The Samsung Atmos HW-K950 is a home theatre system that aims to deliver high quality surround sound audio in a compact package. The main benefit of a system like this is to deliver high end audio and reduce the number of components to achieve quality surround sound. This theatre system hopes to simplify traditionally complicated theatre systems while adding advanced features, but how does it actually perform?
I had the opportunity to test out a series of Samsung home theatre products to see how they perform, and share my experience. This is the second instalment in the series. If you are looking to do a comprehensive upgrade to your home theatre system, you can also read my review of the Samsung Series 8 Curved SUHD TV.
A modern and compact design
When I was growing up, my family was obsessed with our home theatre system. I remember my father snaking cables through the ceiling to hide all of the wires. This was necessary because we enjoyed surround sound but we equally valued a clean setup. Times have certainly changed and the introduction of sound bars have made it much easier for people to setup advanced audio systems with fewer components and wires.
The Samsung Atmos home theatre system features a total of 15 speakers that work in coordination to achieve 5.1.4 surround sound. The system includes a centre sound bar that has 9 forward facing speakers in addition to 2 speakers directed vertically. 2 wireless bookshelf speakers each with speakers directed vertically and horizontally, and a subwoofer are also included. It sounds like a lot of speakers, but Samsung has condensed all of these components into a few units that don’t take up much space in the living room.
The speakers feature a brushed stainless steel and metal construction that looks modern and feels high end. A small text display is cleverly hidden behind the metal mesh in the centre speaker. The display provides input and setting information. It illuminates when used and fades away when inactive. I found the minimalist design to be quite attractive. I think it would easily fit into most modern decors. Before testing out the speakers, I was concerned that the height of the sound bar would obstruct the bottom of the television. Fortunately, the height was perfect and didn’t intrude the display. I would still recommend measuring the amount of clearance you have underneath your television to make sure it doesn’t get in the way. Alternatively, all of the speakers provide the option to be mounted on a wall.
The easiest setup I have ever had with home theatre
Setting up the speaker system may have been one of the easiest and best experiences I have ever had when setting up a sound system. My previous experience has involved the sweaty labour and frustration of hiding cables, as well as moving furniture around to accommodate all of the components. I was honestly shocked to find out that all you have to do is plug in the speakers and connect the HDMI output to the TV. Since the rear speakers and subwoofer are wireless, their only requirement is being plugged into power. Once you plug them in, they automatically pair with the sound bar and setup is complete. The sound bar also provides the option of connecting 2 HDMI devices and their output can be passed to the TV.
One of my favourite features of this speaker is the always accessible Bluetooth connection. You can instantly listen to music via Bluetooth on your phone without having to physically turn on the speakers. This made it quite easy to turn on the stereo from almost any room in the home.
Packed with advanced features
An immersive audio experience from 5 directions
11 of the 15 speakers work together to provide sound that can come from five separate directions. The subwoofer delivers levels of bass response that allows you to feel sound through distinct vibrations. While testing the theatre system with action movies, sound effects were perfectly synced. Explosions that occurred on the left were heard on the left side of the room. The immersion was even present while watching stand-up comedy. I could hear laughing behind me, from the left and right. This simulated the feeling that I was actually at the comedy show and proved that directional audio can elevate almost any viewing experience.
I never experienced anything like Atmos
Dolby Atmos is a technology that allows viewers to hear audio from nearly any direction in 3D space. Atmos is capable of simulating sounds from above and from any angle with different intensity. It is achieved by directing audio vertically and bouncing sound off of the ceiling. This means you will be able to hear jet planes roaring past from above and even the subtle sound of a bird flying in the distance. This effectively creates a bubble of sound around the viewer and dramatically increases the level of immersion.
I was able to test Dolby Atmos with the Blu-ray edition of Mad Max: Fury Road. The immersive sound made it feel like was on the road in that world. The throaty sound of engines roared and explosions sounded like they came from above and around me. It produced a visceral audio experience that I didn’t think was possible to replicate at home. The combination of Atmos and a television that supports 4K and HDR, can produce an immersive experience that I feel rivals the movie theatre.
Currently, the only way to fully experience Atmos is through select Blu-ray movies that support the standard. While the current selection of supported movies is limited, it’s encouraging to see that most of the newly released movies are now compatible with Atmos. After experiencing the potential of this technology in person, it’s a feature that I would strongly consider being a prerequisite for any new home theatre system. This sound bar is fully capable of delivering an incredible Atmos experience. This will provide an opportunity for you to future-proof your investment in audio technology.
Using the Samsung Atmos HW-K950 sound bar
Watching Movies and TV
Watching movies with this sound bar has convinced me that sound should have an equal consideration when building a home theatre system. It can be easy to devote a large portion of the budget to the television because it’s visible. But the Samsung HW-K950 proved to me that sound is easily half the movie watching experience. Dolby Atmos provided an incredible sensation of sound moving above and around me. It felt like I was there. I feel that Dolby Atmos has the same immersive value that is added when you upgrade from standard to high definition.
5.1 surround sound also delivers an immersive and detailed listening experience. Since the standard has been around for longer, you can experience almost any movie or TV show in 5.1 surround sound. While not as ground breaking as Atmos, 5.1 surround sound still delivers directional audio that creates an immersive experience. If 5.1 surround sound is the widely accepted standard and Atmos is the future, this sound system can provide a forward thinking option that can support the best audio experience now and in the future.
Listening to music
Listening to music on the Samsung HW-K950 is an incredible experience. My favorite songs that I thought I knew every detail of were now revealing new dimensions, sounds, and instruments that I didn’t know existed. On this sound system you can distinctly hear each instrument as if it was performed live. The subwoofer produced precisely measured bass response that felt like a perfect balance. This is much appreciated, because sound systems tend to feature an overcompensated bass that ends up taking away from the music. The clarity of the sound had such an impression on me that it brought me to tears, as I didn’t know sound can be experienced this way. Easily one of the best listening experiences that I’ve ever had. This sound system can provide you and your guests with a memorable listening experience.
Final thoughts on the Samsung Atmos HW-K950
From a functionality stand point, It’s hard to find anything wrong with this sound system. The clarity of the sound and thee amazing experience with Dolby Atmos delivers above and beyond my wildest expectations. The only factor that would keep me from recommending this for everyone, is the price. The Samsung Atmos HW-K950 comes with a substantial price tag because of the high end audio and advanced features that it can deliver. I am still surprised that Samsung was able to fit in all of these advanced components in such a small foot print. While the sticker shock is quite apparent, I feel it can be justified if you are in pursuit of the best possible audio experience in a simple and easy to use package.
This system showed me that sound can have the same effect on immersion that a television can. The immersive sound of Dolby Atmos and even 5.1 surround sound helped create an illusion that I was there. Yes, imagery can bring a movie to life, but the sound certainly adds another dimension to the experience. If you are looking to make an long-term investment in a high quality and innovative sound system, the Samsung HW-K950 should be at the top of your list.