When Samsung launched its 2014 TV line-up, the company also introduced new TV speakers to compete with Sonos and others. But Samsung’s new speakers have some special TV tricks; the speakers can wirelessly connect to Samsung’s TVs.
However, Samsung’s Multiroom speakers will only work with Samsung’s 2014 Smart TVs. We have had the speakers for some time now, but we only recently received the software to make them work with TVs.
We take a look at both; the small M5 and the larger M7.
The Multiroom M7 and M5 share the same overall design characteristics. There is just a small size increase from the M5 to M7, but both look pretty much like a standard size speakers.
The Multiroom speakers comes in both white and black, and the triangular design is either daring or conservative depending on the rest your setup. If you place a black speaker near a black TV, you will hardly notice it. Put a white triangular shaped speaker next to a black TV and the design seems more daring. The speakers are cleverly designed so that they can be placed horizontally or vertical on a foot. You can also buy a wall bracket, but will cost you about $30-40.
The speakers are made from glossy plastic. Some people might like that, others do not. However, in my opinion the black looks a bit classier, whereas it is more obvious that the material is pure plastic on the white version.
When placed horizontally the speaker reveals capacitive touch buttons for audio volume, Bluetooth connection, a mute button, and a button that controls whether the speaker connects to smartphones or TVs. Furthermore, the M7 speaker has NFC connection, so you can place your Android or Windows Phone near the NFC logo to get connected.
Setup requires an extra step on TV
Setup and installation of some network speakers can be a bit of a battle, but the Samsung M7 and M5 are really easy to setup. If you have the Multilink Hub you can just plug in the LAN cable and press the button “add speaker”. On the speaker, press the button “add speaker”; it is as simple as that. If you install the Samsung Multiroom app on your Android or iOS device the app automatically finds the speakers when both devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. Every setup process for electronics should be this easy.
However, there are some complications when using the speakers with a Samsung TV. The initial setup is easy, but the standard setting called “Multilink Mode” introduces a 1 second audio delay. When watching TV everyone would be bothered by such a huge sound delay, so it is not clear why Samsung has chosen “Multilink Mode” over “Surround Mode”. You can change this in the TV sound settings menu by choosing “Surround Mode”, which eliminates the delay. The standard setting is “Multiroom Mode”, which lets you listen to different sources so that one speaker plays the TV sound, and another speaker connects to a music service like Spotify.
The “Surround Mode” is available even if you only have one Multiroom speaker, but “Surround Mode” will also enable you to create a true wireless 5.1 surround sound with Dolby Digital, if you own 4 Multiroom speakers and Samsung’s Multilink sound bar with subwoofer. Add two more speakers and you get 7.1, but because Samsung do not have a stand-alone wireless subwoofer you cannot get 7.2. This is one of Multiroom’s exciting possibilities, but bear in mind that this will set you back $2500 and for that amount,you can get a much better sound if you can accept wired speakers.
When using Samsung’s Multiroom speakers you will notice how most features are TV centric. If you are connected to your smartphone, listening to Spotify, the speakers will automatically go to TV sound when you turn on the TV. Likewise, if your TV is turned on and you want to listen to music from your smartphone, you need to physically press the button on the speaker - or turn off the TV. You cannot change the audio source in the smartphone app.
The smartphone app is a concern
Samsung’s Multiroom app has an outdated and odd design. It looks a bit boring, but offers many settings options. However, all the settings options leads to a cluttered design. On the other hand, if you like to customize your gadgets, Samsung will not let you down.
If you find it difficult to navigate the app, Samsung has been kind enough to include some tips on how to navigate, but for a smartphone app tips on how to navigate really should not be necessary. A better solution would have been to redesign the app to be more user-friendly and make use of the Android and iOS guidelines.
The app looks identical whether you have an iOS or Android device, which may be the reason why this app seems cluttered and illogical from time to time. Unfortunately, you will quickly become frustrated as an iOS owner, as the app as startup time is around 10 seconds. Jumping from one menu to another happens with a 2 seconds delay.
