Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar Review

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Acoustic Beaming

by Steve Withers May 10, 2019 at 8:07 AM

  • SRP: £799.00

    What is the Samsung HW-Q70R?

    The Samsung HW-Q70R is the company's latest soundbar and wireless subwoofer combination, developed in conjunction with its Harman Kardon subsidiary. Samsung's decision to use the same model numbers for its 2019 TVs and soundbars might make it easier for the company to cross-sell the two ranges, but it's going to be a nightmare optimising reviews for search engines. If you say Q70R, do you mean the TV or the soundbar? To avoid any confusion, I'll stick to HW-Q70R when referring to the soundbar.

    So, what does this new model have to offer? Aside from input from Harman Kardon, the big features revolve around eight custom designed drivers and a dedicated active subwoofer. The HW-Q70R has a genuine 3.1.2-channel configuration, with three forward and two upward firing speakers. It supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, and uses acoustic beam technology to create an immersive audio experience. It also includes a new Adaptive Sound feature that analyses the audio and optimises it based on the content.

    The HW-Q70 can be picked up for £799 as at the time of writing (May 2019), which isn't cheap. However, Samsung's recent record when it comes to soundbars has been impressive, so we're expecting this latest addition to deliver the sonic goods. Let's see if it does...

    Design

    Samsung HW-Q70R Design
    The Samsung HW-Q70R takes its design cues from last year's HW-N650. So you get the same rectangular soundbar and black (or 'mineral black ash' as Samsung calls it) finish. The metal end plates are angled, there are metal grilles on the front and top, and there's a small display on the front right that shows information like the source or volume level selected.

    The HW-Q70R has been designed to complement Samsung's 2019 range of TVs, although you could just as easily use it with models from other manufacturers. It combines minimalism and class to create a look that's attractive but doesn't necessarily draw attention to itself. It has three front-firing speakers and two upward-firing speakers, that use seven custom drivers and acoustic beam tech to deliver immersive audio.
    Samsung HW-Q70R Design
    As you'd expect from Samsung, the build quality is excellent and the HW-Q70 feels solid and well-made. It has a low-profile design that ensures it remains discreet when placed in front of a TV and thus shouldn't block the screen. There are also additional foot holders for more stable support, and if you'd rather wall mount the soundbar there's included brackets, screws and a template for that purpose. The soundbar itself measures 1100 x 59 x 100mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 3.6kg.

    The HW-Q70 is combined with a newly designed wireless active subwoofer. This bass-reflex model is larger than previous models and uses a rear-ported enclosure and a side-firing 8-inch driver that Samsung claims can get down to 35Hz. The sub is composed of MDF and is as well made as the main unit, with a similar styling and colour scheme. It measures 205 x 403 x 403mm (WxHxD) and weighs 9.8kg.

    The design is stylish, the build quality excellent, and the form-factor discreet

    Connections & Control

    Samsung HW-Q70R Connections & Control
    The connections on the Samsung HW-Q70R are located in a recess on the underside of the soundbar and here you'll find one HDMI input and an HDMI output. They both support 4K/60p, High Dynamic Range (HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision), HDCP 2.2, and Anynet+ (HDMI-CEC), whilst the HDMI output also supports Enhanced Audio Return Channel (eARC). The only other physical connections are an optical digital input, and a socket for the provided AC power adapter. There is a USB port, but it's only for firmware updates, and in terms of wireless connections, there's Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

    Samsung includes an HDMI cable with the HW-Q70R, which is handy. The HDMI connections are only version 2.0b, but I was pleased that they were able to pass both HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. I also had no problems passing Dolby Atmos back via ARC from the built-in apps on the Samsung QE55Q70R that I was testing at the same time. However, as with last year's Samsung soundbars, I couldn't get Atmos to pass back via ARC from my LG 65C8. Whether the problem lies with LG or Samsung remains a mystery.

