Samsung HW-K850 & HW-K950 Dolby Atmos Soundbars - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 2692 Old 07-11-2016, 07:18 AM - Thread Starter
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Samsung HW-K850 & HW-K950 Dolby Atmos Soundbars

The latest soundbars from Samsung are more than just an upgrade to a TV's speakers. Thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Atmos, the HW-K850 ($1000) and HW-K950 ($1500) open up a world of immersive audio to movie lovers who (for whatever reason) cannot justify a full-sized surround system.


The HW-K950 is a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos-capable AV sound system.

Starting today, Samsung is taking preorders on these next-generation soundbars that will ship this summer. Both of these models come from the company's new audio lab in Valencia, California that I recently visited and where I was able to demo the HW-K950. I'll be posting about that experience this week, but suffice to say it is truly world-class and filled with great talent—Samsung has gotten very serious about sound.

The HW-K850 is a 3.1.2-channel system whereas the HW-K950 is a 5.1.4 system—it's basically the same soundbar as the HW-K850 but includes wireless rear speakers with Atmos capability (the world's first such system). The results is a level of audio immersion that has previously been unachievable with a soundbar-based system. As long as you have a room with a flat and acoustically-reflective ceiling, the HW-K950 can provide a sense of true immersion with overhead sound objects that move around in 3D space (think birds, bugs, arrows, or planes).

The HW-K850 can't render a fly-over the way the HW-K950 can, but its 2 height channels are able to create a sense of height that adds an immersive element to movies. Whether it's rain, a helicopter, or the reverb of a cathedral, the height channels add immersion in an all-in-one soundbar package that takes up minimal space.

I have a HW-K950 soundbar system arriving today for an in-depth review. I plan to set it up in the same room as a full-sized 5.2.4 KEF R-series Atmos speaker system to see how it compares. The HW-K950 will be paired with Samsung's flagship 65" KS9800 ($4500) quantum-dot UHD TV (that also just arrived for review) and the company's UBD-K8500 ($370) Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Yes, it's an unabashed curved-screen and soundbar-based AV system, but that's what makes it so interesting! Later this week I will start a blog about the holistic Samsung AV experience and document the review process, so stay tuned for that.
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Last edited by imagic; 07-11-2016 at 08:34 AM.
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post #2 of 2692 Old 07-11-2016, 12:51 PM
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I have a HW-K950 soundbar system arriving today for an in-depth review. I plan to set it up in the same room as a full-sized 5.2.4 KEF R-series Atmos speaker system to see how it compares.
Thanks for doing this. I always wonder how they compare. $1000+ for a sound bar sounds crazy to me but I know that is a format that many families have to live with. I wonder if you guys could do one of your polls to see how many here rock the 5.1 and up Sound Bar for a main or secondary system.
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post #3 of 2692 Old 07-12-2016, 07:17 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks for doing this. I always wonder how they compare. $1000+ for a sound bar sounds crazy to me but I know that is a format that many families have to live with. I wonder if you guys could do one of your polls to see how many here rock the 5.1 and up Sound Bar for a main or secondary system.
The least-expensive Atmos option I am aware of is a home theater in a box system that's limited to 5.1.2. Getting 5.1.4 Atmos typically requires a pricey receiver, and even if you buy the least-expensive speakers available, you're going to be way past the price point of the soundbar.

I've heard the Samsung system in demos a couple of times, it's a fair statement to say this is the most enthusiastic I've been about reviewing soundbar-based system.
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post #4 of 2692 Old 07-13-2016, 03:52 PM
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I'm tremendously curious about your review, as I have been intrigued since the announcement.

Unfortunately, my living room ceiling, although "flat" in the middle, curves down towards the edges.
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post #5 of 2692 Old 07-13-2016, 07:07 PM
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Originally Posted by imagic View Post
The latest soundbars from Samsung are more than just an upgrade to a TV's speakers. Thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Atmos, the HW-K850 ($1000) and HW-K950 ($1500) open up a world of immersive audio to movie lovers who (for whatever reason) cannot justify a full-sized surround system.