This may not sound like a deal-breaker, but for a company of Samsung’s size this is not acceptable. Samsung is aware of the issue and will hopefully provide an update for the app with a fix.
Samsung’s app has integrated Spotify, Deezer, Napster, 8tracks, TuneIn and Rdio. If you want to listen to Spotify the Samsung app will launch Spotify’s app so you can benefit from all of Spotify’s services.
With Sonos you are stuck in the Sonos app, and therefor not able to take advantage of the Spotify app’s elegant design and features. fans of other music services such as Audible will need to connect by Bluetooth or NFC, and thus only listen to one speaker at the time.
Furthermore, the Samsung app lets you listen to mp3 songs stored on your device, even from a NAS or another local network connected device. You can playback the music on all of the speakers in your setup. If your want, you can also listen to and control Spotify or TuneIn from the TV as these two apps are available in the TV app store.
M7 offers the best value
The design of a speaker, it’s apps and features, are important elements in making a great network speaker, but sound quality is of course the most important factor. A great test track for testing bass and dynamic is James Blake’s ”Limit to your love”. This track reveals a dominant bass on M7, which for most buyers is considered a positive thing, but it comes at the expense of dynamics, so sound is not true to the artist’s intention.
Tonally, the mid and high frequency range is balanced so James Blake’s voice is weighty, and for a £300 Wi-Fi speaker sound is very decent. Most of it’s competitors lacks NFC and the important TV integration.
When watching movies like Transformers, the speaker nicely control bass, mid and high tones, but the speaker has a tendency of distorting the high tones when sound volume gets too loud. However, if you add more speakers to the system you can easily cranck up the volume to impress friends and family on a Saturday evening with movies.
The biggest competitor to Samsung M7 is probably Sonos Play:5, and even though it costs the same, the Play:5 has better control of the high end tones when it gets loud, as well as better bass precision. However, Sonos lacks the wireless TV connection and NFC, and the Play:5 is also rather big, which means it is not easily placed in a living room. The design is not exactly elegant either.
M5 is the smaller of the two
Samsung M5 does not completely match the sound of M7. The M5 sounds a bit harsh and stuffy. The mid and high tones are okay as voices are clear and hi-hats seems somewhat trustworthy.
But put to the test with a bass focused track like the one of James Blake’s, you will find the bass to start jumping and lagging behind. James Blake’s test track is quite the test, but even with rock tracks like Audioslave’s “Cochise”, you will find the bass lacking punch and control, and the tune will lack its soul. It is plain boring to listen to the M5 and most speakers in the £200+ range are much better.
If you listen to bossa nova or other easy listening tunes, the mid and high tones are okay, but even during the classic ”The girl from Ipanema” you still wish for better bass to reproduce the contrabass, even though sound is more balanced with these types of tracks.
Moving to movies, especially Transformers, the action scenes lacks that roomy and punchy bass, which leaves us with the impression that the M5 is best suited as a back speaker in a 4.0 surround set-up or maybe as a center speaker in a 5.0 setup.
If you want a streaming speaker for the kitchen to mostly listen to casual music or as a back speaker in a surround setup, M5 will do fine. However, the small price gap between to the bigger M7 make it a far better pick.
When Samsung launched its 2014 TVs and speakers this spring, the TV software was not ready for wireless Multiroom integration. So, for this test I used the speakers for two weeks just listening to music. The NFC and app worked great. After the TV arrived, things started to get messy.
Especially the M5 had some Wi-Fi issues and it would sometimes lose connection when switching from music to TV watching. This led to an alarm sound that did not stop until someone pulled out the power cord. The speaker should be able to reconnect to the Wi-Fi. Unfortunately, it would sometimes also lose connection for no apparent reason, which meant that the speakers sometimes woke me up during the night.
This makes me think that the Multiroom speakers were launched as a beta product. The unacceptable iOS app and the fact that the TV does not automatically switch to “Surround Mode” to avoid a 1 second delay, only strenghtens this feeling.
However, the Multiroom speakers offer great possibilities and perspectives. The M7 has good and rich sound, but the smaller M5 sounds weak, and you can get much better sound for a similar price with for example Sonos.