Even though the Samsung HW-Q950A stretches the definition of soundbar to the max by actually comprising four separate bits of kit, there’s nothing about its appearance that prepares you for the scale of sound it delivers.
The main soundbar is more than a metre wide, but slim enough to tuck under the screen of most of today’s TVs. The rears are heavy but sufficiently compact to easily fit on a bookshelf, and despite carrying an unusually large 8-inch driver, the subwoofer has a slim-enough profile to hide down the side of a sofa or under a sideboard.
Tucked inside the HW-Q950A’s relatively unimposing set of speakers is a remarkable – unprecedented, in fact – 16 channels of sound, delivered via 22 speakers. And driving all those channels of sound is a mammoth 616W of unbridled audio horsepower.
While the HW-Q950A’s masses of power and huge channel count might not be obvious just by looking at it, it becomes blissfully obvious when you turn it on. Film soundtracks erupt out of each speaker with enough power and projection to fill even the biggest living rooms, putting you at the heart of the action more completely than with any other soundbar. Especially since the HW-Q950A’s two new channels fill the slight gaps that previously existed off each shoulder.
Samsung HW-Q950A price and availability
- Available now
- AED 4,999
- Samsung’s flagship soundbar for 2021
Soundbars are now available for under AED 700, and some very impressive models can be had for as little as AED 2,000. Yet the Samsung HW-Q950A costs AED 4,999. Ouch.
As we’ll see, though, through a combination of the sheer number of physical speakers, channels, and the power it delivers, the HW-Q950A has a good stab at justifying its price. In fact, there’s no other soundbar out there at the moment that’s able to provide so many real audio channels. However, for the price you could, just about, get yourself a pretty good separates system instead.
The HW-Q950A is available now in every major territory across the world.
Design and features
- Four-piece system comprising the main soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two wireless rears
- LED read-out
- 16 channels of sound in an 11.1.4 configuration
The HW-Q950A soundbar is much more than just a soundbar. Yes, it takes the usual form of a long, slim speaker designed to sit under your TV screen. But this unit is joined by a large subwoofer with a huge 8-inch driver, and a pair of wireless ‘bookshelf’ rears, which, despite their compact size, contain three drivers each. One fires upwards for height effects with Dolby Atmos/DTS:X sources; another faces forward towards your seating position; the third faces out towards the rear side of your room.
The main soundbar continues the theme of being stuffed to bursting point with speakers. As well as the dedicated front-centre, front-left and front-right channels you’d hope to see with a serious soundbar, there are two more upfiring drivers, two drivers firing off to the side, and a further two drivers firing forwards at an angle to deliver mid-side effects reflected off your walls.
Since a number of these channels need to bounce their sound off walls or ceilings for best effect, you should consider if your room design and layout is well suited to the HW-Q950A’s needs. For instance, vaulted or barrelled ceilings won’t help the height effects, and big disparities in the distance between the walls to the soundbar’s left and right side could cause some balance issues.
You can manually adjust the relative weight of each channel, although it’s a pity that Samsung still provides a full-bore audio calibration system, despite the HW-Q950A being its flagship soundbar. This year, at least, there’s a built-in bass adjuster. And if you happen to have a reasonably recent Samsung TV, then you can use its mic to provide the soundbar with information on your room characteristics.
The 11.1.4 channels of sound supported by the HW-Q950A is the most we’ve seen – or, rather, heard – from any soundbar to date. The idea behind this being to get the most from the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X formats’ ‘object-based’ approach to sound, where audio effects are placed within a carefully crafted 3D space created around the listener. The more channels there are, in theory at least, the more complete that 3D space will sound.
The HW-Q950A even carries a Q-Symphony feature that lets you combine its speakers with those of a compatible Samsung TV, to create more of a wall of sound at the front. This works surprisingly well, at least with Samsung’s premium TVs – although, at the same time, the HW-Q950A is more than good enough on its own not to need any assistance from other speakers.
Samsung provides processing modes that can remix any sound source so that it takes advantage of the system’s full speaker and channel count, and even includes a Game preset that emphasises surround and ambient effects for greater immersion into the game’s world.
Connectivity comes by way of two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output, an optical digital-audio input, and the now obligatory Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support. Samsung even provides support for Tap View technology, where you can establish a connection between a compatible Samsung phone and the soundbar simply by touching the phone to the soundbar’s chassis.
The HDMI loop-through system supports all the key HDR formats: HDR, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. However, they don’t support pass-through of 4K at 120Hz, or variable refresh rate signals now available from premium PC cards and the latest Xbox Series X/S and PS5 consoles. To be fair, most other soundbars don’t support such gaming features either, although there are new soundbars from Klipsch and Sony (as well as many AV receivers) that do.
Power: 616W | Speakers: 11.1.4 | Dimensions: Main soundbar – 1232 x 69.5 x 138mm/Subwoofer 210 x 403 x 403mm/Rear – 125 x 203 x 141 (W x H x D) | Connections: Two HDMI inputs, one HDMI output with eARC, optical digital-audio input, USB port, Bluetooth / Wi-Fi | Subwoofer included?: Yes
- Exceptionally complete three-dimensional soundstage
- Huge power and aggression
- Good playback of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
The question we have to ask here is – does the HW-Q950A really make its ground-breaking number of audio channels count? The short answer is, yes. The long answer is, yes – with knobs on.
For starters, the extra drivers that Samsung has shoehorned into each of the two wireless rear speakers seriously punch above their weight in terms of the difference they make to the HW-Q950A’s soundstage. What’s more, they do so without negatively impacting the sound quality of the other rear speaker drivers they sit in such close proximity.
