Samsung HT-C6730 Review
Home Theater in a Box $749
The Samsung HT-C6730 Home Theater in a Box (HTiB) provides a convenient package of all the gear that you will need to set up a great sounding mid-range home theater system - just add a big screen HDTV or projector.
The box supplies a combination Blu-ray player and A/V receiver, which is matched with eight speakers, (two main speaker towers, one center channel, one powered subwoofer, and four small surround sounds).
Rated at 1330W, the A/V receiver includes an FM tuner and an iPod/iPhone dock.
The Profile 2.0 Blu-ray player has built-in WiFi capability and features Samsung's Internet@TV apps like Netflix, Blockbuster, CinemaNow, Vudu, YouTube, Pandora, Facebook and Twitter.
The unit cannot playback 3D Blu-rays. For that pleasure, you would need to pay about $100 more for Samsung's HT-C6930.
I'm a bit ambivalent about the concept of HTiBs because I prefer not to put all my eggs in one basket. But if you like the time saving simplicity of one-stop shopping, then the HT-C6730 won't disappoint with its straightforward setup and good performance.
Out of the Box
My first impression after pulling all of the components out of the compactly stuffed box was "glossy black." If black mirror-like surfaces are not part of your home theater's color scheme, then be forewarned.
The four small surround speakers (3.54" W x 5.57" H x 2.69" D) are easy enough to place in inconspicuous spots. And the powered subwoofer (6.6" W x 13.7" H x 11.6" D) can be secluded.
But the two front speaker towers (3.54" W x 51.8" H x 4.68" D) are standing tall and proud next to your TV and are hard to miss, especially when the room is lit. The center channel (14.17" W x 2.93" H x 2.69" D) is less obtrusive.
The front loading A/V receiver / Blu-ray player combo (17" W x 2.5" H x 12.6" D) also sports the black gloss finish.
If you like to use the controls on the player, then you should place it so you can access the top because the touch sensitive control panel is located there.
On the front right of the box, is the Power button and the Volume control. Below them, under a flip down door, are an ASC jack, which I will discuss later, and a USB port.
With the port, you can insert a flash drive full of photos (JPEG) or songs (MP3 or WMA) or video clips (DivX, MKV, and MP4) and play them back through your TV. The port will accept thumb drives, USB hard drives and compatible MP3 players or digital cameras.
Though the Blu-ray player will handle a wide range of DVDs, the manual states that it cannot play, "HD DVD Disc, DVD-RAM, 3.9 GB DVD-R Disc for Authoring, DVD-RW (VR mode), Super Audio CD (except CD layer), DVD-ROM/PD/MV-Disc, etc. CVD/CD-ROM/CDV/CD-G/CD-I/LD, and CDGs play audio only, not graphics."
This is the list of file formats supported by the unit.
If you want to download online BD-Live content, all Blu-ray players needs additional storage capacity. With the HT-C6730, Samsung has generously integrated that storage (1 GB) into the machine, which should be more than adequate for most folks.
On the back of the machine, starting on the left, the connection panel supplies a set of color-coded speaker connections that make hooking up the speakers easier.
You still have to attach the thin speaker wire to the terminals of each speaker, but at least you can keep them all organized with the color-coded ends.
You will notice that there are only six speaker connections. Samsung uses a separate "wireless" solution for the two rear surround speakers.
You plug in the provided TX wireless transmitter into the back of the player. It sends a signal to a separate small receiver (2.5" W x 9" H x 6" D) that is located near the rear speakers.
I put quotes around wireless because the receiver needs to be plugged into an electrical outlet. And then you also need to run speaker wires from the receiver to each of the two rear speakers.
The HT-C6730 can decode 7.1 channels of bitstream output of enhanced audio codecs like Dolby TrueHD and dts-HD Master Audio | Essential.
Moving on with the tour of the panel, you can plug the basic FM antenna that is in the package to the coaxial connector (not pictured). The combination works fine for pulling in local channels. If you wish to extend the range, you might recruit a more powerful antenna.
The tuner only picks up FM signals and not AM channels or SIRIUS satellite radio.
The next slot is the input for the iPod/iPhone dock. If you store your music on one of these Apple devices, the provided dock is a handy way to access them. More importantly, the receiver does a very good job of reproducing a much fuller sound.
Next up is the input for the wireless speaker transmitter, which is a little thin mint device (2.36" D x 1.18" W X .24 H), which when it is inserted, sticks out the back about 1.5".
To be clear, this wireless transmitter is for communicating to the rear speakers. Samsung has also built-in a wireless LAN adapter to connect to your home network and the Internet. This is a totally different wireless system that I will discuss in a moment.
Even though the HT-C6730 is an all-in-one configuration, you may have some favorite components that you are not ready to part with.
The next three connections, one optical digital audio in and two HDMI ins, should allow you to integrate extra digital audio or video gear into the system.
