A superbly immersive Atmos delivery makes this feature-packed soundbar the multichannel system to beat in 2022
- Amazingly immersive soundstage
- Deep and powerful bass
- Alexa built-in
- No 4K/120 or VRR passthrough
- More HDMI inputs would be nice
The Samsung HW-Q990B is a fantastic soundbar that uses multiple drivers, wireless rear speakers and a beefed-up subwoofer to deliver a staggeringly immersive surround sound experience.
The overall audio quality is excellent, the engineering impressive and there’s smart functionality courtesy of built-in Alexa. It’s pricey and could do with a couple of additional HDMI inputs, but you won’t find a more accomplished home theatre soundbar.
Samsung HW-Q990B review: What you need to know
The Samsung HW-Q990B builds on the success of the company’s previous flagship models, and even manages to improve a few things with a reimagined cabinet and a new-look subwoofer.
It’s an 11.1.4-channel system primarily designed for home cinema enthusiasts and offers a level of immersion that would otherwise require an AV receiver and multiple speakers. The Q990B’s home theatre credentials also include support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, plus the HDMI connections can pass every version of HDR, including Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Only passthrough for 4K/120p and Variable Refresh Rate are lacking.
There’s a host of other features, including Auto EQ, built-in Alexa and support for Q Symphony, which synchronises sound from the bar and compatible Samsung televisions. There’s also a capable remote app, support for high-resolution audio, and even wireless Atmos.
Samsung HW-Q990B review: Price and competition
The Samsung HW-Q990B might seem expensive at £1,599, but when you consider its immersive capabilities the price starts to make sense. Popular competitors like the Bose Smart Soundbar 900 or Sonos Arc may appear cheaper, but they have no separate subwoofer or rear speakers. Once you add these the price tag jumps up significantly, and even then the sound isn’t as immersive.
If you like the idea of the Q990B but don’t have the budget for it, the Samsung HW-Q930B offers a similar set of features for less money. There’s no Auto EQ or acoustic lensing on the sub and it’s only a 9.1.4-channel system, but is significantly cheaper at £1,099. Alternatively, the 7.1.4 channel LG SN11RG also sports a similar set of features for £1,499, though you’ll have to make do without HDR10+ passthrough.
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Samsung HW-Q990B review: Design and features
The Samsung HW-Q990B uses the same large cabinet and angled corners as last year’s HW-Q950A, but replaces the fabric covering with a more robust metal mesh grille. It’s attractive, easier to keep clean, and less likely to be scratched by cats. Thankfully Samsung has also moved the display back to the front of the bar where it can actually be seen.
The matte black finish is discreet and non-reflective, the build quality is excellent, and the soundbar’s dimensions suit TVs with screen sizes of 55 inches or larger. There’s a choice of stand or wall mounting, and if you decide on the latter Samsung includes dedicated brackets for this purpose.
The redesigned subwoofer and rear speakers are also finished in matte black, with the latter using a new curved design that’s very contemporary. They also use the same metal mesh grille as the soundbar, creating a cohesive aesthetic, and can be stand or wall mounted. While the sub and rears are wireless, they still need to be plugged into a power socket.
The Q990B is about as feature-packed a soundbar as you’re likely to find, but its main selling point is the ability to deliver an incredibly immersive 11.1.4-channel soundstage. The subwoofer has been upgraded this year, and now boasts an 8in driver combined with an acoustic lens design that produces bass with greater uniformity and thus the low-end is clearer and more precise.
The system is composed of front left and right channels, a centre channel, front and rear overhead channels, width channels at the front, and side channels at the front and rear to ensure seamless panning of effects from front-to-back and side-to-side. The soundbar uses up-firing wide-range tweeters instead of acoustic beams to extend the frequency range.
The soundbar is able to fully utilise all these speakers thanks to support for the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats. New this year is the addition of Wireless Atmos, which allows the format to be transmitted over a Wi-Fi connection using lossy Dolby Digital Plus from supporting 2022 Samsung TVs.
Samsung’s SpaceFit Sound Gen II technology is able to perform an automatic EQ using a microphone built into the subwoofer. This calibrates the bass for better integration with the other speakers, while simultaneously optimising the room correction for the specific environment. It also periodically adjusts the room correction if necessary, such as for changes in the layout or decor.
The Adaptive Sound (AI Sound) setting works really well, optimising the sound based on scene-by-scene analysis of the content, resulting in a better overall performance. It will also automatically enhance voice clarity at low volumes if you’re watching non-Dolby Atmos or DTS:X content. There are also Standard, Surround Sound and Game settings.
