Samsung HW-Q990C review: The ultimate Dolby Atmos soundbar system – DIGIWIZ CENTRAL

Samsung HW-Q990C review: The ultimate Dolby Atmos soundbar system

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Samsung’s Q990C is the top Dolby Atmos soundbar system to buy for high-end performance.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Samsung’s HW-Q990 series represents the pinnacle of Dolby Atmos soundbars right now, with the new HW-Q990C carrying the torch from last year’s Q990B. Packing 22 speakers in an 11.1.4-channel audio configuration that includes a separate subwoofer and rear satellites, the Q990C provides poise, power, and incredible sonic immersion that you won’t often find outside a movie theater — with a price to match.

The latest version provides a few updates over last year’s model, including zippier software and cleaner bass response thanks to a redesigned subwoofer. The bars look nearly identical otherwise and offer similar features, right down to the ability to stream Dolby Atmos wirelessly from newer Samsung TVs and even play in concert with them via Samsung’s Q-Symphony system.

While it would have been nice to get more upgrades, it’s also understandable that Samsung wouldn’t want to tinker too much with near-perfection. If you can find last year’s Q990B on a major sale, it’s probably still the smarter option. But the Q990C does offer a modest upgrade, making it one of the best soundbars for anyone who wants a Dolby Atmos system.

What works

Class-leading Dolby Atmos immersionExcellent balance and detailQuick and snappy setupRugged, minimalist design

What needs work

No Chromecast or HDMI 2.1 supportSpotify Connect quirks with iPhoneOnly minor upgrades compared to 2022 model

The Q990C’s setup is refreshingly easy

Getting the Q990C set up is simple with Samsung’s SmartThings app.

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You’ll be hard-pressed to find an easier multi-speaker setup process than what Samsung’s Q990C provides, and that’s doubly true if you decide to go all in with one of Samsung’s latest flagship TVs. We tested the Q990C with Samsung’s S90C OLED TV, and the two got along like old friends from the get-go, right down to automatically sharing a Wi-Fi connection to connect wirelessly.

If you don’t have a Samsung TV, the HW-Q990C is still an easy lift — apart from actually lifting it, as the box is pretty dang heavy. Once you’ve pulled the bar, subwoofer, and other speakers from the package and plugged everything in, they’ll instantly connect to each other. Like most soundbars, the extra satellite speakers and subwoofer are all “wireless” other than the fact that they’ll need a power source to connect. HDMI eARC makes connecting to most TVs utterly painless, allowing you to control power and volume with your TV remote with little fuss.

Samsung’s SmartThings app also makes Wi-Fi setup a cinch. We were able to connect in a matter of minutes, which stood out against the dodgier Wi-Fi setup we experienced with last year’s Q990B. As before, SmartThings lets you control a variety of settings, audio streaming services, and smarts. It worked without a hitch over two weeks of testing.

The design is simple but stylish – and suitably hearty

The soundbar has a premium, sturdy build.

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The HW-Q990C is pretty massive, stretching over 48 inches across and over five inches back, so you’ll need to allocate proper space for it. The bar is basic in design but looks rather elegant on your TV console, and the construction feels premium. There’s no real weak spot here, with a metal perforated grille across the top, front, and sides revealing a multitude of drivers beneath.

Like the Q990B, the Q990C offers a useful front-side visual display with real words, not just LEDs. That’s particularly handy if you’re trying to figure out if you’re getting Dolby Atmos or to see if the proper input is selected. The satellites and subwoofer look stylish as well, and you can easily see all the drivers in the satellite speakers under their perforated grilles.

The included remote looks even fancier, with a brushed metal top. But you shouldn’t need the remote much as your TV remote and the Samsung app account for most functions when connected via HDMI (but not if you’re connected over Wi-Fi).

The sound is balanced, clear, and incredibly immersive

The soundbar’s movie performance is top-notch, especially when listening to Dolby Atmos content.

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The HW-Q990C is an absolute powerhouse of a sound system, capable of surrounding you in the kind of brain-tricking dome of sound for which Dolby Atmos was created. Thanks to excellent control and an almost laughable number of speaker drivers, music and effects swirl around you with seamless fluidity and precision.

The result is sound that’s not only exciting and engaging but also brilliantly subtle in its immersion. You won’t find many soundbars that can out-brawl the Q990C and its 650+ watts when it comes to sheer power, but it’s arguably even better when rendering the more granular moments, from a rainstorm overhead to an echoey voice in a splashy hallway. 

The collage of upfiring, front-firing, and side-firing speaker drivers, including the satellite speakers at the rear, provide pinpoint accuracy when working in concert with the main bar for Dolby Atmos “sound objects.” That means little effects, like a buzzing fly or a whirling helicopter set miles above the action, sound incredibly realistic. Each effect feels perfectly placed within the soundstage, seeming to kick in an almost primal instinct that tricks you into believing you’re there. In short, the Q990C is a cinematic wizard. 

The system’s subwoodfer (left) and satellite speakers (right) help to expand its soundstage and bass.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

That’s true whether the Q990C is connected over Wi-Fi with a newer Samsung TV or via the traditional HDMI connection. The Q-Sympony feature, which plays audio through the bar and your Samsung TV speakers at the same time, can provide an even broader sense of space and directionality for some content, but it’s not necessary to get the most out of the system. Whatever TV you own, the Q990C raises the audio stakes significantly.

