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The HW-Q990D is the latest flagship Atmos/DTS:X soundbar from Samsung, offering the usual combination of multiple components and a genuinely immersive approach to spatial audio thanks to an 11.1.4-channel speaker layout.

The system is designed to rival the performance of more traditional separates-based setups, without hogging all your lounge space.

Having long since eclipsed the competition when it comes to channel count (there are no fewer than 22 separate drivers here), Samsung sometimes struggles to differentiate one soundbar generation from the next. But this year sees the addition of a number of features that should prove popular, including HDMI 2.1 connectivity and greater flexibility when it comes to the wireless rear speaker functionality.


The Samsung HW-Q990D is not only an incredibly impressive soundbar system, but still leads the pack in terms of channel count thanks to its 11.1.4 configuration. All these drivers are the reason this particular model is capable of creating a spatial audio experience that’s on a par with a separates-based system, and simultaneously knocks the performance of most other ‘bars into a cocked hat.

The rear speakers are crucial to this level of immersion - any soundbar that claims surround channels without them is telling porkies. No amount of psychoacoustic trickery can realistically place sound effects behind you without physical rear speakers, and the surround channels are vital to creating the 360-degree soundfield that’s so important to object-based audio.

The HW-Q990D also has upfiring drivers built into the surrounds as well as with the main ‘bar, allowing it to create front and rear overhead channels in order to generate a seamless dome of sound overhead. While it’s true these height effects are created by literally bouncing sound beams off the ceiling, it really works. And let’s be honest, no-one wants to start hanging speakers up there!

I have a test sequence where a helicopter is circling overhead using only the height channels, and the Samsung is one of the few soundbars capable of correctly rendering this effect. The same goes for scenes where sounds move around the room, with the front and rear side-firing drivers ensuring audio objects move seamlessly from both front-to-back and side-to-side.

Samsung has managed to orchestrate all these speakers into a cohesive system, while the use of identical drivers enhances the tonal balance across the entire soundstage. The impressive processing populates the acoustic hemisphere with audio objects that are placed into three-dimensional space with precision, allowing you to pick out specific effects such as ricochets or explosions. The result is an experience that’s realistic, and often quite visceral.

The inclusion of a separate subwoofer is fairly common with higher-end soundbars, and its importance can’t be underestimated. The low frequency effects channel (‘LFE’, or ‘.1’) is a major part of modern sound mixes, and is often used to great effect. Can you imagine Godzilla and King Kong duking it out without the bass that gives the pugilistic titans their power and scale?

The sub retains Samsung’s Acoustic Lens system that uses a circular deflector an inch or so above the large eight-inch driver to help spread bass more evenly and smoothly around your room. Samsung also includes a calibration system that effectively integrates the sub with all the other speakers at the low end, creating a tighter and more balanced foundation of bass.

Although the specs appear to be identical to last year, the overall experience seems even better - the delivery feels slightly more poised and detailed. Previous generations have always been able to create a sense of scale, but now that dominating soundstage is handled with greater precision. The sub also seems more focused, and while it’s still capable of mining the sonic depths it doesn’t feel as aggressive as in previous years.

While these Samsung flagship soundbars have been class-leading with movies thanks to their powerful and dynamic delivery, they could become slightly woolly when it comes to music. However, the HQ-Q990D’s more precise approach makes it a much better choice for two-channel fans – not to mention multi-channel and Dolby Atmos music. There’s also support for high-resolution audio formats, making this soundbar a viable option as a music system as well as a movie maestro.

And gamers will be delighted with the HW-Q990D too - and not just because it now includes HDMI 2.1 connections. The ‘bar’s ability to create a realistic three-dimensional soundscape isn’t just good for movies, it’s perfect for the immersive nature of modern games. Sounds seamlessly move around you as your on-screen point of view changes - and so while my general gaming ineptitude didn’t save me, I at least heard the enemy before they shot me in Call of Duty.


The Samsung HW-Q990D is well constructed, with robust metal grilles, a minimalist design and discreet black finish. The four components are surprisingly compact considering the 22 drivers and corresponding amplification ingeniously hidden inside, but they’re also quite heavy.

While the HW-Q990D might be more convenient compared to a traditional separates system based around an AV amplifier and speaker package, it still offers more installation challenges than your basic stand-alone soundbar.

The main unit obviously goes at the front, under the TV, and there are brackets provided if you fancy wall-mounting. The subwoofer can be placed at the front left or right, but it’s best to avoid sticking it in the right-hand corner because of the side-firing driver. Finally, the surround speakers go at the back, ideally just behind the main listening position and at ear level. Depending on the room you can stand-mount, use a convenient bookshelf, or wall mount with the included brackets.

A few tips for getting the best out of your HW-Q990D: first of all, don’t install the main unit or rears where their upward-firing drivers are blocked by anything – it’ll knacker the overhead channels. Secondly, to get the full benefit of those height effects you need a low, flat ceiling. If it’s very high or vaulted, up-firing speakers aren’t ideal and you should consider alternatives.

