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Samsung N950 review: impressive Dolby Atmos audio from a soundbar

Making your home audio setup compatible with new object-based surround formats Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, while also sounding great for general or less advanced content, Samsung’s N950 ($1999) isn’t quite as immersive as a fully fledged Atmos installation but it also doesn’t require you to permantently attach anything to your ceiling.

In fact, setup is mostly painless. The N950 packs enough speakers for full 7.1.4 channel sound (that’s seven surround channels, four height channels and a sub woofer), but there are actually only four physical bits of audio kit in the box. The biggest issue is the need for power outlets dotted around your room to facilitate the main unit up front, sub woofer in a corner and the two rear speakers behind and to either side of your couch. Thankfully the sub and satellite speakers pair wirelessly with the main unit, so no audio cables snaking around under the rug.

The N950 system has a total of 17 speakers built in, plus the sub. It's very prominently badged 'Samsung harman/kardon', to let you know these are speakers of quality.

The N950 system has a total of 17 speakers built in, plus the sub. It’s very prominently badged ‘Samsung harman/kardon’, to let you know these are speakers of quality.

The main bar features nine forward-firing speakers, three each for the centre, front left and front right channels. These will get the most work, especially if you’re just watching regular TV or other stereo or 5.1 content, and I found them to be very impressive. The clarity of speech in particular meant I could keep the system at a fairly low volume and catch every word, something not possible with my TV’s built-in speakers.

But when it comes to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, the soundbar also takes care of the far left, far right and two of the overhead channels, and it does this by shooting audio at your walls and roof in an attempt to bounce it towards you from the sides and above. The obvious caveat here is that the layout and structure of your room is going to impact the quality of the surround effect.

My roof is quite tall, for example, so I could hear the helicopter blades or spaceship noises coming from the height channels but they sounded kind of remote. Side channels were more effective as there was only a couple of metres between the bar and the room’s walls on either side.

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