The first look at Samsung's DA-E750 Wireless Audio with Docks (to give it its full title) definitely impresses — between the cherry wood finish and the prominently displayed vacuum tubes, it's almost more elegant than any audio has the right to be. Luckily, there's a lot more to this unit than just good looks.
There's almost an embarrassment of riches when it comes to the ways in which you can get music onto the DA-E750. It has an Ethernet port at the back and is Wireless LAN ready; the dock at the rear has both a 30-pin connector and a micro-USB, and is also compatible with AllShare, Airplay and Bluetooth; and finally, it syncs with compatible Samsung TVs, to operate as a sort of a soundbar to boost the TV's audio.
The rear dock was intriguing, and we found it excellent for using with the Samsung Galaxy S3phone. A Samsung dock app lets you easily control the audio, while it charges your phone as well. It works with non-Samsung phones, but we found that the placement of the USB port on the HTC One X, for example, meant the phone sat sideways, with the screen to the rear — not a major problem, but it certainly looked a little odd.
There's no front display, however — just a top mount light display that lets you see what source is selected. This makes the initial set up of Bluetooth, AllShare and Airplay a little tricky, but nothing unmanageable. It's most notable when using the remote (a very sleek and well-design unit in its own right) — while you can just hit the F button to cycle through sources, you can't see which you've selected unless you're looking down on the unit.
Samsung says that the vacuum tubes help create a "warmer" sound, and we'd have to agree. Music felt quite rich for a simple 2.1 channel system, and the built-in 100w subwoofer added good weight without it becoming overpowering. (It also looks warm, with the glow of the valves over the cherry finish feeling quite cozy in a darkened room).
In terms of operation, we had some minor trouble with playback from a USB source, but this had more to do with the lack of a display, making it a bit hard to choose tracks more than anything else.
Interestingly, there's no radio tuner in the DA-E750, something we thought would have been a natural choice, given its design and operation.
In terms of its industrial design and sound reproduction, the DA-E750 Wireless Audio with Docks is a winner for either iOS or Android users (unless you've got the new iPhone 5, but still desperate for physical docking). While we have a personal bugbear over the use of gloss finishes on devices that are designed to be touched all the time, most people will just stock up on Mr Sheen and cope. More than that, it's a great music player with a host of solid features. Whether it's worth the AU$699 is basically down to your budget — there are cheaper devices out there that'll do a similar job, but not too many that will look quite as good doing it.