The HW-K950 is a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos-capable AV sound system.


I have a HW-K950 soundbar system arriving today for an in-depth review. I plan to set it up in the same room as a full-sized 5.2.4 KEF R-series Atmos speaker system to see how it compares. The HW-K950 will be paired with Samsung's flagship 65" KS9800 ($4500) quantum-dot UHD TV (that also just arrived for review) and the company's UBD-K8500 ($370) Ultra HD Blu-ray player. Yes, it's an unabashed curved-screen and soundbar-based AV system, but that's what makes it so interesting! Later this week I will start a blog about the holistic Samsung AV experience and document the review process, so stay tuned for that.

Very in interested in reading the review. I'm interested in both the soundbar and the 65" KS9800. I assume Atmos technology does not lend itself to a curved soundbar. It seems odd that Samsung would only produce their flagship tv line in a curved design, and then abandon the curved soundbar.
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post #6 of 2692 Old 07-14-2016, 08:14 AM
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Originally Posted by calambert View Post
...
I assume Atmos technology does not lend itself to a curved soundbar. It seems odd that Samsung would only produce their flagship tv line in a curved design, and then abandon the curved soundbar.
I don't think a curved soundbar inherently precludes Atmos. Even with a curved device, the speakers, including the upward firing ones, could be aimed to provide the desired sound field.

I think it's more likely that Samsung is targeting this product to the widest possible audience, and there are a lot of non-curved displays out there.
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post #7 of 2692 Old 07-14-2016, 10:43 AM
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Really looking forward to this review.
Will you be testing the soundbar without the rear speakers as well so we have an idea of the HW-K850 performs with Atmos?
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post #8 of 2692 Old 07-16-2016, 06:20 PM
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I'm curious whether the Samsung HW-K950 has a wide front soundstage.

It will also be interesting to find out if the Atmos drivers in the soundbar and rears are focused above and forward of the horizontal speakers, as in the case of normal Atmos Enabled. If so, I might be able to use the soundbar, focus on the main part of the ceiling, which is flat. It's towards the edges that the plaster slopes down towards the wall.

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post #9 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 10:05 AM
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I'd be interested in a confirmation of how many HDMI inputs these two soundbars have. Samsung's specs show only 1, but their Smart Simulator help thingy on their website (click on the Owner's Manual link to get there) shows 2.

Since ATMOS requires plugging devices directly into the soundbar (since the TV can't pass it across ARC or Optical), I can't fathom why there's be only 1 HDMI input (or even only 2 of them) on such a soundbar, but apparently, that didn't matter to the designers...
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post #10 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 10:13 AM
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I'd be interested in a confirmation of how many HDMI inputs these two soundbars have. Samsung's specs show only 1, but their Smart Simulator help thingy on their website (click on the Owner's Manual link to get there) shows 2.

Since ATMOS requires plugging devices directly into the soundbar (since the TV can't pass it across ARC or Optical), I can't fathom why there's be only 1 HDMI input (or even only 2 of them) on such a soundbar, but apparently, that didn't matter to the designers...
2 in, 1 out. Here is a hands on review:

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post #11 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by calambert View Post
2 in, 1 out. Here is a hands on review:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz2yZRwH9C0
Thanks for the confirmation. Not enough in my book, but better than just 1, like Samsung's website says.
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post #12 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 11:10 AM
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I have been eyeing this sound bar release since it was announced.

Does the HDMI support HDR ?

DD+(ATMOS) over ARC is only supported by a small list of TVs at the moment, which kinda sucks.
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post #13 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 12:00 PM - Thread Starter
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I have been eyeing this sound bar release since it was announced.

Does the HDMI support HDR ?

