Samsung soundbar sound modes

Samsung soundbar sound modes DEFAULT

Samsung HW-QA review: Samsung TV users will get the most out of this Dolby Atmos soundbar

Sound modes

The HW-QA comes with four main sound modes: Standard, Surround, Game Pro, and Adaptive. The Standard mode is akin to the “Direct” mode on other soundbars, meaning that channel audio sources aren’t upmixed to full-on channel sound. The Surround mode does upmix everything, including stereo sources, to sound.

Game Pro Mode is optimized to deliver “3D directional audio” for gamers, while Adaptive Sound mode analyzes the sound and intelligently optimizes it depending on what you’re watching or listening to. Adaptive Sound mode also boosts the dialogue, while both Adaptive Sound and Game Pro mode upmix all audio sources to channel sound.

As I mentioned earlier, the SmartThings app offers a few more sound options, including a dialogue-boosting voice enhancement mode, a bass booster mode (which I left disabled, given that the QA’s subwoofer already cranks out more bass than you’ll need), and a night mode that narrows the dynamic range of the sound for late-night viewing sessions.


I put the Samsung HW-QA through its paces with a variety of video and music content. For starters, I played the UHD Blu-rays for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (which has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack) and Apollo 13 (which has DTS:X audio), as well as the standard Blu-ray of Titanic (DTS-HD Master Audio sound), and Top Gun (Dolby Atmos) on the iTunes movie store. My wife and I also binge-watched Younger on Paramount+ to see how the QA handled dialogue-heavy content.

Overall, I’d call the QA’s sound tight and precise, as well as immersive without quite making it into “thrilling” territory. (The addition of Samsung’s rear speaker kit might tip the scales, however.) The QA’s subwoofer kicked into hyperdrive as the Millennium Falcon roared past a trio of pursuing Tie Fighters in The Empire Strikes Back, leading me to dial back the subwoofer level about three or four notches; even then, the sub remained a tad boomy, but not overpoweringly so. Height effects were present but not in-your-face, particularly as chunks of snow clattered through the crushed ceiling of the Rebel base on Hoth, and as Luke cleverly blew up an Imperial Walker after tossing a grenade inside and dropping to safety.

Switching to Apollo 13, the QA delivered James Horner’s rousing score with power and finesse, while the Saturn V’s fiery exhaust felt like it was billowing all around me, even without physical surround speakers (although to be clear, the QA’s virtual surround effects can’t match the audio from actual surround speakers). For Titanic, the clunking of the great ship’s pistons was deep and robust, while the hiss as the bow sliced through the sea was sharp and airy (which means the QA’s height-channel upmixer was doing its job). And in the opening credits of Top Gun, I liked the precise metallic clinks on the deck of the aircraft carrier as “Danger Zone” blared on the soundtrack.

Just as it’s billed, Adaptive works as a solid jack-of-all-trades, although it has its trade-offs. The mode deftly handled a range of content, from beefy film soundtracks to sitcoms, and it does help the dialogue—including whispered lines—to cut through ambient noise. For example, Adaptive Mode helped ensure we didn’t miss any witty banter in Younger as a pair of fans whirred in our steamy Brooklyn apartment. But for Top Gun, Adaptive Mode made the dialogue sound too harsh; in that case, I switched back to Surround Mode—indeed, I found myself switching back and forth between the two modes during my testing, with varying results.

For music, I queued up a grab bag of tunes from Apple Music, from Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen to Ciara and Shostakovich, and streamed them to the soundbar via AirPlay 2. Taylor Swift’s “The 1,” from Folklore, sounded warm and smooth in Adaptive Mode, but—as with some movies—the mode pushed Taylor’s vocals to the point of harshness, so I ended up sticking with Standard Mode (which, remember, doesn’t upmix stereo content to , keeping it instead at ). With that tweak, I was pretty happy with music on the QA, with The Boss’s spare acoustics and vocals in “The Ghost of Tom Joad” sounding tactile and alive, while the pounding timpani heralding the fourth movement of Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1 feeling big and bold, but not overcooked.

As for Game Pro Mode, I tried it while hunting a Rakna-Kadaki in Monster Hunter Rise for Nintendo Switch, and it was… OK, I guess? I honestly couldn’t detect much difference between Game Pro Mode and Surround Mode; then again, the heavily compressed audio of Switch games like Rise makes it difficult to fairly judge the QA’s gaming audio prowess. 

