Samsung Crystal Surround Airtrack HW-F751 Review – Unlike run of the mill soundbars, Samsung’s HW-F751 2.1 system has high-end pretentions. The build quality and design of this two-part package is first class. The main soundbar, a wide 933mm suitable for larger screen sizes, sports a foil mesh grille framed by faux chrome endplates, not fabric. This is broken in the middle by a window showcasing the system’s two vacuum tubes, which glow a dull orangey red when powered up.
It’s difficult to know if the use of retro valves like this is merely design artifice or a genuine audio embellishment. Let’s assume that they’re sitting on the edge of a DAC actually contributing to the performance of the speakers.
Build and Connectivity Aspect
Inputs recessed on the back of the soundbar comprise an HDMI loopthrough, analogue 3.5mm input, and optical digital audio jack. On the top of the bar there’s a USB port, disguised by a sliding cover.
The unit is also Bluetooth enabled. Supplied with the system is a simple wall mount, with lugs that the soundbar drops into. The active subwoofer is a cosmetic match, finished in a futuristic metallic grey. A rear-ported design, it stands 350mm tall and 295mm deep. Because it’s wireless, there are no inputs to study. Only a power supply is required.
Setup up is extremely quick and easy. Simply connect your sources, power up the sub and partner it wirelessly to the main bar. A typical configuration might be a set-top box connected via HDMI, with the optical input providing a connection for an audio component or games console. To help fine tune the AirTrack to your living room, an ASC autocalibration microphone is supplied. This plugs into the port provided and immediately prompts you to begin the calibration process via the on-bar display.
This process takes just a minute or two to work through its repertoire of peeps and whistles. Although ostensibly a TV audio upgrade, the provision of Bluetooth on the HW-F751 encourages pure musical use. If you’d rather not stream, the top-mounted USB port proves to be surprisingly useful. The media reader plays AAC, WMA, MP3, WAV and FLAC files from a USB stick. However navigating via the sound bar’s single line text display isn’t the easiest experience.
Samsung rates the onboard digital amplifier of the AirTrack at 60W per channel (into 6ohms), and the subwoofer at 150W (into 3ohms). Decent sounding paper specs, but this system shouldn’t be regarded as a replacement for a full-blown AV receiver, as it simply doesn’t have the real-world muscle to compete with a dedicated 5.1 system. However, when compared to the anemic outpourings of the average thinscreen, it positively roars. With an action romp like The Expendables 2 (Sky Movies) the AirTrack delivers satisfying sonic thrills when ramped up. The subwoofer is a punchy performer, detonating on cue with considerable precision. The backward-facing blowhole moves a considerable amount of air. There is a variety of preset soundfields available to experiment with: Music, News, Drama, Cinema, Sports and Game. We tried them all with a variety of sources and ultimately came to the same conclusion: they’re better left off.
Select the Cinema mode and the soundtrack is given an unsubtle echo and loudness boost; choose Sport and you get thinner audio coupled to a crisper echo. And so it goes… There’s also a separate 3D Sound Plus mode just for music and movies. This is more interesting than the themed processing modes. 3D processing eff ectively lifts the centre image or dialogue and smooshes out the width. It’s by no stretch of the imagination surround, but the process does widen the soundstage. Unfortunately, in 3D Sound Plus Movies there’s an omniscient windy wailing, which makes it appear as if you’re listening to a movie in a wind tunnel. In truth, this Samsung doesn’t need such gimmickry.
The integration of the subwoofer is fine, and the clarity of imaging extremely good. When Jet Lee lets fly with a frying pan during the opening melee of the Expendables sequel, there’s a very satisfying metallic clank as kitchen appliance repeatedly connects with noggin. The subwoofer itself goes reassuringly deep. There’s some pressure noise between 17Hz- 31.5Hz, but it doesn’t really start to move air in a meaningful way until it hits 50Hz. The soundbar crosses over at 100Hz. Compared to some sub-sat systems, this is quite low and has the benefit of not making the sub sound too directional. The Crystal AirTrack is excellent with dialogue and has a well rounded mid-range. Sky News is blessed with admirable clarity, even at low volumes. Rise of the Planet of the Apes, (Sky Movies) has a deep throated soundtrack with plenty of guttural bass.
The sub with this system didn’t shirk its duties, pounding like an irate Silverback Although a little pricey, Samsung’s Crystal Air Track has much to offer. Its audio performance is well balanced and powerful, which may or may not owe something to the hybrid use of traditional valve technology, while Bluetooth streaming and USB provide some funky icing on the cake. This is an impressive audio package.
- Beautiful design
- Warm, powerful sound
- Bluetooth streaming
- Minus: Gimmicky audio processing modes
- No effective faux surrounds
- Not massively powerful
Samsung Crystal Surround Airtrack HW-F751 Specifications
- Bluetooth streaming: Dolby and DTS compatibility; vacuum tube audio processing; ASC autocalibration microphone; wireless active subwoofer; Auto Power Link; wall-mount
- Connections: HDMI loopthrough; optical digital audio input; ASC microphone input; aux stereo analogue audio input
- Price $815