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Which soundbar has the best sound quality ?
Of all the products we cover, soundbars are actually my favourite. It’s true, they are. I love them. And you also learned that our soundbar of the year 2020 was the Sennheiser ambeo. But my runner up is the Samsung q950t Dolby Atmos.
The q950t is Samsung’s flagship soundbar for 2020. It is a true 9.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar system as both the bar and the rear speakers have upward firing drivers and no home theatre is complete without a subwoofer and it comes with a wireless one.
Now, obviously this system can playback Dolby Atmos as well as DTSx soundtracks thanks to its eaRC connectivity. And in terms of connectivity, you can also connect to compatible TVs by Wi Fi and Bluetooth. Now, it does have two HDMI inputs and one HDMI output, Samsung also includes some legacy connection options in the form of an optical input as well.
You can control the 950t either via the included remote Samsung SmartThings app or via your lovely voice because it is Amazon Alexa. Sure. Anyway, it looks like a premium audio product . It’s not quite as long as LG sound bars, but it is nowhere near as beefy as the Sennheiser ambeo, instead it falls somewhere right about the middle. It’s clad in all black fabric which does dress it up quite a bit though, considering what a big deal Samsung makes of this fabric, I kind of expected it to be available in different colours because they are such a design forward company.
Having different finish options would make the q950t well competitive with the likes of say, Bang and Olufsen. So I do consider the all black fabric option to be sort of a missed opportunity, not to mention it’s just really difficult to keep clean if you have pets, but as far as all black sound bars go, this is one of the better looking ones.
The subwoofer on the other hand, it sounds fine and we’re going to go over it in just a moment. It just looks old and carried over from about 2015. I’m not a big fan of the plastic and fabric look and I think it drags the entire appearance of the Samsung 950t system down. Thankfully the surrounds look very nice if not eerily similar to the surrounds we have on our LG system; only Samsung has decided to wrap those in fabric as well as opposed to go with an all plastic design like you’re gonna find on the LG.
Before we get into setup and control, you know that we like to run down the various products that we use to test what we’re reviewing and this soundbar got installed in both our small spaces, as well as out here in our main room and that meant that it got used with three different televisions; the Samsung q70t, the Sony x950h, and of course our 8k LG nano cell.
For television and movies we relied on the Google Chromecast with Google TV streaming device and for you gamers out there, I even gave Red Dead Redemption 2 another shot on my ps4 and I gotta tell you, I still don’t like it.
SAMSUNG Q950T SOUNDBAR SET UP
Setting up the Q950t soundbar for the first time it’s actually pretty straightforward. There’s just two things that I want to make you aware of and both of them have to do with the surround sound speakers. First the power cord for the surround speakers plugs into the bottom of the speaker itself.
Now this isn’t a big deal and Samsung does give you the appropriate cables to do this but they’re not the longest and because we don’t always have power outlets where we may want them, you’re either going to have to use an extension cord, or you may be shopping for a third party cable that will stretch to your nearest outlet like I did.
Just know that if you’re going to go with a third party cable, you need to make sure that the end is a 90 degree and a figure eight style. Do that you should be fine but understand that some third party cords may not sit completely flush with the bottom of the speaker, and the second note, once you plug in the surround sound speakers if they don’t automatically sync with the main bar, know that there is a small, well labelled buttons on the bottom of the bar itself.
You push that and the surrounds should sync with the rest of the system. Now, a lot of times, this does happen automatically but if it doesn’t, a small button at the bottom of the bar. We’re going to be in business. And the good news is that once the surrounds sync with the system, you shouldn’t experience any dropouts because in our testing, we actually didn’t encounter any.
The q950t can be handled a number of ways; the most common are going to be using the included remote control which is pretty basic, but robust enough to get the job done, especially if you’re already a Samsung user. You’ll probably be able to use your existing televisions remote at least for volume up and down because it has control over HDMI.