    In terms of other issues, I think the number of HDMI inputs is rather stingy given the price. I guess Samsung expects users to connect most sources directly to the TV, and then send the audio back via ARC. Samsung added eARC via a firmware update at the end of May, which means that lossless audio can now be sent back via HDMI. This helps mitigate the single HDMI input to a degree, although that assumes your TV supports eARC as well.
    Samsung HW-Q70R Connections & Control
    On the right hand end plate of the soundbar you'll find some basic controls: these are composed of volume up and down, source select and power on/off. The provided remote control has central navigation and play/pause buttons, along with a sound control button for setting treble, bass and audio sync. There's also a source select button, a Bluetooth pairing button, the sound mode (Standard, Surround, Game Pro and Adaptive Sound), volume up and down, mute and a control for setting the subwoofer level.

    It's worth noting that some of the buttons have multiple functions. For example, holding the Woofer button up for five seconds disables the ability to control the soundbar using your Samsung TV. You can use the left and right buttons to skip music files forwards or backwards, and if you hold the right button down for five seconds you can turn Anynet+ on or off. Doing the same with the left button turns auto power link on and off, while holding the up button for five seconds completes Id Set when connecting with an accessory item. Finally, holding down the sound control button for five seconds brings up a choice of frequency bands, while doing the same when the soundbar is off will reinitialise it.

    The connectivity is limited: one HDMI output and a single HDMI input, plus there's no eARC

    Samsung HW-Q70R Features & Specs

    Samsung HW-Q70R Samsung HW-Q70R Features & Specs
    The Samsung HW-Q70R has a number of key features, built around the soundbar's use of seven custom-designed drivers in a five channel configuration. There are left and right forward-firing speakers composed of a midrange driver and a tweeter, along with a centre speaker and two upward firing speakers that all use midrange drivers.

    The soundbar is supported by a wireless active subwoofer, with an 8-inch bass driver and rear port. The entire system has a total of 330W of amplification, although Samsung doesn't disclose how this power is distributed to the eight drivers (including the sub). However, the system has a claimed frequency response of 35Hz-20kHz, which is good for soundbar and subwoofer combo.

    The HW-Q70 was designed and tested in Samsung's Audio Labs in California, and the sound was then tuned and optimised by Harman Kardon to ensure a cohesive soundstage and integrated bass. The soundbar also uses acoustic beam technology, which uses a hole array at a 19 degree angle to create a more immersive experience with overhead effects.

    The soundbar also uses a wide range tweeter designed to create a larger sweet spot, which is handy for making sure everyone on the sofa gets the best results. However it doesn't use side firing speakers and doesn't come with any wireless rear speakers, although you can buy them separately (SWA-8500S).

    In terms of audio support, the Samsung can decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, along with the numerous other variants these formats offer (with the exception of IMAX Enhanced DTS:X). However, if what you're watching doesn't have an actual multichannel soundtrack, you can use the Surround mode to up-mix 2.0-channel content to 3.1.2 (or 5.1.2 if you have wireless speakers attached).
    Samsung HW-Q70R Samsung HW-Q70R Features & Specs
    The Adaptive Sound mode is a new feature that analyses the audio and adapts the sound to give you the best performance scene-by-scene using all the available channels. In essence, it analyses the acoustic signature of the soundtrack and then adjusts the audio depending on the content. So if it's a news programme or documentary the centre channel is emphasised for clearer dialogue. conversely the left and right channels are prioritised for music, while all the channels will be enhanced for the crowds at a football match or the effects in a movie or game.

    Speaking of gaming, if you have a PS4 or Xbox One connected via HDMI to a 2019 Samsung TV, then you can enjoy certain automated features. I connected my PS4 Pro to the 55Q70 and then connected that to the HW-Q70R, and the result was a seamless experience. As soon as I turned on the PS4 the TV detected it and went into the low input lag game mode, and the soundbar went into its Game Pro sound mode. Just to be clear, if you then decide to do something other than gaming (such as watch an app or Blu-ray), the TV registers the metadata and switches out of game mode (as does the soundbar).

