The theatres have finally opened and the one thing we learned during the almost 2 years of lockdown during the pandemic is the value of a good surround sound system to bring the theatre home. There are soundbars in various price segments from about 30K to 50K and even Rs 1,00,000 there is something for everyone depending on your budget. But if you are looking to bring the theatre home, then chances are you are at something that packs in quite the punch. While the Sony HT-Z9F (review) was one of our favourite soundbars in 2020, in 2021, that honour goes to the Samsung Q950A. If you are in the market for a premium soundbar, then this is the one to get. While we have reviewed the Sennheiser Ambeo soundbar (review) and that is a fantastic soundbar for what it offers, in terms of a surround sound experience, the Samsung Q950A has some interesting tricks up its sleeves. Let’s dive in.
What’s in the box
In the box, you get the soundbar itself along with a wireless subwoofer, wireless rear satellite speakers and remote control. You also get 4 power cords, an HDMI cable and standard documentation. There is also wall mounting brackets for the soundbar. The remote control accompanying the system is compact and has all the essential functions. The functions on the remote control are quite basic and for an in-depth experience, you are better off using the Samsung SmartThings smartphone app to set up and control some of the features of the soundbar. While individual channels can only be controlled by the remote control, I wish this feature were there in the app as well.
When it comes to connectivity options, the soundbar has an HDMI port for eARC and two HDMI pass-through ports that support 4K HDR pass through. The soundbar also has an optical port, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The speaker also boasts support for DTS-X and Dolby Atmos. The soundbar has upward and side-firing drivers to simulate a more immersive surround sound effect. When it comes to smart features, the speaker supports Amazon Alexa but unlike the Sony HT-Z9F, does not support Chromecast.
Setting up the Samsung Q950A
Setting up the Samsung Q950A is plug and play. Place the soundbar under the TV, plug in the subwoofer and rear satellite speakers into a power outlet. All the speakers sync to the soundbar automatically. Download the SmartThings app and follow the onscreen instructions. I would recommend enabling the Auto EQ feature on the soundbar to make the most of what it has to offer. The Samsung Q950A supports eARC making it future proof. For the best surround sound experience, I recommend placing the surround speakers at ear height facing the place you will sit.
Samsung Q950A: Build and design
Premium and commanding is the first thing that comes to mind when you see the Samsung Q950A for the first time. The soundbar is long, nearly the entire width of the 55-inch LG C1 (review) we tested the soundbar with. It isn’t very tall but is fairly deep which means it will occupy considerable space when kept on a table. The cloth fabric that covers the speakers attracts dust very easily which means you will spend considerable time cleaning the soundbar. It is quite similar to what we saw on the Sennheiser Ambeo but the speaker grill in this case is not removable. The soundbar also has physical controls on the top.
The only downside to the design of the display is on the top of the soundbar and not the front. While on a day-to-day basis the display will show you the source and volume level, it is some nuance controls that will be difficult to change. So, if you want to raise the volume of the centre channel or surround channel, for example, you cannot do so from the app and need to resort to the remote control and soundbar display. Considering the size of the display this can get quite cumbersome. I wish the Samsung Q950A had implemented something similar to the Sony HT-Z9F where you got a full-screened display on your TV when connecting the soundbar via HDMI, making navigating the settings very easy. The soundbar itself has 15 drivers firing in different directions to simulate the surround sound effect from the front. It has up firing and side-firing drivers as well. The edges of the soundbar have a nice angular design giving it a unique look.
Moving over to the subwoofer, it is heavy and has an unassuming form factor making it almost invisible and that’s a good thing. It is tall but not as wide as one would expect. Its looks are quite deceptive as the soundbar packs a punch.
The rear satellite speakers have the same finish as the main soundbar and have drivers firing in three directions – top, front and side. The different directions of the drivers ensure you get a better surround effect from the back.
