At the 2012 Samsung Forum, we had the chance to listen to Samsung’s new wireless audio docks. These speaker systems can dock both Apple iDevices and Samsung smartphones, making them a smart choice for a household that’s not committed to either Android or iOS. See also Group test: what's the best speaker set?
Samsung DA-E650: Design and setup
The DA-E650 is the stand-out in Samsung’s dock line-up. It’s not as sophisticated as the DA-E750 or the DA-E670, but the DA-E650 is by far the most fashion-forward. Visit Lenco IPD-9000 docking station review.
The best way we can think of to describe the DA-E650’s shape is half-way between a cylinder and a banana. Its two speakers are on either end of the cylinder, aiming outwards at 45-degree angles. In the centre of the device, a pop-out dock with two connectors — one for iPhones and iPads, and one for Samsung Galaxy S II and newer smartphones — telescopes out of the DA-E650. You can find the full list of compatible tablets and phones here.
The DA-E650 is available in black, white, silver and mahogany brown finishes. We think that the silver and brown look the best, but we were nonetheless happy with the black unit that we were loaned for this review. The speaker system is quite wide — make sure you’ve got plenty of room to place it in, because at 631mm wide it’s not going to fit out of the way on a sideboard or coffee table.
No matter which colour you buy, though, one thing is certain — the DA-E650 is a fingerprint magnet. It’s extremely glossy and we found it very easy to leave visible marks, so if you’re a clean freak you’ll be wiping this wireless dock down regularly.
The DA-E650 has four touch-sensitive controls on the right side of its body, for volume, playback and to change the input. These buttons aren’t at all raised from the body of the speaker, and don’t light up, so unless you’re in good light it’s quite hard to see them. Four lights on the front of the DA-E650’s dock tell you which input you’re using.
Easier to use is the bundled credit-card style remote control, which is clearly labelled and includes more features — rather than only four, it has a whopping nine buttons.
Samsung has gone to pains to dumb down the DA-E650’s control system, but we think a more detailed display on the speaker itself (rather than just four lights) would have been useful. As it stands, it’s actually quite difficult to even tell whether you’ve got the power turned on.
Samsung DA-E650: Sound quality and features
The DA-E650 has four main uses. Most likely to be used every day is the speaker system’s dock, which can charge an Apple or Samsung device while playing music back off it. We tested the system with a Apple iPhone 4, and it performed just as you’d expect an iPod dock to. The docks tilt back and forward freely to accomodate devices of different sizes and designs — we were able to fit an iPad with no problems, for example.
The ‘wireless’ capacity of the DA-E650 comes courtesy of its inbuilt Bluetooth module. Any device with A2DP Bluetooth — that’s almost any tablet, mobile phone or laptop from the last few years — can sync with the wireless audio dock and play back music within a range of around 10 metres.
If you don’t have a phone to dock or sync via Bluetooth, you can also play audio through the DA-E650 via the rear auxiliary input, which uses a 3.5mm stereo jack. USB hard drives and flash drives are also supported through the rear USB Direct Play port — we tested it with MP3 and WAV files and found that they all played with no problems. We doubt the system would work with more exotic audio file types like FLAC, though.
The last use for the DA-E650 is its ‘SoundShare’ mode, where the dock can be teamed up with a Samsung television over Bluetooth to complement that TV’s speakers. If you’ve got a Samsung TV already, this is a nifty extra use for the wireless audio dock.
The speakers used in the Samsung DA-E650 do a good job; they’re best heard at moderate volume levels, but will handle loud music without noticeable distortion. Because the DA-E650’s speakers point slightly away from each other, if you’re listening close up you won’t be able to hear both left and right channels. It’s best to listen to the system from at least two metres away, where you’re able to distinguish left and right audio and hear everything.
The speakers handle treble frequencies reasonably well — there was a decent amount of detail in most of the music we listened to, and high notes sounded clear and crisp without being harsh. Mid-range frequencies are where the DA-E650 excels though — at moderate volume levels guitar strums and piano keys sounded great, resonating smoothly even at full volume in a large room.
The Samsung DA-E650’s two stereo speakers are joined by a small subwoofer integrated into the speaker’s body, with a rear port to add some low-frequency oomph to music. It doesn’t do a great deal — its value is in adding some extra warmth and richness to music, rather than a heavy bass kick.
Samsung DA-E650: Conclusion
The DA-E650 is a slightly confusing wireless audio dock, but it’s versatile and sounds good. If it had a screen to display important info like volume, power and playback, we’d recommend it more.