Samsung HW-Q950A


The Q950A’s combination of immense power and huge channel count conjures up the most immersive and detailed experience with DTS:X and Dolby Atmos movies we’ve ever heard from a soundbar.

Pros

  • Massively powerful, distortion-free movie soundtrack playback
  • Creates a uniquely immersive sound stage
  • Compact design for such a powerful system

Cons

  • Expensive by soundbar standards
  • No full auto-calibration system
  • Ridiculous LED placement

Key Features


  • Four-piece soundbar systemMain soundbar, two wireless rear speakers, one wireless subwoofer.

  • Object-based sound format supportBoth Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks can be played.

  • 16 real audio channelsThe Q950A is the first soundbar with an 11.1.4 speaker configuration.

  • eARC HDMI supportPlayback of lossless Dolby Atmos or DTS:X soundtracks shipped via HDMI from compatible TVs

  • 616W of powerUp slightly on last year’s Q950T, thanks to the power needed for the two new side-rear channels.

Introduction

Samsung’s flagship soundbars have earned an enviable reputation in recent years for turning ordinary living rooms into foundation-rocking home cinemas.

Having nailed the trick of getting huge volumes out of small boxes some time ago, though, Samsung now seems focused on ramping up the number of genuine audio channels it can support. Last year’s outstanding HW-Q950T flagship model managed 9.1.4 channels, and now the new HW-Q950A has stepped things up again by achieving a staggering, world-first 11.1.4 channels. 

And we’re talking here about 16 genuine channels, where each channel gets its own dedicated driver(s). There’s no virtual channel creation going on. 

Awesome although this looks on paper, however (world firsts always make handy marketing points), we have to wonder whether another increase to the channel count really improves the Q950A’s sound – or whether it’s more just a case of Samsung playing a ‘numbers’ marketing game. Let’s find out.

Availability

  • UKRRP: £1599
  • USARRP: $1599
  • EuropeRRP: €1499
  • CanadaRRP: CA$1799
  • AustraliaRRP: AU$1499

The HW-Q950A costs £1599. That’s a fair sum for a soundbar, and immediately raises the charge that you could get a decent system of separates without spending much more.

However, the whole point of the Q950A is that it wants to rival the performance of a good separates system while offering up the convenience of a compact form factor. Its predecessors have consistently done a great job of achieving this aim, so hopes have to be high that its extra channels will make the Q950A even better. 

At the time of writing, the Q950A sells in the US for $1599, which makes the UK price look a little harsh. But economies of scale mean that it’s hardly rare to see this sort of UK/US price comparison in the high-end AV tech world.

Design

  • Compact for something so powerful
  • eARC support over the TV HDMI
  • The new rear speakers carry three drivers each, despite their compact size

At first glance, the Q950A looks pretty much identical to 2020’s HW-Q950T. Look closer, though, and the two wireless rear speakers at least are slightly different. They’re still the same size, but the addition of a new driver to their sides has led to small tweaks to their lines and finish. 

The Samsung Q950A combines felt and metallic grilles in its exterior design.Detail of the Samsung Q950A’s main soundbar.

Managing to fit three potent drivers into speakers that can fit unobtrusively on a bookshelf or sideboard feels like a super-impressive engineering achievement. Although, if you do place them on a bookshelf, remember that the rears now need to have plenty of space above and to their outer-facing side, as well as in front, if you want to benefit from every channel they carry.

The main soundbar sports a black felt finish over its top and front edge, and an appealing metallic grille effect over its sides. The fabric has a habit of collecting dust and fluff, and I guess it could potentially tear if abused. But with a little TLC, you should be able to keep it looking reasonably pristine.

The soundbar is slim enough to fit under most TVs without creeping into the picture or blocking the TV’s IR receiver. The subwoofer is the only part of the package that runs large – but I’m not inclined to complain about that when the main reason for its bulk is the big old 8-inch driver that pumps bass out of its right-hand side. 

As you’d expect of a high-end soundbar, the Q950A carries a small display to help you track the input you’ve selected, the volume level you’re using, and so on. Unfortunately, Samsung has seen fit to place this LED on the soundbar’s top edge, rather than its front. As such, you can only actually read it if you’re stood up bending over the soundbar. Presumably, someone at Samsung decided us couch potatoes need to get more exercise.

The Q950A’s connections are all tucked on the soundbar’s underside (with channels provided for cabling), and comprise two HDMI inputs, an HDMI output, and an optical digital audio input. The HDMI TV output also supports eARC, meaning it can carry lossless Dolby Atmos/DTS:X soundtracks to the soundbar from compatible TVs.

Features

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X playback
  • 11.1.4 channels of sound
  • AirPlay 2 and ‘Tap’ mobile connection support

The Q950A’s headline-grabbing feature is its 11.1.4 channel count. This is more channels than any other soundbar has delivered before, with the main soundbar providing front-centre, left and right; front-side left and right; and two up-firing drivers. The new rears carry forward-facing drivers, up-firing drivers, and one side-firing driver each. The subwoofer, of course, provides just the single ‘.1’ bass channel.

The Samsung Q950A soundbar package includes a wireless subwoofer with an 8-inch driver.The Samsung Q950A’s subwoofer.

As you might guess from the above description, the up-firing channels work by bouncing height channel information from Atmos or DTS:X mixes off your ceiling. So, ideally, your ceiling won’t be either vaulted or heavily beamed. 

The unprecedented number of channels are driven by more than 600W of audio power, and the main soundbar incorporates all the sound-improving tech – such as wide-angle tweeters to reduce the need to sit in a ‘sweet spot – Samsung has developed so successfully over the past few years.

As noted already, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks are supported, and there’s processing on board to upconvert content with fewer native channels of sound, so that they make use of all the available channels/speakers. There’s no support for the special format of DTS:X used by IMAX Enhanced content, but rival soundbars that do support this are extremely rare – and IMAX Enhanced content is also hardly common.

The HDMI loopthrough system supports HDR10+ and Dolby Vision HDR, as well as the basic HDR10 HDR format. There’s no support for passthrough of 4K at 120Hz or VRR from PS5s, Xbox Series X or high-end PC cards, though.

On one level this is to be expected, given that no other soundbars support such high-bandwidth content either. Plus, you could always connect your cutting-edge console/PC directly to your TV and use the eARC feature to pass a game’s object-based sound out to the Q950A. However, most recently released AV receivers now carry HDMI passthrough for 4K/120Hz and VRR, so it might be nice if soundbars started following suit.

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