Samsung’s new top-of-the-range Q990B builds on the success of the previous Q950A, but how do they differ?
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Samsung uses a frustrating naming convention, often adding a different letter at the end of a model number to denote a new iteration (or year). For 2022, however, the company’s flagship soundbar helpfully has a completely different designation, but is the HW-Q990B a better proposition than the previous HW-Q950A? Or, if you can find the latter at a much-reduced price is it the obvious purchase?
Both Samsung soundbars support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, delivering these object-based audio formats via an 11.1.4-channel speaker configuration that uses wireless rear speakers and a subwoofer. The Q990B has been redesigned, however, and sports a beefed-up sub, so is it the best soundbar (or indeed best soundbar for Samsung TVs) and worthy of your attention outside all else?
(Image credit: Future)
SAMSUNG HW-Q990B VS HW-Q950A: PRICE & FEATURES
The newer Samsung HW-Q990B retails for £1,599/$1,899, while the older Samsung HW-Q950A can be picked up at a discounted price for under £/$1,000 now – check out the real-time widget below for up-to-date price comparison.
This makes for an interesting dilemma, because despite the price differential, the two soundbars appear to offer very similar features.
The Samsung HW-Q950A uses an 11.1.4-channel system to deliver Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio. There are two HDMI inputs and an output with eARC, with 4K and high dynamic range (HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision) passthrough. There’s an optical input, WiFi, Bluetooth, and AirPlay 2, along with built-in Alexa, Q Symphony, and SpaceFit Sound room correction.
The Samsung HW-Q990B delivers the same speaker layout and audio format support, but the subwoofer now boasts an 8-inch driver with an acoustic lens designed to produce deeper and more accurate bass. The Q Symphony and SpaceFit sound features have been upgraded, plus there’s now support for Wireless Atmos.
Sadly, neither soundbar can pass 4K/120 or VRR for gaming, as part of HDMI 2.1 spec.
SAMSUNG Q950A VS Q990B: DESIGN & SETUP
The Samsung HW-Q950A is based around a large soundbar with angled corners for the side-firing speakers, and a black fabric finish. There’s a display that for some reason is positioned on top where it can’t be seen, and some basic controls located either side of this panel. Samsung includes a decent remote, and the subwoofer and surrounds are styled to match the bar.
The HW-Q950A requires a bit of thought when installing, but the wireless nature of the sub and rear speakers makes this relatively easy. The SmartThings app allows you to create a wireless connection and set up Alexa, after which you simply connect the TV and any sources. The SpaceFit Sound feature will balance all the channels, using test tones and a built-in microphone.
The Samsung HW-Q990B uses the same large soundbar with angled corners, but swaps fabric for a more robust metal mesh grille. There are still some basic controls on top, but Samsung has sensibly moved the display to the front. The subwoofer is larger and the surround speakers sport new curved cabinets, while the remote adds more controls but remains intuitive to use.
The setup process is almost identical for the HW-Q990B as it is for Q950A, although the new SpaceFit Sound Gen II not only balances out the speakers and corrects for the room, but also periodically updates the equalisation to reflect any changes. Although both soundbars use a wireless sub and surrounds, don’t forget they need to be plugged in, and the upward-firing drivers require a reflective ceiling.
(Image credit: Future)
SAMSUNG HW-Q990B VS Q950A: SOUND QUALITY
When it comes to object-based audio there’s no substitute for actual speakers, and the Samsung HW-Q950A uses 16 in total. There are three at the front, two at the sides, two width speakers and two firing upwards. Add in the sub and surrounds with built in side- and upward-firing drivers, and you have an 11.1.4-channel system using a total of 22 drivers powered by 616W of digital grunt.
The performance is stunning with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, creating a genuine sense of immersion that’s superior to most other soundbars. The front soundstage is wide, the surrounds fill in the rear and the four upward-firing drivers steer effects overhead. The sub digs deep, providing a solid foundation of bass that ensures a visceral cinematic experience.
The Samsung HW-Q990B doesn’t look to reinvent the wheel, and uses the same insanely immersive speaker layout and powerful amplification. However, the upfiring drivers use wide-range tweeters for greater accuracy, while the larger 8-inch sub with acoustic lensing delivers deeper bass with improved uniformity, resulting in a low-end that’s clearer and more precise.
The combination of all these speakers creates a hemisphere of sound that immerses the listener, and while the two soundbars are very similar sonically, the upgraded room correction does allow the HW-Q990B to sound tighter and slightly more balanced. The subwoofer also goes deeper, but manages to remain responsive, while the lower frequencies are extremely well integrated.
SAMSUNG Q990B vs Q950A: VERDICT
The Samsung HW-Q950A is the kind of product aimed at someone who wants the convenience of a soundbar and the performance of an AV receiver and speaker package. In that sense it’s an unqualified success that can genuinely give a separates system a run for its money, with a Dolby Atmos and DTS:X performance that’s exceptional.
The Samsung HW-Q990B is equally as impressive, and thanks to upgraded room correction tech and a souped-up subwoofer, it actually sounds tighter, more balanced, and delivers deeper bass impact.
However, cosmetics aside the two soundbars are very similar, which makes the HW-Q950A a tempting proposition based on its more affordable price position. Ultimately, whichever bar you choose, you won’t be disappointed – we suspect it’ll come down to how much you can find each option for at retail.