He has been announced a long time ago but recently he is in Dutch stores; the HW-K950. This is one of the first soundbars that has Dolby Atmos, comes with two wireless speakers and has various streaming options. In this review we look at the Samsung HW-K950.
What is the Samsung HW-K950?
The Samsung HW-K950 is a soundbar equipped with Dolby Atmos support, which means you get a ‘3D sound experience’ with a sleek soundbar, a wireless subwoofer and two wireless speakers for the back of the room. Samsung calls it a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos system, where the soundbar and speakers at the rear also send audio towards the ceiling.
In a ‘real’ Dolby Atmos setup you have speakers hanging from the ceiling but most people are not waiting for this. An alternative are loudspeakers that direct the audio towards the ceiling and allow the audio objects to rise above the listening position by means of reflection. A real soundbar we can not call this system because you have to lose the two speakers at the back, plus the wireless subwoofer. For the complete package you also need to get deep into the pouch; the suggested retail price is 1.499 euros.
Design and connections
The Samsung HW-K950 soundbar is delivered in a huge box, but of course the subwoofer and the wireless speakers are in the back. Nevertheless, the HW-K950 is not the smallest soundbar we have ever seen, with a size of over 120 centimeters wide, 8 centimeters high and 13 centimeters deep. With a weight of 6.7 kilograms it is certainly not the lightest we have ever seen. But, that of course has its reasons as the soundbar is packed with speakers and features.
What is immediately noticeable is that Samsung has not given this model a curved design; just simple and one sleek device. This is not very strange as the Korean manufacturer has already put a lot less curved screens on the market this year. The HW-K950 fits just as well with these screens but will not follow the curve in the screen. The soundbar also has a rather minimalistic design, without bells and whistles. The speakers have a gray finish, with a slightly darker grill that is half transparent. The device does not dominate in space in terms of design and we can always appreciate that. Everything is also very nicely finished, with good build quality and high-quality materials such as metal.
The two surround speakers that come with the same design; gray finished with a metal grill. However, it must be said here that wireless is not completely wireless. They communicate wirelessly with the soundbar, but still have to be supplied with electricity by means of a cable. So you need two sockets and the power cable from the speakers is on the short side. Although the soundbar comes with brackets to hang it on the wall, you have to find a solution for the surround speakers yourself. It is advisable to hang it up or put it on a stand. The subwoofer is also ‘wireless’, which means that only a cable for the power supply has to be laid. The device has been given a matte black finish and – according to Samsung – must be placed next to the TV.
The soundbar itself is equipped with various connections, which are located in notches under the device. Here we see two hdmi inputs and one hdmi arc output with 4K Ultra HD support and hdcp 2.2 back, an optical digital input and an analog 3.5mm input. There is also a microUSB port and of course wireless communication takes place via WiFi and bluetooth. Samsung offers all the connectivity options but for this price we would have liked to see one or two extra HDMI inputs so you can really get everything done optimally. The soundbar is equipped with a number of buttons on the right side. This allows you to control the volume, select the source and switch the device on or off.
There is also a small but handy remote control included, which has the looks of the remote that this year with the TVs from Samsung is delivered. The accessory is small but comfortable in the hand and is neatly finished. You will find all basic functions on it so you can get started quickly. The volume button and woofer button are different than we are used to, but make it possible to adjust the volume by tapping up and down.
Installation and configuration
Connecting the Samsung HW-K950 is a piece of cake, especially if you want to make the most of the Dolby Atmos possibilities. You connect the soundbar via HDMI to your (Ultra HD) Blu-ray player and also connect the TV via hdmi (arc). There are several ways to link your soundbar with devices and you.
Then you can pair the speakers and subwoofer with the soundbar, provided you have found a good place to place them. The surround speakers should be hung / placed slightly above ear height, preferably at least one meter away and not be placed at an angle but slightly behind the listening position. Now that is not possible in every room but it pays to look at the possibilities. The speakers and the subwoofer are automatically linked to the soundbar, but if something goes wrong, you have the option to pair them manually. You can also put the soundbar in front of the TV (if it is high enough) or hang it under the TV with the supplied brackets. Note that there is still space above the soundbar so that the speakers can sound in the direction of the ceiling.
Unfortunately, there is no automatic calibration function that lets you adjust the audio output by looking at the room’s acoustics, among other things. The standard setting for the speakers is not optimal for every room so it is wise to get started with the levels of the speakers. For each channel (also the height channels of the speakers and the soundbar) you can set the level in dB and it pays to sit here for a while. For example, if the surround speakers are close to the listening position, it is wise to make them a lot softer so that they do not dominate. Note that the surround speakers (probably due to their wireless connection) can display some static noise. If you are really close to the speakers, this is audible.
