Samsung has unveiled its new soundbar lineup for 2021, promising both improved audio and a range of additional features for certain models. This includes AirPlay 2 support, Alexa integration, Dolby Atmos and automatic room calibration.
Revealing the soundbars ahead of CES 2021 and alongside other home cinema products like its Neo QLED and MicroLED TVs and the Solar Cell TV Remote, Samsung said that “select” models in the range will work with Apple’s AirPlay 2 protocol. That will allow Mac, iPhone and iPad owners to easily cast audio to a Samsung soundbar for the first time.
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While Samsung soundbars are no stranger to steaming from other sources, access to AirPlay 2 gives Apple device users more scope to stream music and other audio content to speaker systems beyond the likes of the HomePod and HomePod mini.
Alexa support was introduced on Samsung’s 2020 soundbar range and will carry over the higher-end models in the new lineup as well. That leaves room calibration as the other big new feature: it’s only supported on the premium Q-series range, and additionally requires the soundbar to be paired with one of Samsung’s own Q-series TVs, but will be able to tailor the sound output to the size and shape of the room.
This “Q-Calibration” feature uses a small microphone built into the TV to detect the room’s acoustics, with the data fed into the soundbar so it can automatically adjust its output.
If you don’t have a Q-series TV, there’s also a similar “Space EQ” feature on some of the new models, which adjusts the soundbar’s bass response using a microphone inside the soundbar or connected subwoofer instead of the TV.
Samsung’s latest soundbar lineup is led by the top-of-the-line HW-Q950A, a monster 7.1.2-channel system comprising a main soundbar unit, a wireless subwoofer — which, again, includes a microphone for room calibration capability — and wireless rear speakers. The satellite speakers are a step up from existing models themselves, as they include side-firing channels as well as upwards-firing drivers. This should aid the overall surround sound effect, playing deeper into the HW-Q950A’s Dolby Atmos support.
A 2.0.2 wireless surround sound kit will also be made available for the new Q-series models, so you could potentially buy a standalone soundbar to begin with then add the satellite speakers later.
Samsung hasn’t revealed pricing or availability details for the new soundbars, though the company has previously released its home cinema audio lineups in the Spring. Expect to have to pay a lot for the HW-Q950A, too: its closest 2020 range equivalent, the 9.1.4-channel HW-Q950T, goes for around $1,800.
The new HW-Q800A might be a more realistic option for most: this 3.1.2 soundbar and subwoofer combo also supports Dolby Atmos and, being a Q-series model, will be compatible with room calibration and the add-on speaker kits.