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Samsung HW-Q90R review: is this still considered a soundbar?

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The Samsung HW-Q90R (Check on is the successor of the HW-N950, Samsung’s best soundbar so far. It offers exactly the same sound (at least on paper), being an exact copy when it comes to channels and transducers. However, it comes with improved connectivity, and it launched at a much cheaper price than its predecessor, which makes it an automatic recommendation being the best Dolby Atmos soundbar of the moment.

Samsung HW-Q90R – Design

Samsung HW-Q90R – Design

The Samsung HW-Q90R is big and heavy, and it requires some head clearance to fit under the TV. A metal grid envelops the soundbar on all sides since all of them have transducers. The only things breaking this monotonous design are the Samsung and Harman/Kardon logo and a small row of buttons at the top of the bar that can turn it on and off, adjust the volume and select the source.

The subwoofer is one of the few things that have changed a bit. It is still wireless, the driver measures 8 inches and the sound still comes out from the right side, but there has been a slight redesign that offers a more controlled bass response than in its predecessor.

As for the rear speakers, they are also the same ones that came with the HW-N950. They are self-amplified, so they do not need to be connected to an amplifier/receiver. Of course, they both need to be plugged in.

On the soundbar’s rear, we find all the connections. This is where the Samsung HW-Q90R improves significantly over the HW-N950, not in terms of the number of connections but in terms of quality.

The Samsung HW-Q90R has two HDMI ports compatible with 4K/60p, HDR10, HDR10+, Dolby Vision and HDCP 2.2.

The other available connection is the Toslink port for optical digital audio. It is good to have, but keep in mind that with this connection you can only get Dolby and DTS 5.1 audio, so using this connection with a soundbar such as this one, is just a waste of money.

As for wireless connections, there is Bluetooth and WiFi. The connection to your WiFi network is done via the SmartThings app. Once connected to the network you can use Spotify Connect as well as an Alexa speaker to control the soundbar.

The biggest fault here, at least according to me, is that the HW-Q90R doesn’t offer support for Google Assistant, Chromecast or Apple AirPlay. It doesn’t even support Bixby, Samsung’s own virtual assistant, which says a lot.

Samsung HW-Q90R – Hardware

Samsung HW-Q90R – Hardware

The Samsung HW-Q90R features 18 transducers, 13 on the bar, 4 on the rear speakers and the one in the subwoofer, in a 7.1.4 channel configuration. The 3 front channels are composed of 1 tweeter and 2 mid-woofers each. Two full-range transducers installed at the ends of the bar emulate the sound of satellite speakers. Another two full-range transducers are located at the top of the bar to project sound to the ceiling and thus emulate the sound of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The last 4 full-range transducers are found on the rear speakers. Each one has a channel for the back effects and one projected to the ceiling. Last but not least we have the subwoofer, with its impressive 8’’ diameter driver.

This impressive collection of transducers manages to reproduce both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X as faithfully as possible. The same goes, obviously, for the rest of the high definition formats, such as Dolby True HD or DTS-HD, as well as 7.1-channel LPCM and the core versions of Dolby and DTS.

They are also perfectly capable of reproducing high-resolution audio, in fact, this soundbar has sound scaling up to 32 bits.

Samsung HW-Q90R – Sound

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The sound is simply awesome. This is undoubtedly the best Dolby Atmos soundbar of the moment. It offers clear audio with high fidelity reproduction at all frequencies and a definition that can be matched only by last year’s HW-N950 (which doesn’t surprise us since they are essentially the same soundbar).

Obviously the Samsung HW-Q90R shines brighter with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content. The sound is incredibly good, has an overwhelming quality and a spectacular surround effect. I even dare say that the Samsung HW-Q90R provides a sound quality above its price range!

You don’t believe me? Try it with a rainy scene in Dolby Atmos and be amazed at how you feel the rain drop from above all around you. There is no other soundbar that matches the sound immersion of the Samsung HW-Q90R.

Stereo music reproduction is also spectacular. There is no doubt that this soundbar offers high fidelity reproduction, with absolutely clear and crisp vocals and a stereo image that gives the instruments the necessary separation, making the music sound as if we were at a concert.

Having said all this, the inclusion of room correction in order to calibrate the equipment according to the characteristics of the individual rooms is still missing. I understand that most users who buy a soundbar will not want to waste time on this kind of thing (hence the soundbar), but with such a piece of expensive high-end equipment, it would be a very valuable addition for the Home Cinema enthusiasts.

Last, a few words about the Samsung HW-Q90R’s four sound modes: The Standard mode reproduces sound according to the source. If the source audio is stereo, for example, only the left and right front channels will sound. Thus this mode is recommended if you want to hear the sound in the most faithful way to how it was conceived. The Surround mode upmixes the audio and reproduces it with all channels. The Game Pro mode is exactly the same as the Surround mode, but for video games. And finally, Adaptive Sound mode lets the soundbar optimize the sound based on the source, so if you are watching the news, the central channel for the voice will receive a boost, and if you are watching a football game, the soundbar will emphasize the ambient sound of the stadium through the surround channels.

Samsung HW-Q90R – Verdict

The purchase of Harman/Kardon was one of the smartest things Samsung has ever done. Thanks to it, its audio division has improved a lot, and today Samsung is the company that produces the best soundbars on the market. The Samsung HW-Q90R (Check on is one of them, and also the best so far.

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