Samsung delivers a wide range of soundbars in all sizes and price ranges, crammed full of speakers that send surround sound to all sides. The common denominator for many of these, however, is that they have a pretty – well, industrial design! Not necessarily the most tempting to decorate the living room with – especially if you have already invested in a beautiful and discreet TV on the wall.
If you think the majority of soundbars look angular and ugly, Samsung’s latest creation may taste better. The so-called S-series is made especially to match The Frame and other design-oriented TV models such as The Serif.
The top model in the S-series is dressed in a beautiful fabric cover from Kvadrat, and comes in either black (HW-S66A) or light gray (HW-S67A). The width of 76 centimeters is just enough to fit inside the feet of a 55-inch The Frame. Maybe it could just as easily be called The Bar?
The design is at least appealing to our eyes: Here you get a speaker that can easily slide into the surroundings, without screaming “look at me”. It can stand on the bench or be hung on the wall using the attached brackets.
Five surround channels – but no Dolby Atmos
Under the fabric, there are 7 drivers, covering a total of 5 channels (5.0). The S66A has even got one channel more than its predecessor, the S66T, more specifically a separate center speaker for the dialogues. In addition to the left and right stereo channels, it also shoots surround sound to the sides.
However, the Samsung board must be able to do without so-called height channels, and also has no support for 3D audio formats such as Dolby Atmos and DTS: X. Here, only ordinary 5.1 sound applies. Those who want to take advantage of the more advanced audio formats, are instead referred to the many models in the Q-series.
Samsung has introduced Q Symphony, which is a feature where the board plays in “symphony” with the TV’s built-in speakers. However, you do not get this on the S-series.
Can be upgraded with subwoofer and rear speakers
Samsung S66A has built-in subwoofers, and should basically do quite well without a subwoofer. However, Samsung offers this as an option: The SWA-W500 wireless subwoofer is sold separately.
Those who wish can also upgrade the soundbar with extra rear speakers to the surround effects. The speaker set you can buy in addition is called SWA-9000S, but be aware that these do not have the same design design in textile – and only come in black.
Ease of use and features
The Samsung board is easy to set up: it can either be connected to your TV using the included HDMI cable (recommended), alternatively via Bluetooth or optical cable. Some TVs will automatically recognize the soundbar and activate the audio return channel (HDMI ARC), but you may also need to enter the TV menu and activate it. In our case, we paired the soundbar with a 2021 Samsung The Frame LS03A, and it went smoothly.
If you have set up a smart home with Samsung’s SmartThings app, then this soundbar can also be added there. Then you also get access to streaming services, such as Deezer, Apple Music and Internet radio via Wi-Fi. The bar also supports both Airplay II, Spotify Connect and Chromecast, so there are plenty of playback options.
If you have a Samsung TV, you can take advantage of full synchronization and remote control via the TV remote control. But the soundbar also comes with its own remote control, plus control buttons on top of the speaker.
When we tested the 2020 model HW-S66T some time ago, we were particularly impressed with the sound reproduction, which had a rather woolly and stuffy character. It may seem that Samsung itself has acknowledged this, because on this year’s model they have made some important – and clearly audible – improvements.
Among other things, the HW-S66A has a dedicated center channel, so that the voice reproduction is now reproduced by separet drivers, instead of being mixed into the stereo sound. This can also be heard immediately by the dialogues being more precisely placed in the centre, and assuming a more “physical” presence in the room. It will also be part of the conversation between the characters: The exchange between Robert De Niro and Al Pacino in the gangster film The Irishman comes out clearly.
The new Samsung board has also become clearer at the top: the treble sounds crisper and contributes to both music and sound effects coming out better. We can also play relatively loud: The shots in John Wick 3 leaves our ears ringing, without the sound being distorted or strenuous. Which indicates decent quality of the speaker elements.
S66A has some musical qualities that make us step on the beat. Music via Spotify, as well as music videos from YouTube, work great. Among other things, we checked out the many videos from the show The Voice, and were immediately quite captivated: the Samsung bar has the right fullness and warmth in the midrange that makes the music sound engaging and present. If you do not already have a Bluetooth speaker in the living room, this can actually be a good option.
We also think that the S66A does well in the bass, even without a separate subwoofer it has good fullness and definition in the bass range. Double bass, drums and other sound effects do well. But at one point it naturally says stop: The deepest bass is absent, and if you want to reproduce the lowest organ tones and the toughest explosions, heavier shots are required.
For the record, we have tested both with and without the matching subwoofer SWA-W500, and found that this gave a coveted refill in the lowest frequencies, which worked well for both music and film. We think many potential buyers of this “design plank” will say they are happy with the bass as it is, but it is of course nice to have the opportunity to add a subwoofer for those who want – whether you are bass-saved or will fill a larger room with sound.
What we miss a bit, however, is a larger surround sound image. The Samsung plank fails to lock us inside an all-encompassing “sound bubble” as the best Atmos planks can. One is not fooled into thinking that the sound effects come from behind or to the side. This is first and foremost a powerful improvement to the TV sound, but not a full-blooded surround sound system in one box.
With the latest sound improvements, the Samsung HW-S66A stands out as a clear competitor to the Sonos Beam, which has long been our compact favorite. The Sonos bar benefits from the company’s TruePlay room correction, which makes it easy to customize the sound and provides a clear sound enhancement. Samsung does not have a similar solution (only a manual equalizer), but in return sounds more balanced out of the box. If you want to upgrade with a subwoofer, Samsung’s sub is also significantly cheaper than Sonos’ alternative. Worth thinking about if you want a nice soundbar layout on a budget!
Samsung HW-S66A is not the biggest and toughest soundbar on the market, but instead a discreet speaker that fits perfectly with The Frame and other design-conscious TVs. The soundbar has a great shape upholstered in fine textile, and is easy to operate and set up. The sound is excellent with good fullness and distinct dialogues. There are most definitely soundbars around with even larger, all-encompassing surround sound, but they are hardly as furniture-friendly as this one!