Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar review: Small upgrades for a fantastic system

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Last year I reviewed Samsung’s standalone HW-Q900C soundbar. I was very impressed, so I had high hopes for the sequel. the HW-Q990D. After several weeks of testing this system with everything from death metal to Pixar films, I can safely say that Samsung has kept the good stuff and added some useful features as the proverbial icing on the cake.

Specifications

  • Supplied speakers: Soundbar, two rear satellites, subwoofer
  • Surround sound: Dolby ATMOS, Dolby TrueHD, DTS:X, DTS-HD HRA, DTS-HD MA, DTS Express, DTS 5.1ch
  • HDMI Passthrough: HDMI 2.1 for 4K at 120 Hz
  • HDMI ports: 2 entrances, 1 exit
  • Bluetooth: Version 5.2
  • Voice control: Google Assistant, Alexa and Bixby
  • Total number of speakers: 22
  • Total power: 656W

Plus points

  • Excellent overall sound quality for music and video content
  • AI-powered voice highlighting makes dialogue crisp and clear
  • Powerful subwoofer provides punch without being boomy
  • Personal listening mode shifts sound to the rear channels for less intrusive sound
  • Wireless connection with Dolby Atmos support is nice if you have a newer Samsung TV
  • HDMI 2.1 passthrough will be useful for some gamers and PC users
  • The understated design compensates for the large size
  • Works with Google Home, Alexa, Apple AirPlay and Chromecast
  • Solid on-device controls for when you can’t find or reach the remote

Cons

  • Some advanced features, such as wireless connectivity and room analysis, require a recent Samsung TV
  • The power cables for the rear channel speakers can always be longer

Pronunciation

While it certainly isn’t cheap, this system offers true 11.1.4 performance with very few settings and elegant hardware. Having a Samsung TV gives you access to extra features, but it’s not a deal breaker if you’re using someone else’s screen. Overall, this powerful, versatile system deserves consideration when looking at this price.

How I tested the Samsung HW-Q990D system

I’ve had this soundbar as my main listening setup for several weeks. It is combined with the fantastic Samsung Q95D OLED TV. During our testing time, I subjected the soundbar to almost every typical viewing and listening situation, including streaming from an Apple TV 4K and Samsung TV’s built-in Tizen apps, gaming on a PlayStation 5, watching 4K Blu-rays, and streaming music. from my phone through several popular apps. I did use some external tools, including my phone’s decibel meter, to get some relative performance measurements, but those were specifically for my personal reference and will not be published here. During the test, I had several other knowledgeable people listen to the various contents of the system and give their honest feedback to supplement my observations.

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The setup and design of the Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar

Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar satellite speakers
The speakers go behind the viewer, but for these photos I placed them next to the TV. Stan Horaczek

This hardware should look very familiar if you are familiar with the previous Q series models. The main soundbar is a whopping 48.5 inches wide, which looks fine under a 65-inch TV, but anything smaller can look quite puny. The rear channel speakers – which match the soundbar’s hexagonal corners and metal grilles – measure just under 8 inches tall and have a footprint of approximately 6 x 6 inches. That’s larger than some rear channels that come with cheaper systems. The wireless subwoofer measures 20 cm thick x 16 cm deep x 16 cm high. Again, he’s a slightly fat boy.

Each speaker has a detachable power cord, but because everything is connected wirelessly you don’t have to worry about any other cables except the HDMIs (on the latest Samsung TVs you can even skip that by wirelessly sending soundtracks to the soundbar) . I took everything out of the box, installed the speakers and started the installation in less than 10 minutes. Setup time depends on your specific setup. You can simply connect the system to a streamer or your TV, and it works pretty well out of the box. Make sure you’ve selected the correct audio output in your TV settings to take advantage of the soundbar’s built-in Dolby Atmos decoding or other surround sound features. But you can basically set it and forget it.

Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar remote control
Stan Horaczek

If you have a recent Samsung TV, you can go through an active calibration setup process, which involves listening to each speaker’s playback and tailoring the output to your space. The process didn’t drastically change the system’s appearance for me, but that’s probably because my living room is a pretty standard box. If there is any intricate architecture going on in your space, it will likely pay off to a greater extent. Additionally, the Q-Symphony feature allows a recent generation Samsung TV to sync with the soundbar, expanding the center and front channels and truly anchoring a soundtrack to the on-screen action.