Bottom line

I can understand why Samsung’s Q Symphony feature, which syncs the QA’s drivers with the built-in speakers on a TV, only works with Samsung sets; after all, it’s a little much to ask that such a feature work with the speakers on any TV. But designing the SpaceFit room calibration feature so it depends on a Samsung display is more disappointing, given that other soundbar manufacturers offer room calibration (which is becoming more common in this price range) independent of other hardware. For that reason, owners of LG, Sony, Vizio, or other TV brands might want to consider their options (such as the Sonos Arc, or the sensational Vizio Elevate) before going with the QA.

Still, I can’t argue with the QA’s sound, physical design, or its AirPlay 2, Dolby Atmos, and DTS:X compatibility, and (once Samsung irons out the volume kinks) built-in Alexa means you’ll have a voice assistant in yet another room in your home. It’s also nice having the option of starting with a channel soundbar and upgrading later if and when you’re ready. So while I’m giving the HW-QA a mixed recommendation for most TV owners, Samsung users should put it near the top of their lists.

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  • With its tight, precise, and immersive sound, the Samsung HW-QA makes for a compelling, compact, and feature-packed soundbar, although some of its best tricks are reserved for those with Samsung TVs and phones.


    • Tight, precise sound
    • Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, AirPlay 2, and Spotify Connect support
    • Built-in Alexa
    • Low-profile design


    • Q-Symphony and room-correction features only work with Samsung TVs
    • Only one HDMI input (besides HDMI-eARC)
    • Alexa gets shout-y if the main volume is too loud

Ben has been writing about technology and consumer electronics for more than 20 years. A PCWorld contributor since , Ben joined TechHive in , where he covers smart home and home entertainment products.


Samsung&#;s new soundbars adjust settings to onscreen content in real time

Samsung took the wraps off a series of two new home theater soundbars that have a unique feature: They can automatically adjust their EQ and other settings to provide a better sound experience based on the video that is displayed on the screen.

The HW-Q70R (price unannounced) and HW-Q60R ($), developed in conjunction with Harman Kardon (which Samsung bought in ), both feature wireless subwoofers, and Samsung&#;s new Adaptive Sound Mode. “Through Adaptive Sound, which understands the sound and optimizes it according to the scene, listeners can enjoy even more realistic sound for every genre of content,” Jongsuk Chu, Executive Vice President of Visual Display Business at Samsung Electronics, said in a news release. The feature works with any connected TV but is automatically engaged when these soundbars are directly connected to Samsung QLED TVs, which have their A.I. mode turned on.

At the moment, it&#;s not entirely clear how Adaptive Sound Mode differs from the company&#;s Smart Sound Mode (available on the less expensive HW-R), which it also claims can automatically adjust to onscreen content.

The pair of soundbars make use of Samsung&#;s acoustic beam technology, which generates a wider, more immersive sound field through small, directional holes drilled into the speaker cabinet, and they are compatible with an optional wireless surround speaker kit. Both models have Bluetooth and USB audio connectivity, and 4K HDR passthrough when connected to 4K Ultra HD sources like Ultra HD Blu-ray players.

The HW-Q70R goes a step further, adding both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, features that were previously only available in much more expensive Samsung models, like the excellent HW-N It also has a slimmer profile, standing only inches tall, which should prevent it from obscuring the bottom portion of TVs that have short built-in stands. Unlike the N, neither of these new models come with voice assistant support from Alexa, Google Assistant, or even Samsung&#;s own Bixby.

The HW-Q70R and Q60R come with their own dedicated remotes, but if you own a Samsung QLED with a One Remote, it can control these soundbars directly over HDMI-CEC.

Both the HW-Q70R and Q60R will be available for delivery in April, but the HW-Q60R can be ordered on Samsung&#;s website right now.

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The Samsung HW-Q90R was the brand's all-singing, all-dancing flagship soundbar for – and in , it's still our top pick for the best soundbar you can buy.  It not only supports object-based audio in the shape of both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, it's the only model to achieve this with actual rear speakers and four upward-firing drivers.

However confusing model number aside, the HW-Q90R seems very similar to last year’s HW-N The new soundbar boasts a redesigned subwoofer, and adds Active Sound and Game Pro modes, but otherwise there’s little between them.