Samsung Q950A Soundbar: Performance
If like me, you’ve missed going to the theatre, then this soundbar will definitely compensate for that. We paired the soundbar with the LG C1 for the duration of this review and an immersive cinematic experience is the best way to describe its performance. But before we get into the details of the performance, let’s run through some important things to keep in mind. Firstly, I recommend you use the SmartThings app to calibrate the soundbar for the best audio output. Once calibrated, I suggest leaving the Auto EQ on to get the best surround effects. Secondly, while there are sound modes like Standard, Movie, etc., leaving it on Adaptive Sound and forgetting about it yielded the best results, especially for Dolby Atmos content.
Netflix has a large catalogue of Dolby Atmos content but where the Dolby Atmos capabilities of this soundbar truly shine is with Blu-ray content and content we played from the Apple TV app. Ready player one is one of our favourite tests for Dolby Atmos surround sound. The race at the 12-minute mark in the movie is a great example of channel separation and immersive surround sound effects. The clarity and immersion in the channel separation from left to right, or for a car whizzing past you from behind is absolutely immersive. The sequence where one of the racers crashes and becomes coins just envelopes you from all the sides.
The only downside to the Dolby Atmos effects is the virtual representation of the height channels. While you will feel the sound all around you, you will not hear it from above. Despite the speakers having upward-firing drivers, the sound still feels like it is coming from somewhere in front on the top or on the side on top and not directly above you. This is most evident in the leaf falling or the introduction to Dolby Atmos video you’ve probably experienced in a Dolby Atmos movie theatre. Nonetheless, this is in no way a big negative for the soundbar as the overall sound for movies, be it in the dialogue, background score or even when mixed, audio is absolutely sublime. If you are looking for an immersive movie-watching experience, then this is definitely a soundbar to invest in.
While audiophiles will argue about the advantages of a dedicated 2.1 setup built for music, I’ll say considering the dynamic nature of this soundbar, and its multiple use cases, it produced some of the best audio we’ve experienced from a soundbar for music. There are some instances where we’ve heard the subtlest instrument and that’s a very good thing. While music is generally a 2.1 experience, there are some songs that give a surround sound experience thanks to the very smart implementation of the surround sound speakers. A song like Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede has parts of the song coming from the surround speakers to add depth and immersion. Even classic songs like Wicked Games by Chris Isaak had a good amount of definition. We listened to quite a few songs on this soundbar and if you are having a party at home, know that you won’t need to convince people to hit the dance floor.
Sony’s 3D audio is a fantastic reason to wear headphones when playing games on the PS5 (review). But the only downside to that is that the audio from the controller’s speaker is a part of the headset removing you from the immersion especially in games like Deathloop (review) and Returnal (review) where it has such fantastic implementation. With the Samsung Q950A soundbar, the implementation of surround sound for games is brilliant. You can manually tweak the position of the speakers from the PlayStation’s system UI and this just enhances the surround experience.
In a game like Ghost of Tsushima (review) where the enemy archers make a sound before firing an arrow, the sound comes from the precise point behind you (if that’s where the archer is) and you can hear the arrow swish all around you. The same for a game like Spiderman Miles Morales (review). When you use your Venom powers to smash the ground the ripples can be felt all around you. It’s an incredibly immersive experience.
The soundbar comes with a standard simple remote control very reminiscent of the one found on Samsung TVs. It has a nice curved design making it ergonomic to hold. It also doubles up as a universal remote if you have a Samsung TV. The remote control has playback controls, volume and woofer controls, Bluetooth pairing, source and power. It’s simple and you need to use the remote control and the display on the soundbar to change the level of different channels. For more in-depth controls, you need to check out the Samsung SmartThings app.
The Samsung Q950A is one of the best soundbars we’ve tested when it comes to sound output. It has very good audio quality for all content, be it movies, TV shows, games and even music. It has very clear channel separation, detailed sound and can give you a very immersive experience. Not to mention the fact that it can get very loud. While the Dolby Atmos “height” experience isn’t the best, it is in no way a deterrent to the overall immersive experience the soundbar offers. The SmartThings app makes setting up and controlling the soundbar easy. The only downside to the soundbar is the placement of the display on the bar itself and the short length of the supplied power cable for the satellite speakers. If you are looking for a premium surround sound experience and looking to bring the theatre home, then the Samsung Q950A could definitely be one to consider.