The one HDMI out connects to your HDTV. Normally, the HDMI cable would only carry video since audio will be piped directly out to the 7.1 speaker system.
Progressing on down the panel, we find a set of Component video outs, a Composite video out and a pair of analog audio inputs.
I think watching composite video on your HDTV is a travesty but it is the only way to view video clips from your iPod dock.
Samsung provides a LAN connector. As I mentioned, the HT-C6730 also has an integrated wireless LAN adapter, which supports all the 802.11 wireless formats, 802.11N/G/B/A.
I prefer the speed and reliability of a wired connection, though I hate the hassle and intrusion of running Ethernet cables all over the house.
Whichever way you swing, wired or wireless, I will repeat my advice. If you plan on streaming video from sources like Netflix, Vudu, or Blockbuster and you are serious about obtaining good picture quality, you will need fairly fast and robust bandwidth from your Internet service provider, ideally around 10Mbps.
I know some sites suggest as low as 2.5Mbps, but if anyone else in your house is accessing the network, the video playback will deteriorate. At least try to have around 5Mbps.
In addition, if you decide to go wireless, buy the fastest router that you can afford. At this time, that means 802.11n. Its no fun waiting for a streaming movie to buffer because your downloading is hobbled by a slow router.
Once you set up your network connection, (which I'll discuss later), Samsung content providers are headlined by streaming video giants, Netflix, Blockbuster, VUDU and the recently added CinemaNow.
Each has their advantages and unless you are especially loyal to one, you might find it worth your while to set up accounts for all of them.
For example, as I was cruising through their film offerings, I noticed that CinemaNow was renting Kick-Ass for $.99, while most of the others had it for around $3.99 for the SD stream. (Netflix has a flat monthly subscription fee and usually doesn't offer movies at the time they are first released for rental.)
Because of the competition between streaming providers and since they also have made their own arrangements with the movie distributors, I think that you will see occasional bargains pop up on one site or another.
I've always liked the concept of Pandora Internet Radio, but I always thought it was wasted playing the music back through the less than ideal tiny speakers integrated into a TV.
But the HT-C6730 with its sound system is a perfect vehicle for music services like Pandora, where you create your own personalized stations like Beyoncé or Bob Dylan and Pandora assembles a collection of music by that artist or songs with interesting musical similarities to your choice.
Through the Internet@TV menu, you can also access a variety of sources like YouTube, Picasa, Getty Images, USA Today, Facebook and Twitter.
In addition, the HT-C6730 can tap into your home network and access content from your computer and play music, videos and photos back on your TV without having to transfer the files to a USB flash drive. This feature, called AllShare, will search any connected DLNA media device for content to playback.
The slideshow interface for playing photos is basic with only three slide durations (Fast, Normal and Slow) and no transition options, (images cut to and from black).
The non-backlit remote control is populated with big square buttons and easy to read labels. If you set the remote in the sun for a few minutes, the operational buttons (Play, Pause, etc.) will glow a pale green in the dark.
The HT-C6730 is a multi-function system, Blu-ray player, FM tuner, iPod player and more. Which means that the remote is multi-functional, which can lead to some initial confusion.
Without going into any detail, let me just say that the BD Receiver / TV button should glow orange when you want to control the receiver and green if you want control your attached TV.
I somehow got into TV mode and had to dig deep into Samsung's online documentation to discover how to change it back - the instructions are not in the otherwise good manual. (You have to click the button twice quickly to switch between modes.)
With that sorted and back in BD Receiver mode, you click the Function button to cycle through BD/DVD, D. In, Aux, Online, HDMI 1, HDMI 2, and FM.
As you can imagine, this is one piece of equipment that will require an occasional peak at the manual. Luckily, it is clearly written.
The EPA is now publishing a list of ENERGY STAR qualified TVs. (You can find it here.)
The EPA has also begun a list of ENERGY STAR qualified Audio/Video equipment, including devices like Blu-ray players. (You can find it here.) The list does not include the Samsung HT-C6730, though I'm not quite sure why since it does list some of Samsung's HTiB models from last year.
The EPA list only shows Watts in Standby. When we put this unit in Standby, the power drops below 1W, which is the requirement for ENERGY STAR qualification.
For comparison sake, we decided to take our own power measurements. We hooked the HT-C6730 up to our watt meter, called Watts up? Pro, and took a reading during playback of a Blu-ray movie and another in standby mode.
Since this unit includes an amplifier that is pushing sound out to its eight speakers, power consumption varies depending on the volume level.
For example, when playing the Blu-ray of Consortium Vocale's rendition of "Crux Fidelis", at a volume of 25 (out of 50), the meter read in the 27W neighborhood. When I cranked it up to 40, the meter would bounce between 28 and 40W, depending on the demands of the music.
As a comparison, a normal Blu-ray player might pull around 12W when spinning a disc. Remember, in this case, the amplifying chores would be taken on by your TV or a separate AV receiver.