    The Game Pro, Surround, and Adaptive Sound modes already mentioned all use digital signal processing (DSP) to up-mix audio for all the available channels, but the soundbar also has a Standard mode. This just decodes the audio format without processing, so 2.0 is output as 2.1 and 5.1 is output as 3.1 (or 5.1 if you buy the wireless rear speakers).

    In terms of other features, the HW-Q70R includes built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, which allows users to effectively access their music libraries and streaming services. There's also support for numerous lossy and lossless audio formats including AAC, WAV, OGG, ALAC, AIFF and FLAC, with high-resolution support up to 32-bit. Samsung even includes high quality, UHQ 32-bit upscaling for supporting devices.

    The soundbar supports the SmartThings App, which makes setup easier and allows for controlling it along with other connected devices. The HW-Q70 also works with Amazon Alexa, allowing for hands-free control and enabling you to listen to music via Spotify Connect. That's a solid selection of features, although it's worth pointing out that the soundbar doesn't support Samsung's own Bixby, nor does it support Google Assistant, Chromecast or Apple AirPlay.

    There's a host of useful features, headlined by 3.1.2-channel support for Atmos and DTS:X

    Setup & Operation

    Samsung HW-Q70R Setup & Operation
    The Samsung HW-Q70R is simple to install: just make sure the soundbar is level, it's not blocking your screen and that the drivers (front and above) are clear of any obstructions. Then position the subwoofer towards the front of the room, on either the left or right of the TV. There may be a bit of experimentation required to get the best position, and don't forget that although the sub is wireless, you will still need to plug it into a wall socket.

    The upward-firing drivers will hit the ceiling towards the first third of the room, creating the front overhead channels. For the best results, these upward-firing drivers require a low, flat and reflective ceiling to bounce sounds off. If your ceiling is very high, vaulted or will absorb sound waves, then the effect is diminished and the HW-Q70 (or any soundbar or speaker that uses upward-firing drivers) might not be the best choice for you.

    To get the most balanced performance from the soundbar and subwoofer, I'd recommend using an SPL meter (there are plenty of free smartphone apps) and some test tones (if you can get your hands on a Dolby Atmos demo disc that makes life easier) to set the levels for the centre, front top, and subwoofer channels. It won't take long, but if you spend some time optimising the setup of your HW-Q70R, you will reap the benefits in terms of sound quality.

    However, at this price point, it would be nice to see Samsung include proper built-in test tones like those found in the Sony HT-ZF9 or an automated room EQ setup with a dedicated microphone like the one used by the Bose SoundTouch 300. It's even possible to use the microphone in your smartphone for setup, like the Sonos Beam does, so there's room for improvement in this area. It would be nice to see Samsung offer a more automated setup, especially as it has started doing this for the sound on its own 2019 TVs.
    Samsung HW-Q70R Setup & Operation
    The SmartThings app makes connecting to your wireless network easy: just download and install the app, launch it, and follow the instructions. You'll be connected within a matter of minutes. You can also pair the soundbar to another Bluetooth device in seconds by simply pressing the Bluetooth pairing button on the remote and then selecting 'Samsung Soundbar Q70R' on the source device. If you have a Samsung TV, that should configure automatically for the soundbar, but if you have a TV from another manufacturer you'll need to make sure that ARC is setup correctly.

    Controlling the HW-Q70R is a piece of cake, you can either use the provided controller, your TV remote, or even the SmartThings app. This allows you to play audio through another Samsung device using Group Play, and not only gives you control over the soundbar, but also a range of other smart home appliances.

    If you have an Amazon Alexa device in your home, you can even use your voice to control the soundbar. Make sure you change the soundbar's name in the SmartThings app to something like Living Room, for example, and then search for 'Samsung Wireless Audio' under skills in the Alexa app and enable it. You'll then be able to control the HW-Q70R by using phrases such as "Alexa volume up on Living Room".

