To help us provide you with free impartial advice, we may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site. Learn more

Samsung HW-Q990C review: Still the most immersive soundbar, but now even smarter

Our Rating :
$1,179.00 from
£1,599.00 from
Price when reviewed : £1599
inc VAT

Th Samsung HW-Q990C retains the all-conquering immersion of the previous generation, but adds a few new smart features


  • Staggeringly immersive soundstage
  • Deep, powerful and controlled bass
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support


  • No 4K/120 and VRR passthrough

The Samsung HW-Q990C is the South Korean brand’s flagship soundbar for 2023 and retains the same remarkable level of immersion delivered by last year’s model thanks to an 11.1.4-channel speaker layout based around wireless rears and a powerful subwoofer, along with support for the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats.

The finish has been upgraded and the performance has been tweaked, but otherwise, it remains as well-made and feature-packed as the HW-Q990B, with AI-enhanced processing, a range of dedicated sound modes, auto room calibration, and built-in smarts courtesy of Alexa.

Samsung HW-Q990C review: What you need to know

Samsung may have stuck with the same 11.1.4-channel configuration found on the HW-Q990B, but to be fair, it can’t really cram any more channels into a system based around a main unit, two rear speakers and a subwoofer.

The HW-Q990C remains a soundbar system designed primarily for home cinema enthusiasts, offering a level of genuine immersion that would otherwise require an AV receiver and speaker package. The big difference is that it manages to achieve this in a convenient and unobtrusive manner.

Its home theatre credentials are bolstered by support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, plus the HDMI connections can pass every version of HDR including Dolby Vision and HDR10+. Only the lack of passthrough for 4K/120p and VRR next-gen gaming enhancements disappoints at this level.

There are a host of other features, including auto room correction, built-in Alexa and upgraded Q Symphony integration for supporting Samsung TVs. There’s also the capable SmartThings Hub that includes support for ZigBee devices, high-resolution audio, and even wireless Atmos.

Samsung HW-Q990C review: Price and competition

The Samsung HW-Q990C certainly isn’t cheap at £1,599, but when you consider its ability to create a genuine sense of three-dimensional immersion, the price starts to make sense. It’s basically a home cinema sound system in a box, and easier to set up than a separates alternative.

It isn’t just better value when compared to an AV receiver and full speaker package, but also more affordable in comparison to competitors like Bose and Sonos, where the overall cost increases significantly once you start adding wireless rear speakers and a wireless subwoofer to the system.

If you’re trying to save money, the obvious alternative is last year’s Samsung HW-Q990B. It’s still available and, aside from a few minor tweaks, is basically the same as the HW-Q990C, with full support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, combined with a staggeringly immersive sonic experience. You can currently pick one up for just £874, almost half its launch price.

In terms of other brands, the LG S95QR is probably the closest competitor, with a 9.1.5-channel system that has fewer side channels but an extra centre height driver instead. There’s also support for IMAX Enhanced, but otherwise, it’s very similar to the HW-Q990C and is available for under £1,000.

Samsung HW-Q990C review: Design and features

The Samsung HW-Q990C uses exactly the same cabinet as last year, with angled corners and a robust metal mesh grille. The display remains at the front right, but the finish has been changed to what Samsung refers to as ‘Titan Black’, but in reality, it looks more like a dark grey or graphite.

The look is minimalist, the build quality excellent, and the cabinet’s larger dimensions make it better suited to TVs with screen sizes of 55in or bigger. There’s a choice of stand or wall mounting, and if you decide on the latter, Samsung includes dedicated brackets for this purpose.

The subwoofer and surround speakers are finished to match the soundbar, with the rears using the same metal mesh grille to create a cohesive aesthetic. The latter can be stand or wall mounted, and while the sub and rears are wireless, they need to be plugged into power sockets.

The Q990C’s headline feature is its ability to deliver a fully immersive 11.1.4-channel soundstage, with the low-end generated by a powerful sub that sports an 8in driver combined with an acoustic lens to produce bass that’s clearer, more precise, and benefits from improved uniformity.

The system enjoys excellent tonal balance and is composed of front left and right channels, centre channel, front and rear overhead channels, width channels at the front, and side channels at the front and rear to ensure seamless steering of effects from front-to-back and side-to-side.

The HW-Q990C makes full use of all these speakers to deliver a highly immersive experience when decoding the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats. It also supports Wireless Atmos, transmitting the signal via Wi-Fi using Dolby Digital Plus to compatible Samsung TVs.

SpaceFit Sound Pro has been enhanced to automatically optimise the audio in your room to correct dialogue, surround effects and bass. Adaptive Sound 2.0 uses AI-enhanced processing to give content an added boost and has been upgraded to provide clear sound at lower volumes.

