In Australia, we love soundbars — they're compact, but offer sound quality that's a massive step ahead of even the best TVs' integrated speaker systems. New advances in surround sound like Dolby Atmos don't play well with all-in-one soundbar designs, though, which is why Samsung's new K950 soundbar has wireless rear speakers, and 15 different internal speaker drivers across the surround setup, some of which bounce sound off your ceiling.
The new Samsung HW-K950 is the most high-end speaker to be developed at the tech giant's Audio Lab in Los Angeles, and will sit at the absolute top of the Samsung home audio line-up. An Australian price and release date hasn't yet been confirmed, but we should see it in stores before the end of the year. It's the kind of soundbar that you'd put underneath one of Samsung's Series 9 SUHD LED TVs or another equally fancy high-end screen.
We've already heard the K950 demonstrated with some Dolby Atmos test tracks and surround sound Ultra HD Blu-ray movies, and it is impressive. The addition of wireless rear speakers is a massive boon for surround sound, and the speaker arrangement — with upward-firing drivers in both the satellites and soundbar — makes for overhead sound effects that you can genuinely hear. Throughout the soundbar, wireless subwoofer and two surround sound satellites, the K950 has 15 different speaker drivers, where most compact soundbars pack four or five.
The Samsung HW-K950 is a 5.1.4-channel system in Dolby Atmos terminology, with five surround ground channels, a subwoofer and four surround overhead channels. Because those overhead speakers aren't actually overhead in your ceiling, the upward-firing drivers in the wireless surrounds and in the soundbar itself bounce the sound off your ceiling — so it's better if you're in a large room with a flat single-storey ceiling overhead. The soundbar also has built-in Bluetooth for wireless TV sound sync or single-device music streaming, and also works as a Multi-Room Audio speaker over its built-in Wi-Fi.
Of course, you'll need an Ultra HD Blu-ray player like the $599 UBD-K8500 and accompanying 4K Blu-ray discs to get that Dolby Atmos surround — and not all of them include that. The K950 can also up-mix regular surround and even stereo tracks into overhead surround, though, so it will add a similar effect to the movies and TV you already own or stream.
Gizmodo travelled to IFA as a guest of Samsung.