And the third way is the Samsung SmartThings app now. I think the app is pretty good, but it’s arguably the best way to customise the soundbar to your liking though admittedly, this is not the most customizable soundbar on the market right now. Yes, there are tone controls, there’s things like subwoofer level, things like that, if you want to go beyond that. If you want to have access to, say, an EQ, the only way to do that is through the standard sound profile, using the app.
Of course if you are an Alexa power user, you can control the soundbar with your voice via Alexa. Speaking of sound profiles, there are four; standard sound, surround ,game and adaptive. Standard is how it sounds. It’s just the standard profile and it is my least favourite of the four as I just find it way too directional sounding. Now for whatever reason, if you’re in standard mode, you have access to higher EQ functionality and Samsung gives you that functionality at the expense of spaciousness, so I just don’t recommend standard.
I like surround sound mode. It’s my second favourite option. It does a really good job especially when you’re using the surround speakers at approximating a discrete home theatre system. Now the game mode feels to me a lot like a variation of surround though there is a little bit more directional emphasis to its sound, which for some games might be a very good thing.
Adaptive sound is the q950t’s secret sauce and my favourite profile by a country mile. It tailors the sound of the sound bar to whatever the content is that you’re watching and listening to but unlike other smart sound features found on other sound bars, the Samsung adaptive sound actually manages to sound good.
BEST PROFILE FOR MUSIC
For music I did prefer surround as I felt that surround just came across a little bit more like a traditional two channel sound whereas adaptive got to be just a little bit too spacious, but for everything else other than two channel music, adaptive sound is where it’s at.
When presented with a Dolby Atmos signal, the Samsung q950t sort of takes back control in terms of customization which is fine; Dolby Atmos soundtracks sounded absolutely fantastic and the it came dangerously close to matching the standard set by our soundbar Of The Year, the Sennheiser ambeo.
And that was kind of surprising because for a soundbar that uses smaller drivers or just smaller in general, it got within spitting distance and I especially was impressed by its mid range and mid bass weight as I just wasn’t really expecting that from the q950T and dynamically it is fantastic.
It has a lot of get up and go and you can especially feel this in the opening moments of films like six underground or the climactic battle sequence of 1917 though at extremely high volumes with these types of intensive action sequences, I could detect the subtlest sense of a limiter. The limiter appears to keep the drivers from distorting or damaging themselves at incredibly high volumes and limiters are common inside a lot of electronics, especially sound bars, at least the sound bars that we have tested though.
This one does seem to play a lot louder before the limiter kicks in and the roll off when it does kick in is pretty pleasing unlike the kind of harsh stop that you get with our LG, though admittedly, you can sort of defeat the limiter on the LG but you can’t on the Samsung q950 t.
DOES DOLBY ATMOS MAKE A DIFFERENCE ?
Aside from some very minor dynamic compression, the sound of the q950 t with Dolby Atmos soundtracks is just epic. This soundbar system sounds a lot like a traditional home theatre speaker system than it does a sound bar, and the sense of spaciousness that you get laterally is just room defying; Not to mention the overhead cues from those Atmos modules are completely discernible and welcomed with respect to dialogue.
A dialogue clarity that comes out of the Q950i is good though admittedly it’s not quite as forward or pronounced as say our LG or the ambeo, so if you’re looking for a very balanced linear sort of sound, I would suggest you do look at Samsung but if you’re suffering from a little bit of hearing loss, or like your dialogue just out in front, just a little bit more, then I think you’re gonna find the LG, and ambeo more to your liking though.
You can pretty much tailor the ambeo to be however you want so it can go either way. And it’s not just Dolby Atmos soundtracks that impressed me the most; both Dolby Digital and Dolby true HD soundtracks sounded great both in surround and adaptive sound modes. And the thing I just kept coming back to with the Samsung was just how right it sounded at least in our room.
Sure I experimented with the bass and treble controls as well as subwoofer level but I just kept coming back to Samsung’s default settings. So, if you are in the market, first sort of plug and play the sound bar, I think you’re going to find the Samsung q950 t and its adaptive sound mode to be a really good fit.
