Samsung HW-Q90R Review: A truly unique soundbar

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The HW-Q90R soundbar from Samsung is the flagship model of 2019 among similar devices with an additional subwoofer. What makes this soundbar unique is that the specification contains Dolby Atmos and DTS: X.

The soundbar efficiently drives all radiators for excellent 7.1.4-channel sound. In this review of the Samsung HW-Q90R we will try to consider the rest of the features of this soundbar.

Samsung HW-Q90R review

If you’re looking to get a premium soundbar with Dolby Atmos and DTS: X support, then Samsung’s new HW-Q90R soundbar might interest you. This new top model from the Korean manufacturer, co-developed with Harman Kardon, really does a lot.

Harman Kardon probably drew on early Samsung Atmos soundbars to develop the HW-Q90R. Thus, the HW-Q90R can be seen as the successor to the excellent HW-N950 and HW-N850 soundbars. It is no coincidence that the Q90R designation is found in the soundbar labeling, emphasizing “belonging” to Samsung’s premium TVs.

Even simpler soundbars correspond to the TV models of this manufacturer. Thus, Samsung wants to inform the customer to which TV it is recommended to use the appropriate soundbar for the best sound. Of course, the HW-Q90R is versatile. It can be used with cheaper 4K TVs from various brands.

It is worth noting that the Samsung HW-Q80R soundbar is more affordable and has the same characteristics, but there are no rear speakers included. Proof of the HW-Q90R’s premium soundbar is the price tag. Officially, its cost is 1369 euros. This gives us the right to claim that Samsung has this most expensive model.

For this amount, the user receives 510 watts of sound power, qualitatively distributed over a complex configuration, including a wireless subwoofer and two wireless speakers that must be placed behind the seat. With all the radiators correctly positioned, you will enjoy great sound.

Samsung HW-Q90R design

Appearance, dimensions

Is the HW-Q90R soundbar small and compact? – Definitely not. After all, the length of the soundbar itself is 123 cm. Even if you place it above the 60-inch model Samsung UE60KS7000, the appearance does not seem modest. For fans of symmetry, it is recommended to install the bar above (below) a large TV screen.

The other dimensions (8.3cm and 13.6cm) of the soundbar itself are a small issue compared to the 9kg weight when the HW-Q90R is supposed to be wall-mounted. If you decide to do this, then it should be borne in mind that the HW-Q90R is attached to a vertical surface with a narrow part. Accordingly, a size of 13 cm will “stick out of the wall”.

It doesn’t look very aesthetically pleasing, unlike models with a 90 degree lift. This is caused by the speaker configuration of the HW-Q90R Soundbar. Above is a pair of speakers that radiate sound upward (i.e., directed towards the ceiling). Keep this in mind when placing the soundbar on a horizontal surface.

Atmos or DTS: X

There was a time when Dolby Atmos compatible soundbars were rare. However, there are now many devices that promise 3D sound, including devices with much fewer speakers than 7 or 9. This is the minimum required to run Atmos or DTS: X.

These systems use a virtualization technique to get closer to surround sound, but the result is not very impressive. Thus, if we consider the Dolby Atmos HW-Q90R soundbar in this direction, it can be argued that separate speakers per channel allow you to correctly “map” the surround sound field.

The front panel houses six woofers and three tweeters, with large speakers on either side, plus two more previously mentioned speakers at the top. Wireless rear speakers have certain advantages in terms of sound.

Summarizing the above, it is not difficult to understand that the Samsung HW-Q90R is the only soundbar (except for the old Samsung HW-N950 and its predecessors) that actually supports the 7.1.4 sound scheme.

We often focus on Dolby Atmos in this roundup, but the HW-Q90R has a DTS: X rival in the specification. Both Atmos and DTS: X accomplish the same thing – 3D sound thanks to “high quality surround sound” due to ceiling reflections. In a movie theater, this is accomplished with 64 or more speakers, while in your home the effect will be accomplished with sophisticated processing and a total of 17 drivers.

Samsung HW-Q90R review

Additional speakers

Oftentimes, high-quality Atmos-enabled soundbars rely on sound waves bouncing off walls and ceilings, giving the impression that the sound effect of movies comes from all directions. A good example of this is the € 2,500 Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar.

