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Samsung HT-TQ85 Home Theater In A Box Review

by April 11, 2007
Samsung HT-TQ85 Home Theater System

Samsung HT-TQ85 Home Theater System

It is amazing how far a dollar will go these days, especially when it comes to home theater. It seems only a few years ago that in order to have a respectable sounding, complete home theater system of any size that included a receiver, CD/DVD changer, five speakers and subwoofer would easily cost well over $1000. Fast forward to today, where you can find "home theater in a box" systems for sale at your local drug store for as little as $100. In many cases, you get what you pay for. But these days, it is actually possible to get a lot more than what you pay for.

Such is the case with Samsung's HT-TQ85 Home Theater System, which includes not only a full surround sound speaker system combined with a combo receiver and DVD/CD changer, but features such as HDMI in/out and XM radio capability. With a MSRP of $579, this system packs one serious bang for your buck!

Features & Listening Impressions

You've heard it said, "so easy, even a kid can do it," right? Well, I decided I would see if it held true with the HT-TQ85. I enlisted my 13 year-old daughter to help me unpack the system and assemble the speakers. Samsung has done quite an engineering job fitting this entire system in-a-box. I actually took photos of layer after layer as I unpacked, knowing I would have to repack it to send back at the end of the review period. And trust me, without photos, there was no way I was going to figure it out.

jordanThe first layer contains the all-in-one receiver/cd/dvd changer, the center channel speaker, and the top of the subwoofer. As you take these items out and begin to peel away the rest of the layers, you find the four speakers, stands and bases. Also included is a slender remote control and speaker wire.

Well, my experiment ended pretty quickly when my daughter finished assembling a couple of the tallboy speakers and decided she was done. That was the last I saw of her during setup. I finished assembling the speakers, which are made of plastic, have non-removable fabric grills, and don't weigh much at all. They are black with silver trim, and have a very modern, contemporary look. The speakers look pretty good, and will blend well with the décor of most displays on the market today that have a silver and black color scheme, such as the Samsung 46" HL-S4676S Slim DLP HDTV we used while evaluating the system. The round base plates are heavy, and screws are included to tighten everything down. The included sub is passive, and is front-ported with a side-firing woofer. It is also black with matching silver trim.

The receiver/disc changer unit is also black with silver trim, matching both the speakers and the Samsung DLP display. The combination receiver and 5-disc carousel dvd/cd player has 1000 watts of power built in for powering the sub (160 watts) and 5 speakers (140 watts each). The blue display on the front panel is very easy to read from across the room. At a glance I could determine which speakers were being used, which disc (in the carousel) was active, and what sound mode I was in, as well as the standard CD/DVD track or FM station indicator. Controls on the unit include a large silver volume knob, individual buttons for direct access of discs in the changer, power, play/pause, stop, forward and reverse, open/close and function.

The receiver is full of features I really did not expect to find on a HTIB product, such as progressive scan output. But the real kicker is that it has HDMI input and output. The HDMI input could be used for a signal from a Blu-ray or HD DVD player. There is a USB port on the front of the unit that that allows you to connect a compatible MP3 player, digital camera, or USB memory stick to the system to enjoy your photos, movies and music. It also has a built in FM tuner and is XM radio compatible. Samsung offers an optional rear channel wireless amplifier that turns the surrounds into wireless speakers.

partsThe five-disc changer can handle DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, CD, MP3-CD, WMA-CD, DivX, CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW formats. The surround processing includes Dolby Digital, DTS, and Dolby Pro Logic II.

The slender remote has it's buttons laid out in a logical manner, and was pretty straightforward. Although it is not backlit, the play/pause, stop, mute, channel up/down and volume up/down buttons are yellow and glow in the dark.

After hooking everything up and powering up, I immediately went to the on-screen display and was pleased to find a very easy to navigate interface from which I was able to choose the HDMI output. The setup menu offers excellent audio and video setup options, including test tones and individual speaker level adjustments.

I must admit, that I had very low expectations after setup. The small sub and the hollow plastic speaker cabinets could not possibly be capable of producing decent sound, right? Well, the moment of truth arrived as I threw in Pixar's CARS dvd. Considering the aforementioned limitations of a home theater in-a-box type product, the Samsung delivered. The system produced a full surround experience that was really impressive. The passive subwoofer is certainly a weak point, but throughout the opening scene of the movie the thunderous roar of the stock cars zooming across the screen was really impressive. Sheryl Crow's theme song sounded great too, as harmony vocals came through the rear surrounds with great clarity. The experience was enveloping, and is a tremendous improvement over the sound you get from a display's built-in speaker system.

I found it more difficult to find a decent tonal balance when listening to 2-channel music. The subwoofer became a liability and was hollow sounding, not thick and thumping the way I would have preferred. Sound quality was not so great on rock music, but much better with bluegrass or acoustic. Playing with speaker levels helped a bit, and concert DVD's actually sounded pretty good in Dolby Digital mode. I listened to a few MP3's I had burned from my iTunes library, and they sounded pretty good, but overall I found the HT-TQ85 to be a much better performer for movies than music.

