Samsung HW-Q990B review: Maximum immersion, minimum fuss

While soundbars are getting better and better at recreating the experience of a full surround sound system, they still come with some undeniable limitations to their abilities. Thankfully, soundbar manufacturers are increasingly aware of the middle ground that’s forming – of home cinema fans that want the performance of a full system in a more convenient package.

The Samsung HW-Q990B is one of those packages, made up of the company’s flagship soundbar, alongside a sub and wireless rear speakers to make an 11.1.4-channel system. It builds on the success of earlier models by not only refining the class-leading immersive speaker layout, but also improving a few other things, such as a redesigned cabinet and enhanced subwoofer. But does it hold up to its flagship status?

Design and build

  • Soundbar dimensions: 1232 x 70 x 138mm (WxHxD) / Weight: 7.7kg
  • Rear speakers dimensions: 130 x 201 x 140mm / Weight: 3.4kg
  • Subwoofer dimensions: 220 x 413 x 410mm (WxHxD) / Weight: 11.7kg
  • Black finish only

The Samsung HW-Q990B sports a large cabinet with angled corners and a robust metal mesh grille. The design is deliberately unassuming and doesn’t draw attention to itself under your TV. Samsung has sensibly moved the display back to the front where it can actually be seen.

The matte black finish is 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 subwoofer and rear speakers are also finished in matte black, with the latter using a new curved cabinet, and the same metal mesh grille as the soundbar. This creates a greater feeling of aesthetic cohesion, and these rear speakers can either be stand or wall mounted.

The subwoofer has been improved this year, and now boasts an 8-inch driver combined with an acoustic lens design that produces bass with greater uniformity, making the low-end more precise and clearer. Of course, while both the sub and rears are wireless, they do require a power socket.

Connections and control

  • HDMI output (eARC); 2 x HDMI input; Optical digital input
  • Wi-Fi; Bluetooth; AirPlay 2
  • Full remote control
  • SmartThings app (iOS/Android)
  • Alexa built-in

The Samsung HW-Q990B has a basic set of physical connections housed in a recess at the rear. Here you’ll find an optical digital input, two HDMI inputs and an HDMI output that supports eARC. In terms of wireless connectivity, you also get Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2.

A couple of extra HDMI inputs would be nice, but they all pass 4K/60p, and every version of HDR (HDR10, HLG, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision) too. They also support ALLM, but not the new next-gen gaming features of VRR and 4K/120 high frame rate, which feels like a missed opportunity.

The redesigned One Remote Control adds more buttons but remains comfortable to hold and intuitive to use. The SmartThings app is also effectively designed, making setup easy by allowing users to quickly create a Wi-Fi connection, configure Alexa, and update the firmware.

In terms of the day-to-day operation of the HW-Q990B, users have a choice of either the buttons on the soundbar itself, the provided remote, the SmartThings app, voice control through Alexa, or using their TV remote via HDMI-CEC – so there are plenty of options for getting it to do what you want.


  • 11.1.4-channel system
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • SpaceFit Sound Gen II
  • Q Symphony
  • Hi-Res Audio (24-bit/192kHz)

The Samsung HW-Q990B’s headlining feature is an incredibly immersive 11.1.4-channel speaker layout. It utilises this capability to its fullest extent by internally decoding most multi-channel formats, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio.

The system is composed of front left, right and centre channels, front and rear overhead channels, width channels at the front, and side channels at the front and rear. The soundbar uses up-firing wide-range tweeters instead of the previous acoustic beams to extend the frequency range.

The rear speakers and subwoofer connect to the soundbar wirelessly, and if you like the idea of keeping the cabling to a minimum, you can try Wireless Atmos. This allows the format to be transmitted wirelessly via Wi-Fi using Dolby Digital Plus from supporting 2022 Samsung TVs.

SpaceFit Sound Gen II uses a microphone built into the subwoofer to calibrate the bass response for better integration with the other speakers, while simultaneously optimising the room correction for a specific environment. It periodically adjusts this if necessary, such as any changes in layout.

For non-Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content, the AI Sound automatically enhances voice clarity at low volumes, as well as optimising the sound based on scene-by-scene analysis of the content for a better overall performance. Additionally, there are settings for Standard, Surround, and Game, but we found the AI mode worked well enough for us to stick with it for the majoirty of content.

The new Q Symphony Gen II 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 that utilises up to a total of 22 channels (depending on the TV).

The inclusion of Amazon Alexa not only turns the HW-Q990B into a fully functioning smart assistant, but also provides access to Amazon Music. This means you can listen to your favourite songs, and even enjoy music mixed in Dolby Atmos if you have an Unlimited subscription.

You can also get Atmos music from Tidal (if you have a Hi-Fi subscription) and Apple Music (if you have an Apple TV). 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.


Despite its inherent complexity, the Samsung HW-Q990B is surprisingly easy to install. The subwoofer and rear speakers pair flawlessly when first powered up, and the SmartThings app discovers and connects the soundbar to the Wi-Fi network without issue.

The upgraded SpaceFit Sound Gen II is equally simple to run, ensuring the soundstage is calibrated for the room, eliminating the more egregious aspects. The subwoofer is also properly integrated with the other speakers, creating a cohesive system with balanced bass.

The menu provides numerous controls for manually changing the levels of the various channels and the subwoofer, but there should be no need to adjust these because SpaceFit Sound automatically optimises the acoustics, and periodically corrects when necessary.

When it comes to music, the Q990B is genuinely capable thanks to its larger drivers and overall width. There’s good stereo separation, while the beefed-up subwoofer provides a solid foundation of bass that feels tight and controlled thanks to the effective room correction.

There’s also a pleasing clarity to the delivery, with a clean midrange and a clear treble. The side-firing speakers provide real width to the front soundstage, while the centre channel ensures dialogue is clear and focused on the screen.

The HW-Q990B builds on these strengths when it comes to multi-channel audio, with the rear speakers creating a cohesive 5.1-channel sound field. Any surround effects are well defined and expertly steered around the room. The wireless connections are also free of delays and dropouts.

As soon as you move on to fully-immersive object-based audio soundtracks that use Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, the entire 11.1.4-channel soundstage comes into play. The sense of sonic envelopment is remarkable, and superior to any other soundbar – and even some AVRs.

The use of front and rear up-firing speakers makes a big difference, allowing the system to move sounds around a realistic sonic bubble. However, the up-firing drivers effectiveness in creating overhead channels will depend on your ceiling – the lower and flatter, the better.

The overall soundstage is huge, with effects steered precisely and placed around the room within a 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.

This was perfectly demonstrated when watching Blade Runner 2049, which boasts a sound design that’s often overwhelming in its sense of scale and ability to mine the low-end depths. The music is spread across the front of the room, dialogue is clear and focused, and effects like flying cars and drones zip overhead. The sub plays its part, but always remains smooth and controlled.

The performance is equally impressive with gaming, and the overall tonal balance means effects move from speaker to speaker without sounding noticeably different. This is very effective during first person shooters, creating a seamless acoustic experience as you change your point of view.

So, whether you’re watching TV or movies, listening to music or playing games, the HW-Q990B delivers an engaging, enjoyable and incredibly immersive performance that’s sure to please.

Original Article