DD+(ATMOS) over ARC is only supported by a small list of TVs at the moment, which kinda sucks.
Yes it does

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post #14 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 12:40 PM
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Yes it does

When will your review be coming out?
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post #15 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 12:44 PM - Thread Starter
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When will your review be coming out?
3 or 4 weeks is my guess.
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post #16 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 12:49 PM
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3 or 4 weeks is my guess.
Great! Looking forward to it.
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post #17 of 2692 Old 07-20-2016, 02:55 PM
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b.c of my space I am limited to a 3.1.2 set up, but I love it. Granted I have tower speakers, but I think that is a very underrated set up and is extremely immersive.
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post #18 of 2692 Old 07-21-2016, 02:58 PM
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Looks like these are ready for order from multiple places now. Newegg lists a ship date of 7/31. Very interested in how this performs.

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post #19 of 2692 Old 07-23-2016, 02:27 PM
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Several places now have them in stock such as Crutchfield.

I was ready to buy this as soon as it was in stock, but with just 2 HDMI inputs (HDCP 2.2 and 4K) it seems quite limited for connecting your sources. There's no way to take advantage of the Dolby Atmos and High Res sound codecs without. I thought back when it was first announced in Jan some were saying it had 4 or 5 inputs at the time, which would be MUCH better to justify the cost and purchase. But connecting just a 4K Cable Box and 4K UHD Blu-Ray player is all you get without swapping inputs all the time. That leaves a LOT out, such as Roku, Apple TV (2016 4K version is highly rumored), or other devices that aren't 4K.

If anyone gets one, please share your thoughts here. At this time, I think I will just wait due to the above as I see this as very expensive and limited which I simply don't understand.
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post #20 of 2692 Old 07-23-2016, 02:37 PM
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2 in, 1 out. Here is a hands on review:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz2yZRwH9C0
Yes, but that's just a basic overview. It says nothing and shows nothing about the inputs/outputs. This was done way back in April and is either a pre-production model or a show demo. Waiting for actual buyers to post their thoughts since it has just started shipping. With just 2 HDMI inputs, it seem very disappointing from the start due to that.
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post #21 of 2692 Old 07-25-2016, 01:43 PM
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Several places now have them in stock such as Crutchfield.

I was ready to buy this as soon as it was in stock, but with just 2 HDMI inputs (HDCP 2.2 and 4K) it seems quite limited for connecting your sources. There's no way to take advantage of the Dolby Atmos and High Res sound codecs without. I thought back when it was first announced in Jan some were saying it had 4 or 5 inputs at the time, which would be MUCH better to justify the cost and purchase. But connecting just a 4K Cable Box and 4K UHD Blu-Ray player is all you get without swapping inputs all the time. That leaves a LOT out, such as Roku, Apple TV (2016 4K version is highly rumored), or other devices that aren't 4K.
I *should* have mine tomorrow - so I'll probably pipe up about it after I get it setup. However, the main room I have the TV in has a high ceiling - so I'm quite curious to see how that turns out (and if it forces me to relocate my main setup...).

As for 2 inputs - that's one more than the existing curved sound bar I currently have, so that's a plus. Only item I have currently that is capable of Dolby Atmos is UHD BluRay. Maybe the Xbox One S will be capable as well (which would only cause me to swap one for the other). As for Apple TV - the way Apple has been lately lagging behind on tech, I wouldn't hold my breath for 4K + Dolby Atmos from that device anytime soon. We'll be lucky just to get 4K + HDCP 2.2 next (if it even happens this year). Does anyone even stream Dolby Atmos at this time?

And anyone know if the Samsung JS9500 does HD codecs over ARC? I was under the impression they did, but after reading this thread I'm starting to question that...
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post #22 of 2692 Old 07-25-2016, 03:25 PM
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Does anyone even stream Dolby Atmos at this time?

And anyone know if the Samsung JS9500 does HD codecs over ARC? I was under the impression they did, but after reading this thread I'm starting to question that...
Yes, both Netflix and Vudu have shows and movies now streaming in Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. They are limited at this time of course, but they are adding more titles and supporting it now. That's why all the rumors say that Apple TV will at least offer 4K UHD HDMI on their 2016 model even if they don't offer anything to stream yet.