Samsung touts their "ultra-energy efficient Eco Power System," and I will admit that the HT-C6730 can pump out rafter rattling sound at fairly low power consumption.
Though straightforward, the initial equipment setup will take some time but probably less than an hour. After unpacking, you will need to construct the two front speaker towers and then attach all the wires to the eight speakers.
Your biggest challenge may be where to locate all the speakers and how will you hide those damn wires. In the manual, Samsung offers a diagram of an ideal setup.
But most of us don't live in an ideal world with furniture and walls perfectly coordinated. To help adjust to our off kilter surroundings, Samsung provides a Musical Room Calibration (MRC) function.
Once you have your speakers connected and placed, you find the ASC microphone that comes in the box and plug it in to the jack under the flip down door on the front of the receiver.
Then in the Settings menu, nested under the Audio menu is the Musical Room Calibration feature. Place the microphone where your ears would normally sit in the room and engage the MRC.
Instead of a standard test tone, the Samsung designers picked a delightful clip of orchestral fanfare to play. The MRC proceeds to play it through the individual speakers around the room, calculating volume settings based on distance from the microphone.
When finished, it displays a table of its calibrations. If you want to tweak it, you can go into the menu and adjust speaker levels manually.
Of note, the MRC only measures for a 5.1 speaker system. The rear two speakers in this 7.1 configuration are not part of the calculation.
When you are playing a DVD, if you hit the Tools button, a menu pops up in which you can choose a picture mode, Dynamic, Normal, Movie or User (which you can tweak). I advise leaving it alone and making all of your video adjustments on your TV.
Sometime in the setup process, you will need to deal with attaching to your home network, whether wirelessly or wired. The manual does a decent job of walking you through the process.
The one step that you might miss happens when you try to access your DNLA computer. My PC is running Vista and the first time the HT-C6730 tried to tap into it, a message popped up on my desktop asking if I wanted to give the player permission. I indicated yes and from then on, it could access files stored on my PC.
Once the player is linked to the Internet, you should check to see if your player has a firmware update. The player will go online to see if you have the current firmware version and if not, it will download and automatically install the new one.
Then there's housekeeping chores like choosing and downloading all the Internet@TV apps and setting up accounts with providers like Pandora and CinemaNow.
There's more little chores such as if you want to watch DivX VOD (video on demand) content, you need to register your device.
And if you need a change of scenery, you can pick from five different skin backgrounds.
It's definitely worth perusing the manual to explore all the features.
The Blu-ray player in the HT-C6730 is up to the high standards that I have experienced with other top of the line players that I have reviewed.
The picture quality when playing Blu-ray discs is great. The limit to just how great will ultimately depend on your HDTV or projector.
This player also can upconvert standard definition DVDs to 1080p resolution, but that doesn't mean Blu-ray quality. Stinky content may be perfumed but definitely not transformed.
The real joy with the HT-C6730 is in its audio performance. Not only does it pack the power to raise the roof (of a medium sized room), it displays the finesse to massage the nuances from an orchestral piece.
Samsung has also added a host of audio enhancers that will allow your inner audio engineer to come out and play.
Put on your favorite piece of music and then click on the SFE (Sound Field Effect) Mode button on the remote. The HT-C6730 will place your tune in a Symphony Hall in Boston.
Click twice more and you are relocated to a Jazz Club in Seoul (remember that Samsung is a Korean company). Again and the sounds are emanating from a Church in Seoul - think reverb.
There are five SFE Modes in all and for the purist, you can turn SFE off.
Samsung also provides three DSP (Digital Signal Processor) Functions. My favorite is the MP3 Enhancer, which "can upscale your MP3 level sound (24 kHz, 8bit) to CD level sound (44.1 kHz, 16bit)."
Finally, for two channel audio sources, you can pick from six different Dolby Pro Logic II audio modes.
If you prefer a more low-tech approach to sound design, the AV Test Engineer at Samsung QA Lab America suggested, "Using a sponge to plug the port hole on the subwoofer will change the tonal balance.
"I've found that most HTiBs suffer from cheap sub syndrome and port stuffing can be a great way to go from a boomy type of bass sound to a more defined and distinct bass sound, if that's your preference. It simply allows consumers to change the tonal quality easily."
If you don't have a sponge big enough to stuff the port, something like an old towel should work.
Is the HT-C6730 as good as a high-end home theater system? No. Then again, you could easily spend three or four times as much just for what is considered a mid-range speaker system.
When you start adding up what it would cost you for a separate wireless Blu-ray player, an A/V receiver, and a 7.1 channel speaker system, then an HTiB starts to become a compelling value proposition.
I think a lot of folks will be more than satisfied with the audio quality of HT-C6730 and will be tickled at the price.
The Samsung HT-C6730 is all you could want in an HTiB, a wireless Blu-ray player, (with a line-up of Internet apps), combined with a powerful A/V receiver and a matching 7.1 speaker system - all at a reasonable price.