Finally, while the sub and rears are wireless (which means no speaker cables snaking around the room) they still need to be plugged into mains power – so that’s four plugs including the ‘bar.

The good news is that once you’ve installed everything, setup is easy. The main unit, subwoofer and rear speakers will automatically sync with each other, while Samsung’s SmartThings app takes you through the rest of the process (including the wi-fi connection and audio calibration).

The app also doubles as a controller, and as well as basic controls on the top of the ‘bar Samsung includes a remote that’s reminiscent of its TV zappers. You even have the option of voice-control and a smart assistant thanks to built-in Alexa. There’s a display on the front, but given it’s limited to four letters and is hard to read behind the mesh grille, it isn’t very helpful.

The connectivity is excellent, and even better this year thanks to Samsung finally upgrading the two HDMI inputs and single output to version 2.1  – which is great news for gamers. The HW-Q990D now passes 4K/120Hz and VRR, along with existing support for HDR10+ and Dolby Vision, while the output includes eARC, meaning it can receive lossless Atmos sound from compatible TVs.

In terms of wireless connectivity there’s wi-fi and Bluetooth, while owners of supporting Samsung phones can share content by simply tapping them against the soundbar’s cabinet.

Music fans enjoy not only superior performance, but also support for a plethora of streaming services - including the option to listen to songs mixed in Atmos via TIDAL Connect, Amazon Music and Apple Music. The HW-Q990D is also Roon Tested for the first time. And if you own a Q Symphony-compatible TV, the HW-Q990D can sync with it to create an even bigger front soundstage by utilising all the speakers in the TV and soundbar, along with the extra processing power of the TV’s AI-enhanced chipset.

Finally, Samsung offers three additional functions for the surround speakers. There’s a ‘front’ mode for greater width (although you’ll lose the immersive sound field), a ‘private’ mode that only uses the rears for watching TV at night (so you shouldn’t disturb others), and a ‘sound grouping’ feature in which the rears work as independent speakers that duplicate the same music as the main unit.

The Samsung HW-Q990D remains the Big Daddy of object-based audio soundbars, delivering a peerless sonic experience thanks to an 11.1.4-channel system composed of a bonkers number of drivers. There’s no psychoacoustic trickery with this multi-component monster - and the difference is immediately obvious, with a level of immersion that’s comparable to that of a full separates-based system.


The HW-Q990D makes use of all the drivers at its disposal, seamlessly steering effects through a hemisphere of sound and realistically placing audio objects within three-dimensional space. Whether it’s Dolby Atmos or DTS:X, the result is a visceral sonic experience that adds another layer to movies and TV shows thanks to the addition of effective overhead channels.

The audio quality is even more refined this year, the cohesive delivery is tighter, and the powerful subwoofer better integrated. As a result, this ‘bar sounds equally impressive with music - and you can even use the rears as independent speakers for parties. They can also be placed at the front to widen the soundstage, or used instead of the main unit so you don’t disturb others at night.

Gamers will appreciate the precise placement of sound effects when dodging bullets in a first-person shooter, while the long-overdue addition of HDMI 2.1 connectivity eliminates one of the few complaints about previous generations. Once you combine these features with its surround sound prowess, the HW-Q990D becomes the best spatial audio soundbar you can currently buy.


Midway (4K Blu-ray)

This film boasts a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that’s a masterclass in audio design. You won’t find a more immersive object-based mix, especially during the titular battle where planes zoom overhead, machine guns strafe the sofa, and flak peppers the room. It’s the perfect test of the HW-Q990D’s ability to create a visceral sonic hemisphere using sound effects.

Atomic Blonde (4K Blu-ray)

This Cold War spy caper features a soundtrack chock-full of 1980’s bangers, revealing the HW-Q990D’s musical prowess. An aggressive DTS:X mix brings plenty of low-end to the brutal action, demonstrating the sub’s ability to add weight to each punch and kick, while all the speakers combine to create a seamless acoustic bubble during crowd scenes.

Oppenheimer (4K Blu-ray)

This film may only have a 5.1 mix, but it’s the perfect example of a well-executed sound design that uses scale and dynamic range to great effect. The suitably bombastic Trinity test sequence reveals the HW-Q990D’s headroom as it goes from ‘silence’ to ‘overwhelming’ in an instant, while the sub digs deep, rattling the rafters as the shockwave from the blast hits.

What the press say

Why you should buy it

If you want the convenience of a space-saving soundbar system without compromising on sonic quality, this is the model for you. No other soundbar comes close to the HW-Q990D in terms of creating a genuinely immersive spatial audio experience with Atmos or DTS:X, and despite its sophistication the multiple components are a cinch to set-up. Movies, TV shows, and even music are all delivered with precision and poise, while gamers will delight in the addition of HDMI 2.1

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