    For testing, I connected various devices directly to the soundbar via the HDMI input: Samsung UBD-M9500 UHD Blu-ray player, a PS4 Pro, an Apple TV 4K and a Humax FVP-5000T set top box. However, for most of the testing I connected the PS4, Apple TV, and Humax directly to a Samsung QE55Q70R QLED 4K TV, and then sent the audio back to the soundbar via the HDMI-ARC (Audio Return Channel). I also sent the audio from the TV's built-in video streaming apps back to the soundbar via ARC, and I paired an iPhone X and a Samsung S9+ to the HW-Q70 via Bluetooth to test its capabilities with streamed music.

    It's easy to setup, and if you pair it with a Samsung TV the integration is seamless

    Performance

    Samsung HW-Q70R Performance
    Samsung has been producing some excellent soundbars over the last few years, and the HW-Q70R is no exception. Kicking off with music, the soundbar delivers a very strong performance. The two channel audio in the Standard sound mode is reproduced with exceptional detail and clarity. Thanks to the width of the soundbar itself there's plenty of stereo separation, and as a result the imaging is impressive with precise localisation of instruments across the front soundstage.

    I recently picked up Kate Bush's back catalogue on remastered CD and the HW-Q70 did a wonderful job of rendering the vocals without them sounding shrill or bright (never easy when it comes to Kate's earlier works, before her voice deepened). The often unusual instrumentation is spread effectively across the front soundstage, and the music is clear and well defined. The drums and bass drive the more uptempo numbers with a pleasing sense of rhythm, and the sub ensures that the lower frequencies were effectively presented and well-integrated with the soundbar.

    Harman Kardon's contribution is certainly apparent in the more musical nature of the HW-Q70R's performance, although in fairness Samsung's soundbars sounded great long before the buy-out. I primarily used CD as the source for music testing, with the player connected directly to the HW-Q70R. However, it's also very effective when it comes to streaming music, and Kate's oeuvre sounded the same whether I played the CDs or streamed the lossless files over my home network. The Bluetooth also sounded great from both the iPhone X and the Galaxy S9+, with the latter also supporting UHQ 32-bit.

    Having established that the HW-Q70 sounds excellent with music, it wasn't a surprise to discover it's equally as impressive with TV programmes. Whether you're watching the news, a documentary, or the Great British Menu, the Samsung delivers the dialogue with clear precision thanks to its dedicated centre speaker. Music is spread evenly on either side of the screen, and any effects are easy to pick out. The Adaptive Sound feature does liven up proceedings without adversely affecting things like dialogue, and it can be a useful feature for sporting events, giving the crowd greater presence.

    I then moved on to the 4K disc of Dunkirk with its superb 5.1-channel mix, and, for the best results, you should connect your player directly to the soundbar via HDMI to ensure you get the full lossless experience. The Samsung does an excellent job of delivering this complex mix, with the ticking clock motif layered in with the score, and the effects reproduced with a terrifying intensity. The scream of the Stuka dive-bombers, the percussive blast of explosions on the beach, and the chaos of the sinking ship later in the film are all handled with skill.

    The sound is obviously very front heavy because the 5.1 mix is actually being delivered as 3.1, but the front soundstage feels big, and the bass has impact. You can certainly use this soundbar with larger screen sizes up to 65 inches. However, the sense of surround is obviously minimal, unless you stump up for the optional wireless rear speakers. You can engage the Surround mode, and this will up-mix the audio to use the upward-firing drivers as well. It can be surprisingly effective, but will obviously never sound as good as a genuine immersive audio soundtrack.

    That brings us neatly on to Dolby Atmos, which I started listening to via HDMI-ARC using the Samsung 55Q70R. Love, Death and Robots on Netflix has a fantastic Atmos mix, which the HW-Q70R delivered with great aplomb. The episode involving a marine drop ship has a fantastically immersive mix, with plenty of flying sequences, gunfire, and explosions. Dialogue always remains clear, music is spread across the front soundstage, and the numerous explosions dig deep.

