The Samsung HW-Q990B continues the company’s recent trend of providing its flagship soundbar with four physical boxes – but up until now, Samsung has continuously managed to increase the number of channels squeezed into all those four boxes. This year, the total channel count has remained unchanged at 16, as it did last year, leaving Samsung to rely on other improvements to accelerate its soundbar story forward.
Price and Release Date
The Samsung HW-Q990B is priced at the high end of the soundbar market. Despite introducing a few key new features, it launched at roughly the same price as its successful predecessors and, like other Samsung soundbars, the price has dropped now that the HW-Q990B has been on the market for a few months. While there are a number of one-bar, hi-fi-oriented soundbars out there that cost even more, it offers four components, as well as a peerless channel count and power in spades.
The most important aspect of the Q990B’s design is that it is made up of four parts: the main soundbar, a subwoofer, and a pair of rear speakers. All of them, with the exception of the subwoofer, have multiple separate channel drivers; three in each rear and nine in the main soundbar. For the past couple of flagship soundbar generations, Samsung has abandoned the felt finish on its main soundbar and rear speakers in favour of the all-metal grilled finish of the past. This gives it a tougher, less domesticated appearance, which I prefer overall. Not to mention that it does not attract dust like the felt finish.
The main soundbar is thin enough to fit under most TVs without obscuring the image, and the rears are small enough to fit on a standard bookshelf. The subwoofer is certainly substantial. However, its new Acoustic Lens fitment makes it look at least a little cool, and its extra dispersive qualities make it even simpler to tuck out of sight under a sideboard or next to the sofa.
The single best thing about the Q990B’s design is how Samsung has mercifully returned a little LED info screen to the soundbar’s front edge, where you can see it while sitting on your sofa, instead of repeating the heinous error of the previous two flagship soundbar generations, where the LED was sadistically placed on the top edge, where you had to shock, horror stand to read it.
The HW-Q990B takes the concept of a soundbar to its logical conclusion. After all, in addition to the main soundbar and external subwoofer combo that represents the pinnacle of most soundbar ambitions, the Q990B includes a pair of wireless rear speakers. These aren’t your average rear speakers, either, because each one manages to house three separate channel drivers despite their small size. One firing out the front, as expected, but also one firing out the top edges for Atmos heigh, and another firing out the sides.
The Q990B is not the first soundbar with 11.1.4 channels. That honour belongs to its predecessor, the Samsung HW-Q950A from 2021. So, how does the Q990B crank up the volume on Samsung’s soundbar to 11(.1.4)? The addition of an Acoustic Lens to the chunky (chunkier than last year’s model) subwoofer is the most noticeable difference. A raised cover with open sides sits over a promisingly large 8-inch driver, with the goal of improving dispersion and bass sound refinement.
For the first time, Samsung added a proper built-in auto calibration system to its flagship soundbar with the Q990B. This ‘Space Fit’ feature uses the soundbar’s microphones to analyse how the sound responds to the shape and contents of your room, and it apparently re-runs itself every day, just in case you moved your coffee table, sofa, or whatever around overnight. It’s also backed up by an Auto EQ system, which monitors how the bass output of the subwoofer blends with the rest of the sound.
The Samsung HW-Q990B excels at creating a full-fledged Dolby Atmos soundstage in your living room. Every one of its 16 sound channels is made to stand out, especially since the integrated new auto-calibration system does a fantastic job of balancing the channels out without any manual input from you. You’re completely engulfed in a sound bubble that extends right down the sides of your seat, around the back of your head, and now even, in a startlingly joined-up fashion, right over your head.
It is critical to deliver a convincing Dolby Atmos sound experience by creating such a seamless hemisphere of sound. After all, the key feature of Dolby Atmos is that it is an object-based sound format, in which sounds are placed in a carefully crafted ‘3D’ audio space rather than simply being directed to specific speakers. So, if your sound system can’t properly create that 3D space, it can’t properly place specific sound effects within that space.
Of course, last year’s Q950A delivered an unmatched Atmos sound stage at the time. The Q990B, on the other hand, does it even better. I believe this is due in part to the additional self-calibration tools it includes, but also to the improved design of the newer system’s rear and subwoofer speakers.
Usability and Setup
It’s difficult to imagine a soundbar with four component parts being any easier to set up than the Q990B. There’s no need to run cables between the four parts, and during our extensive testing, all four elements never failed to automatically find as well as connect with each other right away, with no manual input from us. The new Space Fit auto-calibration system is also extremely easy to set up. Especially since it checks itself every day after you run it once. This is far superior to the process of manually balancing channels that was required with previous Samsung soundbars.
Day-to-day use is also fairly simple. The front-mounted LED makes it simple to keep track of volume levels, sound formats, and the input you’ve chosen, and the remote control keeps buttons to a bare minimum. You can also control the soundbar using the more visual interface of Samsung’s SmartThings app, and there’s built-in Alexa voice control support if you’d rather chat.
If you want movie soundtracks to sound authentically cinematic. The massive power and dynamic range of the Samsung HW-Q990B combine with surprising detail and clarity for such a powerful beast to deliver full movie soundtrack dynamics like no other sound bar we’ve heard and if you desire a true surround-sound experience. The rear speakers included with the Q990B are not merely ornamental. They each have three channels, which contributes to a unique (for a soundbar) complete as well as immersive Dolby Atmos experience.