Samsung HW-Q990D Q-Series soundbar hands on review

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An absolute beast

Samsung’s soundbar solution delivers incredibly crisp, detailed sound from all directions, immersing you in sound.
Positive
  • Incredible audio
  • Complete sound solution
  • Integrates with Samsung TVs well
Negatives
  • LCD screen is too small to make it easy to use
  • I couldn’t get AI functions to work well

The Samsung QN900D was a spectacular TV to experience, except for one tiny detail. The speakers are rubbish.

Admittedly, all flat panel TV speakers are rubbish. I wasn’t really disappointed by the QN900D’s speakers because I wasn’t expecting them to be good.

But fortunately for me, Samsung had set up the TV with the HW-Q990D Q-Series soundbar system. And it more than made up for the TV’s integrated speakers, even when it wasn’t using them to create an even fuller surround sound experience.

Like the TV though, I only had a few hours to test the audio quality from the soundbar, which I don’t feel is long enough to give a final score against. 

These are more my early impressions of a soundbar that created a truly immersive audio experience.

Close up of the Q990D's corner

Design

Measuring in at 1232.0 × 69.5 × 138.0 mm, the Q990D slotted seamlessly underneath the 85-inch QN900D in my testing setup. 

It did mean I couldn’t see the luxury 8K TV’s stand, but it was no real loss. The soundbar looked like it belonged where it was, showing a design ethos that connected the devices.

Also in the package is a subwoofer (measuring 220.0 × 413.0 × 410.0 mm) and two rear speakers (129.5 × 201.3 x140.4 mm each).

Combined, the HW-Q990D delivers 11.1.4 channels of audio through 22 speakers across the different components. That includes up-firing speakers, side-firing speakers and front-wide-firing speakers, to deliver a truly immersive sound. 

In fact, the room I tested in was quite open with a high, slanted ceiling, which has to be a difficult environment for speakers to bounce sounds off. 

In a more traditional space, I feel it would perform even better.

The soundbar features HDMI eARC and HDMI 2.1, so gamers can enjoy 4K video passthrough at 120Hz from their next-gen game consoles, while enjoying advanced audio formats like Dolby Atmos.

It also has built in support for Alexa, Google Home, AirPlay, and Chromecast.

The Q990D satellite speaker

Features worth talking about

Samsung — like every tech brand at the moment — is excited by AI, and leads all conversations about the soundbar with the AI features.

First off, you have Adaptive sound with Active Voice Amplifier. This feature is designed to optimise the balance of your soundtrack so you can hear dialogue easily, even if the soundtrack is pumping out explosions.

It’s also designed to work in real time, so if there’s suddenly a whole heap of ambient noise, the speakers will increase the volume to overcome it.

I tried to test this by putting on some music on a nearby Samsung Frame speaker, but I honestly couldn’t pick out too much of a difference. 

Given my limited time with the speaker, I put that down to me not using it correctly. 

My 1st Gen Sonos Beam offers some level of speech enhancement, so it’s not a new technology, despite the AI-element Samsung offers. I expect further testing will show just how useful the feature is.

The other AI selling point is “SpaceFit Sound Pro”. It’s Samsung’s way of balancing the audio depending on your room setup.

The Samsung-specific feature Q-Symphony isn’t exactly new, but it appears here as well. This feature uses the TV’s (underwhelming) speakers to add depth to the sound stage. Using AI to help balance things out, it works to fill out the sound. 

I probably needed more time to listen between turning it on and off to know which I would use as my default setting, though.

Closeup of the soundbar

Performance

Yeah, this speaker system sounded incredible. That’s the review.

OK, not quite. But the impressive audio quality was my biggest takeaway.

I intentionally put on Top Gun: Maverick to test both the visual and audio capabilities of Samsung’s gear. When you combine the 85-inch 8K screen with the 11.2.4 channels of audio, it was the closest thing to a cinema experience I’ve had in a home-like environment (it was a hotel room).

The roar of the jet engines flying around the room, from behind me, overhead and in front of the screen was phenomenal, more so given the slanted ceiling I mentioned before.

More subtle — yet equally visceral — soundtracks like that of the first episode of Fallout also sounded great. Midway through this episode, I went to test it out while listening to a pair of Music Frames instead of the Q990D, and ended up coming back to the surround experience after just a couple of minutes.

Sports sound incredible as well. The roar of the crowd feels immersive when watching either rugby or soccer matches.

What didn’t I like?

My biggest problem with the Q990D was controlling it.

For the most part, this wasn’t an issue. Connected to the TV and controlled by the TV’s remote on the default settings, everything sounded great, with the HDMI eARC giving me the simple controls I needed.

But trying to navigate through settings to test features like Q Symphony (on or off) or Adaptive Audio was something of a challenge.

Mostly, it was the soundbar’s tiny LCD. It’s too small to display any really useful information, so you have to watch the text scroll to work out what setting it is on before trying to change it.

I’m also not convinced about using SmartThings to control a multi-room audio experience. 

That’s not necessarily an issue if you only intend to use the soundbar with your TV, though.

Almost side view of the soundbar

Early verdict

I only had a few hours to test the HW-Q990D soundbar system, but that was long enough to tell me this is a sensational speaker option.

My early impressions of the AI functionality left me underwhelmed, though I think it is ultimately going to be something you adapt to using over time.

And the reality is that at its core, the Q990D is a speaker designed to sound good, not a smart device. If it shipped without any of the AI features, I’d still be a fan of the audio quality.

As a speaker system, though, this will be best suited to Samsung TV owners. At $1999 RRP it’s not cheap, but it will give you that immersive audio experience you need to really take advantage of a premium big screen TV.

Where to buy the Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar

Where to buy:

Check Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar prices

AU $1,447.95
+ Delivery *
Mydeal.com.au
AU $1,999.00
+ Delivery *
Thegoodguys.com.au
* Delivery cost shown at checkout.
Product disclosure

Samsung supplied the testing room and the product for this review.

Author

  • Nick Broughall

    Nick is the founder and editor of BTTR. He is an award winning product reviewer, who has spent the last 20 years writing, editing and publishing technology and consumer content for brands like Finder, Gizmodo and TechRadar.

    View all posts
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