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Samsung HW-N950 review: The best soundbar money can buy

Christopher Minasians
25 Oct 2018
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
1,500
inc VAT

Samsung’s flagship offers the best cinematic experience from a soundbar, but it comes with a hefty price tag

Pros 
Unrivalled DTS:X and Dolby Atmos experience
Phenomenal sound quality
Will easily fill a home theatre
Cons 
Hefty high premium over the HW-N850
No room calibration
Only two HDMI inputs
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Over the last couple of years, Samsung has really ramped up its presence on the audio front. From improving its lineup of audio products to acquiring the likes of Harman Kardon. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the company’s latest flagship soundbar, the HW-N950, brings everything the South Korean manufacturer has to offer. But, is it worth shelling out £1,500 on a soundbar?

READ NEXT: Samsung HW-K950 review: Fantastic surround sound – at a price

Samsung HW-N950 review: What you need to know

The Samsung HW-N950 is a 7.1.4 channel soundbar that supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. It shares the same design and sound characteristics as the HW-N850, but adds a pair of rear speakers into the mix – each of these has upward- and forward-firing drivers housed inside.

The extra speakers are reminiscent of Samsung’s 2016 model, the HW-K950. However, this time around, the rear speakers don’t suffer from any problems.

Samsung HW-N950 review: Price and competition

The HW-N950 isn’t cheap at £1,500. That’s a hefty £500 premium over the HW-N850 and even more than the model it replaces, the HW-K950 that can be found for around £800. The 2016 model doesn’t have sideward firing speakers, which does mean it’s limited to 5.1.4 channels.

Elsewhere, it’s worth considering the impressive Atmos-enabled Sony HT-ST5000 at £1,200. At the cheaper end of the scale, the LG SJ9 and the Onkyo HT-S5805 system both cost around £550.

Buy now from Currys

READ NEXT: Best soundbars – our favourite TV speakers

Samsung HW-N950 review: Design, features and connectivity

The N950 has the same dimensions as the N850: it’s 1,230mm long, 136mm deep and 83mm tall. You’ll want to ensure it fits on your cabinet or TV stand and not within it, as you’ll lose the impact of the upward- and sideward-facing speakers. If you’re struggling to find space, you can also mount it on a wall.

The subwoofer and rear speakers are both wireless, too – they don’t need a cable running to the soundbar. The pairing process is relatively simple and at around two to three metres away from the main unit, I had didn't experience any problems. Here, the older 2016 model, the HW-K950 would suffer from occasional hissing and connectivity issues.

Aesthetically, the soundbar looks great. From the all-metal grille that extends around the speaker to the brushed aluminium design and chamfered edges, it’s certainly attractive. As for controls, there are four physical buttons at the top and centre of the bar, which accompanies the comprehensive suite of controls found on the soundbar’s remote control.

As for connectivity, Samsung hasn’t included any extra options over the HW-N850: you get two HDMI 2.0 inputs, an optical TOSLINK digital input and an HDMI TV-ARC output, which supports HDR, 3D and 4K video pass-through. In terms of wireless connectivity, there’s Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

For a flagship soundbar, I want a little more: more HDMI inputs, a 3.5mm jack, coaxial digital inputs, a USB Type-A input for media playback and Bluetooth aptX codec support.

There’s also no app that allows you to tune your soundbar to a room’s acoustics. By comparison, Sonos has Trueplay, iOS-only speaker-tuning software that optimises the sound of your Sonos devices. I’d have liked to see the same from Samsung, even if it meant you needed one of their flagship smartphones, such as the Galaxy S9 to perform a perfect calibration.

READ NEXT: Samsung HW-N650 review – surround sound without the hassle

Samsung HW-N950 review: Sound quality

If you were to take the rear speakers away from the HW-N950, you’re essentially getting an HW-N850. Sonically, the soundbars are identical – they both achieve a frequency range that ranges from 34Hz all the way up to 17kHz.

However, the HW-N950 has a peak power of 512W. It’s far louder than the HW-N850, which is limited to 372W. Here, the flagship model will be able to fill a small home theatre, while both are more than capable of filling a large living room space.

Sound quality is exceptional. From the low-end rumble of the subwoofer to the forward-sounding mids, the HW-N950, like the HW-N850, has it all. The sound is not only accurate but also doesn’t suffer from any distortion at higher listening volumes. There’s no sibilance at the top end, no over-bloated bass, nor recessed mids. Perfection.

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The sound comes through with any source – be it from Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic YouTube video played via a smart TV (such as Samsung’s Q9FN), to the heart-pounding, metal crunching sounds of Luca Turilli's Rhapsody Prometheus played in Dolby Atmos through a 4K Blu-ray player.

While the HW-N850 had a total of 13 drivers, the HW-N950 has 17. That’s thanks to the upward- and forward-firing drivers found on each of the rear speakers. The result is a more enveloping, fuller sound that really comes through with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content. These speakers fill the rear of the room with sound, which, when combined with the rest of the experience, creates a more engaging experience. Gunfire in Star Trek Beyond (with Dolby Atmos) turns heads. It’s as if you were on the Starship Enterprise.

However, take away surround sound output (such as Dolby Atmos) and the rear speakers don’t provide that same head-turning experience. Even with the channels dialled to the max, they don’t provide a justifiable boost in sound over the HW-N850, which has no rear speakers. Here, regular YouTube videos and non-HD terrestrial television broadcasts don’t sound as impressive as content that’s been optimised for a 5.1 or 7.1.4 setup. In some ways, it’s a testament to the front- and sideward-firing drivers that are located at the front.

READ NEXT: Samsung HW-N850 review – an excellent high-end soundbar that turns your living room into a home cinema

Samsung HW-N950 review: Verdict

Samsung’s biggest problem is that its cheaper model, the HW-N850, provides such an incredible experience that it almost negates the need of having rear speakers. Sound quality is sublime and identical on both models – they’re definitely the best all-in-one systems around.

Now, that’s not to say the rear pair are pointless – far from it. If you want a full Dolby Atmos or DTS:X experience and don’t want to faff around with wiring and a complicated setup that involves drilling holes in your ceiling and running wires to a receiver, the HW-N950 is arguably the best around.

It’s expensive, doesn’t have a wide array of connectivity options for a flagship soundbar and doesn’t feature any calibration software. This might put you off, especially as you’re essentially paying an extra £500 for rear speakers. With that all that in mind, there’s still nothing on the market quite like it.

Buy now from Currys

At the time of writing, there’s no other system that supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, has 7.1.4 channels, sounds exceptional and is easy to set up and use. For that reason, the Samsung HW-N950 receives top marks but misses out on the Best Buy award, which the HW-N850 bagged last time around.

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