Samsung HW-Q990D 11.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar – simply stupendous (AV review)

The Samsung HW-Q990D 11.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar can produce authentic 3D height, surround, and spatial sound regardless of room shape and layout. It has little competition in its class – simply superb.

This soundbar kicks. Room-shaking bass starts at a very low 24Hz and provides clean, pure sound for vocals and all manner of musical instruments up to 20kHz—and then some.

Unfortunately, Samsung chose a review space at the Uber-trendy Ovolo Hotel at Woolloomooloo, which stopped this soundbar from showing what it was really capable of. Our review reflects more on what we know it could be – rather than what we initially observed.

You can read about the room in our Samsung S95D QD-OLED 4K – D for delightful review.

Australian review: Samsung HW-Q990D, 11.1.4 Dolby Atmos and DTS:X Model HW-Q990D-XY

WebsiteProduct page
User Guide
Simple User Guide
RRP$1999
FromSamsung Online. See Approved resellers above.
Warranty12-months ACL
Made inSouth Korea
CompanySamsung is a South Korean multinational manufacturing conglomerate headquartered in Samsung Town, Seoul, South Korea. Samsung Electronics (the world’s largest information technology company, consumer electronics maker and chipmaker.
MoreCyberShack Samsung News and Reviews
CyberShack TV/AV News and Reviews

We use Fail (below expectations), Passable (meets low expectations), Pass (meets expectations), Pass+ (near Exceed but not class-leading) and Exceed (surpasses expectations or is the class leader) against many of the items below. You can click on most images for an enlargement.

We are also tightening up on grading. From now on, Pass, for example, means meeting expectations for the price bracket. We consider a Pass mark to be 70+/100 with extra points added for class-leading and excellence.

First Impression – Pass+

The Samsung HW-Q990D soundbar is imposing at 1232.0 x 69.5 x 138.0 mm x 7.7kg, the subwoofer 220.0 x 413.0 x 410.0 mm x 11.7kg, and the two wireless rears each 129.5 x 201.3 x 140.4 mm x 3.4kg. It is covered in steel acoustic mesh. It is not elegant—it is straight down to business. It is identical in size, weight, and specs to the Q990C it replaces. Read Samsung HW-Q990C Q-series soundbar – massive 11.1.4 Dolby Atmos.

On top are a multi-function button, Mic On/Off and volume up/down. At the rear are

  • 2 x HDMI in ports (version not disclosed)
  • 1 x HDMI eARC to connect to the TV. 4K@100/120HzHz/VRR (new to Q990D) and HDR10+ passthrough (AU power is 50Hz). You must use an Ultra High-Speed HDMI 48Gbps cable.
  • Digital Optical input
  • Power

It has Wi-Fi (version not disclosed) and Bluetooth 5.2 SBC codec. It supports Chromecast and AirPlay 2 music.

On the front is a cryptic white 4-character LED display.

A battery-operated Bluetooth remote and wall mount brackets are included.

What is 11.1.4?

Samsung does not provide meaningful specifications. We found that the soundbar has 246W, the subwoofer 200W, and the rear speakers 105W each, for a total of 656W.

It is precisely the same as the 2023 Q990C – The soundbar has (18 W x 4) + (10 W x 2) + (18 W x 2) + (10 W x 1) + (18 W x 6 ) and is 7.0.2

Simply put, it has seven forward or side-firing channels in the soundbar and four rear speaker forward or side-firing channels—a total of 11 channels and a massive 22 speakers and amplifiers.

The 1 is for the sub-woofer.

The 4 is for two up-firing channels in the soundbar and two up-firing channels in the rear.

For the techy (1-9 are in the soundbar, 10-15 are in the two dedicated rear speakers)

  1. Left front forward-firing
  2. Right front forward-firing
  3. Centre front forward-firing
  4. Left front side-firing surround (requires a side wall to bounce off to assist with psychoacoustics to create a surround envelope)
  5. Right front side-firing surround (ditto)
  6. Left front wide-firing angled surround (ditto)
  7. Right front angled wide-firing surround (ditto)
  8. Left front up-firing
  9. Right front up-firing
  10. Left rear forward-firing (reinforced front forward-firing)
  11. Right rear forward-firing (ditto)
  12. Left side-firing surround (requires a side wall to bounce off to assist with psychoacoustics to create a surround envelope)
  13. Right side-firing surround (ditto)
  14. Left rear up-firing
  15. Right rear up-firing
  16. 8” Sub-woofer

The additional six speakers (of 22) are cross-over (not DA) tweeters reinforcing speakers 1-3.