It will be nice to hear your thoughts on the soundbar, did you get the model with the rear speakers? If so, it would be nice if you can test without the rear speakers as I don't have the 3 foot required distance behind my seating to put them or at the angle they suggest.
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post #23 of 2692 Old 07-25-2016, 05:58 PM
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Originally Posted by tdrozdowski View Post

Does anyone even stream Dolby Atmos at this time?

And anyone know if the Samsung JS9500 does HD codecs over ARC? I was under the impression they did, but after reading this thread I'm starting to question that...
Yes, both Netflix and Vudu have shows and movies now streaming in Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. They are limited at this time of course, but they are adding more titles and supporting it now. That's why all the rumors say that Apple TV will at least offer 4K UHD HDMI on their 2016 model even if they don't offer anything to stream yet.

It will be nice to hear your thoughts on the soundbar, did you get the model with the rear speakers? If so, it would be nice if you can test without the rear speakers as I don't have the 3 foot required distance behind my seating to put them or at the angle they suggest.
Netflix is not broadcasting in Atmos at this time.
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post #24 of 2692 Old 07-26-2016, 07:22 AM
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Nice review of the HW-K950 including set up and performance. http://www.homecinemachoice.com/news...-hw-k950/23805

Mine should be arriving tomorrow ...
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post #25 of 2692 Old 07-26-2016, 09:11 AM
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Nice review of the HW-K950 including set up and performance. http://www.homecinemachoice.com/news...-hw-k950/23805

Mine should be arriving tomorrow ...
Great review. His comment about front soundstage makes me curious about how reviews from this thread will touch on this issue. Most soundbars have limited soundstages, which is of concern, particularly with larger screens.

Possibly some of the various modes may impact this sense of width.

But it looks like there's lots of good technology utilized here.
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post #26 of 2692 Old 07-27-2016, 12:38 PM
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I wish he had more pictures like pictures of the room he was listening in. I also wish he talked a little bit more about setup and setup options. One thing I like about the Yamaha's is that they have an autosetup feature based on where you are sitting in the room.

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post #27 of 2692 Old 07-27-2016, 05:17 PM
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First Impressions...

My HW-K950 arrived today - in a box that looked like it had survived a plane crash. Yeah, the bottom was just pure packing tape - had to have been a mishap on the line at FedEx and likely why it was delayed a day. Thankfully upon opening the box - everything was accounted for and undamaged. Lucky me!

Some caveats...

I'm not an audiophile per se. I'm your average enthusiast who has had some decent AVR 6.1 setups in the past. I won't spend $5k on a AVR and speakers. But I will spend about what I spent on this thing to get 'good enough' sound. So my impressions of things may not meet the higher standards that most on the board may have. That being said...

This is replacing my Samsung HW-J8500 curved soundbar - which when I got it, sounded tons better than the previous Vizio 5.1 surround soundbar I had, but not quite as good as I had hoped. I've not had an actual receiver/5.1/6.1 speaker setup in almost 5 years. The room in which I placed this has a very tall ceiling - maybe 30ft tall (a loft is above the area where the TV is). I was initially concerned this would be an issue - but thankfully, it didn't seem to be...

The unit itself - very solid. The soundbar is made of wood with some high quality plastic on parts of it. The subwoofer is a nice sturdy wood box (like you would expect) - seemed bigger than the sub that came with the 8500. The rear speakers I was very impressed by. They were much larger than expected (I previously had the Vizio 5.1 with rear surrounds which were small - and they ultimately crapped out on me anyhow) - they are probably slightly larger than a Sonos Play:1 and similar quality build.

Setup was a breeze - the most difficult thing was routing the power cables to my power conditioner/surge protector. Everything was automatically paired up so nothing special needed to be done. I did not adjust any of the various levels for each individual speakers, sub or treble/bass - all defaults for now.