    There are a few security camera shots from the inside of the drop ship, seen from the perspective of the ship itself, that make imaginative use of the overhead channels. My lounge has a low, flat and reflective ceiling that is ideal for upward-firing drivers, and the result is I heard plenty of overhead action. However, this was obviously focused on the front third of the room because there are no rear overhead channels (even if you did buy the optional wireless rear speakers).

    The UHD Blu-ray of Aquaman has a fantastic Dolby Atmos soundtrack that boasts a submarine-load of bass, and the HW-Q70 did a good job of handling this salty epic. The newly designed subwoofer benefits from its bigger driver and delivers plenty of low-end slam for a soundbar/sub combo. It's never going to go infra-sonic, but the system as a whole can certainly wake-up the rest of the household. However, as immersive as the effects are, especially the numerous underwater sequences, the sound field is still limited to the front of the room. This isn't meant as a criticism of the Samsung, just an inherent limitation that would apply to any soundbar that uses upward-firing drivers.

    Finally, I popped on Atomic Blonde to check out the HW-Q70R with a DTS:X soundtrack. As with Atmos, the results were impressive, and the film's barnstorming immersive audio mix filled the front of the room. The brutal fistfights are delivered with a visceral impact, and every punch and kick is felt as much as heard. The sub does an excellent job of underpinning the mix, and Charlize Theron's grunts are ably picked out by the centre channel. Bullets zip around with a super-sonic ballistic crack, and bones break with a horrible crunch. The car chases have weight to each impact, and the overhead channels are used to make you feel like a helpless passenger. The 80s tracks are delivered beautifully, and dialogue always remains clear and focused on the action. Aside from being decidedly front-heavy, the HW-Q70R does another great job of reproducing this excellent immersive audio soundtrack.

    The sound quality is excellent and the bass well-integrated, but the audio is front heavy

    Conclusion

    9
    AVForumsSCORE
    OUT OF
    10

    Pros

    • Excellent sound quality
    • Big and beefy sub
    • Dolby Atmos & DTS:X support
    • Easy to setup
    • Attractive and well made

    Cons

    • Front-heavy soundstage
    • Disappointing connectivity
    • Limited room EQ
    You own this Total 0
    You want this Total 0
    You had this Total 0

    Samsung HW-Q70R Soundbar Review

    Samsung HW-Q70R Verdict

    The Samsung HW-Q70R is another great soundbar from the company, with a beefy new subwoofer and tuning thanks to Harman Kardon. It's nicely designed, well made, and boasts plenty of features. This soundbar is impressive with both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, creating a big if slightly front heavy soundstage. It also sounds great with music, while the Adaptive Sound mode is a useful addition.

    So whether you're watching TV, enjoying your favourite movie, or indulging in a marathon gaming session, this soundbar and subwoofer combination is sure to please. My only real complaints relate to the rather limited connections (which is mitigated by the inclusion of eARC), and the lack of any automated setup, but otherwise, the Samsung HW-Q70R definitely comes recommended.

    What are my alternatives?

    If you're on a budget, then Sony’s HT-ZF9 is worth considering. This soundbar and wireless subwoofer combination costs around £650, and also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. However it doesn’t use upward-firing drivers, employing psychoacoustic processing instead to create a more immersive experience from 3.1 channels.

    Perhaps the obvious alternative is the LG SL8YG, which is almost identical to the HW-Q70R. It also uses a 3.1.2-channel configuration, and supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. As far as differences go, the tuning is by Meridian, there’s Chromecast, and LG offers Google Assistant built-in. The subwoofer isn’t as powerful but at £700 it’s has the edge in terms of price.

    MORE: Read All Soundbar Reviews


    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £799.00

    The Rundown

    Build Quality

    9

    Connectivity

    7

    Ease of use

    9

    Sound Quality

    9

    Features

    8

    Value for Money

    8

    Verdict

    9

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