Published On: March 27, 2024

Samsung HW-Q990D Review: Samsung’s new flagship soundbar boasts the same excellent sound, with one key update

Published On: March 27, 2024
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Samsung HW-Q990D Review: Samsung’s new flagship soundbar boasts the same excellent sound, with one key update

It’s not an understatement to say that this soundbar delivers a master class in showcasing the kind of quality that’s possible in a soundbar.

Samsung HW-Q990D Review: Samsung’s new flagship soundbar boasts the same excellent sound, with one key update

By Author: Nick Woodard


Remember that scene from The Office where Pam asks Creed to find the differences in two copies of the same picture? That kind of feels like what Samsung is up to with its new flagship soundbar, the HW-Q990D. Sure, this updated, 11.1.4 behemoth now includes HDMI 2.1, as well as a few other handy features. But it sure does look a whole lot like Samsung’s last high-end offering, the HW-Q990C. Whatever the case may be, we pulled in the Q990D for some hands-on testing to see how the new bar stacked up to its predecessor, as well as counterparts from Sonos, LG and more.

Measurements

  • Price (MSRP): $1999.99
  • Dimensions (HWD): 2.7 x 48.5 x 5.4 inches (soundbar); 16.2 x 8.6 x 16.1 inches (subwoofer); 7.9 x 5 x 5.5 inches (rear speakers)
  • Weight: 17 pounds (soundbar); 25.8 pounds (subwoofer); 7.5 pounds (rear speakers)
  • Speakers/drivers: 22 total speakers (center, side-firing, up-firing, front-firing)
  • Wireless connection: Bluetooth 5.2
  • Wired connection: One HDMI eARC, two HDMI inputs, one digital optical input, one USB input
  • Sound formats: Dolby ATMOS, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus (*ATMOS Music); DTS:X, DTS-HD HRA, DTS-HD MA, DTS Express, DTS 5.1ch
  • Video support: 4K 120Hz HDR/Dolby Vision passthrough

High Points

  • Class-leading sound
  • Awe-inspiring Dolby Atmos
  • Powerful app and intuitive controls

Low Points

  • Onboard display is still too small
  • Last year’s model is a better value

Unboxing, Setup, and Connections to other devices

It’s not an understatement to say that this soundbar delivers a master class in showcasing the kind of quality that’s possible in a soundbar. caf5ccf9 pxl 20240326 144950613 scaled

For the most part, soundbar brands have managed to break the setup process down to a simple, accessible science. Samsung, to its credit, is no exception. The physical process of unboxing the Q990D and getting the system’s different pieces into place is merely a matter of identifying space in your room for the subwoofer and rear speakers, plugging it all in, and pressing play. 

You will, of course, want to download the Samsung SmartThings app and move through the instructions to get the soundbar connected to WiFi, as well as your preferred voice assistant (the Q990D works with Alexa, Google Assistant and Bixby while also supporting Chromecast and Apple AirPlay). And like I said in our review of Samsung’s previous flagship system, the rear speakers do run a bit on the shorter side. Even with those small hiccups accounted for, Samsung still makes it extremely simple to begin enjoying all the audio goodness that the Q990D has to offer. 

Design and features 

From an aesthetics perspective, Samsung didn’t exactly put a new spin on things year-over-year. In fact, if there are any discernible differences between the two systems, my naked eyes couldn’t catch them. To be clear, this isn’t a bad thing. The Q990C had all the characterics of a high-end, flagship system, from the sleek black finish to the gargantuan size and presence of each individual component. In other words, it looks every ounce of the powerhouse it proves to be when you crank up the volume.

The singular design flaw that carried over, unfortunately, is that pesky, diminutive display panel hanging out on the far right side of the soundbar. I don’t necessarily have an alternative or an answer for crafting a bigger, more legible display. But I do know that for a soundbar of this magnitude, you shouldn’t have to squint to make out the settings as you scroll through them with the Q990D’s remote. 

On the topic of features, all of Samsung’s treasure trove of tools are back in the mix. Some features, like Q-Symphony mode that commandeers both the soundbar’s speakers and the drivers in your TV to generate its surround sound effect, still require a Samsung TV to work. Other features, though, like the bar’s Active Voice Amplifier functionality or SpaceFit Sound Pro, a toggle-able option that analyzes room reverberations across your space and customizes your sound accordingly, are perfectly accessible for non-Samsung TV owners. 

