Samsung HW-Q930B Soundbar Review

Samsung’s second-tier soundbar steps up its surround sound game

SRP: £1,099.00
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

Samsung HW-Q930B Soundbar Review

Having to make your mark in the wake of something as class-leading as the recently reviewed Samsung HW-Q990B soundbar just isn’t a position any home entertainment product wants to find itself in. Yet that’s exactly the challenge facing Samsung’s step-down soundbar for 2022, the HW-Q930B. It doesn’t help advance expectations of the Q930B that Samsung’s track record with its second-tier soundbars suggests a substantial step-down in spec - especially when it comes to the number of channels on offer. It soon becomes apparent, though, that the Q930B is quite the upgrade from previous Samsung stepdown soundbars, in terms of both the features it supports and the sound quality it delivers.

The Good

  • Delivers a full surround sound experience
  • Lots of power, dynamism and detail
  • Both Dolby Vision and HDR10+ pass through
  • Appealing metal design
  • Better value than the Q990B

The not so good

  • The subwoofer struggles with music playback
  • No 4K/120Hz or VRR pass through
  • Doesn’t deliver as complete a Dolby Atmos soundstage as the Q990B

What is the Samsung HW-Q930B?

The Samsung HW-Q930B is a premium (£1,099) soundbar that sits one rung below the flagship Q990B on Samsung’s 2022 soundbar ‘ladder’.

In previous years, this level of Samsung’s soundbar range would have seen us having to accept a significant step down in features and performance - not least because it would have seen Samsung moving to a two-component system comprising just the main soundbar and a subwoofer, with rear speakers only available as an optional extra rather than being included in the price.

... Samsung has, for arguably the first time, properly thought through the Q930B as a proper surround sound step down from its flagship model

Unexpectedly, though, this tradition is broken in pretty spectacular fashion by the Q930B. This model not only includes physical rear speakers in the box, but also fits up-firing as well as forward-firing drivers into those surprise new rears. So now, if anything, rather than as usual slightly ruing how much of a compromise Samsung’s step down soundbar is compared with its flagship sibling, maybe this time round we need to be asking if the Q990B flagship actually adds enough extra quality to justify its £500 price hike over its step down sibling.

Samsung HW-Q930B
The Samsung HW-Q930B soundbar incudes a wireless subwoofer and wireless rear speakers

Design, Connections and Control

The HW-Q930B represents a design surprise in multiple ways. For starters, to reiterate this key point, it comprises four physical components rather than just the two we might have expected from experience of previous Samsung soundbar ranges. That’s the main front soundbar, a subwoofer, and the unexpected two rear speakers.

That’s the same number of physical components you get with the flagship Q990B. What’s more, the Q930B’s main soundbar and rears both benefit from the metallic finish Samsung resurrected for the Q990B, in place of the dust-attracting fabric Samsung has preferred for the previous couple of years.

Another unexpected difference finds the main Q930B soundbar markedly smaller than the one you get with the Q990B. That’s 1110.7(w) x 60.4(h) x 120(d)mm versus 1232(w) x 69.5(h) x 138(d)mm. Samsung’s step-down soundbars usually get pretty much the same main soundbar found with the premium soundbar system, minus the rears.

Samsung HW-Q930B
The Q930B soundbar from a number of orientations

As well as suggesting that the Q930B is a more bespoke and hopefully balanced product than Samsung’s previous step-down soundbars, this smaller main soundbar could also appeal to people whose TV or furniture design makes it hard to accommodate the Q990B’s bigger main unit.

At first glance, the Q930B’s rears look identical to those you get with the Q990B. They’re the same size, and sport the same grilled metallic finish. It turns out, though, that they’re missing the side-firing drivers found in the Q990B’s rears. This means the Q930B drops its channel count to 9.1.4 from the Q990B’s 11.1.4 count. That’s still 14 discrete and real (not virtual) channels of sound for the Q930B, though, which is a remarkably high number for a £1,099 soundbar.

The Q930B’s subwoofer differs from the Q990B’s by not sporting an acoustic lens. So there’s no sound-dispersing/regulating ‘cover’ standing proud of the main woofer. It still gets a meaty-looking 8-inch woofer, but the output of this woofer won’t benefit from the extra control and clarity the Q990B’s acoustic lens is designed to create.

The net result of all the Q930B’s various changes creates a sense that Samsung has, for arguably the first time, properly thought through the Q930B as a proper surround sound step down from its flagship model. A decision which yields sound quality gold, as we’ll see later.