In addition to Adaptive Sound 2.0, there are other sound modes that include Standard, Surround Sound and Game Pro 2.0. There’s also a Night mode if you need to flatten the dynamic range so you don’t disturb others, and a Voice Enhancement mode to boost hard-to-hear dialogue.

Q Symphony Gen III not only allows the soundbar to integrate with compatible Samsung TVs but also makes full use of the latter’s superior processor, as well as all the available speakers, to produce a bigger front soundstage. It even works using a wired or wireless connection.

This year Samsung has included the new SmartThings Hub, allowing you to use the SmartThings app to control all the devices in your home, including ZigBee devices. The latter use high-level communication protocols to create personal area networks for switches, lighting, and curtains.

Finally, there are built-in smarts and voice control thanks to the inclusion of Amazon Alexa, support for multiple music streaming services, Hi-Res Audio, Tap Sound for supporting Samsung devices, and the Active Voice Amplifier (AVA), which can be helpful in noisy surroundings.

READ NEXT: The soundbar deals this month

Samsung HW-Q990C: Connections and control

There’s a solid choice of connections, with two HDMI inputs and an output that supports eARC. They all pass 4K/60p, and every version of HDR (HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision). They also support ALLM, but not VRR and 4K/120 high frame rate, which is a shame. In terms of other connections, there’s an optical digital input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and AirPlay 2.

The One Remote Control remains simple and intuitive to use, while the SmartThings app is equally well designed, making setup easy and allowing you to quickly create Wi-Fi connections, configure Alexa, and update the firmware if necessary. Other control options include buttons on the soundbar itself, voice control via Alexa, or the TV remote using HDMI-CEC.

Samsung HW-Q990C review: Sound Quality

The Samsung HW-Q990C is a piece of cake to set up, mainly thanks to the subwoofer and rear speakers connecting automatically, and the SmartThings app discovering the Wi-Fi network without any issues. SpaceFit Sound Pro also works flawlessly, measuring the acoustic properties of the room, and ensuring the soundstage is calibrated and the bass properly integrated.

The Q990C is excellent in terms of its overall performance, and for a soundbar, it’s surprisingly good with music. The larger drivers provide sufficient clarity and detail, the width of the cabinet ensures plenty of stereo separation, and the big subwoofer delivers a solid foundation of bass that feels tight and controlled thanks to the highly effective automated room correction.

Moving on to multichannel music, movies or TV shows, the side-firing speakers create added width, while the centre channel keeps the dialogue clear and focused on the screen. The rear speakers ensure that 5.1-channel soundtracks are delivered with genuine surround presence, the steering of effects is seamless, and the wireless connection is free of any delays or dropouts.

When the entire 11.1.4-channel soundstage is engaged, the Q990C is an absolute barnstormer, creating an engrossing and fully immersive sonic experience. The feeling of being encased in a bubble of sound with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio soundtracks is superior to any other soundbar and even rivals some AV receiver and speaker package combinations.

The front and rear up-firing speakers make a big difference, and while their effectiveness will largely depend on your ceiling, they help produce a realistic hemisphere of sound. The amps are powerful enough to deliver excellent dynamic range, even while filling a decent-sized room, while the subwoofer provides exceptionally deep and powerful bass, without swamping the system.

When watching A Quiet Place, the dynamic range is very effective, going from a kitten’s breath to a monster’s roar in a heartbeat, while the immersive nature of the soundstage helps render the film’s detailed and subtle sound mix with unnerving realism. A scene in a basement sees a ticking clock move seamlessly from speaker to speaker, while floorboards creak ominously overhead.

The performance with TV shows reveals clear dialogue, with movies and games there’s a pleasing dynamism and with two-channel music there’s excellent stereo imaging and localisation of instruments. Whether watching TV or movies, listening to music or playing games, the HW-Q990C delivers an engaging, enjoyable and incredibly immersive performance that is sure to please.

Samsung HW-Q990C review: Verdict

The Samsung HW-Q990C is a premium soundbar with a hefty price tag that offers superb sound quality and an incredibly engaging three-dimensional sonic experience. The presence and deep bass delivered by the rear speakers and subwoofer really help enhance your movie-watching and gaming experiences and the HW-Q990C even sounds good when playing music.

Its sleek design, selection of connectivity options and the various ways in which you can control it further enhance its appeal, while the companion app does what it needs to do very ably. Overall, the Samsung HW-Q990C soundbar is a fantastic multichannel system that delivers excellent sound quality and a highly immersive experience. If you’re looking for maximum performance with the minimum of fuss, it’s definitely worth considering. However, it’s not a massive upgrade on its predecessor, which now costs under £900, so misses out on our Best Buy award.

Read more