Read

·  Five tips for better TV sound – Dolby Atmos for beginners (guide)

·  How to buy a soundbar that meets your needs? (guide)

Why is that good?

Dolbly Atmos needs a minimum of 5.1.4 (speakers 1-3, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14 -16 above) to provide an authentic spatial experience. It is then less reliant on virtualising Dolbly Atmos using psychoacoustics, bouncing off walls and ceilings, and phase-shifting sounds. It sounds better in the right room.

7.1.4 adds better surround sound, and 9.1.4 completes the Dolbly Atmos envelope. 11.1.4 essentially adds 4.0.2 speakers (each 2.0.1) behind you, which can help to compensate for the wrong room type as they project surround sound forward.

This sounds superb, with each of the 11.1.4 channels scoring 100% on the individual speaker test. All this for $1999.

It creates an immersive sound envelope about 3 metres in diameter from the TV (the rear speakers need to be 1 metre behind that). Be careful that your viewing area is within that space—too many people make mistakes and sit too far back.

It gives even sound all around. There is none of this ‘front-centric’ rubbish we hear from lesser soundbars. Overhead sounds are authentic, and sound object placement is precise.

As a segue, I have only heard better sound from the Sonos Arc (7.1.2) and a pair of Sonos Era 300s (each Dolby Atmos 5.0.1) as rears. This currently costs $4,081 and has to be heard to be believed. Read Sonos Era 300 as rears to the Sonos Arc – superb Dolby Atmos 7.1.4

The JBL BAR 1300 – 1170 Watts, 11.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar is the only other to give Samsung stiff competition, and it is currently $1699.

What is Q-Symphony

Most recent Samsung TVs (A, B, C and D years) have Q-Symphony, which uses both the TV speakers and the soundbar.

Technically, it does not add any extra Dolbly Atmos channels, should smooth out any frequency clipping, and add a slightly wider and higher front-centric sound stage.

We tested this on the 2024 S95D QD-OLED and 2023 S95C, which made little difference (at least on these TVs).

Once again, the Ovalo room layout interfered with this, but we believe that Q-Symphony added little benefit to the standalone Q990D. If anything, its tiny speakers added more clipping, and its sub-woofers added nothing.

We preferred the straight soundbar, but it could depend on the TV and room layout.

How does the Samsung HW-Q990D 11.1.4 sound?

Samsung has some serious sound chops. It owns Harman Kardon, AKG, AMX, Arcam, Bang & Olufsen Automotive, Becker, BBS Audio, Crown, dbx, Infinity, Lexicon, Mark Levinson, Marin Professional, Revel, Soundcraft, JBL, and several more specialist sound technology companies. It has a Californian audio lab to perfect sound for its speakers and soundbars.

I cannot recall hearing a bad Samsung soundbar. It is unfortunate that this technology does not appear to extend to some of its mobile phones and domestic devices.

As you can see from the White Noise native frequency graph above, it has low bass starting at 24Hz and building to 50Hz—that room-shaking sound. At 50Hz, it strongly increases to 100Hz (mid-bass) and is flat (good) from 100-200Hz (high-bass).

The frequency response is then flat (good) to 7kHz, where it dips to avoid harshness and is flat to 20kHz. It has a Neutral sound signature (the nirvana) and the audiophile standard. It neither adds nor subtracts from the original music! Being flat allows presets and an EQ to recess frequencies (cannot add to a native signature) to focus on clear voice dialogue, night listening, music (where a warm and sweet signature may be better) and more. It even allows you to use just the rear speakers at night (well, anytime) to minimise disturbance to others. This is new over the Q990C.

In summary, heaps of well-controlled bass, excellent mid- and low-treble (the musically important frequencies), and high treble add that feeling of being there—what we like to call air.

I cannot fault it in any way! Well, perhaps an extra sub-woofer for Jurassic Park!