So is it worth paying a premium for the new HW-Q90R, or are you better off looking for a deal on the end-of-line HW-N? Let’s find out…



Dimensions & Weight (Soundbar): (w) x 83(h) x (d)mm; kg | Dimensions & Weight (Wireless Speakers): (w) x (h) x (d)mm; 2kg | Dimensions & Weight (Subwoofer): (w) x (h) x (d)mm; kg | Speaker configuration: | Claimed audio power: W | Connections: 2 x HDMI inputs, 1 x HDMI output, optical digital audio input, USB (service only), Bluetooth and WiFi 

If the Samsung HW-Q90R looks familiar that’s because it’s identical to last year’s HW-N That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as this is a cleverly-designed and well-made unit that boasts metal grilles and a ‘Carbon Silver’ finish - but it might be one reason that you could consider buying last year's N instead.

That said, both are fairly wide soundbars, making them ideal for today’s big screen TVs. However despite its size, the HW-Q90 manages to remain unassuming in its appearance. You’ll need plenty of space to position it under your TV, but if that’s an issue there’s also the option of wall mounting.

There’s a simple LED display that lights up when the soundbar receives a command, providing basic information. There are also some controls on the top centre of the soundbar for powering it on and off, selecting inputs, and adjusting the volume.

The provided remote is identical to last year’s controller, but if it ain’t broke, why fix it? It remains an ergonomically-designed zapper, with all the necessary buttons to make operating the HW-Q90R an effective and highly intuitive process.

The left and right rear speakers sport the same design and metal grilles as the main unit. Each speaker has forward- and upward-firing drivers for the top rear left and right channels, along with built-in amplification. The latter means that while they are wireless, you will need to plug them in.

The redesigned subwoofer uses a side-firing 8-inch driver, backed up by a rear bass port. The finish matches the rest of the system, with revised dimensions intended to improve the bass response and overall control compared to last year.

Design TL;DR: The HW-Q90R retains the unassuming design and high-end build quality of last year’s model, along with the same highly effective remote control.


The Samsung HW-Q90R’s headline feature is support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X (and variants thereof). However, what makes it different than other 'bars you've seen before is the ability to deliver these object-based audio formats using a genuine channel setup, rather than resorting to acoustic beaming or psychoacoustics.

To achieve this feat there are 12 speakers (including the subwoofer), using a total of 17 drivers. The front three channels use three drivers each – two woofers and a wide range tweeter – with all the other channels based on a single driver.

The speakers are divided into 12 channels: front left and right, centre, two sides, two rears, two front heights, a pair of rear heights, and a sub. All these speakers are driven by W of built-in amplification, and the system has a claimed frequency response of 34Hz to 17kHz.

One criticism of the HW-Q90 is that despite the sophistication of its object-based decoding and multichannel delivery, the actual setup is fairly basic. While that makes installation straightforward, it does mean getting the best from the system can be a bit tricky. It would be nice to see Samsung add some form of auto calibration to ensure everything is performing optimally.

In terms of connections there are two HDMI inputs and an output, all of which support 4K/60p, , Rec, High Dynamic Range (HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision), 3D and HDCP That should ensure the Samsung can handle whatever you throw at it. It’s a common complaint, but two HDMI inputs seems stingy considering the price.

The only other physical connection is an optical digital input but there are a number of wireless options, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so it can double up as a Bluetooth speaker. However there’s no support for Chromecast or Apple AirPlay, which is a disappointing on a high-end soundbar.

Samsung subsidiary Harman Kardon was actively involved in the development of the HW-Q90R, tuning the soundbar to ensure it’s as good with music as it is with multi-channel audio. In addition there are four sound modes this year: Standard, Surround, Game Pro, and Adaptive Sound.

The Standard modes delivers the audio as encoded, while the Surround modes upmixes it to take advantage of all the available channels. The other two modes are new this year, with the Game Pro mode making playing more involved, and the Adaptive Sound mode analysing the content and changing the processing on the fly.

As you’d expect from a modern soundbar, it can handle all the popular audio formats including AAC, WAV, OGG, ALAC, AIFF and FLAC, with high-resolution support up to bit. It also includes UHQ bit upscaling for high quality audio playback from compatible smart devices.

As with most other Samsung products there’s support for the SmartThings app - this makes setup easier and allows you to control the soundbar along with other connected devices from a single hub. The HW-Q90 also works with Amazon Alexa, providing hands-free control and enabling you to listen to music via Spotify Connect.