First test was OTA HD signal from the local Fox station (which is notoriously weak up on the north end of Phoenix). Sound was already markedly improved over the J8500. Very crisp. Didn't really notice any rear sounds, but with daytime TV, I wouldn't have expected it.

Second test was an 4th generation Apple TV connected to my Samsung JS9500 OneConnect box (so going to the bar over ARC). Play tested the 4th Hunger Games movie - it sounded about as good as could be expected with normal Dolby Digital. The rears were a bit muted - but they were there.

Third test was the UHD BluRay of Allegiant (kids were home - will do Deadpool later when they are not). It has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack. My UHD BluRay player is the Samsung 8500 (so many similar numbers) connected to HDMI 1 of the soundbar. At first, playing the movie the surround was immediately noticeable. The soundstage for my setup felt pretty decent - improved over the previous soundbar by quite a bit. But something felt missing... I then went to the settings of the player and realized I was setup to output PCM and not Bitstream (Uncompressed). I switched that - resumed the movie and voila! The soundbar instantly detected and reported DOLBY ATMOS on its LED display! And whammo - the soundstage for this thing filled the room. The bass was a bit overwhelming for my kids (but I wasn't bothered by it) - it felt like I was sitting in my local theatre (but without the Pokemon hunting idiots). The sound was so much crisper - dialogue was very easy to follow (was on Movie mode) and the overall sound enveloped me. The big crowd scenes were very immersive - could hear people all around me. Could hear bullets whizzing around (though not as clearly as I had hoped - but will try Deadpool for better Atmos mix later). Awesome stuff.

HDMI CEC worked immediately out of the box (but I have a total Samsung setup...others may vary).

Color me very impressed. I was hesitant to spend this much on another soundbar - but I'm very glad I did. I won't be wishing I had a separate receiver & speaker setup anymore. This will suit my needs/expectations for quite some time. That is until they have a 7.1.4 or 9.2.4 version...

I'll spend some time adjusting things the next few days as I go through. I still have to try the Xbox on it (and I have an Xbox One S coming next week - but that evidently doesn't support Atmos at launch, but may later). I want to try some Netflix/Hulu/HBO Now, etc streaming on it too.

I'll try streaming some music to it later as well - but am pretty invested in Sonos and feel those speakers are the best for streaming music currently. (Have a few Play:1s & two Play:5s in stereo pair - simply awesome sound)

I also need to get this hooked up to the Wifi so I can see if there are any firmware updates for it. So far doesn't seem like I need any.

I was pondering trying to setup this up in another room that has lower ceiling, etc. I'm not going to do that for a while - I'd have to move too much stuff around...I'm just happy that out of the box in the room I have its exceeded my expectations.

If you're on the fence here - do it. Worth every penny. And get the 950 over the 850 - having the rears is a must I would say. (Though I was unable to test it w/o the rears - not sure how it would react if I just simply unplugged them and tried since its already paired and would be expecting them anyhow...). If you have a nice new 4K TV & BluRay player, this could be the perfect final piece to cap things off for the time being.

Is this better than a top of the line AVR setup with primo speakers? Nope. Is this better than your avg soundbar? Oh yes, but quite a bit. To me this competes with a good mid range AVR and decent speakers. Plus you know - no speaker cables to run...

Samsung has, err - raised the bar - by quite a bit for the competition. I don't know how the Yamaha one sounds - though I've always been partial to Yamaha AVR in the past - but I couldn't stomach both the size (compared to the Samsung its HUGE) and the cost with the subwoofer. But I'm sure it sounds pretty sweet as well. Plus, I'd love the room / sound adjustment tool it has - those have always worked well on their AVRs in the past for me. Perhaps it'll show up with a firmware update...

