Samsung, more than any other manufacturer, has pioneered the concept of a soundbar that rivals the best AV receivers and speaker packages. For years it's been creating the best soundbar options. By employing wireless rear speakers, upfiring drivers and a separate subwoofer, the result is an experience that’s genuinely immersive without resorting to psychoacoustic processing or other forms of sonic trickery.
The Samsung HW-Q990C is the 2023 example of this philosophy, and while not wildly different from 2022's HW-Q990B, the newer model takes what made its predecessor so good and adds a few more features. As a result, you still get a staggeringly immersive 11.1.4-channel experience with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats.
So is it the best soundbar for your shiny new Samsung TV? Or, indeed, is it simply the best soundbar for the best TVs, brand irrelevant? As we'll get to in this Q990C review, the answer on both counts is a pretty euphoric 'yes'. Here's why...
SAMSUNG HW-Q990C: PRICE & RELEASE DATE
The Samsung HW-Q990C is on sale now, and available for £1,599/$1,899. This pricing is identical to the earlier HW-Q990B when it was first launched, and while not exactly cheap it makes sense when you consider this soundbar’s build quality, immersive capabilities and extensive features. The widget below will show you updated pricing for the Samsung HW-Q990C based on the territory in which you're reading.
SAMSUNG HW-Q990C REVIEW: FEATURES & WHAT’S NEW?
The Samsung Q990C has many features, but its main selling point is the ability to create a genuinely immersive 11.1.4-channel soundstage using 22 speakers and 656W of amplification. That means 11 frontal speakers (in various directions, which we'll get to below), one subwoofer for bass, and four rear channels for added immersion.
To achieve this 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, while a subwoofer handles the lower frequencies. This subwoofer uses an 8-inch driver married with an acoustic lens that’s designed to produce deep bass with greater precision and clarity.
The HW-Q990C can decode both the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats, enabling the soundbar to make full use of all 22 speakers at its disposal, and thus deliver a truly cinematic sonic experience. It can also support Wireless Atmos, allowing the format to be transmitted wirelessly via Wi-Fi using lossy Dolby Digital Plus from any supporting Samsung TV.
In terms of other features, SpaceFit Sound Pro has been enhanced to automatically optimise the audio in your room by using a microphone to acoustically correct the dialogue, surround effects and bass. The resulting system is more tonally balanced and better integrated, thus ensuring the low-end supports rather than swamps the other frequencies, while steering of effects is seamless.
Adaptive Sound 2.0 uses AI-enhanced processing to give non-Atmos and DTS:X content an added boost, and has been upgraded to provide clear sound at lower volumes. There are also other sound modes, including Standard, Surround Sound and Game Pro 2.0. There’s also a Night mode if you need to flatten the dynamic range, and a Voice Enhancement mode to boost dialogue.
The new Q Symphony Gen III feature 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 not only uses all the speakers in the TV to create a bigger system, but also the TV’s processor, and can work using a wired or wireless connection.
The inclusion of Amazon Alexa built-in turns the HW-Q990C into a fully functioning smart assistant with voice control, and you can also access streaming music, some of which has even been mixed in Dolby Atmos. Finally, there’s Hi-Res Audio support and the Active Voice Amplifier (AVA), which can be helpful in noisy surroundings.
SAMSUNG HW-Q990C REVIEW: PERFORMANCE
The Samsung HW-Q990C proves easy to setup, with the subwoofer and rear speakers all connecting flawlessly, while the SmartThings app discovers and connects the soundbar to the Wi-Fi network without any issues. The updated SpaceFit Sound Pro calibrates the system across the entire frequency range, ensuring the bass is properly integrated with all the other speakers.
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 Pro automatically adjusts the in-room acoustics, ensuring optimal sonic performance in your specific environment.
Overall, the HW-Q990C is an awesome performer, with its larger drivers and sheer size ensuring it’s surprisingly good with music. There’s some excellent stereo imaging, while the subwoofer provides a solid foundation of deep bass that feels tight and controlled thanks to the sophisticated room correction. There’s great clarity to the delivery, with a clean midrange and a clear treble.