Features TL;DR: This feature-packed soundbar decodes Atmos and DTS:X in a channel configuration, and also supports Hi-Res Audio, Amazon Alexa, and Adaptive Sound.


Since the main reason for buying the Samsung HW-Q90R is its immersive audio skill set, it might seem strange to start by listening to some two-channel music. However it’s an important test of a soundbar’s capabilities, and if it sounds good in stereo those qualities should still be reflected as you add more channels. 

In general the Standard sound mode works best with music, and The Waterboys’ new album Where the Action Is provides plenty of opportunities for the Samsung to reveal a superbly nuanced sonic performance. The sheer size of the soundbar allows for excellent separation between the left and right speakers, which results in some impressive stereo imaging and precise location of instruments.

There is an aggressive punky delivery to the song London Mick, which seems appropriate since the song is about Mick Jones from The Clash. The soundbar delivers the driving guitar riff with plenty of midrange presence, the vocals growl, and the excellent subwoofer provides a tight and controlled foundation to the drums that propel the song.

Moving on to something a little more multichannel in nature, The Expanse on Amazon Prime has an excellent mix that makes extensive use of both the surrounds and the sub. The crowded space stations and asteroid worlds make full use of the rear channels to generate a sense of claustrophobia, while the sub adds low frequencies to the space scenes to create the feeling of being in a vacuum. However, the dedicated centre speaker also ensures that dialogue always remains clear and focused on the action.

The Adaptive Sound mode is skilful at teasing more detail out of the soundtrack, but tends to work best with sports broadcasts or dialogue driven programming. For something like The Expanse, the Surround mode is a good choice because it up-mixes the soundtrack to use the overhead channels, creating a more enveloping experience.

Unsurprisingly, the HW-Q90 really outdid itself when delivering object-based audio soundtracks such as Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. In the case of the former, the recreation of Live Aid at the end of Bohemian Rhapsody makes use of all the available channels to create the scale of a massive rock show. The front two channels handle the music, with the side-firing drivers helping to add more width. The rears provide the sound of the audience, while the overheads recreate the echoey chasm of the old Wembley Stadium.

The soundbar’s musicality really comes to fore here, helping to deliver the Queen songs with all the precision and clarity the format can muster. The bass is particularly effective, both supporting the overall soundtrack and helping to drive the songs forward as the Atmos mix produces a wall of sound. However within that wall, Freddie’s operatic vocals remain clear and focused.

Atomic Blonde has a brutal DTS:X soundtrack that kicks like a mule when the action starts. Whether its a car cash, an explosion, or a fistfight down a staircase, the HW-Q90 reproduces each kick, punch and gunshot with remarkable precision. Once again the sub comes into its own, giving the hits a visceral quality and underscoring the action. However the soundbar’s musical quality also plays a part, making all the 80s songs in the film sound better than ever.

Performance TL;DR: This excellent package sounds great with music and even better with immersive audio, thanks to a setup that delivers object-based audio without resorting to trickery. 


At first glance, the Samsung HW-Q90R appears rather expensive for a soundbar. However, once you consider its capabilities, you start to realise it offers surprising value. If you wanted to build an equivalent channel system using separates, you’d find it hard to achieve for less than the cost of this soundbar/speaker/sub combo. You’d need a nine-channel AV receiver and matching speaker and subwoofer package, which might sound better but would ultimately cost more and be harder to install. 

The Samsung HW-Q90R exists in a class of its own, which makes recommending alternatives rather tricky. There are literally no other soundbar packages that deliver a genuine channel experience using wireless rear speakers and four upwards firing drivers.

That limits possible alternatives, although you could look at the Sony HT-FZ9, the LG SL10YG, and the Yamaha YSP All are cheaper but lack actual rear speakers (or even a sub in the case of the Yamaha), so the soundstage produced tends to be very front heavy.

If you want a genuinely immersive experience but hope to save some money, your best bet is last year’s Samsung HW-N It's virtually identical and remains an excellent choice for those wanting the full object-based experience with the minimum of fuss.

Final verdict

The Samsung HW-Q90R is a fantastic immersive audio soundbar that delivers real bang for your buck. Thanks to a wireless subwoofer, wireless rear speakers, and four upward-firing drivers, this well-made and cleverly designed package puts you right in the action.

No other soundbar comes close to producing the full Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience, and thanks to tuning from Harman Kardon the HW-Q90 even sounds good with music. A decent set of features and fully-specified HDMI connections complete a nearly flawless package. 


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