Small but important update

The Samsung HW-Q990C was the best all-around soundbar I tested last year, mostly due to its excellent sound and the fact that it comes with a subwoofer and rear speakers. The company hasn’t changed much for the 2024 release, the HW-Q990D, but one tweak does offer a feature that last year’s model should have had: HDMI 2.1. There are some new sound modes too, but you can find them on other Samsung audio devices. The Q990D is still as powerful as ever, but it’s still expensive 2000 dollars. If you’ve already purchased the Q990C, the company hasn’t given you a reason to upgrade yet.

Samsung

The biggest addition to the Q990D is a feature that Samsung’s flagship soundbar was supposed to already have.

Positives

  • HDMI 2.1
  • All-in-one surround setup
  • Excellent, immersive sound
  • Useful features
cons

  • The price
  • Not a huge update compared to last year’s model

$1,748 at Walmart

The biggest addition on the Q990D is HDMI 2.1. Samsung has thus made my main criticism of the Q990C, which debuted last year at a time when most of the competition had already adopted the standard. HDMI 2.1 offers 4K passthrough at 120fps, which will improve visuals if you connect a PlayStation 5 or Xbox Series

The Q990D also arrives with new audio modes. Private Listening turns off all front drivers and uses only the satellite’s rear speakers. It’s basically an expanded version of the Night Mode that a lot of companies offer on their soundbars, with the goal of reducing bass when family or roommates are asleep. My house has an open floor plan and my TV faces the hallway leading to the bedrooms, which means any speaker will emit noise in that direction. Private Listening sends the sound in the opposite direction, and while you have to sacrifice some overall quality, it’s good enough for all the times you need to be a little quieter.

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There’s also a new Party Play mode that delivers more balanced sound between your tweeters and rear speakers for a better experience when you’re hosting a rave. When this is active, you’ll get the full audio range instead of just channels programmed specifically for the speakers behind you. I actually turned the speakers and faced them outside the living room to project the remastered sound into other shared spaces. This makes an even bigger difference for movies and TV because the music is actually played from the rear speakers at more balanced levels.

These two modes are not unique to the Q990D; The rest of the 2024 Q-series lineup will be able to use it as well. This is the first time I’ve tested it, and it’s worth noting that it actually works well on Samsung’s most expensive speakers.

Samsung Q990D speaker from the left side showing the driver shooting from the side. Samsung Q990D speaker from the left side showing the driver shooting from the side.

Billy Steele for Engadget

The combination of driver-equipped speakers, a large subwoofer, and more powerful rear speakers produces immersive sound that surrounds my living room. Whether you are listening to music or an audio clip Sand dunes, the Q990D retains the sonic prowess of its predecessor. Dolby Atmos content from Disney+ is more immersive than ever. I could hear the subtleties of Knowhere in the opening scenes of the movie Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, including a realistic echo of Radiohead’s “Creep” playing over the speaker. The directional sounds of the city, including the bustle of people moving about, make it feel like you’re standing there.

As for music, there’s deep, booming bass when called for, and that crisp detail you’ve heard in movies is there too. Justice Excessive drama It displays the Q990D’s range, with its low-end driving tone on songs like “Neverender” accompanied by textured synths. Softer genres like jazz serve as an acoustic cover as well, with albums like Miles Davis’s Kinda blue Delivering the subtle details that make you feel like you’re in the studio.

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What I like most about the Q990D is that everything you need for a full surround sound setup is in the box. The subwoofer and rear speakers come with the speakers and do not require an additional purchase. Satellite speakers also have side drivers, which is not always the case with similar accessories from the competition. And setup is as easy as plugging everything in because pairing with the rest of the system happens automatically.

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

Billy Steele for Engadget

The all-in-one setup is great, but it also means the Q990D is expensive. At $2,000, this is a big investment even if you get everything you need in the package. The Q990D is currently on sale for $1,750, but we don’t know how long this discount will last. For comparison, Sony’s upcoming Bravia Bar 9 costs $1,400. The cheapest subwoofer and rear speakers you can get are $400 and $350 respectively, making the total cost $2,150. Of course, with Sony you have a couple of options for subs and wallpapers, and you don’t have to buy them all. LG offers some relief if you want to go that route, as the S95TR is priced at $1,500 and includes a subwoofer and rear speakers with high-volume drivers.

The overall size of the speakers is another thing you should consider. The Q990D has 11 front-facing speakers, two drivers, and a subwoofer. All of these components need space, and accommodating them means this speaker will get quite large at 48.5 inches wide. While this isn’t a deal-breaker per se, it does require some planning, so know that you’ll need ample space.

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Like soundbars from other companies, the Q990D has some useful features reserved for Samsung TVs. For example, Q-Symphony, which uses the TV’s speakers in addition to a subwoofer to expand audio capabilities, requires a compatible 2020-2024 Samsung TV. The Q990D looks great without this, but know that you won’t get the full set of tricks unless you also have a supported TV.

Unless you care about the latest HDMI standards,… Q990D It doesn’t offer a significant upgrade over last year’s model. Its design and feature menus are almost identical, except for the two new audio modes and 4K/120 passthrough. Some of these extras are available on more affordable Samsung speakers. So, if you already set out to buy the Q990C last year, there probably isn’t enough reason to make another big investment. If you don’t already own a flagship Samsung soundbar, the Q990D delivers stunning, immersive sound in an all-in-one package that now has all the modern conveniences it should have.

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