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.

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.