Samsung HW-Q990B Soundbar

hccbestbuybadgev3For its range-topping 2022 sound system, Samsung has adopted an 'evolution not revolution' approach. John Archer appreciates the new-found sense of refinement

The first thing to point out about Samsung's HW-Q990B soundbar is actually something it doesn't do, which is add any new sound channels. It sticks with the 11.1.4 configuration introduced by last year's Q950A (HCC #324), bringing to an end a proud Samsung tradition of steadily increasing channel counts in its sound systems.

However, the number of channels the Q990B has stuck on is still a lot. In fact, no other soundbar system I can think of offers more. And the point of all these drivers is to get as much immersive power and surround sound joy from Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks as possible.

You're Surrounded!
It comprises four components: the main soundbar to go under your TV, a portly wireless subwoofer, and two wireless rears. These latter enclosures each deliver three channels of sound – height, rear and rear-side. Back at the front of the room, Samsung's bar adds side and forward side channels to its LCR and Atmos arrays. Add in the subwoofer's 8in driver and that's how you get to the 11.1.4 channel count – without any being created 'virtually' by audio processing.

The rears revamp the design of those of the Q950A, including an angled top edge to improve directionality of their upfiring driver; an integrated pedestal stand said to better decouple them from whatever surface they're sat on; and a new metal grille-style finish to replace the rather dust-prone felt visage of its predecessor. The Q990B subwoofer also has a new look, courtesy of an acoustic lens' standing about an inch proud of the side-facing bass driver.

The main soundbar bins the felt cover of last year in favour of a more industrial but no less attractive grilled finish. This enclosure is one of the larger ones you'll come across (it measures 1.23m wide), but should still fit under most largescreen TVs without butting into the picture. Just remember that you can't place it on a shelf inside any (massive) TV stand. Its top has to be open to the heavens.

Made To Measure
As well as its individual speaker design tweaks, the Q990B finally introduces an auto-calibration system to Samsung's soundbar range. Dubbed SpaceFit, this uses microphones built into the main soundbar to 'measure' your room characteristics and adjust the sound accordingly; it automatically re-runs itself every day. There's also a useful Auto EQ system that constantly monitors and optimises the subwoofer's bass contribution.

Connections include a twin HDMI loopthrough, an optical audio input, eARC, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi content sharing, and even the ability to receive DD+ (compressed) Dolby Atmos mixes wirelessly from compatible Samsung TVs. Tracking which input you've selected – as well as volume levels and sound modes – is helped by an LED display on the front of the 'bar.

The HDMI stage supports HDR10, HLG, Dolby Vision and HDR10+, but there's no passthrough support for the 4K/120Hz and VRR gaming graphics output by the PS5, Xbox Series X and top-end PCs. Control is via Samsung's tidy remote handset, and the HW-Q990B is also compatible with Amazon Alexa voice control and can be driven from Samsung's Smart Things app.

Ready For Anything
Samsung's 2021 HW-Q950A delivered a barnstorming performance worthy of its price tag. The Q990B does the same, while outgunning its forebear in practically every way. The impact of the revamped rears is there to hear, as they offer more clarity, more detail and more presence to 3D soundtracks, as well as holding up substantially better when driven to extremes by crazy audio moments. In the first showpiece race in Ready Player One (4K Blu-ray), there's a moment near the end where Wade grabs the hand of Art3mis and spins her around as her bike crashes towards King Kong. This could sound a bit stressed and harsh through the Q950A's rear channels. On this new model, such aggressive effects still sound natural and defined. Just very, very loud. Exactly as they should.