Even when you’re not getting lost in Ant-Man’s miniature world or deep beneath the waves of a neon coral reef in Netflix’s “Our Planet,” the Q990C proves Samsung knows audio tuning. The sound profile is warm yet detailed, elevating everything from the velvety purr of Bucky’s Harley Davidson in “Captain America: Civil War” to the flashy dialogue in Amazon Prime’s “Good Omens.”

But at the end of the day, this is still a soundbar, and at times you can hear it over-correcting with software to limit distortion or trending toward a boxier, sharper sound in the brightest productions. Those moments are in the minority, though, even for music playback. The bar and the subwoofer work in concert to provide punchy and well-balanced sound, from jazz to hip-hop.

Speaking of the sub, it has plenty of boom yet it’s easily tamed with the remote’s woofer key, to render lower frequencies with smooth musicality. We’d still prefer a similarly priced bookshelf speaker system for music playback on the whole. But the Q990C handles instruments with care, from flashy guitars and synths to reedy horns and strings, offering more than enough groove and flow to serve as your primary audio device.

The bar offers good features, with a few exceptions

Two HDMI inputs are included to connect to other devices, but they don’t support 120Hz or VRR passthrough with game consoles.

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You’ll get nearly every feature you could want with the HW-Q990C, including an array of settings and smarts, along with support for virtually every major audio format. That includes the big ones like Dolby Atmos and Dolby TrueHD as well as their DTS counterparts like DTS-HD Master Audio and DTS:X, the main 3D-audio rival to Dolby Atmos.

SmartThings makes the software experience pretty intuitive, with the ability to adjust nearly all settings from your mobile device. Samsung also offers features like SpaceFit Sound, designed to adjust the audio to your room automatically, and Adaptive Sound mode, which does an impressive job of optimizing the audio for whatever you play in real-time. 

Tinkerers will find a full multi-band EQ when using the Standard sound mode, and individual channel settings let you do things like adjust the center or upfiring speakers to fine-tune their performance. (Samsung hides that last setting under the triple dots at the app’s right corner under Device Settings.) You can also make most adjustments with the included remote, though this is definitely a more arduous process.

A stylish remote is included for adjusting settings.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

Clicking the triple dots also lets you set up your choice of Bixby or Alexa as a built-in voice assistant, letting you control things like song skip and volume, and access other smart features with your voice. It’s a workable system, though I did notice Alexa’s voice is a bit quieter than expected, and it also seemed to falter when trying to pause audio from Spotify.

Another Spotify quirk is that, while using an iPhone’s onboard keys to control volume over Spotify Connect, the bar unexpectedly lowered volume completely with a single press for any level below 12. This wasn’t the case with a Samsung phone, but we tried two different iPhones with the same result. It’s likely this is a software glitch that will be fixed down the road (or potentially an issue with our model), but you can avert it with AirPlay or Bluetooth. Google’s Chromecast is conspicuously not supported for this model.

Those points aside, the main issue we’ll take with the Q990C is that its pair of spare HDMI inputs don’t support the latest HDMI 2.1 specs. That means you can’t get full 120Hz or Variable Refresh Rate (VRR) support when directly connecting a PS5 or Xbox Series X . The only bar we’ve seen support the entire suite is Sony’s HT-A7000 and HT-A5000 soundbars, but at this price, it would have been nice if Samsung added this feature in its 2023 model.

Samsung HW-Q990C Specs

SpecSamsung HW-Q990CDrivers22 drivers, including 15 in the bar, six in the satellite speakers, and one subwooferAudio portsHDMI eARC and OpticalMicsBuilt-in microphone arrayConnectivityWi-Fi and BluetoothVoice controlAlexa or Bixby built-inAudio formatsDolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital Plus, DTS-HD Master Audio, DTS:X, high-resolution supportDimensions48.5″ x 2.7″ x 5.4″ (bar), 8.7″ x 16.3″ x 16.1″ (subwoofer), 5.1″ x 7.9″ x 5.5″ (rear speakers)Weight17 pounds (bar), 25.8 pounds (sub), 7.5 pounds (rear)

Should you buy the Samsung HW-Q990C?

It’s on the pricey side, but the Q990C is an excellent choice for buyers who want a premium Dolby Atmos experience.

Ryan Waniata/Insider

Yes, unless you can find the older Q990B for a much better price. The Q990C improves the bass and the setup is optimized with the latest software (apart from that weird Spotify Connect quirk). But you’re not missing much going with last year’s Q990B, even if you’re looking to pair it with a brand-new Samsung TV like the S90C. In either case, you’ll be getting a high-end Dolby Atmos soundbar with premium features and fantastic audio quality for whatever you play.

If you don’t want to spend this much (or plug in this many speakers), there are some good Dolby Atmos alternatives like the Sonos Arc or, on the more budget side, the Bose Smart Soundbar 600. But neither offers the same immersion, and both skip extras like HDMI inputs and DTS:X support. If you want to connect an Xbox Series X or PS5 directly, Sony’s HT-A7000 is a good alternative, but it will cost you more once you add surround speakers and a subwoofer. Finally, Vizio’s Elevate 5.1.4 system offers solid Dolby Atmos immersion for a fair bit less, but fewer speakers means it won’t be as engulfing as Samsung’s model.

If you’re looking for the full monty when it comes to utterly immersive Dolby Atmos performance in a soundbar system, Samsung’s Q990C is very tough to beat.

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