There’s no lack of wireless tabletop speakers for smartphone-totting music listeners, so a new one has to be something special to garner any excitement. Samsung did just that with the launch of the DA-E750, a vacuum-tube hybrid system that includes gads of connectivity options.
The first thing worth mentioning is that the DA-E750 is probably the most beautiful audio or video device Samsung has designed. Really, it’s gorgeous, very simple. The main body is highly polished cherry wood, with a flush tap pad on top for controls. Also on top, protruding just a bit, is a glass cover that protects two old-school vacuum tubes that emit a warm and attractive glow when the system is on. Two mid-range drivers and two tweeters face forward. On the back is a dock for iOS devices or Samsung’s Galaxy S II or III phones. Most people will find no use for the dock though (unless they need to charge their phones), but it can be tucked away out of sight.
Tube amplification is experiencing a resurgence in the audiophile world, mostly in esoteric gear, so finding tubes incorporated into a Samsung product is a sign of how seriously the company wants to court the music listener.
The system isn’t all tubes though. It uses a hybrid amplification system that mixes in old-school analog vacuum tubes with new-school digital amps. The tubes, supplied by JJ Electronics from the Slovak Republic, are commonly used in guitar amps. The two 12AV7 tubes are dual triode vacuum tubes and are utilized in the preamplification stage. They are said to last about 6,000 hours and can be replaced (by an authorized service agent). A digital amp is employed in the power amp stage. Samsung says the benefit of this system is that the tubes are able to create warm-sounding even harmonics. The digital amp is able to reduce distortion while producing volume.
That’s the end of the old-school side of the product. The rest is all about new technology.The system uses every connectivity technology available: Apple’s Airplay, Bluetooth, AllShare, DLNA, USB and of course the physical dock.
Despite being fairly packed with technology, in use, the Samsung lives up to its simple and elegant looks. When you press any button on top, the speaker takes a few seconds to power up while the connections icons flash in succession. The wait is due to the warm-up time required of the tube amps. You then can select the connection you want with the function button on the unit or the remote.
I went with Bluetooth first, because that was easiest. As soon as the Samsung was on the Bluetooth setting, the name of the unit showed up in the Bluetooth menu of my iPhone 4S. The connection was immediate, and I was ready to listen to music.
Connecting via AirPlay was just as simple. I docked the iPhone on the Samsung’s rear connection, pressed the network button on the back of the unit, then followed the instructions until the wireless player showed on the iPhone’s menu. Then I removed the iPhone and started to wirelessly play music.
Connecting the device to your home network takes a little more time, and more network settings, but the product manual is pretty clear. Just be sure you have your wireless device, router passwords and computer with you, because if you’re too slow to respond the system times out and you have to start all over.
So if operation is simple, how does this $799 audio device sound?
I started out with the Bluetooth connection knowing that it’s not the highest fidelity way to listen to music. Still, tunes streamed over Bluetooth sounded very good. In addition to the front-facing drivers mentioned above, there’s an additional down-firing bass driver underneath the unit, which accounts for the very solid bass performance. Destroyers’ Holly Going Lightly played loud without distortion and sounded fairly detailed and energetic. Switching to AirPlay brought out much more detail and greatly increased the dynamic range of the track. Internet music, from Pandora and Slacker, also sounded very good played via AirPlay, but not nearly as good as the same tracks played from my own collection, which is what anyone should expect.
Where the unit falls short in sound is in separation and soundstage. While the music had depth (thanks largely to the very effective bass driver) and warmth (due to the tube amplification), it didn’t have width. That’s something all small tabletop units suffer from. When your left and right speaker are only inches apart, it’s difficult for them to create the illusion of three-dimensionality you get from stand-along speakers that are 10 feet apart. The last time I listened to a Bowers and Wilkins Zeppelin Air, I heard more stereo separation, but I didn’t have a unit on hand to compare them directly. Still, the tonality of the Samsung is really pleasing.
This is easily one of them most interesting products I think Samsung has produced recently. The combination of analog and digital technology in a modernist design is welcome. The simplicity of use and the quality of the sound makes it easy to integrate into any room where a full-sized audio system is not an option.
Samsung Wireless Audio Dock DA-E750
• 1 Audio Input
• Composite Outputs
• Bluetooth 3.0 Version with aptX technology (HD Audio Streaming)
• AllShare™ (DLNA)
• USB Direct Play
• 20W x 2 Front Speakers
• Glass Fiber
• Phase Plug
• Down-Firing Woofer
• 60 W Woofer
• Power Bass
• Vacuum Tube + Crystal Amp
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. He's also the author of the book The Trouble with Rivers
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.