I consider myself a simple man with simple pleasures, so for me I’m more than happy with my 5.1 channel surround, it gives me the impression that sound is all around me, and makes it feel like I’m in my own little cinema, albeit a bit of a naff one. But still I enjoy it.
I’ve never been overly fussed with 7.2ch – whilst I do understand the benefits, it never really did anything for me, and the world of 9.2ch and 11.4ch surround sound is beyond lost on me.
I was happy. I was content.
Then a couple of years ago Dolby Atmos and DTSX landed and changed everything for me. Suddenly my little 5.1 system just wasn’t enough any more, I felt like I was being short changed, almost like I had half a system. So I began shopping for a dedicated Atmos system, new amp, new speakers, ceiling speakers, re-routing cable thoughout my home, and when faced with the amount of work involved to build myself a decent setup this little dream of mine began to fizzle out and take a back seat. It was just too much of a big job. Since then, technology has progressed in such a way that its now possible to get Dolby Atmos sound from a sound bar. Whilst there are a few brands who seem to be throwing their hat into the ring, I’m here to talk about one soundbar in particular. The Samsung HWK950.
The prospect of a soundbar has always seemed a little underwhelming to me, but the HWK950 is anything but, boasting a large main bar featuring 15 built in speakers including 2 upwards firing drivers, as well as two wireless rear speakers that ALSO feature 2 more upwards firing drivers. To top it off is the dedicated wireless subwoofer, combined 500w of power in a 5.1.4 dedicated Dolby Atmos configuration, and it truly is brilliant. As expected the HWK950 still has all the usual bells and whistles you would expect of a soundbar of this calibre, with full wireless music control via good old fashioned bluetooth, or Samsung’s dedicated multi room app, meaning you can seamlessly fire music around your entire home from your smart phone or tablet. Connectivity is not an issue either with dedicated 4K pass though which offers the best audio and picture quality. Connect any 4K source, such as a UHD Blu-ray player, Xbox One S, or even a Sky Q box, and the HWK950 will be able to handle it.
As I mentioned earlier I was a little skeptical about this unit so was incredibly excited to get it up and running to see what it was like. Setup was very straight forward with the help of some easy to grasp instructions.
Our little demo room does have its limitations so I couldn’t exactly push the HWK950 to the limits as much as I would have liked, but I was instantly blown away with what I heard, the sheer power of this “little” unit is incredible, I’m convinced if I had my eyes closed I’d be adamant it was a full AV set up. The HWK950 uses Dome tweeters to widen the Audio sweet spot which offers the listener an incredible depth of sound, the front and rear upward firing speakers perform so well together, and the subwoofer, whilst a tad large, clearly serves a purpose offering fantastic depth and rich hearty low end. The entire set up combines to create a beautiful sense of spacial awareness, the transition of sound from front to back speakers is flawless, with not a crackle, fizz or pop coming from any direction, the rear speakers pick up all those lovely little bits of detail, the helicopter flying above, the crunch of the leaves as someone creeps behind. It really plops you slap bang in the centre of the movie.
Now as much as id love to tell you that this is the perfect product and everybody should buy one, its my responsibility to also highlight some of the more negative aspects of the HWK950. Firstly is the rather upsetting lack of DTS-HD master audio /DTSX support. The HWK950 doesn’t support more than 2ch DTS and this is due to cost issues with licensing from what I’ve read. The bar holds no technical limitations so it could well be a feature Samsung will add further in the future via a firmware update.
Samsung do seem to be gearing the HWK950 towards the UHD Blu-ray market which is predominantly Dolby anyway. FEAR NOThowveer, as there is a work around. There are a select group of Samsung Blu-ray players that offer the option to output DTS as a Dolby Digital bitstream, which would work just fine. The HWK950 will try its dammed hardest to convert DTS from 2ch to surround, but its less than perfect.
Next is the limitations of the rear speakers, now bear in mind even though these are advertised as ‘wireless’ these are Active speakers so will require a mains connection. They do have their limitations – these are upward firing speakers, and although we are quite lucky as we have low flat ceilings, if you have a vaulted or just a very high ceiling then you will stumble in to some issues.
What about Sonos? Is it better than a Sonos 5.1? Yes, a hundred times yes. BUT as far as a multi room system goes, it doesn’t come close. Sonos still and always will have that edge. However, if you’re not fussed about multi room and you just want a fantastic cinema sound without the mess of cables then this could be the system for you. I’ll have to reserve judgement on Yamaha’s YSP5600 till I get my hands on one, but its going to have to be pretty special to knock this of its pedestal.
If your still a little unsure, I really urge you to pop in to one of our stores and have a listen, it really does speak for itself!
Author: Garrett, Plymouth store