The surround sound performance of the Samsung HW-Q990D

One of the biggest selling points of this system is the fact that it’s a full-fledged surround sound setup in a single box, without tons of cables or complex configuration. That’s not a unique proposition, but the Q990D does it very well. My favorite surround sound tests include the UHD Blu-ray from Mad Max: Fury Road. There are engines revving, rocks flying, war boys screaming, wind blowing, and a whole host of other exciting sounds flying through the soundstage. The Q990D handles it with aplomb. I previously tested the Q900C, which has no rear speakers, and the extra satellites (with their side-firing and upward-firing drivers) make a predictably big difference. As good as the 7.1.2 soundbar sounds on its own, the additional channels filling the system up to 11.1.4 are an audible improvement in immersion.

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Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar control
Stan Horaczek

In Surround Sound Expansion mode, the directional effects are extremely pronounced. I actually preferred the Adaptive Sound mode because it still retains enough multi-directional audio to make the content feel immersive, but the emphasis on actors’ voices made them much easier to understand. Spoken words are given extra emphasis as if they were being amplified and sent through a center channel speaker to cancel out background noise. If you’re like me and have trouble hearing dialogue, that’s a huge win.

The overall sound quality is excellent. I normally stream content through an Apple TV running through the soundbar and I found I couldn’t go beyond 40 volume to fill my living room. And that’s if I wanted real impact. The subwoofer is powerful without being muddy, and I didn’t get a hint of distortion until the volume reached a very uncomfortable level.

New listening modes

You don’t always want to rattle the walls with sound, and the new Private Listening mode is a useful, if slightly strange, way to make compromises. When this mode is enabled, all front speakers and the sub are turned off, leaving only the rear speakers (in theory, the speakers closest to each ear) to emit purely directional sound. You obviously lose the surround sound effect, and it takes some getting used to, but it does reduce the overall volume of the content in a way that your family, roommates and neighbors will occasionally appreciate.

Party Play mode balances the front and rear speakers to give every guest a more consistent experience, no matter where he or she is in the room. I tried this myself because no one wanted to do anything with me.Community Season 3 rewatch (for the 11th time)” party or to listen to slam metal with me. While this mode isn’t something I’ll use all that often, it’s well executed and may be useful to some.

The connectivity of the Samsung HW-Q990D

Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar HDMI connections
Stan Horaczek

The ports are quite simple on this soundbar. You have two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output. The new Q990D now offers full HDMI 2.1 passthrough, meaning you can connect a PC or gaming console and get 4K playback at high frame rates. This is a fairly specific use case, especially for serious gamers, but it’s good future-proofing in case things like this become more common in the future.

There is a single USB-A port on the bottom of the device, but this is not for media playback, only for service and updates.

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When it comes to wireless connectivity, you get built-in Wi-Fi with AirPlay compatibility, as well as Bluetooth 5.2. Using a $2000 soundbar setup like a Bluetooth speaker always feels a little fiddly to use, but it works as advertised, just like the Q900C.

The music playback of the Samsung HW-Q990D

Wu-Tang Clan’s “CREAM,” streamed via Apple Music, offered twinkling piano notes and punchy yet controlled bass. The voices came through beautifully. I listened to Eagles’ “Hotel California” because all reviewers are contractually obligated to do so when testing audio equipment. Again, it sounded great, although it was a little heavy in the low end.

As we said in our April first impressions: “Our overall conclusion was that the Q990D had even more intention and impact than the already impressive Q990C. Even if the atmosphere was meant to be crushing, there was clarity: accurate visuals and clear dialogue, aided by the Q-Symphony synchronization of sound and action on screen. The subwoofer, after thorough training, never felt overwhelmed. The overall experience was never just a matter of louder; it was an ability to make everything seem bigger.”

Tap Sound mode is limited to compatible Samsung phones, but it allows you to simply hold the smartphone against the soundbar to pair and start streaming. I tried it with one Samsung Galaxy S23Ultra and it works as advertised. Again, if you’re a Samsung die-hard, this is the no-brainer soundbar if you can afford it.

So, who should buy the Samsung HW-Q990D system?

This is not a cheap audio installation. At almost $2,000 (or $1,750 on sale), this is an investment that could potentially cost more than your TV. But you get a lot for your money. This is a full-fledged surround sound setup that works right out of the box. It offers excellent surround effects and exceptional clarity, especially when it comes to dialogue in TV and movies. Some movie audio purists may scoff at the idea of ​​using AI to analyze and emphasize dialogue, but people who like to understand what actors are saying will disagree.

General, the Samsung HW-Q990D is a fantastic sounding system that is easy to install and offers some very smart features exclusive to Samsung loyalists.

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