Among the plethora of Samsung sound bars, the HW-S60A slips in as a mid-range model and offers an all-in-one solution. It relies heavily on its simplicity, even if this means it has to pay a penalty.
Beyond high-end sound bars like the HW-Q900A recently tested on our site, Samsung also offers much more affordable products. This is the case of the HW-S60A, a proud replacement of the HW-S60T released in 2020.
The HW-S60A differs from its predecessor by adding a central speaker that is supposed to improve dialogue intelligibility. It also includes additional features such as Tap Sound or wireless connection to a compatible TV. The last novelty concerns the compatibility with AirPlay 2, Chromecast and Alexa Cast for an easier broadcast of any audio content.
The HW-S60A is a very plain soundbar, almost entirely covered in mesh fabric - only the underside and the side speaker grilles are made of plastic shells. So there are no reflective surfaces on top that could cause unwelcome visual distractions. The build quality is virtually flawless.
The bar therefore adopts a very passe-partout look that is also reinforced by a relatively compact size of 76.4 x 6.8 x 12.5 cm. This allows it to be easily slid under a TV without obstructing the picture and/or without having to invest in a huge TV cabinet.
The main curiosity concerning the manufacture is the choice made by Samsung not to integrate the power supply unit within the bar. This has the advantage of being able to change it easily in case of failure, but it can also bother cable management fanatics. Let them reassure themselves, the block is quite puny and can easily be camouflaged.
As far as connectivity is concerned, simplicity is the key word on this HW-S60A. It only has an HDMI ARC port and an optical S/PDIF input. The bar does not allow video pass-through and is entirely dependent on the sound formats supported by the TV. The ARC and optical interfaces also limit the supported audio formats, as only stereo LPCM, Dolby Digital and DTS in their simplest form are decoded here. So don't expect the HW-S60A to decode Dolby Digital TrueHD, let alone Dolby Atmos or DTS:X.
On a day-to-day basis, the HW-S60A is easy and pleasant to use, but it does face a few points of frustration that mar the overall user experience. This is largely due to the rudimentary display, in the form of five LEDs lined up in the center, which can be difficult to see from a sofa and not really useful for knowing the sound level of the bar or the selected audio input. Fortunately, each action is accompanied by a sound indication (in French) to help you find your way around, but it's far from ideal.
In addition to the controls on the top of the bar, the HW-S60A comes with a fairly simple remote control that extends the range of possibilities. You can access different settings, change the sound mode used or mute the sound, but it is still difficult to find your way around because of the bar's puny display.
To view each setting precisely, it is essential to download Samsung's SmartThings app (Android and iOS). It includes a player, precise volume information that is sorely lacking on the bar, an equalizer and the ability to change the source and listening modes, among others.
Samsung obliges, the HW-S60A also has features reserved for the ecosystem of the South Korean giant, such as Tap Sound, which allows you to pair a compatible Samsung smartphone to the bar with a simple touch. It can also be connected to a Samsung TV that is wifi or Bluetooth compatible, so that the HDMI or optical cable is no longer needed. However, we were not able to test this last feature, as we did not have a compatible TV set at hand.
In addition to Bluetooth connectivity, the HW-S60A supports AirPlay 2, Alexa Cast, Chromecast and Spotify Connect. This makes the soundbar compatible with every possible streaming service, regardless of the playback device used.
In a quiet environment, the sound bar is generally efficient and is able to understand all commands, even the most complex ones. It is also quite possible to control the bar by voice by asking it to increase the volume, for example.
However, if you move too far away from the HW-S60A, if you are in a slightly noisy environment or if the bar emits sound, understanding the commands becomes much more difficult. In these cases, you have to raise your voice quite a bit to make yourself understood, and it is not uncommon to have to repeat the activation word several times to trigger the assistant. You should also know that when the microphone is active, it is quite common for the bar to trigger the assistant because of words spoken by an audio track during playback, which can quickly become annoying, especially since the bar reduces the sound level when an activation word is detected.
The HW-S60A is a five-voice sound bar with three front speakers and one speaker on each side. Its operation is rather atypical, as the activation of the different speakers depends on the selected listening mode.
In Standard mode, only the three front speakers are active. This mode is more suitable for music and television content than for movies, because of the total absence of surround effect. The sound delivered in this mode is relatively balanced, but the bass and low midrange (between 80 and 180 Hz) suffer from particularly unpleasant distortion phenomena at medium volume. It is thus necessary to take care not to have the hand too heavy on the volume not to amplify these serious concerns of distortion.
In the three other modes (Music, Game and Adaptive Sound), the two side speakers become active in addition to the central speaker. The name of the Music mode is particularly counter-intuitive, as this configuration is far from ideal for music listening since the directionality of the left and right channels is opposite. Moreover, even if they are very anecdotal, it is possible to detect some room effects thanks to the reverberation of the walls, which are much more suitable for movies and series. The sound signature here is a bit more high-pitched, which also helps the surround effects come to life. Distortion problems are also less present, but the rendering loses some of its foundation, as the bass is less lively. In any listening mode, however, the bass is far too timid. The addition of a subwoofer seems to us to be more than appropriate to support the HW-S60A.
One last remark concerning the addition of the central speaker compared to the previous model, more than welcome. Dialogue is indeed quite intelligible, even during big action scenes where it is often drowned out on many soundbar models. However, an option called Voice Enhancement is available in the SmartThings app, which allows you to put more emphasis on the dialogue in case it's not enough for your taste.
The simplicity of the HW-S60A is commendable in many ways, as it offers an all-in-one solution with many connected features and will prove easy to set up even for novices. However, that simplicity is also its biggest flaw, as it settles for the minimum on just about every front, from audio performance to user experience.