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A small but important update

Samsung HW-Q990C The best overall soundbar I tested last year, mainly because of its excellent audio and included subwoofer and rear speakers. The company hasn’t changed much for the 2024 version, HW-Q990D, but one tweak delivers what last year’s model should have: HDMI 2.1. There are also some new audio modes, but you’ll find these on other Samsung soundbars. The Q990D is as powerful as ever, but still expensive $2,000. If you’ve already purchased the Q990C, the company hasn’t given you a reason to upgrade yet.

Samsung

The Q990D’s biggest new addition is something that Samsung’s flagship soundbar should already have.

advantage

  • HDMI 2.1
  • All-in-one surround sound setup
  • Excellent immersive audio
  • Convenient features
shortcoming

  • expensive
  • Not much of an update compared to last year’s model

Amazon $2,000

The biggest new feature of the Q990D is HDMI 2.1. With this, Samsung responded to my main criticism of the Q990C, which launched last year after many competitors had already adopted the standard. HDMI 2.1 delivers 4K pass-through at 120 frames per second, which will improve visuals if you connect your PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series X directly to the soundbar.

The Q990D also comes with a new audio mode. Private listening turns off all front drivers and uses only the rear satellite speakers. It’s basically an expanded version of the night mode many companies offer on soundbars, designed to reduce bass when family members or roommates may be asleep. My house has an open floor plan and my TV faces the hallway from the bedrooms, which means any soundbar will send noise in that direction. Private listening sends audio the other way around, and while you have to sacrifice some overall quality, it’s good enough for all the times you need some peace and quiet.

There’s also a new Party Play mode that delivers more balanced sound between the soundbar and rear speakers for a better experience when you’re hosting a bash. When this feature is active, you get the full audio range, not just the channels programmed specifically for the speakers behind you. I actually turned the speakers around so they faced the living room, projecting the repurposed audio into other public spaces. This makes a bigger difference for movies and TV, as the music is already playing from the rear speakers and has a more balanced level.

These two modes are not unique to the Q990D. The rest of the 2024 Q-Series lineup will also be able to use them. This is the first time I’ve tested them, though, and it’s worth noting that they actually work well on Samsung’s most expensive soundbar.

The left side of the Samsung Q990D soundbar shows the side-firing drivers.

Billy Steele for Engadget

The combination of a driver-unit soundbar, a large subwoofer, and more powerful rear speakers produced immersive sound that enveloped my living room.Whether you’re listening to music or a soundscape dune, the Q990D retains the sonic prowess of its predecessor. Disney+’s Dolby Atmos content is as immersive as ever.I can hear finer details in the opening scene of Knowwhere Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, including realistic reverb playing Radiohead’s “Creep” through the speakers. The directional sounds of the town, including the hustle and bustle of people walking around, make you feel like you’re standing there.

For music, there’s deep, punchy bass when the track calls for it, and the crisp detail I’ve heard in movies is here too.Justice super dramatic The Q990D’s range was on display, driving bass tones accompanied by textured synths on songs like “Neverender.”Genres as quiet as jazz are also full of sound, with albums like Miles Davis types of blue Providing subtleties that make you feel like you’re in the studio.

What I love most about the Q990D is that everything you need for a complete surround sound setup is included in the box. The subwoofer and rear speakers are included with the soundbar and require no additional purchase. These satellite speakers also come with up-firing and side-firing drivers, which isn’t always the case with competing accessories. Setup is as easy as plugging everything in, as pairing with the rest of the system happens automatically.

One of the Q990D's rear speakers sits on a wooden table.

Billy Steele for Engadget

The all-in-one setup is great, but it also means the Q990D is expensive. Even if you get everything you need in the package, the $2,000 price tag is quite an investment. The Q990D currently sells for $1,750, but we don’t know how long the discount will last.For comparison, Sony’s upcoming Bravia Bar 9 It’s $1,400. The cheapest subwoofer and rear speakers are $400 and $350 respectively, for a total cost of $2,150. Of course, with the Sony, you have subwoofer and rear-firing options, and you don’t have to buy them all.If you want to go that route, LG can offer some respite with its S95TR The price is $1,500 and includes a subwoofer and rear speakers with upward-firing drivers.

The overall size of the soundbar is another factor you need to consider. The Q990D features 11 front-firing speakers, two upfiring drivers, and a subwoofer. All of these components require space, and accommodating them means this soundbar ends up being quite large, at 48.5 inches wide. While this isn’t a big deal in itself, it does require some planning, so just know you’ll need enough space.

Like soundbars from other companies, the Q990D has some handy features reserved for Samsung TVs. For example, Q-Symphony uses TV speakers in addition to a soundbar to expand audio capabilities and requires a compatible 2020-2024 Samsung TV. The Q990D sounds great without this, but know that you don’t get the full trick unless you also have a supported TV.

Unless you care about the latest HDMI standard, Q990D There are no huge upgrades on offer compared to last year’s model. Aside from two new sound modes and 4K/120 pass-through, their designs and feature lists are nearly identical. Some of these additional features are available on more affordable Samsung soundbars. So if you’ve already bought last year’s Q990C, there’s probably not enough reason to make a substantial investment again. If you don’t already own a Samsung flagship soundbar, the Q990D delivers powerful, immersive sound in an all-in-one package, now with all the modern conveniences you should expect.

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