The Q930B’s connections, however, are a mixed bag. Particularly disappointing is the appearance of only one HDMI input partnering the HDMI output, rather than the two you get with the Q930B. This single HDMI loopthrough doesn’t support 4K at 120Hz or variable refresh rates, either.

Samsung HW-Q930B
The Samsung HW-Q930B soundbar rear speakers (close up)

To be fair, hardly any other soundbars support these new gaming-related features either, and you can always use the Q930B’s support for eARC to pass Dolby Atmos sound to the soundbar from an Xbox Series X, PS5 or high-spec PC that’s been connected directly to an eARC-capable TV. Most of the latest AVRs do now support 4K/120 and VRR via HDMI loopthrough, though, and not supporting these features on its soundbars does feel rather incongruous given how keen Samsung is to push such gaming features on its TVs.

The HDMI loopthrough does support, though, both the HDR10+ and Dolby Vision formats (alongside the more standard HDR10 and HLG systems). It’s surprising to find Dolby Vision support here when Samsung’s TVs continue to refuse to support Dolby’s premium HDR format, but let’s not complain about it.

Unexpectedly, though, this tradition is broken in pretty spectacular fashion by the Q930B

The Q930B also carries an optical digital audio input, and supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth - including Samsung’s new wireless Dolby Atmos support and Tap Sound, where you can connect compatible Samsung smart devices to the soundbar simply by tapping them against the soundbar’s bodywork.

Also good to find is a small display on the Q930B’s front edge, meaning it joins the Q990B in mercifully ditching the top edge LEDs that have unhelpfully afflicted the previous couple of Samsung soundbar generations.

Finally on the design front, it’s good to find the Q930B shipping with the same straightforward, button-lite remote control that we enjoyed using with the Q990B.

Features and Specifications

The big news with the Samsung HW-Q930B is its delivery of 9.1.4 channels of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound. That’s only two (rear side-firing) channels down on the 11.1.4 channels of the Q990B, leaving you with front centre, front left/right, side left and right, forward side left and right, rear left and right, one bass, and four up-firing channels. The Q930B ‘only’ uses 17 speakers to deliver those 9.1.4 channels, versus 22 speakers with the Q990B.

The Q930B’s connections, however, are a mixed bag

All of the Q930B’s four elements connect to each other wirelessly, and the system can additionally receive Dolby Atmos wirelessly from compatible Samsung TVs. This wireless ‘bond’ with Samsung TVs opens up support, too, for Samsung’s latest Q Symphony system, where the speakers in the soundbar can join forces with the speakers in compatible Samsung TVs.

The Q930B also, though, introduces a new built-in feature that was only available with its Q900A predecessor if it was connected to a compatible Samsung TV: Space Fit Sound. This automatically calibrates - at the press of a single button - the soundbar’s sound to suit your specific room conditions. They system even automatically runs itself again every day to make sure it’s always taking account of even small changes to your room setup.

Samsung HW-Q930B
Samsung HW-Q930B surround sound visualisation

The Q930B does not, though, get an extra calibration feature the Q990B does: Auto EQ. This continually monitors and tweaks the way the Q990B’s subwoofer sounds in relation to the rest of the soundstage, so hopefully we won’t find the Q930B’s bass element suffering too heavily from its absence.

The Q930B continues the flagship model’s support for Samsung’s voice amplifier feature, though, that can accentuate vocals when lots of ambient noise is detected, as well as continuing support for built-in Alexa voice control, Airplay 2 connectivity, high-resolution audio files (and the Spotify Hi-Fi system), and Dolby Atmos music from Amazon, Tidal and Apple Music. Or wirelessly from Samsung’s latest TVs. Note that the wireless Atmos ‘casting’ uses the compressed Dolby Digital+ type of Atmos used by streaming services, rather than the lossless True HD system you get from Blu-ray and 4K Blu-ray discs.

Audio file formats supported by the Q930B, finally, include AAC, MP3, WAV, OGG, FLAC, ALAC, and AIFF.

More: Audio Formats

Set Up and Operation

The HW-Q930B gets off to a great start as all four of its separate components find each other and connect together instantly and effortlessly, as soon as you turn the system on.

