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Dolby Atmos is 3D sound. The latest Samsung HW-Q950T 9.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar uses a mix of physical speakers, psychoacoustic trickery, and Q-symphony sound if you have a 2020 Q-series QLED TV to achieve spectacular sound.

The Samsung HW-Q950T 9.1.4 is the flagship of the 2020 Q-series soundbars (announcement article here). Samsung found that consumers were buying soundbars thinking they would automatically get Dolby Atmos sound, but it is a whole lot more complex.

Now before we get too in-depth with Samsung HW-Q950T 9.1.4, I have to ask you if you have read and understood our ‘Dummies Guide to Dolby Atmos and DTX’ that is a must-read before you buy any soundbar. In fact, hundreds of thousands of readers almost melted down our website in July. The guide shows how to get a proper Dolby Atmos experience.

Why? Because Dolby Atmos is one of the most misused and abused terms because it conjures up visions of immersive 3D surround sound, yet it devices as simple as toasters and smartphones claim it. All we can say is ‘Caveat Emptor’.

How the Samsung HW-Q950T 9.1.4 produces Dolby Atmos.

First, this is a soundbar with a separate sub and dual rear speakers – four boxes.

Dolby Atmos9.1.4 (number of full-range speakers and tweeters per channel in brackets)
1. Left front(3)
2. Right front(3)
3. Centre front(3)
4. Left surroundbounces off left wall (1)
5. Right surroundbounces off right wall (1)
6. Left wide surroundbounces off left wall (1)
7. Right wide surroundbounces off right wall (1)
Note that the above is 7.0 – we have not addressed rears, height or a subwoofer yet.

Separate rear speakers take it to 9.0

8. Left rear surroundLeft-front-firing speaker behind you (1)
9. Right rear surroundRight-front-firing speaker behind you (1)
Flat sound
This is 9.0 using the Samsung HW-Q950T

Dolby Atmos must have at least two overhead channels. If not, it becomes more of a faux surround sound reproduction, and you may as well buy a straight 2.1 soundbar. Adding four overhead channels takes it to 9.0.4.

.1 Left front overheadfrom soundbar bounces off ceiling (and can use Q-Symphony) (1)
.2 Right front overheadfrom soundbar bounces off ceiling (and can use Q-symphony) (1)
.3 Left rear overheadFrom separate up-firing left rear (1)
.4 Left rear overheadFrom separate up-firing right rear (1)

Adding a subwoofer makes this 9.1.4

Samsung HW-Q950T 9.1.4

Now as the soundbar image shows (and it is not the entire speaker) you can see a lot of speakers.

Samsung HW-Q950T
The oval shaped speakers are full range and the round are tweeters
Samsung HW-Q950T
The end speakers are for surround and surround wide

In fact, there are 20 speakers and D-Class amps totalling 536 Watts power. These include 12 full-range speakers, and three tweeters (L/R/C) in the soundbar, one sub-woofer and 2×2 rear front/upwards firing speakers.

Psychoacoustic trickery

We are not having a go at Samsung – any single soundbar above 5.1.2 has to use it.

A licensed Dolby Atmos (128 channels) chip decodes the sound metadata which includes the 3D spatial information and downmixes it in this case to 9.1.4 channels. Samsung electronics take that downmix and determine how it is best ‘phased’ across the 20 speaker array.

Let’s say a plane is flying out of the TV towards you. The front overheads kick in, and sound phases to the left and right surround and then to the rear surrounds. If a missile fires at the plane from the right the sound would phase from right surround wide to right surround. If it hit the plane, sound comes from overhead. Get it?

The alternative to an all-in-one soundbar (with separate rears) would be to buy a dedicated 9.1.4 channel AV receiver. You would then have nine separate speakers (9), a sub (.1) and four separate height speakers placed strategically around the room.

The amp below is a 7.1.4 (bottom row of speaker connectors) with an option to add more height and wide channels (second bottom row) to go to 9.1.6 – phew! Think of the cables – stick to a soundbar!