Review: Samsung's Music Frame is a pricey smart speaker that emphasises visual elegance above all else

The Music Frame weighs 5.9kg and measures 413.0 x 150.0 x 435.0 mm.
The Music Frame weighs 5.9kg and measures 413.0 x 150.0 x 435.0 mm. Photo credit: supplied

There's a good chance you've seen one of Samsung's 'The Frame' televisions in someone's home in recent years, or maybe have one yourself.

The lifestyle TVs, designed to blend into living spaces under the guise of art, are reportedly very popular in New Zealand - more so than most places in the world per capita, Samsung says.

This year, the company has been inspired by the success of the TVs to try and pull the same trick with another product - this time, a smart speaker.

The Music Frame is now out in Aotearoa and is asking for $750, making it one of the most expensive options on the market as far as smart speakers go. 

Is it worth that price? I've been using the Music Frame for the past week and here are my thoughts.

I love reviewing unique, first-of-its-kind tech products and this is indeed one for the history books. The innovative design allows you to personalise it with any image you want, whether it be a family photo, a Taylor Swift album cover, or awesome fantasy art from the legendary Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell.

Samsung supplies an image of a record player to get you started, but makes it quite easy to change this out as you please. This sets it apart from the vaguely similar Ikea and Sonos speaker that came out a few years ago, but I don't think made it to Aotearoa.

Whether mounted on the wall or sitting on a piece of furniture, it's remarkable how tastefully and seamlessly the Music Frame can blend into a room. There are numerous ways one could choose to display their speaker, from disguising it as art to making it an elegant statement piece - depending on what image is used and how it's positioned.

Do keep in mind it is powered by a cord which will need to be hidden somehow if you really want to have this speaker presented as well as can be, which could be quite difficult if you're wall mounting it.

It's easy to swap out the art for whatever image you want.
It's easy to swap out the art for whatever image you want. Photo credit: supplied

After the pleasure of unboxing, however, I had some trouble with the setup. It's easy to connect as a Bluetooth speaker, but it took me a while to figure out that I needed to change it to Wi-Fi mode to connect to the SmartThings app, even when connected to my phone over Bluetooth; you need it on SmartThings to properly use it. Then you need to go back and manually turn on the mic on the device - it can't be done via the app - to unlock some of the best features, among a few other unintuitive quirks.

Once the clunky setup and connection process was complete, the sound quality became significantly better than when I first cranked it up as a standard Bluetooth speaker. For the size, the quality of audio is really impressive - so long as you don't listen to particularly bass-heavy music at higher volumes or push any music to the absolute max level.

Audio tech specs:

  • 50Hz~16KHz Frequency Range, 4-ohm Impedance, 2 x Midrange Transducer, 2 x Woofers, 2 Tweeters
  • 90dB Maximum SPL, 60 dB Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR).

On the price front, arguably the most comparable item currently available in New Zealand would be Apple's latest HomePod, which is currently asking for $529. Amazon's Echo Studio is also a kind of similar smart speaker for around $359.

But both of those, along with plenty of others from the likes of Google and Huawei, look very much like speakers. They're covered in nice material and usually come in different colourways, but there's no hiding what it is when on display in your home - so they're hard to compare to the Music Frame beyond pure functionality.

JBL has one offering that looks much less like a smart speaker than those Amazon and Apple devices; the JBL Authentics 500, which costs around $700, resembles an amp and will "rock your socks off", according to the Tech Radar review.

Can you spot the speaker?
Can you spot the speaker? Photo credit: supplied

But the Music Frame really is quite original. While I am comparing it to other smart speakers, that might not be completely fair and won't be how everyone views it. It would be super expensive as purely a picture frame, and it's not actually very good as a smart home hub (unless you run everything through SmartThings, for some reason).

As well as playing music, the Music Frame can play other sounds - most notably, it can connect to Samsung TVs and intelligently work with its speakers. You could also put one either side of a TV to get a decent audio setup, similar to two Apple Homepods with an Apple TV unit.

Primarily though, this is for playing music while elegantly blending into one's living space more than most speakers can, and it does that very well - although, for a fairly steep price.

To be honest, this item that isn't really for me. Just as I'd prefer the latest, greatest, most mind-blowing visual fidelity OLED TV from Samsung rather than a Frame TV, I'd also rather get one of the company's beasty soundbars rather than a Sound Frame, due to their audio superiority.

But not everyone rates image quality and audio fidelity as the number one factor with these sorts of purchases.

If you have a tidy, clutter-free home and care about your visual aesthetic, the Music Frame could be the ideal speaker to add to it, with the ability to customise its appearance exactly to your liking. For anyone else, I'd advise looking at other speakers within a similar price range and weighing up what's most important to you - if visual elegance is not a top priority, then this is not the best choice.

Newshub was supplied a Music Frame for this review.