We truly hate the sounds that emanate from most TVs. The speakers that manufacturers install in their tellies are largely dreadful, mainly because they're crammed into a tiny space, and forced to point towards the ground, creating muddy and indistinct dialogue.
Companies like Samsung offer a solution to this problem, which, for the most part, they've created. They'll flog you an extra set of speakers to replace the shoddy ones they whacked in your TV in the first place.
The Samsung HW-C450 is designed for those who want to hear what people on TV are saying, but don't want to go down the route of installing a full-blown surround-sound system. It costs around £250, and offers 2.1-channel sound, which should help improve most types of audio you can pump in its general direction.
Delightful on the eye
It might be designed to make your ears happy, but the HW-C450 is also a lovely piece of equipment to behold with your peepers. It has exposed speakers and really is quite a funky little box. Its narrow, long design makes it ideal for mounting on a wall, beneath your TV.
Trouble-free wall mounting
The HW-C450 comes with a rather wonderful bracket that even the most incompetent DIY enthusiast will have no trouble attaching to their wall. Insert two screws into two carefully drilled holes, with some wall plugs, and you'll be away. It would be difficult to make it any easier.
But the power cable could prove unsightly in this arrangement. Those who've mounted their TV on a wall, however, may well have installed a power socket at the same height as the telly, and that would solve the power-cable problem with this soundbar.
You will also run into problems if you have a DVD player or media streamer that you'd like to connect to the HW-C450 directly. You'll have to work out how to run an optical digital cable to the soundbar without it being noticeable.
The included subwoofer is 'wireless', which means you don't need to tether it to the main unit with an audio cable. It does, however, require a mains cable, but, as you can tuck the subwoofer away somewhere, we doubt this is going to present many problems. We like its wireless connectivity, but the subwoofer feels slightly cheap, which is surprising given that the rest of the package is fairly well constructed.
Miss your connection
You don't get many options when it comes to connecting your audio hardware. There are just two optical audio inputs for digital sound from DVD players, Sky, cable, Xbox 360s, TVs and Blu-ray players. People with plenty of equipment to deal with aren't served well by this speaker system.
Remarkable amounts of sound
You might think the HW-C450 doesn't look capable of producing much sound. You would, however, be wrong. This little beast can produce noise that could wake the dead, and it manages to stay in control while it does it, which is even more impressive.
We tested music and movie soundtracks. For the most part, we were fairly impressed. Music sounded quite good, although the HW-C450 delivered far from the best sound quality we've ever heard. The audio was, however, quite well balanced, and there was plenty of clarity in the vocals. The bass was tight too, which came as a surprise given the flimsy feel of the subwoofer.
Movie and TV soundtracks in Dolby Digital were the main treat though. The HW-C450 is happy decoding both Dolby Digital and DTS sound, which it accepts via its two optical digital inputs. The material we tested, with a 5.1-channel soundtrack, sounded really impressive. We paid particular attention to the dialogue, which is usually the first thing to let down a system like this. We could hear every word with crystal-clear clarity.
The HW-C450 offers a variety of sound modes, designed to optimise the audio for the type of material you're watching. We found these modes quite useful -- our tunes, for example, sounded slightly less bass-heavy with the 'music' mode engaged. You do, however, have the option of using the system without any processing at all, which might appeal if you like untouched audio. We'd also suggest that movies and material with Dolby Digital sound might be better in this mode.
The Samsung HW-C450 isn't a particularly good system for listening to music, but it wasn't really designed with that in mind. It shines as a system for increasing the clarity of movie and TV soundtracks. Dialogue sounds really crisp and detailed, and the low end provided by the separate subwoofer makes loud explosions in movies sound very convincing indeed.
We think the HW-C450 is too expensive for what it offers, however, with limited inputs and quite basic sound options. As an alternative, have a look at the Onkyo HTX-22HD, which costs slightly more, but adds HDMI support and lossless-codec decoding for DTS HD and Dolby TrueHD. Be warned, though, that the HTX-22HD is, as we write, being phased out and replaced with a newer, even better, model.
Edited by Charles Kloet