Samsung HW-S60A review: A budget soundbar with Alexa, AirPlay 2

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Any manufacturer of a budget soundbar has to cut corners in one way or another; bottom-line value is determined by where those compromises get made. In the case of Samsung’s $280 HW-S60A, there’s no Dolby Atmos support, but you do get some enticing perks in return, including built-in Alexa, AirPlay 2, and 5.0-channel sound, with side-firing drivers supplying the surround channels. Also, you can upgrade the HW-S60A with Samsung’s optional surround speaker kit and subwoofer.

How does the HW-S60A measure up compared to its competitors? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for in a soundbar. While I admired the HW-S60A’s surprisingly wide and detailed sound, I preferred the warmer, sweeter sound signature of Denon’s $249 DHT-S216H, but that Denon all-in-one soundbar doesn’t do Alexa or AirPlay 2. Yamaha’s $200 SR-B20A has the height effects (courtesy of DTS Virtual:X) that the HW-S60A is missing, but the Yamaha speaker doesn’t have Alexa or AirPlay 2 either. Roku’s $180 Streambar Pro does have AirPlay 2, not to mention an integrated Roku streaming player, but the HW-S60A sounds better.

In the end, the Samsung HW-S60A delivers solid sound and plenty of value in a compact, $280 package, but its flat sound signature won’t be for everyone.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars. Click that link to read reviews of competing products, along with a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Configuration

The Samsung HW-S60A is a 5.0-channel soundbar, but it doesn’t come with a set of physical surround speakers that would typically give it a 5.0 (left, center, right, surround left, surround right) designation. Instead, the HW-S60A takes an approach we’ve seen from competing all-in-one soundbars: It uses side-firing drivers in the main soundbar unit to bounce the surround channels off your walls, delivering (ideally) surround effects without actual speakers behind your sofa. Does it work? We’ll discuss that in a bit.

samsung hw s60a side Ben Patterson/IDG

The Samsung HW-S60A uses side-firing drivers to bounce the surround channels off your walls.

Besides the left, center, and right drivers (Samsung didn’t supply us with driver specifications), there are also a pair of “Acoustic Beams”—Samsung’s name for an “inward”-firing driver with a series of holes designed to project sound precisely throughout the room.

If you want to bolster the HW-S60A’s low-frequency effects, you can turn it into a 5.1-channel soundbar with the optional, $280 SWA-W500 wireless subwoofer. And if you’d prefer physical surround speakers, the soundbar is compatible with Samsung’s $180 SWA-91005 surround speaker kit. Samsung didn’t supply us with any extra speakers, so we focused our testing on the main soundbar unit.

The HW-S60A lacks upfiring drivers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height cues, and it doesn’t support any height virtualization modes either. So if you’re looking for a soundbar that delivers immersive Atmos or DTS:X sound, you’ll have to pony up for one of Samsung’s pricier models, or a similarly priced competitor such as the Vizio M51ax-J6 or the Yamaha SR-B20A that can produce virtualized height cues.

Measuring 30.1 x 2.7 x 4.9 inches (WxHxD) and weighing 6.6 pounds, the HW-S60A is relatively narrow and manageable, with a rounded, fabric-wrapped exterior that’s attractive but dust-prone. At 2.7 inches high, the soundbar may block a sliver of your TV’s screen when placed directly in front; it certainly did with my low-slung, 55-inch LG C9, although the slight dent it made in the bottom of the screen didn’t bother me too much.

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