And for music it did a great job though I did prefer listening to music in its surround sound mode. Even with or without the surround sound speakers surround mode just did a better job at approximating that more traditional two channel stereo light performance now. The main bar doesn’t orally disappear quite in the same way the Sennheiser ambeo can but it gets very close.
What impressed me was that the soundstage when listening to music in surround mode just extended, way, way far back and had a real kind of arc like shape to it and this was on full display when listening to music from, say, Go Go penguins and their latest album. It also has surprising vertical dispersion as well and this lends a bit of height to both instruments and performers rather than relegating them all to the sort of linear plane.
Bass is very good. I may not like the styling of the subwoofer but I cannot fault its performance down. It hits these nodes with some authority though it admittedly is loud at the extremes. The bass can be just a little bit one note but overall the subwoofer is just very very punchy and dynamic and one of the more impressive soundbar subs that I have encountered in recent memory.
Maybe it’s not as good as a 10 inch subwoofer that comes with the Klipsch cinema 600, but it’s definitely a close second. Mid range again is a very natural and organic feeling for a sound bar. Now the high frequencies are pristine, very detailed and clean; they’re definitely enhanced by the use of DSP but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. They’re not the most eerie or extended in terms of decay, but they aren’t never fatiguing even at high volume so I’ll take that trade off.
Circling back to how the Samsung 950 t works with other televisions, when connecting to another Samsung TV, the convenience factor there really isn’t much that you have to do by way of setup other than just turn both your TV and the soundbar on.
SAMSUNG Q950T WITH SONY X950H
I just thought that was amazing. I loved the option of not having to use an HDMI cable in order to enjoy movies and music. And what was even better was that through a wireless connection, I experienced absolutely no lag. Now connecting this soundbar to the Sony x950 h was a different story. That wasn’t the best pairing. In fact there were communication errors all over the place and oftentimes I would not be able to control the soundbar via the Sony remote, and it just got to be frustrating.
Q950T WITH LG TELEVISION 8K
The LG fared way better, and was on par with the Samsung in terms of functionality though I will admit that you’re probably going to want to rely on an HDMI connection between any TV not named Samsung. In terms of comparable products like I said earlier in this review, the q 950 t gets within spitting distance of our reference ambio.
What I think hurts it is its lack of customization though I will admit I can see it set it and forget it nature to be very popular with a wide range of consumers, not to mention it’s smaller size and finish which is probably going to integrate into more living spaces than say the ambeo.
Now compared to the LG soundbar, the LG is a little bit more forward, a little bit more pronounced in the mid range and treble though unlike the Samsung, you have a little bit more customization of the LG so you can sort of get around this foreignness if you want. Plus you can also somewhat, if not completely disable the LG’s limiter unlike the Samsung which opens things up quite a bit dynamically.
The LG subwoofer simply isn’t as good as the Samsung’s and when it comes to fit and finish and build quality, I think the Samsung is better. So if you’re in the market for a sound bar system around the LG or Samsung’s price, they’re very evenly matched but for me. I would give the nod to Samsung now compared to the JBL bar 9.1.
The two sound bars that i have mentioned and the JBL bar have very similar traits but I’m going to give the nod to Samsung, even though it’s surround sound speakers aren’t truly wireless, I just think that it’s the better buy, overall.
But let’s say that you don’t need a 9.1.4 soundbar, maybe you’re on a little bit more of a tighter budget.
Q950T VS KLIPSCH CINEMA 600
Well this is very interesting because just in terms of sound, I actually think the cinema 600 is very good, very similar in many respects to the q950 t. Also I think the Klipsch has the better subwoofer. It’s just the one that’s bigger, it’s more musical and more textural which I like.
Though it can’t quite compete with say Samsung’s outright deep grunt, but again if you are on a budget and maybe you don’t need a big full blown Atmos system and you are in the market for a sound bar solution that hovers around say the $1500 mark depending on where you shop, I think your list can start and stop with the Samsung q950 t soundbar.
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