With roots stretching back to 1938 and a lineage beginning with, of all things, groceries and sugar manufacturing, Samsung, after starting its electronics business in 1969, has exploded in the 21st century and is now, flat out, the most popular consumer electronics brand in the world and one of the most fearsome companies on the planet. Sound crazy? Not in the least. Samsung kicked Sony to the curb long ago from both a product and brand standpoint, beginning in the television market, of which Samsung now owns an absurd 23% share worldwide. Samsung is one of the three biggest mobile phone makers. Samsung is the world's largest memory chip and second largest semiconductor manufacturer. And where it really counts - sales - try this on for size: in 2009, Samsung laid claim to the title of the world's largest technology company, with a staggering $117.4 billion in revenues. They're doing a lot very, very right.
In the video and home theater realm, in addition to TVs, Samsung makes Blu-ray and DVD players and home theater systems, described as electronics and speaker packages. Within this category, Samsung makes fourteen systems. One of the two least expensive in the group, the HW-C450 is a 2.1 system described as a "Crystal Surround Air Track - Active Speaker System" on the front of the manual...OK, whatever. Combining many of the features found across many of its competitors, the HW-C450 consists of a main soundbar employing four two-inch flat metal-dome midranges and two 0.625-inch silk dome tweeters driven by an 80-watt stereo amplifier, within a gloss black enclosure measuring 37.66 inches wide by 3.62 inches high by an absurdly slim 1.77 inches deep, and weighing 5.01 pounds. The main unit provides three inputs (two optical digital, one stereo-mini, no HDMI), a USB port (for upgrades), an elegant LED display, slick touch controls for Power, Volume, Sound Field Mode, and Input, a hard-wired power cord, and a mounting bracket, along with a 5.8gHz transmitter to drive the subwoofer. The subwoofer employs a side-firing six-inch woofer within a rear-ported gloss black enclosure measuring 6.89 wide by 13.78 inches high by 11.61 inches deep, and weighing 12.01 pounds. The HW-C450 also provides a remote control with some clever features, Dolby Digital and DTS decoding, six 32-bit simulated surround modes, and a pass-through mode.
Given the incredibly small size of the main unit, the HW-C450 sounded very respectable with music material. While it provided some shimmer on top, it lacked midrange speed, warmth, and musicality. This created an overall shallow sound that pervaded vocal and acoustic tracks mostly, but also lent a canned feel to more intense rock and electronic material. The low end sounded very good, with good punch and weight coupled to an overall speedy presentation. The upper bass actually helped to mitigate some of the lower midrange issues. The HW-C450 sounded good with movies and games, with decent dialogue intelligibility and a very nice combination of punchy and full bass to accent action films. The sound still had some shallowness, but achieved a much higher fidelity overall with these types of materials, especially on top. The soundfields were surprisingly good and useful in the situations for which they are designed, and the pass-through mode was welcome. Overall, for such a small main unit, the sound was impressive. Yes, it's that small, and since that is a very significant consideration for a product of this type, it boosts the sonic value proposition of the HW-C450 quite a bit.
It should also be noted how easy the HW-C450 is to use. The wireless subwoofer worked perfectly, and the remote offers some useful features such as subwoofer volume, Samsung TV controls (lots of those sets out there), Smart Volume (which regulates and stabilizes the volume level against a drastic volume change - happens all the time even before the commercial), DRC/Dimmer (which is used to retain the fidelity of Dolby Digital sound when watching movies at low volume at night), and AV Sync (which helps sync video to audio when connected to a digital TV). These features indicate a focus on usability and practicality, and that is extended all the way to the owner's manual, which is impeccably laid out, direct and to-the-point, and overall very easy to understand. The whole package just went a little bit further from top-to-bottom than the typical soundbar, enabling it to make perfect sense right out of the box all the way through to Volume Up.
Competition and Comparison
Be sure to compare the Samsung HW-C450 soundbar against its competition by reading out reviews for the Polk SurroundBar 3000 and the JVC TH-BA1 soundbar. You can find more information in our Sound Bar section or on our Samsung brand page.
Click to Page 2 for The High Points, The Low Points and The Conclusion.