Feel free to ask other questions - I'll do my best to answer. Limited reviews on this thing, but its amazing...
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post #28 of 2692 Old 07-27-2016, 07:03 PM
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Samsung HW-K850 & HW-K950 Dolby Atmos Soundbars

For the setup is there any auto detecting or is it all you configuring your location?

I know you mentioned it but I'm also really curious as to how it sound without the rears. In my house I wouldn't be able to put in the rears so is probably go with the 850.

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post #29 of 2692 Old 07-28-2016, 08:24 AM
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Originally Posted by tdrozdowski View Post
My HW-K950 arrived today - in a box that looked like it had survived a plane crash. Yeah, the bottom was just pure packing tape - had to have been a mishap on the line at FedEx and likely why it was delayed a day. Thankfully upon opening the box - everything was accounted for and undamaged. Lucky me!

Some caveats...

I'm not an audiophile per se. I'm your average enthusiast who has had some decent AVR 6.1 setups in the past. I won't spend $5k on a AVR and speakers. But I will spend about what I spent on this thing to get 'good enough' sound. So my impressions of things may not meet the higher standards that most on the board may have. That being said...

...

Samsung has, err - raised the bar - by quite a bit for the competition. I don't know how the Yamaha one sounds - though I've always been partial to Yamaha AVR in the past - but I couldn't stomach both the size (compared to the Samsung its HUGE) and the cost with the subwoofer. But I'm sure it sounds pretty sweet as well. Plus, I'd love the room / sound adjustment tool it has - those have always worked well on their AVRs in the past for me. Perhaps it'll show up with a firmware update...

Feel free to ask other questions - I'll do my best to answer. Limited reviews on this thing, but its amazing...

I got mine yesterday and except for the condition of your box (mine was in excellent condition) I will basically ditto your review.

In the words of Billy Crystal ... Marvelous Absolutely Marvelous ...

I had a 7.1 Onkyo system a couple of years ago but after moving to my new place had to downsize my home theater to a sound bar.

I watched the first hour of Star Trek into Darkness (ATMOS version) ... the sound was enveloping, dimensional, had depth, was warm and convincingly real.

The bar provides a full front stage, treble is rich not shrill, rears are well integrated and have good range, blend well yet separate when required. As wireless rears they are responsive with no delays - something I was fearful of.

Over head sounds are present but unobtrusive.

Voices/dialogue clear and distinct. A big plus to my ears.

DD5.1 (cable) sounds good but of course not as great as Atmos. Better than my 4.1 LG SH7B (400 watt) sound bar than handled DD and DTS.

Haven't tried a Blu-ray DTS audio track yet but expecting similar pleasure

That's it folks - Samsung as a real winner with this and outside of the almost 4k I spend on my E6 this was money well spent.

EDIT: For those that are upset about only 2 HDMI Ins - there is ARC and at least in my case I get DD\DTS across ARC. I only have one external device capable of Atmos or higher levels of DD\DTS and don't see me having any more than one, so I'm a happy puppy.
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Last edited by hdfatboy2003; 07-28-2016 at 08:29 AM.
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post #30 of 2692 Old 07-28-2016, 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by chap View Post
For the setup is there any auto detecting or is it all you configuring your location?

I know you mentioned it but I'm also really curious as to how it sound without the rears. In my house I wouldn't be able to put in the rears so is probably go with the 850.
There is no auto-detecting - everything 'just works' out of the box.

The only configuration you may need to do is adjust the rears/top speakers a bit to your liking. I set mine to 3 during Deadpool last night just to see the difference. Its fairly subtle - but man that's an awesome Atmos demo disc!

Haven't tested with no rears - since its all paired up I was unclear if by unplugging them I'd lose any of the sound data as it would be expecting rears and not mix the rears into the front soundstage (presuming that's how it works).

I'm sure the 850 will be equally impressive - Dolby Atmos is spoiling me. Its very jarring to go from a Atmos soundtrack back to DD 5.1 on the Apple TV. Just lose so much presence...you can instantly tell the difference.
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