Conclusion

There are many ways to view home theater in-a-box systems. Most Audioholics loathe the idea that you can put some plastic speakers and an all-in-one receiver/disc combo unit in a big box and call it a "home theater." And I respect that opinion. But many consumers will never visit a hi-fi shop, and a HTIB is a good fit for the off-brand plasma TV set they just bought for $799 at the warehouse club (after instant rebate). There are also people who have a small room or apartment, not to mention budget, and just want more for their $500 when they realize that the wavy radio thingy they ordered doesn't actually grow into a big system when they get it home (like it did in the commercial on TV).

The Samsung HT-TQ85 is a value-packed product that performs very well when compared with other products in it's class. It is full of features that are rarely found in products at this price point such as HDMI in/out. The MSRP is $579, but at the time of this writing I was able to find it from reputable online retailers for as low as $399, and at that price it is a steal.


PRICE: $579
bargain!

FEATURES:
loaded

PERFORMANCE:
better

strength? movies
weakness? music

SPECS:
  • Disc playback formats: DVD-Audio, DVD-Video, CD, MP3-CD, WMA-CD, DivX, CD-R/RW and DVD-R/RW
  • Disc capacity: 5
  • Number of speakers: 5 plus subwoofer
  • Watts per channel: 140/speaker, 160/subwoofer
  • Inputs/Outputs: HDMI in/out, optical in, component out

For More Information:
Samsung
400 Valley Road, Suite 201
Mt. Arlington, NJ 07856
1-800-SAMSUNG
www.samsung.com

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About the author:

Over the years J. has constantly found himself to be an "early-adopter," spending way too much money on "new" technologies such as Compact Disc, LaserDisc, and DVD. He is one of the few people who actually purchased (and still owns) a CORE programmable remote control (bonus points if you remember this product).

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Recent Forum Posts:

Gimpy Ric posts on November 19, 2007 15:49
mattmlp, post: 331337
Ok, first post, here goes. We are about to purchase a HDTV, and I am looking into a modestly priced HTIB (+/- $500) to accompany it. I am interested in the new Onkyo HT-SR800. However, I am nervous about some of the things I am reading in the reviews, which are discouraging me from pursuing this otherwise highly regarded product. The reviews applaud the high quality sound for the price, and very good connectivity options. But, the HDMI jacks are video only. They won't carry the audio signals. Apparently there is a workaround. For example, one review says I will have to connect a dedicated audio-feed as well. How do I do this for my true surround sound? It says optical or coaxial digital or analog multichannel. How exactly do I do this? Not sure what it means. What about sound output from a DVD player (the Onkyo system does not come with one). How do you get the true surround sound from that?
Another annoyance mentioned is there is no video conversion, so you need separate output from the receiver to the tv for each component, I assume for video as well as sound.
Anyway, my biggest interest is getting the true surround from this system if the the HDMI jacks do not output the sound. Help!

I wouldn't buy it. If you still have to buy a dvd player, get an Oppo and save some money, get a Onkyo 605 and a set of bookshelf speakers. Just use that untill you can upgrade, piece by piece, like many Audioholics have done.
mattmlp posts on November 19, 2007 15:26
Ok, first post, here goes. We are about to purchase a HDTV, and I am looking into a modestly priced HTIB (+/- $500) to accompany it. I am interested in the new Onkyo HT-SR800. However, I am nervous about some of the things I am reading in the reviews, which are discouraging me from pursuing this otherwise highly regarded product. The reviews applaud the high quality sound for the price, and very good connectivity options. But, the HDMI jacks are video only. They won't carry the audio signals. Apparently there is a workaround. For example, one review says I will have to connect a dedicated audio-feed as well. How do I do this for my true surround sound? It says optical or coaxial digital or analog multichannel. How exactly do I do this? Not sure what it means. What about sound output from a DVD player (the Onkyo system does not come with one). How do you get the true surround sound from that?
Another annoyance mentioned is there is no video conversion, so you need separate output from the receiver to the tv for each component, I assume for video as well as sound.
Anyway, my biggest interest is getting the true surround from this system if the the HDMI jacks do not output the sound. Help!
pzaur posts on November 04, 2007 17:41
Davemcc, post: 326278
I tried to download the manual, but I got a weird message about not having enogh memory. I don't know what that was about, but I never got it downloaded.

Maybe you should try downloading it to a USB drive…

-pat
Davemcc posts on November 04, 2007 14:59
I tried to download the manual, but I got a weird message about not having enogh memory. I don't know what that was about, but I never got it downloaded.
Adam posts on November 03, 2007 11:04
Davemcc, post: 325957
IIRC, there is a list of compatible USB devices in the manual. If you don't have a manual, I can run over to my neighbor's and get the list from his manual.

Dave is very generous. To perhaps save him some typing, you can also check out the manual from here. (Samsung probably also has it at their site, but this was the first hit on Google. Adam = Lazy.)

EDIT: Also, Dave did remember correctly. Their is a list of supported USB devices on page 83.
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