Read: How to tell if you have good music – sound signature is the key

IAMF – Samsung’s spatial music tries to knock Dolby off its perch.

We need another spatial format, like a hole in the head. Nevertheless, as Samsung does not support Dolby Vision on any of its devices, it has introduced IAMF (Immersive Audio Model and Formats) as its logical replacement for Dolby Atmos (DA). I cannot see IAMF taking off anytime soon unless it can decode DA, present it with the same channels, etc.

Read Samsung’s IAMF spatial sound format will try to kill off Dolby Atmos

Sound modes

It has (fully configured sub and rear speakers)

  • Standard – Outputs 2.0/5.1/7.1 channel as 2.1/5.1/7.1/7.1.4. Only use this for music or where you need a PCM or Dolby Digital/DTS data stream.
  • Surround: Outputs all of the above as 11.1.4 (faux upscaled) and Dolby Atmos/DTS:X as 11.1.4
  • Game Pro – same
  • Adaptive Sound – saame

SpaceFit sound – Pass

This is room calibration using the soundbar microphone. It determines the room’s layout and adjusts individual speaker volumes accordingly.

As mentioned, the hotel room provided for the review was unsuitable for calibration, but we did test this last year on the Q990C, and it worked well.

Active Voice – Pro – Pass

This reduces environmental noise and boosts the 1-7kHz clear voice spectrum. It was okay, but Sonos and LG lead in the clear voice stakes.

BT – Pass

It is BT 5.2 with an SBC 16-bit/44,100Hz codec. It has NFC tap to play and is one-way Rx (receive only). You cannot connect BT speakers to it.

Voice and Apps – Pass

It supports Bixby, Alexa, and Google. The SmartThings App (not tested) can control the soundbar and has an EQ. The remote has a microphone. All third-party apps have privacy issues.

While you don’t need the SmartThings App to use the soundbar, you can only connect to Wi-Fi and update firmware – again, be aware of the privacy implications.

Wi-Fi network – Pass

You can set this up as a Group speaker using Samsung SmartThings. It also supports Chromecast and Apple Airplay 2.

Power Use – Pass

Samsung advises

  • 41W soundbar
  • 26W sub-woofer
  • 38W rears
  • Total 105W
  • Standby 2W

We were unable to test this at the hotel review. Since electricity costs around 40 cents per kWh, you could run it at full volume for 10 hours.

CyberShack’s view Samsung HW-Q990D 11.1.4 is a spectacular soundbar

We cannot fault it – at least in the limited hotel room review circumstances afforded to us.

At $1999, it is good value, has excellent performance, and has superb dedicated rear 2.0.1 (4.0.2) speakers.

But being so close to the 2023 Q990C, we suggest you bag a bargain as we have seen these <$1400.

Rating Explanation – Samsung HW-Q990D 11.1.4 81/100

This review uses the new 2024 rating where a pass mark is 70/100.

  • Features: 80—It has everything you need. We wish Samsung were more forthcoming with accurate specifications.
  • Value: 85 – competitive pricing
  • Performance: 85 – forget about Q-symphony for this model
  • Ease of Use: 80 – 12 months warranty is too short for an integral TV Home Theatre setup. Do not buy an extended warranty – Australian Consumer Law covers that. Read ACL Consumer tech warranty not a priority for the majority – it should be
  • Design: 75 – big black perforated steel bars may be efficient but not stylish. A choice of white or a fashionable colour would make it stand out.

Samsung HW-Q990D 11.1.4 Dolbly Atmos soundbar

$1999
8.1

Features

8.0/10

Value

8.5/10

Performance

8.5/10

Ease of Use

8.0/10

Design

7.5/10

Pros

  • Superb Dolby Atmos and DTS:X 11.1.4 3D sound
  • Easy to setup – no App required, and automatic SpaceFit calibration
  • In-your-face room shaking bass
  • NFC BT Tap to play
  • Rears are 2.0.1 side, front and up-firing!

Cons

  • Q-Symphony is a waste of effort with this soundbar. It may be better for smaller ones.
  • Would like longer power cables
  • 4-character display – needs a better  on-screen UI
  • Not a significant upgrade to the Q990C