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Samsung Expands Soundbars, Wireless Multiroom Audio

LAS VEGAS – Samsung is expanding its selection of traditional and curved soundbars and Wi-Fi multiroom-audio speakers at International CES, where it is also adding wireless multiroom-audio capability to a greater number of soundbars.

The company is scaling back its HTiB selection to three from five with the launch of two new models and a planned carryover, which will be the only model of the three with wireless multiroom audio, down from two in 2014.

The company’s soundbar selection goes to nine SKUs from seven with carryovers.

Six of the new soundbars will be the company’s first with a slim outboard subwoofer that can be placed vertically or, for under-couch placement, horizontally.

The number of soundbars getting Multiroom Link Wi-Fi-based multiroom-audio capability goes to five, including one carryover, from two.

All new soundbars feature Bluetooth, Bluetooth Power On, and TV Sound Connect. Bluetooth Power On lets users control the bars via Bluetooth, and TV Sound Connect provides a wireless Bluetooth connection to select Samsung TVs to reproduce TV audio.

All but one new soundbar feature one HDMI input and one HDMI output with audio return channel and 3D passthrough.

Here’s what’s in store:

Wireless multiroom audio: The company is adding two premium multiroom Wi-Fi speaker systems that will interoperate with lower priced Shapeseries one-piece tabletop Wi-Fi speakers, which are priced at $199, $299, and $399 UPP.

One premium one-piece tabletop model delivers a sweet spot that follows users around a room, said Jim Kiczek, director of digital audio and video. The second SKU is an active 2.1 system with separate left-right speakers and outboard sub. Like the Shape speakers, they also feature Bluetooth. Pricing and other details were unavailable.

All of the wireless speakers double as wireless surround speakers when paired with a soundbar incorporating Samsung’s multiroom-audio technology.

Samsung’s multiroom audio products, controlled from an iOS or Android smartphone, use built-in Wi- Fi to play back music stored on the smartphones and on networked PCs. The products also play back select cloud-based music services streamed through the Samsung app.

Straight Soundbars: The number of straight soundbars is going to five from four with the launch of four new models.

Two straight soundbars get wireless multiroom-audio capability, up from one.

All but one new bar feature one HDMI input and one HDMI output with audio return channel. Plans to replace an under-TV speaker weren’t available at press time.

The new straight soundbars start with the HWJ355 2.1-channel bar with wired subwoofer, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Power On, TV Sound Connect, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 downconversion to 2.1, optical and analog audio inputs, four DSP sound modes, and USB port to play MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG, FLAC and WAV formats. FLAC and WAV resolution was unavailable. It is 37.1 inches wide.

The step-up HWJ450 is also a 2.1-channel, 37.1-inch-wide bar. It adds one HDMI in and out with audio return channel and 3D passthrough, wireless sub, and soundfield expansion to widen the soundstage and make it enveloping, Kiczek said.

The HWJ 550, also a 2.1-channel 37.1-inch-wide bar, offers the same features but with the addition of a slim 7-inch wireless subwoofer that can be placed horizontally or vertically.

Stepping up in size, the 41.7-inch-wide HWJ650 is a 4.1-channel model. It lacks center-channel drivers but offers higher output, same wireless 7-inch dual-position sub, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 2.0 decoding, and wireless multiroom audio.

The carryover $799 HWJ 750 also features wireless multiroom audio.

Curved soundbars: The SKU count goes to four from one with the launch of four new models, all but one with Wi-Fi-based multiroom audio. Pricing will also extend above 2014’s single curved bar, the $799- UPP HW-H7500 with wireless multiroom audio for Samsung’s 55- and 65-inch Curved UHD TVs.

The 2015 lineup will start with the HWJ6000, a 6.1-channel model without dedicated center channel and with 7-inch dual-position subwoofer that can be placed horizontally or vertically. The chassis is 42.4 inches long as measured on its curved surface.

The 6.1-channel HWJ6000 also features single HDMI in/out with audio return channel and 3D passthrough, no 4K passthrough, Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1, one optical in, one analog audio in, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Power On, TV Sound Connect, and USB port to play MP3, WMA, AAC, OGG, FLAC and WAV formats.

The same-size step-up HWJ6500 adds wireless multiroom audio with Wi-Fi.

Next up, the 8.1-channel HWJ7500 grows to 48.5 inches in length as measured on its surface. It adds side-firing speakers for spatial enhancement and doesn’t feature dedicated center channel.

The top-end curved soundbar is the 9.1-channel HWJ 8500USB, which adds dedicated center channel and ups the size of the dual-position horizontal/ vertical subwoofer to 8 inches from 7.

HTiBs: Two new HTiBs are intended for people who want a discrete 5.1 experience as well as streaming-video services and a Blu-ray player.

The 5.1-channel HTJ4500 is the entry-level SKU in the three-SKU line. It features 3D Blu-ray, streaming services, ability to download around 250 apps from the Opera TV store, Ethernet port, Bluetooth, Bluetooth Power On to let users turn on the soundbar from a Bluetooth-equipped mobile device, HDMI output with audio return channel, digital optical and analog-audio inputs, 500-watt output, wired subwoofer, and decoding of Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, and DTS HD Master soundtracks. The HTJ4500 lacks 4K upscaling, Wi-Fi, DLNA, and HDMI inputs.

The step-up 5.1-channel HTJ550W adds 1,000- watt output, wireless surround speakers and Wi-Fi.

The carryover HTiB is the $599 UPP HTH6500W with wired sub and wireless multiroom audio.