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Samsung’s HW-Q990B Soundbar Is The Best Dolby Atmos Soundbar [ad_1]
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If you’re an audiophile, the days when when you had to spend thousands of dollars on a receiver and persuade your contractor uncle to show you how to run cables through the wall are long gone. Soundbars, especially those with dedicated rear surround speakers, have gotten so good that most of the time there’s no real need to splurge on the old-school gear.

In particular, systems like Samsung‘s flagship HW-Q990B sound more and more like your traditional high-end home theater. The 11.1.4-channel package includes wireless Dolby atmos. All you have to do to get it set up are four power outlets, and an HDMI cable.

In mere minutes, you’ll find yourself engulfed in pretty astonishing object-based surround sound. Dragons, alien ships, and helicopters whirr overhead, bullets whiz to the left and right, and even James Earl Jones’ baritone comes through full and clear in the center channel. Unless you’re willing to spend much more time (and money), it’s downright hard to get a system that sounds this good in most living rooms.

Tentpole Setup

While the inside of the black-on-black HW-Q990B features plenty of cool and interesting technology, the outside of the bar is extremely boring (and thus easy to hide below a TV screen). It is made up of a hexagonal shape with corners that bounce sound off walls. The rear surrounds have large tops and spray sound upwards and down to create height channels.

It is a small rectangle and can be easily hidden in any part of my studio. The surrounds can be placed on supports. Connect them to the subwoofer. The main bar should be plugged into the power supply. You can also plug it into the HDMI eARC port of your projector or TV. Then you’re off to the movies! Seriously, it’s that simple.

For those who own higher-end equipment or are very particular about interior design, you might mount the main bars or surrounds. This can easily be done using a couple of drywall anchors (not included).

The Price of Entry

Spending $1,700 on a soundbar—significantly more than I’d recommend most folks spend on a current-generation TV—might seem foolish. Think back to the last time that you purchased a pair of new computer speakers in conjunction with your new laptop. Because they last longer, you don’t need to replace them as often. In the home-theater world, good sound isn’t by any means a static enterprise, but it isn’t developing as quickly as image processing and screen technology are.

If you get a soundbar that’s this high-end, with Dolby Atmos and all the modern processing that comes with it, I’d expect it to last through at least two TV generations. If you are expecting your TV to last 3 to 5 years, then a soundbar that is this high-end would be able to last for five to 10 years. The price per year, however, will not compare.

For me, more immersive audio allows me to feel more connected with the action than higher-end screens. Although it might seem like sacrilege from a TV/projector reviewer to say this, surround sound can be a great way for theaters to do better than what we have at home. A good sound system can bridge that gap and bring you back into the movie theatre headspace.

Sound is an important part of many TV programs and movies. You’ve probably seen most shows in full resolution on a pretty decent quality screen, even if you’ve only seen them on a cell phone, but have you heard them with full quality sound, through good speakers or nice headphones? Perhaps not.

Epic Fidelity

I’ve heard excellent center-channel soundbars before—Sennheiser’s heinously expensive Ambeo comes to mind—but I’ve never heard a bar with such excellent surround speakers. Large surrounds that are two-way pump out more volume than any bar with speakers, and provide head-turning sound effects behind the head. At one point while watching the latest Fletch movie, I swore that a real fire alarm was going off behind me. The movie is all that matters. 

The bar, subwoofer, and surrounds combine with Samsung‘s excellent digital signal processing to do everything from big boomy action movies to sultry vintage detective movies with theater-like ease. Although the bass is excellent, it is not overpowering. You get enough rumble from the included woofer to hear and feel each step of an evil monster in Stranger Things, but not enough that apartment dwellers need fear retribution from their neighbors.


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