You can operate the Samsung HW-K950 in different ways. As described above, a number of buttons on the soundbar give direct access to the basic functions and you have the possibility to operate the soundbar with the included remote control. You can also use the Samsung Multiroom app for the operation. However, the remote control is the most convenient for installation and configuration because it allows you to determine the levels of the speakers and even adjust the display of certain frequencies. The standard operation can be done with both the app and the remote control.
The Multiroom app from Samsung offers various possibilities to let your music sound over the speakers. Almost all popular music services are present, including Spotify, Deezer, Tidal and Qobuz. In addition, you can stream music from a NAS or DLNA server in the home towards the speaker and play music from your mobile device. There is also support for high-res audio formats, which we naturally demand in this price category. If WiFi is not an option, you can easily stream music to the soundbar via bluetooth. The Multiroom app has, of course, another function in its name; pair other Samsung multiroom speakers and you can show audio throughout your home. The app is easy to use, well structured and above all stable and fast.
Of course we tried content from different sources and although almost everything runs smoothly, it is noticeable that DTS is not supported at all. It is a Dolby Atmos soundbar, but support for DTS: X , or at least DTS HD Master Audio, was desirable. The maximum that Samsung offers is support for two-channel DTS, but that is a shame when you want to view content with a DTS soundtrack. Nowadays, most films feature a Dolby soundtrack and otherwise both Dolby and DTS, but we still see quite a few DTS soundtracks in our collection. You can catch this by sending the audio track as PCM to the soundbar.
A soundbar has not often convinced us when it comes to surround sound and we are already skeptical when we see the term Dolby Atmos. But, on paper we gave Samsung some confidence, partly because there are two extra speakers in the back of the room to be placed. Samsung with the Dolby Atmos modules pointing upwards might work this.
We have therefore subjected the soundbar directly to the most important test; the Dolby Atos soundtracks from Deadpool, the 5th Wave and Everest. Especially the latter demands a lot from a home cinema system, especially from the surround speakers and the subwoofer. In general, we are very impressed with the Samsung HW-K950. This powerful system has passed this test very well. Adding the surround speakers has been a very good decision and makes the Dolby Atmos effect a hundred times more convincing than when only a soundbar is set up. If you make sure that these surround speakers are placed correctly, you will be presented with a convincing, dynamic and sleek Atmos experience that will actually get you into a movie. Objects move smoothly through space and you no longer have the idea that a certain sound comes from a specific speaker, the idea behind Dolby Atmos.
The dialogues remain intact, the effects sound tight and convincing and there is enough low to get you shuffled. However, the subwoofer is not the best speaker in this system; it can be slightly tighter and more accurate, and it is also possible that the woofer will dominate. This is especially with higher volumes or with a placement that is not ideal (experiment with this). All in all, we are really impressed with the Atmos experience this system offers, especially because of the sparkle that is in the sound. With small satellite speakers we often get the feeling that the sound is ‘locked up’ and therefore makes too little impression, but that is not the case at all here. The audio from the surrounds comes alive, clear and sparkling. It is also important to mention that the sweet spot is quite wide. This means that wherever you sit on a couch, you get a convincing surround experience with a wide sound field. Normal Dolby (TrueHD, Digital, etc) sources also sound impressive. With the virtual surround modes you can switch on all speakers for a sound in which you are submerged. Samsung has mastered this ‘upmixing’ and almost makes you think you have to deal with a real Atmos soundtrack.
For music, the HW-K950 certainly does not disappoint, but it is clear that this system is mainly focused on film. The subwoofer shows music with some musical qualities, but we have to make the same comments here; it may be slightly tighter and more accurate, something that is even more important in music. We prefer not to use the surround speakers for music (you can always switch on the virtual surround mode) and with stereo sound the soundbar can keep up perfectly. The sound field is wide and subtle details in the music are easy to distinguish. Yet we lack some dynamics in the middle; it is a bit flat and lifeless at times, both in terms of instruments and in terms of vocals. It may be our hi-fi ear, but in this area we had just expected more dynamic and fireworks. The speaker stands firm at high volume; no distortion can be observed and you can give a party with peace of mind.
All in all, the Samsung HW-K950 is one of the best soundbars we have heard and seen to date. This system knows, especially thanks to the extra speakers, a convincing surround effect with a lot of height, width and depth. In addition, the whole is equipped with a sleek and just finished design, various connection options and sufficient options for streaming your media. Also the operation is a piece of cake. Nevertheless, there are certainly points for improvement. The lack of support for DTS is unfortunate, and we had also seen some more HDMI inputs for 1,499 euros. In addition, the soundbar is particularly impressive with films and series. When the music is played, the soundbar still performs fine, but there are better options for this money. The Samsung HW-K950 is a flexible and impressive sounding system and when you’re looking for a real home cinema experience without a lot of cables you should not miss your wish list.