Three years ago, Samsung pledged to swear off the plasticky, el-cheapo audio wares it was known for and get serious. In the years since, the company has produced some impressive gear, from the vacuum tube-equipped DA-E750 speaker dock, to the Level headphone series, and the Shape multi-room wireless speakers. But none of it was revolutionary, and all of it failed to pique the interest of hard-core audio buffs.
Samsung’s latest audio effort, the Radiant 360 wireless speaker, ought to be different. The product of years of R&D at a brand new, state-of-the-art engineering facility in Valencia, CA., the Radiant 360 was designed to accomplish a feat many have sought and few have attained: Even 360-degree sound from a single speaker.
Has Samsung cracked the magic formula? We got a chance to listen for the first time, and while we think it is another leap forward for Samsung, we’re not convinced this is the speaker that will rehab the company’s cred in the audio market.
The Radiant 360 aims to make “every seat in the house a great seat.” At the heart of its design is an up-firing tweeter and down-firing woofer, both of which aim sound into “ring radiator” elements that project the sound into all directions — even the shape of the speaker itself is designed to help disperse sound evenly in all directions.
But the speaker is more than just a spherical music maker. It fits in with Samsung’s vision of a wireless multi-room audio ecosystem, which can be integrated with other Samsung products, such as TVs and tablets. Using Samsung’s new and improved multi-room audio app, which streams from the company’s Milk Music service or plays locally stored media, the speaker can stand alone, operate in tandem with additional Radiant 360 speakers, or integrate with any of Samsung’s Shape speakers over Wi-Fi. It can be a solo music maker, or work as part of a home-theater system via Bluetooth. To be sure, it is designed to be extremely versatile.
Samsung, like so many others, is trying to edge in on Sonos’ turf, but it does have a distinct advantage in that it makes a wide array of products that are all designed to work together — smartphones, tablets, PCs, and TVs. The app, which we have yet to really put to task, does at least appear more intuitive and user-friendly than past efforts.
But at the end of the day, all the fancy features in the world don’t mean much if the speaker doesn’t sound great, and whether it does remains to be seen. The loud and expansive event venue was no place to judge the speaker’s sonic capabilities, but when we leaned in close for a listen, we were concerned with a lack of meat in the lower frequencies. This speaker is big enough and expensive enough — $500 — that it needs to deliver a decent amount of bass to be taken seriously.
We’ll have to wait until we get our review sample in to pass final judgement, but for now we are comfortable saying Samsung has made another stride forward, even if it wasn’t the leap it was looking for. With so much invested in its new audio facilities, it is hard to imagine the company won’t continue to up its game in the years to come, even if this isn’t the magic bullet.