In terms of the new rear side channels’ impact on the HW-Q950A’s sound, there’s clearly an enhanced sense of width to the rear soundstage versus its HW-Q950T predecessor. This immediately makes three-dimensional Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based soundstages appear more complete; there are no gaps in the ‘dome’ of sound to your rear left and right. They also remove the ‘funnelling effect’, where sound can narrow as it moves from spacious-sounding front soundbars to smaller, less-effusive rears.
Sounds that pass from front to back and rear-left to rear-right are handled with far more conviction than they are not only by last year’s HW-Q950T, but also, arguably, by any other soundbar. Plus, you can hear specific rear-left and rear-right sound details that would have been delivered with less precision by just the front side drivers on last year’s HW-Q950T.
In addition, the HW-Q950A’s new rear channels provide an unexpected secondary benefit: they make the rear soundstage feel generally more involved in the action. This again underlines the cohesion of the wrap-around 3D soundstage, further sealing your immersion in the world of whatever movie you’re watching.
While this is clearly at its most effective when that movie is using a DTS:X or, especially, Dolby Atmos soundtrack, the soundbar’s processing options can do an excellent job of reworking lower-channel sources to take advantage of the HW-Q950A’s unprecedented speakerage.
The HW-Q950A’s new drivers merely add another layer of excellence to the class-leading experience that was introduced by last year’s HW-Q950T. All of that predecessor’s qualities remain intact. So, the main soundbar still spreads its sound left, right, forward, up and down with a combination of precision and scale that at times is hard to believe. From floor to ceiling, wall to wall and back to front, even the largest room is filled with the sort of sound you should only really achieve through a separates system that would likely cost much more than the HW-Q950A.
This isn’t a vague audio space, either. The HW-Q950A’s extreme power is partnered with impressively accurate channel ‘throw’ and effects placement, resulting in a soundstage that’s as busy and involving as it is loud.
And, man – can it go loud. Louder than your ears will be comfortable with, in fact. And without a trace of distortion, speaker fall-out, cabinet buzzing/rattling, or harshness. The sound can grow to fill out the most extreme action scenes, and never misses a beat when it comes to thumping out even the hardest impact sounds. It isn’t polite in the slightest – but that’s exactly how we like it.
That’s not to say the HW-Q950A doesn’t care about the little things. Not even the tiniest detail in the mix escapes the soundbar’s attention – and it shows an impressive knack, too, for understanding the relative weight that each element in a mix is supposed to have. The main soundbar has enough dynamic range to never sound thin or boxy, and it latches on to the bass whumping out from the subwoofer seamlessly. Despite that subwoofer hitting depths of bass as profound and well-rounded as anything I’ve heard from a soundbar system.
Voices are always clear and natural, and seem to enjoy a little lift in the mix, so that they appear to be partnering the on-screen images, rather than coming from below the picture.
While the HW-Q950A is undoubtedly made with movies at the forefront of its mind, its room-filling power is in evidence with music playback, too. The staging is sufficiently big and aggressive to make you feel like you’re at a concert, rather than just playing a CD or audio file. While this is seldom less than fun, it doesn’t suit every type of genre or recording. There are other soundbars out there that deliver a better and more refined ear for music. But none of them have the HW-Q950A’s flair and feel for films.
The only other complaint that could be levelled at the HW-Q950A is that neither its ‘reflected’ side or height channels are as precise with the effects they produce as speakers in a separates system. That’s pretty much inevitable, though. And if you’re looking at a soundbar rather than a separates system, you’re surely doing so in the knowledge that you’re prepared to accept one or two compromises in return for not having lots of speakers all around your room.
Should I buy the Samsung HW-Q950A?
No soundbar system we’ve heard sounds more powerful and immersive with film soundtracks than the HW-Q950A. So if you’re looking to turn a living room into a serious home cinema with the minimum of fuss, the HW-Q950A is currently as good as it gets.
If you’re not fussed about having lots of speakers around the room and even, potentially, in/on your ceiling, then you could try (although you’ll struggle) to put together a separates system for around the HW-Q950A’s asking price. Or, if you’re a hi-fi as well as a music buff then you could consider something with more music pedigree, such as a Sonos Arc and Sub. Although, obviously, while that system is very good, it doesn’t deliver anywhere near as many real Dolby Atmos-friendly sound channels as the HW-Q950A.
Buy it if…
You want Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
The HW-Q950A supports the latest object-based sound systems, meaning you can enjoy the best soundtrack options available from any disc, stream or broadcast you play through it.
You want the most channels of sound available from any current soundbar
With its real 11.1.4-channel count, the HW-Q950A breaks new ground when it comes to the completeness of the 3D soundstage required for a true Dolby Atmos/DTS:X experience.
You have a big room to fill
The HW-Q950A’s power, clarity and aggression make it the ideal soundbar solution for a large room.
Don't buy it if…
You have an irregular-shaped room
Vaulted or heavily beamed ceilings could cause issues with the HW-Q950A’s overhead effects and, ideally, the side-firing drivers will have two reasonably equidistant walls to bounce off.
You’re a hi-fi buff
If you’re looking for a soundbar to do music first and movies second, you may prefer to opt for a model with a stronger music focus.
Your budget is small
There’s no doubt that AED 4,999 is a lot of money for a soundbar. Even one that’s in truth much more than a soundbar.
First reviewed: August 2021