite video signal. There is no S-video provision, though. Audio options stretch to optical digital and stereo phono inputs, while speaker terminals are of the springclip variety common to all-in-ones. The supplied speaker cable is of a generous length and decent quality. Although the system would benefit from chunkier cable, its fairly doubtful that the springclip terminals could handle it. Samsung provides identification stickers for each cable so that you wont mix them up if they get in a tangle, but you have to stick them on yourself. Finally, the remote control is clutter-free, thanks to many options being hidden behind a sliding flap. The problem is that some of the options are likely to be used frequently (like slow motion and zoom) and the flap may snap off if handled roughly.
That flimsy flap is just bound to break off
The first thing you notice is that the satellites are a horrible design. Compared with the small, cool metallic units on the DM150, these sats are strangely shaped and disconcertingly big. The aesthetic effect is much like that of a midi hi-fi a few years after micros made their appearance they just look old-fashioned. This shouldnt prejudice us, however. Looks arent everything, and the poor impression made by the speakers is offset by the gorgeous main unit. This is a triumph of design and makes you wonder whether two completely separate departments at Samsung have worked on this system. With its familiar blue glow and mirrored fascia, this unit just oozes class and its weight (8.3kg, no less) hints at the power packed onboard. There are hardly any buttons on the fascia, with a large volume knob set
More elegantly designed than the speakers
Setup is split between an onscreen menu (which is easy to operate) and an front-panel display (which isnt). It would have been far preferable to have everything adjustable on screen. The onscreen
RGB and composite video but no S-video
display is limited to such options as language and TV aspect ratio, while to access the really important stuff like speaker settings you have to use the front panel. This makes setup a bit of a fiddle, but at least it has a logical operating procedure and the manual is easy to follow. DVD playback options are standard and include a zoom (2x and 4x) and slow-motion playback (at half- and quarter-speed). The output level of the front stereo speakers can be adjusted between -6dB and 0dB, while the centre, rears and subwoofer can be set between -6dB and +6dB. Delay time is also adjustable and a test tone lets you check your settings. A smattering of DSP modes joins the pure cinema sound options, stretching to Hall, Theater, Pavilion, Dance Club and Live Club. Parameters including Room, Live and Reverb are adjustable for each DSP mode, but our advice is always to stick to the original source format. You can also boost the effect level, making the DSP effect more strident if you wish. Dynamic range can be switched on or off, limiting the disparity
M AY I W H A T V I D E O W I D E S C R E E N E N T E R T A I N M E N T
FEATURES Main unit: Dolby Digital/DTS/DPL II decoding; 5 x 60W power; 100W to subwoofer; AM/FM/LW RDS tuner; five DSP modes; DVD/DVD-R/CD/VCD/ CD-R/CD-RW/MP3 playback; onscreen display; standard DVD playback options; PAL/NTSC output; test tone Speakers: satellites 100Hz-22kHz frequency range; 60W power handling; magnetically shielded; sub 40Hz-200Hz frequency range; 100W power handling SOCKETS Front: headphone jack Rear: 1 Scart socket (RGB capable); stereo audio input and output; optical digital audio input; composite video output; 5.1-channel springclip terminals; AM/FM antenna sockets TEST DATA DVD: Video jitter: 3ns (very good) Signal-to-noise ratio: -64dB (average) Chroma AM/PM: -74dB/-67.9dB (exc/v gd) Frequency response at 5MHz: (composite): -4.46dB (excellent) Audio jitter: 324.6ps (good) Amp: Manufacturers output: 60W per channel (6, 10% THD) Power output at 1kHz: (2-channel) 58.1W (8, 2.38% THD) (5-channel) 43.9W (8, 2.09% THD) (2-channel) 78.1W (4, 2% THD) (5-channel) 59.6W (4, 1.07% THD) Fidelity firewall: 51.8W at 0.1% THD (8) Distortion at 10W: 0.01% (8, 1kHz) Frequency response: 315Hz-20kHz 0.73dB (lower frequencies redirected to sub channel) DIMENSIONS 430(w) x 80(h) x 365(d)mm CONTACT Samsung 0168
between the loudest and quietest sounds and thus making it more neighbour-friendly to watch movies late at night. Lets not forget the RDS tuner, and the provision of LW is welcome.
For the purposes of this test the HT-DM550 was fed a Region 2 copy of The Matrix with mixed results. On the plus side, picture quality is extremely enjoyable. There is a good level of detail, no artefacts or smearing and solid colour rendition. Detail remains clear in dimly lit scenes and during fast-action sequences. The trickplay functions work smoothly, although the zoom causes more picture deterioration than some we have seen. Bearing in mind it only blows the picture up to 4x a better performance might have been expected. Still, this remains a highly capable picture provider. Sonically, things are somewhat less impressive. The soundstage is indistinct, with a blurring of imagery and imprecise presentation of sound. A key offender here is the
subwoofer which, unlike the DM150s, tends to boom and needs to be severely reined-in with the output settings to keep it under some sort of control. Clipping its wings to the tune of -6dB at least limits its tendency to bully the rest of the speakers, but it still adds a level of bass output that thumps unpleasantly at times.
are all too apparent. This makes the provision of MP3 playback capability a bit of a white elephant, because this is not a system for music-lovers. To further blight performance, the cooling fan for the main unit is noisy and often quite intrusive, especially when listening at low volumes. Not clever.
samsung has a real hit and miss on its hands here
Samsung has a real hit and miss on its hands in the HT-DM550. The main unit is beautifully designed and delivers a very powerful picture. In contrast, the speaker system is old-fashioned and presents a muddled and indistinct soundstage that doesnt get the best out of precisely steered 5.1 soundtracks. Paired with a superior speaker package this system would begin to show its true colours, but as it stands it cannot be recommended. Although its total power output is some 130W less overall, the 350 HT-DM150 is a more appealing proposition, with its properly meshed sub/sat delivery. We suggest giving that an audition
WHATS GOOD Design of main unit; picture quality WHATS BAD Speakers; sound quality OVERALL A poor sonic performance lets down a strong picture and good-looking main unit PICTURE.%%%%% SOUND.%%% FEATURES.%%%% EASE OF USE.%%%% VALUE.%%% OVERALL.%%%
The sats are also problematic. They present a sound that doesnt mesh well with the subwoofer and does a poor job on dialogue. The overall impression is of a package throwing out sound indiscriminately, sacrificing control for volume and failing to get to grips with the subtleties of speech and quieter effects. On music sources this problem is even more noticeable. With no images to distract you your attention focuses entirely on the audio and the flaws
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