Have you ever looked at your TV's soundbar speaker and thought, "Wow, what this thing really needs is tubes?" Then Samsung's 2012 audio lineup should put a smile on your face: It's expanding its lineup of gear that uses vacuum tubes to include a new soundbar speaker, as well as a home-theater-in-the-box (HTIB) system. Even better: The soundbar—model HW-F750—can connect wirelessly to the TV via Bluetooth.
Also harnessing the power of Bluetooth is a a new portable wireless speaker, which uses NFC (Near Field Communication) technology to make pairing devices a snap: You simply tap the two NFC-enabled devices together. Samung's tube-based audio lineup uses a vacuum tube in the system's preamp stage; power is actually provided by digital amplification.
The HW-F750 soundbar is a two-piece speaker system with a wireless subwoofer. The speaker can connect to the TV using Bluetooth—a feature Samsung calls SoundShare—and it has a built-in gyro that can tell whether the soundbar is mounted vertically or horizontally, and adjust the sound quality based on the height, rotation and slope of the speaker's placement. A feature called AirtrackOn can turn the soundbar on automatically whenever the TV s turned on, tand lets you control the soundbar using the TV remote.
The new tube-based HTIB, model HT-F9750W, is a 7.1-channel system that features a Gallium Nitride (GaN) amplifier. I wish I could say what this actually does, but I've never heard of it before. Samsung claims it can extend the audible range of sound beyond the typical audio frequencies, but we'll have to check that out when we get one of these systems in our labs.
The HTIB is a flagship model loaded with features, including a Blu-ray player with 4K upscaling, built-in Wi-Fi, Samsung's smart TV platform, and a TV Sound On feature that mutes the TV's internal sound when the system kicks on. Samsung also claims the system can create an impressive sense of vertical sound thanks to the system's swivel speaker, coupled with a new DTS Neo fusion codec that's exclusive to Samsung.
For those looking for something a bit more portable (and affordable), the DA-F60 portable speaker—which weighs just 3 pounds—also includes SoundShare, so it can be used as a wireless TV speaker if needed. Its integrated NFC technology lets you pair it with other devices with built-in NFC—smart phones or tablets, for example) for easy wireless connectivity. The DA-F60 also supports Bluetooth's higher-quality apt-X audio format for better sound.
While we have most of the details, we're still waiting to hear about price and availability for these models, so check back. And check out the rest of our CES 2013 coverage.
—James K. Willcox