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There are a few new features that serve as the biggest differences for the Q990D compared to its slightly older relative. The inclusion of HDMI 2.1 stands out, especially for gamers who will now be able to enjoy 4K/120 Hz passthrough from their respective consoles. But other perks, like a Private Listening mode that delegates all sound to the rear speakers for a softer, less dynamic listening experience late at night, are useful new feathers in the Q990D’s cap. 

Performance

This isn’t going to break any news at this point, but like its predecessor, the Q990D sounds absolutely phenomenal. It’s not an understatement to say that this soundbar delivers a master class in showcasing the kind of quality that’s possible in a (albeit, very expensive) soundbar. And the most delightful part of the entire experience is that it doesn’t matter what kind of content you throw at the bar. The Q990D remains ready to belt out excellence.

Interestingly, our first tests of the Q990D dealt primarily with music, as we worked to build out a playlist for an upcoming trip. Freddie Mercury’s iconic voice rang out during a rendition of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and later, Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop,” brought enough bass that I had to dial the subwoofer back a few clicks to be respectful of our neighbors.

When it came time to audition some movies and TV content on the Q990D, we were equally impressed. At one point during a particular scene in the classic documentary, Jurassic Park, I had to pause the movie because I wasn’t sure if the rain I was hearing overhead was coming from my speakers, or if it really was coming down outside. The 11.1.4 system makes for a truly immersive experience, and the bar’s Dolby Atmos performance is among the best I’ve heard from a soundbar. 

For my money, the real key in all of this is the SmartThings app, which provides nearly total control over the bar’s sound. First, you adjust levels for each individual channel, allowing you to emphasize the center channel for dialogue when needed, or bump up your height channels to enhance your three-dimensional experience. You can also toggle between four different sound modes, adjust the app’s built-in equalizer, and access advanced sound settings like voice enhancement, bass enhancement, and Night Mode. 

As an added note, I preferred Night Mode to Private Listening Mode when I was watching something late at night and didn’t want to wake my wife. I see the benefit of Private Listening Mode, especially if you’re positioned near one of the rear speakers, because it allows you to operate at extremely low listening levels. But Night Mode’s method of cutting out the dynamics while still having access to the entire ensemble of speakers seemed to be an appropriate middle ground that kept my wife asleep and me happy with how the bar sounded.

It’s not an understatement to say that this soundbar delivers a master class in showcasing the kind of quality that’s possible in a soundbar. 31d51ab8 pxl 20240326 145059150 scaled

Competition and Comparison

Samsung put itself in a bit of a bind in this category, because the best comparison to the HW-Q990D is, you guessed it, the HW-990C. The two soundbars are spitting images of each other, going toe to toe in everything from the way they look to the incredible sound that they produce. The most significant feature that sets the two apart is the addition of HDMI 2.1 with the Q990D. Other than that, these are as close to the same system as you’re going to get.

Herein lies the problem: both iterations of Samsung’s flagship soundbar are out on the open market simultaneously. And because of the availability of the shiny, new Q990D, the 990C is sitting at a steep discount at retailers like Best Buy and others. If you’re an avid gamer and need HDMI 2.1, then it might be worth it to spend an extra $500 on the newer model. Otherwise, you can score basically the same soundbar for a comparative bargain as long as you’re content with picking up last year’s model.

If you wanted to depart from Samsung altogether, you could opt for something like Sonos, the long-revered smart audio brand. That said, if you wanted to assemble a home theater of Sonos speakers that rivaled or eclipsed the sound quality of the Q990D, you would have to spend nearly $2,600 retail after the Sonos Arc, Sonos Sub, and pair of Era 300 speakers made their way into your cart.

It’s not an understatement to say that this soundbar delivers a master class in showcasing the kind of quality that’s possible in a soundbar. ad757b0e pxl 20240326 145045857.mp scaled

Conclusion

Samsung’s HW-Q990D didn’t just pick up where the Q990C left off. It followed its older relative step for step, delivering a familiar, awe-inspiring experience. The Q990D features high-end sound, combining dynamic, cinematic audio with Dolby Atmos effects that put it in a class of its own. It’s not cheap. But if you can afford it, the Q990D is one of the best high-end systems available today.

If it is a tad too pricey, or if you just feel like saving a few bucks, you won’t miss all that much by selecting the Q990C instead. The loss of HDMI 2.1 might sting, but it’s hard to argue with saving a serious chunk of change to get the same game-changing sound. Both soundbars have an annoyingly small display unit, but it’s one of the few blemishes on an otherwise outstanding pair of systems. 

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