Instead of a typical long bar, the Samsung HW-E551 consists of a pair of stereo speakers that can be placed on their own stands or plugged together to make a soundbar. See all digital home reviews.
You can also wall-mount them separately or as one. The speakers are accompanied by a large rear-firing wireless active subwoofer making it a 2.1 system. See all audio reviews.
We set the speakers up as a soundbar which meant slotting them together, attaching a stand and providing power. Once the subwoofer is switched on, the two automatically pair up and you're almost ready to go.
Samsung provides plenty of connections including optical, two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, a 3.5mm jack and a USB port for playing audio from an external device. USB playback is limited to just MP3 or WMA files, though.
See also: Sonos Playbar review.
We were pleased to find built-in Bluetooth for playing music from smartphones or tablets. The only disappointment is that all the ports reside on the subwoofer so you'll have to place it near your TV.
Sound quality is smooth and well-rounded. With the sub offering tight bass and the speakers producing clear mid-range and bright top-end, the E551 is suited to TV, music and film. We would have liked more control over the sound though: it's only possible to adjust the level of the subwoofer.
With 80W per speaker and 150W for the subwoofer, there's plenty of power to fill the average living room. A nice feature is a LED display which really helps with navigating different modes and volume levels. However, it can be a bit distracting at night and can only be dimmed, not switched off.
The E551 has a virtual surround mode called 3D Sound which can be set to 'light' or 'high'. Like many of these 'virtual' modes it does make for a wider sound stage, but is no substitute for physical rear speakers.
There's also a selection of sound modes or 'effects' which are effectively EQ presets. You'll find music, game, news and sports but we found cinema and drama to be the most useful. 'Smart Volume' aims to adjust the output level of the E551 depending on the input but it was too erratic for our liking, and was quickly disabled.
Other features include three different dynamic range compression (DRC) settings and if you encounter any audio or lip-sync problems this can be adjusted between 0- and 200ms in 25ms hops.
A medium-size remote gives plenty of control over the system and its many features. It can also double as a remote for Samsung TVs.