When considering the HW-Q90R, you need to consider the placement of both the wireless subwoofer and the two wireless speakers in the room. This is not difficult to do if there is an extra power outlet for connecting “external” acoustics.

Note that wireless rear speakers should not be placed near your location. This can be problematic if the sofa (or chair) is in a small room and is pushed up against a wall.

Manual setting

If you are setting up a home theater system with an AV receiver, then the last step is to set up the entire sound system. On a professional level, this is done using special measuring heads and the corresponding software on a laptop.

The test source reproduces various signals. Based on this data, depending on your room and volume, further adjustments are made to the volume levels of the individual radiators. A properly tuned sound system differs significantly from a standard circuit.

The Samsung HW-Q90R soundbar does not have on-board calibration, unlike some other high-quality systems such as the Sennheiser Ambeo or Yamaha YPS-5600. For an ordinary consumer, this threatens “loss of sound” at this price point. Moreover, the soundbar supports Atmos in a 7.1.4 sound scheme. This requires a separate setting.

On the plus side, Samsung provides the necessary settings so you can manually optimize your sound system. This can be done by smoothly adjusting the volume, here you can control different channels separately. For example, you can make the center channel louder (dialogue will be more receptive) and set the front and rear channels in the correct ratio.

Important: If you have a high ceiling, the upward-facing speakers should be above average. If the wireless speakers are located quite far from the listening position, then it is advisable to increase their volume as well.

With the settings provided by Samsung, you can handle this task fairly accurately. Even by ear, the surround sound can be set relatively accurately. Thus, it is not difficult to get a very good result.

Samsung HW-Q90R subwoofers

Streaming

The soundbar is often used not only for the soundtrack of the TV, but also for playing normal music content. Samsung’s older soundbars supported various streaming options through their own app, but the Korean brand has changed course over the years.

Now, the HW-Q90R does not have a separate built-in sound app, as (as planned by the manufacturer) the soundbar connects to the SmartThings app, which gradually integrates all Samsung products. TVs, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners … They are all displayed in the SmartThings app.

If you have already stocked up with such a SmartThings “hub” (for example, on a TV), then the soundbar will be added here without any problems. Unfortunately, there is no streaming in SmartThings. However, the Samsung HW-Q90R soundbar has some possibilities for this. In addition to the Bluetooth channel, there is “Samsung Spotify Connect” on board. This is a DLNA compliant service.

This allows UPnP-enabled network devices to “talk”. An example would be Play Music, Tidal, or Qobuz. Of course, if the device was equipped with Chromecast or AirPlay 2 , then there would be no questions at all. Therefore, at the moment, such restrictions may create some discomfort.

Remote control and display

The soundbar comes with an elegant, narrow remote that is very similar to the Samsung TV remote control. It is beautiful, well thought out and fits comfortably in the hand. The display on the soundbar is minimalistic. Only when you press a button on the remote control can you see where the HW-Q90R display is.

The small and inconspicuous screen is hidden behind a loudspeaker grill, so it doesn’t distract when watching movies. On the other hand, the font size on the screen is very readable. There is one note, and it concerns the menu. When you are in the settings, sometimes you have to wait for the full word to be displayed in a scrolling line.

Samsung HW-Q90R interfaces

Connections

Since the soundbar in question is premium, the HW-Q90R soundbar should have a sufficient number of interfaces. The TV can be connected via HDMI with ARC , although an optical cable connection is also possible. Additionally, there is a pair of additional HDMI input which can be connected to the decoder, a video game console or UHD Blu-ray player, e.g., Oppo UDP-203 or Xbox One .

Conclusion

This device fits perfectly into Samsung’s list of great and premium sound bars. This, of course, is not a cheap device, and its placement in space is more complicated than that of conventional soundbars. On the other hand, this is a unique soundbar on the market today.

Dolby Atmos soundtracks play great. The dialogues are beautifully delivered. The soundbar itself provides the user with a large and rich soundstage. Precise and individual tuning of each speaker allows you to properly optimize the overall sound balance. In short, the Samsung HW-Q90R is the ultimate performance for today’s Samsung soundbars.