Pricey curved sound bar fills narrow niche

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Despite their lack of any real benefits over conventional flatscreens — apart from looking cooler, maybe — curved televisions are enjoying their time in Samsung’s marketing sun. But have you tried pairing a traditional flat sound bar with one? Perhaps you wish it, too, was curved to match your new TV.

Like an arsonist turned firefighter, Samsung comes to the rescue of the situation it created with the HW-J7500. It’s a curved sound bar with a wireless subwoofer and a sleek, low-profile look. Its feature set is also strong, with a plethora of connectivity options including wireless multiroom.

With the help of a bit of EQ tweaking, the performance of the unit is quite decent, but its main appeal is good looks. If you have a curved TV, it’s one of the only matching sound bar options available to you, and that could make it a better choice than competitors such as the Sony HT-ST5. On the other hand, $800 is just too expensive, and if sound quality is your chief aim, numerous superior bars are available for less money.

Design


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Samsung released one of the first curved “flatscreens” in 2014 and this year it’s decided to go curve crazy, with not only screens but curved sound bars and even curved Blu-ray players.

Samsung’s HW-J7500 won’t ever be mistaken for a flat sound bar. Every other competitor is a straight-edged box, while the HW-J7500’s impressive 48.4-inch width is curved to match Samsung’s curved displays. Not only that, the HW-J7500 is a mere 1.9 inches high, so its low profile should make for a less intrusive presence in front of your TV.

The HW-J7500 is designed to fit the company’s 48-inch, 55-inch and 65-inch curved televisions, but it will also complement curved TVs from other brands, like LG’s OLED models. As with last year the speaker is wrapped in brushed aluminum, but it’s an effect you can only fully appreciate up close.


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On top is a minimum of controls to handle power, volume and source selection. A six-character LED readout helps navigate the setup and provides cues during daily use. Despite the presence of video outputs, there is no onscreen display (OSD) on the HW-J7500.


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The low-slung sound bar houses eight speakers and eight amplifier channels. The HW-J7500’s wireless subwoofer measures a hulking 19.7 by 13.1 by 6.3 inches, making it one of the biggest sound bar subs we’ve seen. And no, it’s not curved.


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The clicker that comes with the sound bar is cute as a baby Ewok and provides access to many of the relevant functions. The Samsung Multiroom app can also be used to control many functions, such as switching inputs.

Features

Not content with a boring, old 5.1 channels, the HWJ7500’s specifications mentions 8.1 channels. That number is misleading, however, because it only describes how many drivers the bar uses. The 7500 is not a true surround sound bar, and so it can only emulate surround effects. To help that emulation it employs two of those drivers mounted at each end of the bar.

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Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Samsung multiroom system, a Sonos-style networked audio system, is featured in the HWJ7500 as well. It has enjoyed a significant upgrade since last we used it in 2014, with heightened design and usability. The number of services it now supports has also grown from four — Pandora, Amazon Music, Rhapsody and TuneIn — to 11, and now includes more radio services in addition to Spotify and CD-ripping service Murfie.

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Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

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