The latest iteration of Q Symphony allows owners of compatible Samsung TVs to make full use of their extra speakers by simultaneously synchronising sound from both devices to produce a bigger front soundstage. This updated version now uses all the speakers in the TV to create a system composed of up to 22 channels, depending on the TV.
The inclusion of built-in Amazon Alexa turns the HW-Q990B into a fully functioning smart assistant, allowing users to ask questions, listen to music or podcasts, and control the soundbar with their voice. You can use Alexa to access Amazon Music as well, and not only listen to countless songs, but also music mixed in Dolby Atmos if you have an Unlimited subscription.
You can also get Dolby Atmos music from Tidal (if you have a Hi-Fi subscription and cast songs with the Dolby logo) and Apple Music (if you have an Apple TV and select Immersive Audio in the audio format). Finally, there’s Hi-Res Audio support, Tap Sound for supporting Samsung devices, and the Active Voice Amplifier (AVA), which can be helpful in noisy surroundings.
Samsung HW-Q990B review: Connections and control
The Samsung HW-Q990B has a decent set of connections, with two HDMI inputs and an output that supports eARC. More inputs would be nice, but they all pass 4K/60p, and every version of HDR (HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision). They also support Auto Low Latency Mode (ALLM), but not VRR or 4K/120 high frame rate. In terms of other connection options, there’s an optical digital input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2.
The One Remote Control has been redesigned, adding more controls but remaining intuitive to use. The SmartThings app is also simple to use and makes setup easy, allowing you to quickly create a Wi-Fi connection, configure Alexa, and update the firmware. Once the soundbar has been set up, users can operate the HW-Q990B using either the controls on the soundbar itself, the provided remote, the SmartThings app, Alexa or their TV remote – so there’s plenty of choice.
Samsung HW-Q990B review: Sound Quality
The overall performance of the Q990B is fantastic, with its large drivers and impressive width ensuring it’s a competent performer with music. There’s some good stereo separation and the subwoofer provides a solid foundation of bass that feels tight and controlled thanks to the Auto EQ. There’s also a clarity to the delivery, with an uncongested midrange and a clean treble.
The menu provides various controls for manually adjusting the treble, bass and any sync audio delays; and there are also controls for setting the levels of the various channels and subwoofer. However, there should be no need to adjust these because SpaceFit Sound automatically optimises the acoustics, and periodically corrects when necessary.
The side-firing speakers provide plenty of width, while the centre channel ensures that dialogue is clear and focused on the screen. When watching TV shows, the Samsung proves highly accomplished, and the rear speakers ensure 5.1-channel soundtracks are delivered correctly and with well-defined surround effects. The wireless connections are also free of delays and dropouts.
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When the entire 11.1.4-channel soundstage is engaged, the Q990B really gets a chance to show its full immersive capabilities. The sense of sonic envelopment with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X is superior to any other soundbar, and even rivals some AVRs. The use of front and rear up-firing speakers makes a big difference, although their effectiveness will largely depend on the height of your ceiling.
The soundstage is huge, with effects steered precisely and placed around the room in a realistic hemisphere of sound. There is sufficient amplification to retain excellent dynamic range, and enough power to fill a decent-sized room. The new subwoofer provides exceptionally deep and powerful bass, without dominating the other channels or swamping the soundstage.
All these attributes are perfectly demonstrated when watching 1917, which has a highly directional sound design that moves specific audio effects through three dimensional space. The Q990B seamlessly moves these sounds around the room, creating a visceral sonic experience that places you in the middle of No Man’s Land.
The performance with TV shows reveals clear dialogue, with movies and games there’s a pleasing dynamism and with two-channel music there’s excellent stereo imaging and localisation of instruments. Whether watching TV or movies, listening to music or playing games, the HW-Q990B delivers an engaging, enjoyable and incredibly immersive performance.
Samsung HW-Q990B review: Verdict
The Samsung HW-Q990B continues the company’s winning streak when it comes to producing class-leading soundbars. Its 11.1.4-channel system flawlessly delivers room-filling Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks and the new design of the soundbar, subwoofer and rear speakers is a definite improvement on last year’s flagship model.
Installation is simple, automatic room correction ensures the system performs optimally, and the overall delivery is superb, with a big, powerful and immersive soundstage that has plenty of low-end impact.
As if that wasn’t enough, it packs in more features than you can shake a stick at: Q Symphony, wireless Atmos, Apple AirPlay 2, Adaptive Sound and Active Voice Amplification all contribute to make the Samsung HW-Q900B the immersive soundbar to beat this year, and the best in its class.