The front-mounted LED does an effective job of helping you track which inputs and sound settings you’re using, and the Samsung Smart Things app (for iOS and Android) is now much more effective than previous editions have been at helping you both connect Bluetooth devices and tweak aspects of the soundbar’s set up.

Some of the remote control’s buttons could have done with sitting a bit more proud of the remote’s surface, to make them easier to find in a dark room. The button layout is reasonably spacious and uncluttered, though.

Samsung HW-Q930B
The Samsung Q930B soundbar includes a remote

The only niggle with the Q930B’s set up, really, is that the space for the HDMI connections is pretty cramped. Though only having one HDMI input instead of two actually makes the Q930B a bit less fiddly in this respect than the Q990B.

One last point worth mentioning here is that since the up-firing and front side-firing drivers in the Q930B system need to bounce their sounds off ceilings and walls respectively, you may find the quality of its sound compromised if you have a vaulted or heavily beamed ceiling, or a large gap (such as a wide doorway) in a side wall.

Performance

After years of bemoaning the lack of any rear channel action with Samsung’s second tier soundbar offering, it’s an instant joy to hear real surround sound effects with the Q930B system. No longer do you feel as if the sound is getting rudely ‘chopped off’ somewhere to the side of you, and instead you immediately feel wrapped up at the heart of a much more satisfying and immersive experience.

What’s more, the joined up feeling of the surround soundstage occurs above you as well as behind you thanks to the up-firing drivers in the rears. Dolby Atmos is designed to deliver a full hemisphere of sound, and good Dolby Atmos soundtracks create this hemisphere so well that any ‘gaps’ in the sound can feel jarringly apparent. So to find the Q930B not only putting real sound behind you but also above you, to front and back, you is a brilliant move.

... you immediately feel wrapped up at the heart of a much more satisfying and immersive experience.

This ‘complete dome of sound’ Atmos point does raise the spectre of the Q930B’s missing rear left and rear right channels compared with the Q990B. However, while these extra channels do increase the general presence of the rear speakers in the Q990B’s overall sound balance, the Q930B manages to disperse its forward side-channel sounds well enough from the main soundbar not to leave you feeling (unless you have a really huge room) as if there’s a glaring ‘gap’ in the Dolby Atmos sound dome.

Even aggressive front to back and side to side sound effect transitions in the mix are convincingly portrayed, with impressive fluidity, good aggression, and strong consistency between the front and rear speakers.

As with the Q990B, the balance and consistency of the Q930B’s sound seems to benefit from the built-in Space Fit auto calibration system. Certainly, after running the Space Fit utility, no individual channel sounded either under- or over-represented in a movie mix.

Worries that the smaller main soundbar might sound underpowered are quickly blown out of the water by both the scale - in all directions - of its sound, and the dynamic range it manages to deliver without losing cohesion. There’s no sign of distortion or harshness, either, even at volumes far beyond what most ears will be comfortable with.

Samsung HW-Q930B
The Samsung HW-Q930B soundbar

Specific placement effects sound crisp and clear, as if they’re coming from exactly the right place around your room for the most part, making a good movie mix sound as detailed and busy as it is loud. This sense of accurate placement even extends to the Q930B’s dialogue, which is subtly lifted upwards so that it seems to be coming from the mouths of onscreen talkers rather than from the speaker bar beneath the screen.

While dialogue only benefits from a mild vertical lift in the mix, the Q930B is also capable of delivering much higher ‘overhead’ sounds when required. And since the upfiring drivers in both the main soundbar and the rears are both angled slightly forward, there really is a ‘joined up’ sense of overhead effects at times. This isn’t as pronounced or impactful, to be clear, as it would be if you were using actual overhead speakers built into or hanging off your ceiling. But that’s only to be expected. Getting any sense of overhead effects at all from a soundbar - never mind ‘joined up’ front and rear overhead effects - is seriously unusual.

In stereo mode the way the subwoofer kicks in on drum beats can often sound heavy handed and distracting

Despite not sporting the Q990B’s Acoustic Lens, the Q930B’s subwoofer underpins the impressive dynamics of the main soundbar with ample amounts of deep but also impressively nimble bass. Precious few rival soundbar subwoofers can hit the same sort of depths without sounding forced, phutty or dislocated from the rest of the sound. At the same time, though, the Q930B’s sub doesn’t overwhelm the main soundbar, despite that soundbar being significantly smaller than the one provided with the Q990B.

