Samsung HT-BD2T HTIB Page 2

First Blood (a.k.a. Rambo I) loaded in 28 seconds. It was the first movie I’ve heard in DTS-HD High Resolution Audio, the lossy kid brother of lossless Master Audio. The 1982 soundtrack is showing its age. This is especially obvious during the song that accompanies the final credits. It’s probably more of a limiting factor than either DTS-HD HRA or the system is. As far as my ears are concerned, the jury is still out on this new codec. But the sub did punch reasonably hard with explosives. I took several breaks during this title. Each time I resumed, the Samsung logo was on the screen, and the movie picked up where it left off.

Premonition loaded in 3 minutes and 5 seconds. This was not the first time I’d seen it, but it was the first time I’d heard its exemplary soundtrack in high-resolution PCM. At moments it floored me. Put a signal of extreme purity into even a modest HTIB’s plastic speakers, and you can get a lot of mileage out of thunder, an orchestra that envelops in moments of distress, and a bell ringing in both forward and reverse. The system did well during the film’s almost infinitesimal birdsong by a lake. But the plasticky veiling of voices remained. To me, voices make it easiest to spot coloration.

One movie gave the Blu-ray drive a spot of trouble. XXX: State of the Union—a pristine disc that I removed from its package and placed directly into the player—took 9 minutes and 15 seconds for the first of several loads. It also had difficulty accepting the play command. When I paused the player for a meal break, the system shut down entirely. Then, when I powered it back up, it forgot where it was on the disc. When I replayed the disc on a Pioneer BDP-HD1, it loaded in 4 minutes and played without incident. The following day I tried again with the Samsung system. It loaded in 3 minutes and showed every intention of playing through (although I chose not to).

Given the varying load times, the culprit for day one may have been a speck of dust that somehow got into the drive. I’m not inclined to blame the Samsung for this. Every Blu-ray player I’ve ever used has entertained me with at least one freak occurrence—but I thought you’d like to know.

Throughout my experience, the system accepted volume commands a little sluggishly. It always had a brief delay between the remote hit and the response. An average HTIB or A/V receiver would be quicker.

The Blus
As I began feeding CDs into the Samsung, I made a pleasant discovery. The remote makes it easier to access stereo-to-surround modes than most HTIBs or receivers. The remote has two buttons for Dolby Pro Logic IIx. It includes a Mode button that cycles through DPLIIx listening modes (Music, Movies, etc.). That’s not uncommon, but Samsung also provides a second Effect button that accesses DPLIIx’s Panorama, Width, and Dimension settings. In other words, you can adjust the front-to-back and side-to-side balances without diving into the Control menu. If you’re a heavy DPLIIx user, that’s pretty cool. Samsung also throws in a dedicated DTS Neo:6 mode button. I normally don’t find Neo:6 to be as natural sounding as DPLIIx, but in this system, they both sounded good. Even stereo, not traditionally a strength of HTIBs, was decent.

The string section of an orchestra is a big deal in most of my reviews. In Erich Leinsdorf’s Sheffield recording of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Samsung observed the first rule of medicine and audio—do no harm. Except for some hardness at peak volumes (notably in the finale’s brass fanfare), the string sound was not strident or fatiguing. But it also wasn’t laser-focused, lush, or layered. However, I was less distracted by the resonant-plastic coloration that bothered me with movie dialogue, and that was a good thing.

The New York Rock and Soul Revue: Live at the Beacon is a one-off featuring Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen, Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers, Phoebe Snow, and other luminaries. The live production by Fagen and Elliott Scheiner sounded better than any night I’ve ever spent at the Beacon. With this system, vocals and most instruments emerged reasonably well. The exceptions were brass (this time it was a bit thin and lacking in texture) and drums, where it was clear that the sub supplied the thump, and the slim towers gave a tapping sound, but there wasn’t much natural drum slam.

The system’s most natural-sounding moments came with a Chesky hybrid SACD/CD release—in this case, the CD layer. Manhattan is a trio album featuring pianist David Hazeltine, bassist George Mraz, and drummer Billy Drummond. Chesky has a genius for establishing large soundfields where small ensembles can thrive. I didn’t even bother switching to DPLIIx or Neo:6. Chesky recordings in stereo make me a happy camper, and the Samsung ably delivered the goods with no particular compromise that bothered me.

Blu You Away?
The Samsung HT-BD2T’s Blu-ray drive will make a big flat-panel HDTV happy. Despite its sonic compromises, it has enough resolution to get some mileage out of the new audio codecs. As Blu-

ray systems proliferate, this one will probably be regarded as average. The best results belong to those who venture into the realm of matching separate components. Of course, a system like this will always trump individual components in ease of setup and use.