Samsung’s Latest Soundbars Bring Hollywood Home
While the events of the past eighteen months have given us all a new-found appreciation of our homes, they've also exposed how limited many of these are when it comes to providing the sort of movie and musical entertainment that we used to go out to enjoy.
The result has been a widely reported surge in high-end TVs and sound systems sales, as we all 'up-spec' our living rooms for the new stay-at-home normal. Soundbars are proving particularly popular, which is hardly surprising given how convenient and affordable they are compared with a good quality separates-based system.
If you're thinking of joining many others in kicking your TV's puny built-in sound into touch, you need to know that there are soundbars, and there are the new Samsung soundbars. Ever since the company started developing these with renowned specialist audio brand Harman Kardon in 2016, it has built up a reputation for getting absurdly big, clean and detailed sound from startlingly compact speakers. This has been elevated to a whole new level, with Samsung's 2021 soundbar range.
No model epitomises the combination of ambition and performance of Samsung's new soundbar range better than the flagship HW-Q950A. This extraordinary model pushes the concept to a new extreme by providing no less than 16 real (rather than virtual) sound channels. Yet, it still retains a compact, elegant form that makes far less impact on your living room decor than you'd imagine possible, given the beautifully massive racket it can make.
The Q950A's incredible 11.1.4 channel count breaks down as follows. In the main soundbar are dedicated drivers for no less than nine channels – front centre, front left, front right, side left, side right, forward side left and forward side right, plus two up-firing drivers designed to give you Dolby Atmos overhead effects by bouncing sound off your ceiling.
There's a meaty external wireless subwoofer delivering the .1 bass channel, while a pair of all-new wireless rear speakers uniquely carry three drivers each – one firing forward, as usual, one firing upwards (as with the rear speakers found with 2020's Q950T flagship Samsung soundbar), and a new one that fires out sideways.
The new rear side speakers have been included to get amazing results from the key Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio formats. These cutting edge 'object-based' sound formats create three-dimensional soundspaces around the viewer into which effects are placed, creating an immersive and realistic audio experience. So including new real rear side channels alongside all the others helps to create a complete 'dome' of sound.
Groundbreaking though the Q950A's channel count and massive 616W of power might be for a soundbar, it's not necessarily enough in itself to guarantee cinematic sound. Samsung backs up the Q950A's headline-grabbing features with lots of other less eye-catching but no less important technologies…
For instance, when it comes to speaker design, the subwoofer boasts a huge 8-inch driver, which is the biggest we've seen on a subwoofer shipped with a soundbar. The main soundbar uses Samsung's Acoustic Beam technology to focus sound channels and individual effects precisely, as well as proprietary wide dispersion tweeters designed to prevent the 'sweet spot' effect, where only people sat in a specific place get the full surround sound impact.
Samsung has also introduced new Auto EQ and SpaceFit features for its premium 2021 soundbars. The first can auto-tweak the system's bass response to suit your room characteristics, while SpaceFit can deliver a full system auto-calibration if you're able to partner your new Samsung soundbar with the microphone built into a compatible Samsung TV.
SpaceFit autocal isn't the only advantage of partnering one of Samsung's high-end 2021 soundbars with a Samsung TV. Thanks to a feature called Q Symphony, it's also possible to combine the soundbar's speakers with those of the TV, creating a larger and, in some ways, more precisely detailed front soundstage.
At this point, you might be thinking that devices as sophisticated and feature-rich as Samsung's latest soundbars must be complicated to use. Not so. The remote control keeps buttons to a minimum, while a readout on the soundbar helps you keep track of inputs, sound formats, volume levels and so on.
Best of all, Samsung's soundbars now support multiple voice assistants, including Amazon Alexa and Samsung's own Bixby system, as well as enabling easy connection with smart devices via features such as Apple AirPlay 2 and Tap View (which lets you establish a connection with Samsung mobile phones just by tapping the phone against the soundbar's bodywork).
The external speakers you get with Samsung's premium soundbars are all wireless, so there's no need to worry about messy cable runs. Even if there were, though, all the effort would feel worthwhile the moment you started listening to what Samsung's latest soundbars can do. All are capable of filling your room with serious amounts of power and dynamic range without losing a handle on the subtle details and clarity that bring a good movie or music mix to life.
The flagship Q950A system takes that innate Samsung precision to a whole other level. Its huge subwoofer underpins all the action with deep, clean bass levels that you just don't expect to hear from a subwoofer package. The main soundbar drives sound out in nine directions with so much punch that you'd swear there were extra speakers hidden in your walls and ceiling – and all without a hint of distortion. The new rear speakers take full advantage of their sideways drivers, rounding out that all-important Dolby Atmos and DTS:X dome of sound very effectively.
Put all this together, and the only conclusion can be that no soundbars around today are better equipped to recreate cinemas and concert halls in your living room than Samsung's 2021 range – especially the unprecedented HW-Q950A. Catch them if you can.
 Source content must be Dolby Atmos® or DTS:X enabled for Dolby ATMOS® or DTS:X playback. Sound effect may vary depending on environmental characteristics (including ceiling).
 Sound effect and performance may vary depending on environmental characteristics (including ceiling).
 Samsung Q-Symphony is compatible with all 2021 Neo QLED, QLED & AU8000 Samsung TVs and 2020 Samsung QLED Q80T TV with Object Tracking Sound and above. Sound effect may vary depending on environmental characteristics (including ceiling).
 SmartThings is compatible with selected devices. Please see samsung.com/au/SmartThings/. Each device must be connected to Wi-fi or other wireless network. Must download and install the SmartThings app. Voice commands recognise English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese and Korean. Not all accents, dialects and expressions recognised. Amazon, Alexa and all related logos are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates. Apple AirPlay requires iOS 11.4 or later.
 Requires Android Phone with NFC and Android 8.1 and above. Must download and install the SmartThings app and have a network connection.
I’ve spent the past 25 years writing about the world of home entertainment technology. In that time I’m fairly confident that I’ve reviewed more TVs and projectors than any other individual on the planet, as well as experiencing first-hand the rise and fall of all manner of great and not so great home entertainment technologies.