Samsung-Harman/Kardon HW-Q90R is worth it, beware the shipping Grinch! (Week 46, 2019)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 46, 2019

Q. I just bought a 65-inch LG C9 OLED TV, and already have two Sonos One speakers. I was going to buy the Sonos Playbar to use with the speakers I already have, but now realize for a few dollars more I might get better sound from the Samsung-Harman/Kardon HW-Q90R. Do you think it is worth it, and will the HW-Q90R work well with an LG TV? If I do buy it is it worth paying $76 to have a professional set it up, or do you think can I do it myself?

-D.D., San Jose, CA

A. I definitely think the Samsung-Harman/Kardon HW-Q90R is worth it, and when I say that I have already put my money where my mouth is. I bought an HW-Q90R for myself less than two weeks after returning the review sample because I realized I did not want to live without it. I also bought a Bell’O PR45 stand for $1,100 because my old stand did not hold the soundbar comfortably, so doing that particular review left me several thousand dollars poorer. But not only will I enjoy it, the HW-Q90R now serves as my new soundbar benchmark. It is $300 off on Amazon right now, or $1,395.

The HW-Q90R will work fine with any brand TV, and it is definitely easy enough to set up yourself. The directions in the manual are simple and easy to follow. It all amounts to connecting three HDMI cables, powering up the speakers in the correct order (subwoofer, surround speakers, soundbar) the first time, and turning it on. Just be sure to download the SmartThings app and use it to update the firmware once everything is set up. Getting some stands for the rear speakers is a good idea, too. Sanus makes some nice ones for $40/pair.

I still think a surround receiver with a high quality speaker ensemble provides the best possible sound, but if that is impractical (like in my living room) or too complicated, the HW-Q90R’s fine audio quality and immersive sound can’t be beat.

Beware the shipping Grinch this holiday season: I recently exchanged emails with a reader who had to return a defective tower speaker to the manufacturer for repair. His grandson took it to the UPS Store, already sealed in its original packaging, and was charged $155 to ship it. Had they printed a UPS label at home and dropped it off at the UPS Store, or taken it to the counter at an actual UPS-owned facility, the price would have been around $50. This is because many shipping and packaging stores charge unconscionably high markups from the “counter rates” that represent the true cost from the shipping company. Last year I got burned myself at a UPS Store, shipping a mid-sized Bluetooth speaker from Pennsylvania to Texas. I asked if they charged UPS counter rates, and was told, “there is a slight markup” before being presented with a bill for $60 for something that should have cost $30 at most. Never again!

Many of you will be shipping packages in the coming weeks, so be careful this does not happen to you. FedEx Office locations charge counter rates for ground and air service, and FedEx Ground is sometimes faster than UPS to a given area. You can always print UPS labels at home at counter rates before dropping off at a UPS Store, Staples store or UPS facility. And of course, don’t forget your local USPS office, which is an economical and reliable way to ship packages.