Samsung HW-Q600A soundbar review: premium taste, but not without compromise

Samsung HW-Q600A soundbar review: premium taste, but not without compromise
Samsung HW-Q600A soundbar review: premium taste, but not without compromise

In the world of sound bars, there is an unspoken but generally accepted rule that the level of range of a product is inversely proportional to its bulk. Logically, the HW-Q600A is therefore the most compact soundbar in the Q range from Samsung. Its 98cm width is roughly that of a 43-inch television, and its thickness of less than 6cm allows it to fit in front of a screen with relatively little risk of obscuring the bottom of the image. It should therefore be able to be easily associated with a large number of televisions.

The bar and its box show a correct construction, efficient without being overzealous. Unlike the manufacturer’s more prestigious models, the bar does not use acoustic fabric, and is content with a plastic and aluminum covering. However, its surfaces have the good taste of being matt, which prevents parasitic reflections when watching a film.

The connection is extremely classic for a current soundbar: an HDMI input and an output (ARC compatible for the latter), as well as an optical S / PDIF input. We would not have refused at least one additional HDMI input, especially since the output is certainly ARC compatible, but not eARC; that is, the TV’s audio return channel at the helm cannot carry DTS: X or Dolby Atmos streams over Dolby TrueHD. In fact, it is not possible to use several DTS: X / Atmos compatible source devices with the bar, unless you systematically reconnect them. It can be frustrating.

Likewise, the transmission of the video signal from the input to the HDMI output can only be done at the bit rate of the HDMI 2.1 standard, which therefore excludes the possibility of passing an Ultra HD signal at 120 Hz through the bar. Video game enthusiasts who own a latest-generation console or graphics card will be at their expense. However, there is no problem with the transmission of Dolby Vision or VRR (Variable Refresh Rate) signals.

Regarding decoded audio formats, the bar is compatible, as expected, with almost all Dolby and DTS formats – the only exception being the still very rare Dolby AC4. On the other hand, we are surprised at the lack of support for multichannel LPCM signals, which is frankly inexplicable.

The bar is supplied with the usual Samsung remote control, unchanged for several years now; we are not really complaining about it, since it is all in all very effective. The control of the helm is however made very laborious by the rickety display on the front of the helm – again a very bad habit of the manufacturer. Access to certain parameters, such as the activation of the virtualization of the frontal voices, or the adjustment of the relative volume of the pitch voices, is very unnecessarily complex. We therefore strongly advise you to keep the helm manual available during the first days of use, and to read it carefully to be sure not to miss any important function.

The HW-Q600A does not have any network functionality, this luxury being reserved for the Q700A and above models in the Samsung range. It still has a Bluetooth receiver for wireless use. This Bluetooth compatibility should however be reserved for listening to music from a smartphone or tablet: the broadcasting latency of 250 ms (without any automatic compensation) results in an unbearable sound / image lag when viewing a video. The connection of the bar to the television must therefore absolutely be done by wire to obtain correct synchronization.

In terms of its pure acoustic performance, the HW-Q600A easily rises to a level worthy of the excellent reputation that Samsung has acquired in the soundbar field over the past few years. The Korean manufacturer once again shows the extent of its expertise in miniaturization, with a bar with remarkably healthy behavior.

Frequency response depending on treble setting: default (black), -3 dB (dotted purple), -6 dB (dotted orange)

Frequency response depending on treble setting: default (black), -3 dB (dotted purple), -6 dB (dotted orange)

Restitution is, it is true, not an absolute model of neutrality. The frequency response is notably marked by a significant surplus of energy in the last octave of the audible spectrum, from 10 to 20 kHz, which gives the sound a very incisive side, even a little piercing at times. This character trait will be perceived differently by everyone, depending on their sensitivity. For some, especially young people with well-preserved hearing, it can seem a little too aggressive, and even a little tiring in the long run. For others, it can on the contrary be seen as a quality, accentuating the energy of the sound message, and acting like a magnifying glass on its tiniest details.

This point being covered, the rest of the spectrum is on the other hand in a very commendable balance, and guarantees a perfectly natural restitution and well-defined timbres. This is all the more true as, as almost always with Samsung, the “cleanliness” of the rendering is absolutely admirable. The distortion control is impeccable, and the dynamics and responsiveness of the transducers prove to be foolproof. No matter how complex the sound message they are given, they reproduce it without ever the slightest trace of confusion or flattening of the sound showing its nose, even at very high volume.

Frequency response depending on the subwoofer setting: default (black), +6 dB (dotted red), -6 dB (dotted blue), -12 dB (dotted green)

Frequency response depending on the subwoofer setting: default (black), +6 dB (dotted red), -6 dB (dotted blue), -12 dB (dotted green)

These praises, however, do not apply to the subwoofer, which, without shaming the bar it accompanies, must still settle for a passable mention. If we appreciate the depth of bass it produces (good presence from 40 Hz, without any parasitic resonance), we deplore on the other hand its rendering a little too soft, even purring at times: the explosions or the hits of the bass drum do not quite have the physical impact that one would like to find on them. We also note a crossover between the bar and the box (a little below 200 Hz) not quite as smooth as it should be. The resulting slight dip in frequency response can be heard especially in low-pitched human vocals – think the typical thick voice of Hollywood trailers! -, which lack in places slightly roundness and presence.

Virtual spatialization was one of the weak points of the HW-Q60T, and things only improve very slightly with the successor HW-Q600A. Surround voice emulation allows the surround scene to extend slightly forward of the bar plane, but without creating a true enveloping sensation – let alone any precise localization of sound objects.

As for the compatibility with the 3D Dolby Atmos and DTS: X formats, it is almost insignificant. The pitch component of the signal is reproduced using Samsung’s Acoustic Beam technology – tweeters dedicated to the rear of the bar, associated with waveguides oriented towards the ceiling.

We can see the waveguide of Acoustic Beam technology towards the rear of the bar.

We can see the waveguide of Acoustic Beam technology towards the rear of the bar.

The sound emitted by this means is however of a timbre without any coherence with that of the horizontal voices, from where a rendering rather unconvincing. But this is nothing in the face of the bar’s biggest shortcoming: decoding of Atmos and DTS: X signals is done without any differentiation between horizontal surround effects and height effects. The former are routed to the Acoustic Beam module just as much as the latter; in the end, the HW-Q600A therefore only downmixer these signals to a “single” 5.1. The use of the term “3D surround sound” on the technical sheet of the bar does seem somewhat misleading …

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Samsung HWQ600A soundbar review premium taste compromise

 
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