Samsung HW-Q960A takes over for last year’s model, HW-Q950T, which we named the best soundbar of the year in the high-end class of 2020. This year’s model is similar to the old one in terms of appearance, but has even more speaker channels to reproduce surround sound. Exactly what that means, we’ll come back to – but the intention is definitely to enclose ourselves inside a bubble of sound!
The Samsung bar is equipped with an HDMI eARC input, and can thus receive high-resolution audio signals from the latest TVs. In addition, it has wireless connection via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. This year’s model also has Airplay, Chromecast and Spotify Connect, so it is well suited for music playback.
Samsung HW-Q960A in practice
The HW-Q960A is a large soundbar, which is intended for use with the larger TV screens. At 123 centimeters, it is about as wide as a 55″ TV. However, the soundbar is quite low, so that it fits under most screens. It is also covered with a black speaker fabric from Danish Kvadrat, which gives it a relatively discreet appearance. Wall mounting is also possible using the included brackets.
The Samsung Q960A is a bit more comprehensive to set up for the first time than the smaller soundbars from the same company. It works best by downloading the Smartthings app, which also gives access to more advanced settings. Among other things, the Q960 has got Auto EQ room correction which helps to adapt the bass reproduction to the acoustics in the room. This is done via a built-in microphone in the subwoofer. If you connect it to a Samsung TV of more recent date (2021 Q70A and up), you can also take advantage of the Spacefit Sound+ feature, which listens and adapts the overall sound image to the surroundings.
The soundbar is otherwise easy to operate via the included remote control, but we are a little surprised by the location of the display on top of the soundbar. It is almost impossible to see from the sofa, and it is usually where we sit, when we need the information…
As mentioned, the Samsung HW-Q960A is equipped with a rather advanced speaker setup: Full 11.1.4 channels to be exact. The soundbar itself consists of stereo left/right and center channel, as well as additional height and side channels for Dolby Atmos and DTS-X. The rest of the channels are reproduced by the rear speakers, which now have both height and side drivers. Also included is an active, wireless subwoofer with 8″ woofer.
Actually, it is not the number of speaker elements, but rather the sound quality in practice we care about. But Samsung has managed to achieve some audible sound improvements this year as well.
We start as usual with Messrs. Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro in the gangster film The Irishman, and there is no doubt that the dialogue comes out strong and clear. The Samsung bar has a crisp and present voice reproduction, which immediately draws us into the action. We are also impressed by the solid reverberation: We get the feeling of sitting in the same environment (in this case a bar counter) as the two gentlemen, and can hear music and the clinking of glass in the distance. Then the action transports us to a much larger room (a prison), where we also here experience becoming part of the action, rather than watching it from a distance. The extra rear channels clearly contribute to a wider, deeper and more three-dimensional sound image. This is reminiscent of real cinema sound!
Of course we had to test with some action scenes as well, and there is no doubt that the Q960A can play loud and clean. The shooting duel from Quick Money sounds tough where the guns crackle and the ricochets whiz around our heads. No doubt: here there is noticeably more “life and movement” than what the Sonos Arc manages to reproduce from the same scene, without it sounding strenuous or distorted.
What about music?
More and more people are also using the TV and soundbar to play music: And although the Samsung bar is no substitute for a full-blooded stereo system, it does the job decently well. The new song Rumors from Lizzo and Cardi B is characterized by the subwoofer not having the world’s fastest and most distinctive bass reproduction. But the rhythms come out well, with an engaging middle bass. The vocals also have a full and warm signature, with a large and full midrange.
Samsung generally has a slightly darker rendering than Sonos, which may seem a bit light and sleek, but also more detailed at times. The stereo sound image becomes a bit narrow on music, and some songs can therefore benefit from switching to Surround sound mode. It opens up the soundscape considerably. But can sound a bit artificial / excessive on some types of music.
The Samsung HW-Q960A is definitely one of the best soundbars in its class. With support for the most important sound formats and an arsenal of drivers inside, it manages to create a audibly processed, yet precise and all-encompassing sound image. The HW-Q960 sounds tough on movie sound, and also works great for music. The subwoofer is not as firm as, for example, Sonos’ more expensive Sub, and some will probably prefer the slightly tighter and more detailed music reproduction from Arc. But for varied TV and movie sound, this bar from Samsung is hard to beat – especially considering the favorable price.
Note! If you do not want rear speakers at home in the living room, the little brother HW-Q910A can also be a good alternative. It has the same soundbar and subwoofer, but comes without separate rear speakers.