A great Blu-ray player and the nostalgia of glowing vacuum tubes make the Samsung HT-E6730W an intriguing all-in-one home theater system. Just be aware that you can spend less and still put together a home theater that sounds as good, or better.
What, exactly, do those tubes do? No all-inclusive home theater system gets more critical attention than the Samsung HT-E6730W. Its notoriety comes partially from the use of two nostalgically glowing vacuum tubes in the amplifier's pre-amp stage, although reviewers are vague about what this adds to the system's sound. They find the performance of its mid and higher frequencies pleasing, but wonder if that's a credit to the use of those tubes or the overall design of the amplifiers.
Home Theater Magazine takes apart the HT-E6730W during its testing and discovers that at least one channel plays fine with the tube removed, and the tubes' glow is enhanced by orange LEDs added to their housing. "While the tubes may indeed be contributing something to the sonic profile of this system, they're apparently not directly in the signal path," writes editor Rob Sabin. Home Theater also notes "an audible and obvious discontinuity" between the sub and the rest of the speakers, which is actually pretty common with HTIB systems.
On the video front, it's all systems go. Testing by About.com's Robert Silva found that the HT-E6730W is an exemplary performer with both Blu-ray Discs and in upscaling standard-definition DVDs. The system also passes all of Home Theater Magazine's benchmarks, including how its built-in Blu-ray player performs and how well it handles video from an external source over HDMI.
Neat and simple. All parts -- notably the tall-boy front speakers -- assemble easily, and wiring is helped along via the use of color-coded plugs and jacks. A real nicety is that you can use a wireless link to tie together the rear speakers and the front-of-the room electronics, minimizing wiring clutter and eliminating the common HTIB bugaboo of too-short pre-cut cables.
Samsung includes a built-in speaker calibration routine, although it doesn't earn as many accolades as similar systems used by other makers. Usability is generally good once the system is set up, but Home Theater Magazine's Mark Fleischmann grumbles about needing to enter text with a standard remote when using Samsung's otherwise well-regarded Smart Hub interface.
Absolutely loaded. The Samsung HT-E6730W has about every HTIB and Blu-ray Disc player feature available, including the aforementioned wireless link that gets rid of the headache of running wires around a room to get a true surround effect.
Although this is marketed as a 7.1-channel system, you won't find rear-center surrounds. Instead, the extra two channels are used to drive the system's 3D Sound feature -- which uses tilting speakers in the front tall-boys to add height to the sound stage -- and can't be repurposed to any other task. Expert reaction is mixed, with Home Theater Magazine saying "while the 3D Sound-driven height enhancement proved to be more of a glorified tone control than a spatial enhancement, it did change the system's sound in unpredictable but sometimes helpful ways." One negative of the tall front speakers is that they're hard to miss in a typical living room.
The Samsung's built-in Blu-ray player has just about every feature that a top-of-the-line Blu-ray player should have, including 3D and Internet streaming. Samsung's take on streaming and its Smart Hub that tries -- sometimes in vain -- to keep all that's available in some kind of coherent order is generally considered to be the best there is. Available content is comprehensive, and Wi-Fi and a wired Ethernet port are built in. Connectivity is limited, but the two HDMI inputs are actually more generous than what's found in lots of HTIBs.
Here's where things get dicey. Among systems with a built-in Blu-ray player, the Samsung HT-E6730W is a top performer. It's far from perfect, however, and is among the most expensive options available. For those with the self-confidence to strike out on their own, it's possible to get most of the features the system offers -- except those glowing vacuum tubes -- and better sonic performance by building a system piece by piece, and spend less.
1. Home Theater Magazine
Review Credibility: Excellent The Samsung HT-E6730W earns kudos here for its features and video performance. However, Fleischmann registers some disappointment when it comes to audio performance and value, as well as some head-scratching about what role the system's twin vacuum tubes actually play.
Review: Samsung HT-E6730W Home Theater System, Mark Fleischmann, Nov. 5, 2012
Review Credibility: Very Good This is one of the better hands-on reviews at About.com, with Silva going into great detail on the testing setup used and the conclusions he draws. He finds the Samsung HT-E6730W to be impressive in most respects.
Review: Samsung HT-E6730W 3D Blu-ray Home Theater System with Vacuum Tube Audio - Review, Robert Silva, Not dated
Review Credibility: Very Good The Samsung HT-E6730W is among the home theater systems tested by ConsumerReports.org. Ratings are given and HTIBs are ranked, but discussion is brief.
Review: Samsung HT-E6730W, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not dated