There are a few compromises we need to talk about, though. Starting with the fact that the overall presentation of movie soundtracks isn’t as muscular as it is with the Q990B. The overall scale of the Q930B’s sound is a little smaller, too. Though on both these counts the Q930B is actually considerably more powerful and its soundstage much bigger than anything most rival soundbars could muster.

Samsung HW-Q930B
The Samsung HW-Q930B wireless subwoofer

Hard impact sounds hit with a little more unwanted politeness (rather than lovable brutality) than they do on the Q990B, and while the balance of sound is generally excellent, occasionally really bright trebles can sound a little too prominent. Seemingly because the smaller main soundbar doesn’t have quite as much counterpointing low-end grunt as the Q990B’s.

Next, while bass is hugely potent from the Q930B’s subwoofer, its rumbles don’t latch onto the bottom end of the main soundbar quite as effectively as those of the Q990B’s sub, leaving it very occasionally drawing a little too much attention to itself when the going suddenly gets really, really deep.

One last point issue with the Q930B’s movie performance was that I found myself a little more tired at the end of a relentlessly loud movie such as Dune than I did with the more full-blooded Q990B.

Turning to music, the Q930B is a mixed bag. Volume levels are enormous, far beyond anything your average Hi-Fi system might manage, and within that volume range, detail levels are excellent without becoming excessive or clinical. Music vocals are staged well - actually slightly better than they are on the Q990B, arguably.

There’s a good sense of left and right separation, the mid-range is dynamic enough to cope well with most types of music and, as with the Q990B, Samsung’s new Adaptive mode does a startlingly effective job in most ways of ‘reinterpreting’ music, even mere stereo music, into something that makes use of all of the system’s available audio channels.

... after running the Space Fit utility, no individual channel sounded either under- or over-represented in a movie mix

These sorts of upmix modes sound grim on most soundbars, including many past Samsung models. But here the remixing almost convinces you you’re listening to an actual studio mix rather than something Samsung processing is coming up with on the fly.

The Adaptive mode also reduces the impact of the biggest problem with the Q930B’s music performance: poorly controlled bass. In stereo mode the way the subwoofer kicks in on drum beats can often sound heavy handed and distracting, as if it’s disconnected from the bass emanating from the main soundbar. With a number of pop and rock songs this actually bothered me so much I started to dread every drum beat!

Samsung HW-Q930B
The Q930B HDMI loopthrough doesn’t support 4K at 120Hz or variable refresh rates

It’s not just drum beats that fall foul of the subwoofer problem, either. It can be weirdly inconsistent with bass guitar elements too, with the sub drifting over-dramatically in and out on the basis of even potentially very small shifts in bass frequency.

As noted earlier, remixing stereo into 9.1.4 channels with the Adaptive sound mode at least leaves the subwoofer’s awkwardness a bit less exposed. But it’s far from perfect. And in the end there wasn’t really anything I could do with the provided settings to stop bass with music sources from being either excessively or under present.

Conclusion

Should you buy one?

The Samsung HW-Q930B is not as powerful and all-round exhilarating to listen to as its big Q990B sibling. So if money’s no object, and you can cope with the Q990B’s larger main soundbar, the home cinema fan in us would urge you to step up to Samsung’s flagship model.

... Samsung has put its 2022 ‘step down’ soundbar on a whole other level to anything we’ve seen in the same slot before

The £500 you can save with the Q930B, though, could buy a heck of a lot of 4K Blu-ray discs. Also, by including not just rear speakers this year but rear speakers with up-firing drivers, as well as redesigning the whole system to deliver a more balanced experience, Samsung has put its 2022 ‘step down’ soundbar on a whole other level to anything we’ve seen in the same slot before.

As usual with Samsung soundbars, the Q930B is not as pleasing with music as it is with movies. For home cinema fans, though, we’re struggling to think where else you might get such a convenient and immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience for £1,100.

What are my alternatives?

If you’ve got an extra £500 to spend, Samsung’s own HW-Q990B is a fearsomely good flagship soundbar with power to burn and no less than 16 channels of beautifully balanced sound.

If you fancy the ultimate clutter-free solution, Sony’s Sony’s £1,299 HT-A7000 delivers a remarkably powerful, crisp and detailed movie and music performance from just a single soundbar unit. Though you can add (for lots more money) optional subwoofer and rear speakers as and when you wish.

Scores

Build Quality

.
.
8

Connectivity

.
.
.
7

Ease of use

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
9

Value for Money

.
9

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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