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-rendered surround effects. The wireless connections are also free of delays and dropouts.
As soon as you move on to object-based audio soundtracks like Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the HW-Q990C gets a chance to fully utilise its entire 11.1.4-channel soundstage, creating a sense of sonic envelopment that’s simply superior to any other soundbar. The overall delivery is huge, with effects steered precisely and placed around the room in a realistic hemisphere of sound.
The use of front and rear up-firing speakers makes a big difference in this regard, although their effectiveness will largely depend on your ceiling. There’s plenty of dynamic range, and the amps have enough power to fill a decent-sized room. The 8-inch subwoofer provides exceptionally deep and powerful bass, without dominating the other channels or swamping the soundstage.
All these attributes are perfectly demonstrated when watching Dune, which uses its sound design to create a heightened sense of scale. The scene where the heroes fly into a violent sandstorm is highly directional, with specific audio effects whirling around in three-dimensional space. The delivery is seamless, completely immersing you in the desert maelstrom.
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-Q990C delivers an engaging, enjoyable and incredibly immersive performance that is sure to please.
SAMSUNG HW-Q990C REVIEW: DESIGN & USABILITY
The Samsung HW-Q990C uses the same large cabinet, angled corners, front-positioned display, and robust metal mesh grille as its predecessor. It’s attractive and easy to keep clean, with a new finish that Samsung refers to as ‘Titan Black’, although it looks more like a matte dark grey in reality.
The build quality is excellent, and the dimensions will 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. Just make sure you don’t block any of the drivers.
The subwoofer and rear speakers are finished to match the soundbar, and connect to it wirelessly. The surrounds use a curved design with the same metal mesh grille as the soundbar, and can be stand- or wall-mounted. The sub and rears might connect to the soundbar wirelessly, but don’t forget that they will need to be plugged into power sockets because they’re not entirely wireless.
There’s a decent set of connections, with two HDMI inputs and an output that supports eARC. They all pass 4K/60p, and every version of high dynamic range (HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision). They also support ALLM, but not the new next-gen gaming features of VRR and 4K/120fps high frame rate. In terms of other connections there’s an optical digital input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2.
The included One Remote Control is well-designed, with all the controls you need laid out in a sensible fashion. The SmartThings app is also simple to use and makes setup easy, allowing you to quickly create a Wi-Fi connection, configure Alexa for voice control, and update the firmware.
This time Samsung has included SmartThings Hub, which allows you to control all the devices in your home, including ZigBee devices, using the SmartThings app. ZigBee is a specification for a suite of high-level communication protocols used to create personal area networks for small electronic devices such as switches, lighting, and curtains.
SAMSUNG HW-Q990C REVIEW: VERDICT
The Samsung HW-Q990C is yet another class-leading soundbar from the brand, flawlessly delivering Dolby Atmos and DTS:X using a room-filling and highly immersive 11.1.4-channel speaker system. Installation is simple, with the rears and sub connecting automatically, and the upgraded room correction ensures the system is performing optimally, with tight and well-integrated bass.
The overall delivery is fantastic, with a big, powerful and engaging soundstage that benefits from a solid low-frequency foundation. There’s a host of useful features (including AI-enhanced processing, Q Symphony Gen III and wireless Atmos) that all help positively push the three-dimensional authenticity. Overall this makes the HW-Q900C the immersive soundbar to beat – and undoubtedly the best in its class.
If you’re looking for alternatives, one possibility is 2022’s Samsung HW-Q990B. This model is still available and very similar to the HW-Q990C, aside from a few minor tweaks, which means you can get much the same awesomely immersive sonic experience at a significantly reduced price.
In terms of other brands, the LG S95QR is probably the closest competitor to the Samsung soundbars. This model offers a 9.1.5-channel system, with an extra centre height driver, and adds support for IMAX Enhanced, but otherwise is very similar to the HW-Q990C – but a lot cheaper.