Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar Review

An impressive all-rounder

SRP: £799.00

What is the Samsung HW-Q800T?

The Samsung HW-Q800T is the company's latest mid-range soundbar, replacing the outgoing HW-Q70R. The new model also uses a 3.1.2-channel speaker layout, supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio decoding, and includes an HDMI output with eARC (out-of-the-box this time, rather than via a long-delayed firmware update).

However, Samsung has made a number of changes, including a more slimline design that moves the upward-firing drivers towards the front of the cabinet, making it easier to position the soundbar under modern TVs without blocking the sound beams or the screen. It also adds Q Symphony for an integrated sonic experience with supporting Samsung TVs, and includes built-in Amazon Alexa.

The HW-Q800T currently retails at £799, as at the time of writing (July 2020), which is fairly expensive for a mid-range model. As a result, this latest soundbar from Samsung will need to deliver a solid all-round performance to justify its price in a crowded and highly competitive market place.

Design

The Samsung HW-Q800T uses a revised cabinet compared to last year, with the same low form-factor but a sleeker design, and more angled front where the Acoustic Beam drivers are now located. It should fit snugly in front of a modern TV without blocking the screen, and the TV itself shouldn't block the upward-firing sound beams. The reduced width also makes this soundbar ideal for smaller TVs, but still has a big enough soundstage for screens up to 65 inches.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T soundbar left side

The overall appearance is discreet and stylish, with a solid construction and a matte black finish. There’s a metal wrap-around grille, behind which you’ll find three forward-firing speakers at the front, and the Acoustic Beam holes, which are now located in the angled section along the top front.

 

The design is sleek and discreet, with a low form-factor that shouldn't block the TV screen

The Q800T has a proper alphanumeric display, which is always preferable to the infuriating collection of coloured lights that so many manufacturers laughingly refer to as a 'display'. It's located at the front right, and provides basic information on the setup, volume level, selected inputs and various sound modes.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T soundbar close-up

Samsung offers the choice of stand or wall mounting the HW-Q800T, and if you prefer the latter, you'll find brackets, screws and a template in the box. The soundbar itself measures 980 x 60 x 115mm (WxHxD) and weighs in at 3.6kg.

The included wireless active subwoofer is the same bass-reflex model as last year. It 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.

Connections and Control

The connections on the Samsung HW-Q800T are located in a recess on the underside of the soundbar, and here you'll find the HDMI output, and a single HDMI input. It’s a shame there isn’t a second HDMI input, but at least the HDMI output supports eARC out of the box, which means you can send lossless audio back from a compatible TV.

 

There's only one HDMI input, but there's support for eARC, along with HDR10+ and Dolby Vision passthrough

The HDMI connections support 4K/60p, and every version of high dynamic range, including HDR10, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision. This is something of a rarity on a soundbar, and gives the Q800T an advantage over much of the competition. The inclusion of eARC mitigates the single HDMI input to a degree, although if your TV doesn't support eARC, the audio sent back from the TV will be lossy.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T connections

The only other physical connection is an optical digital input (which you'll need to use if your TV doesn't support ARC), but in terms of wireless connections there’s built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, allowing you to stream music from your home network or via third-party services.

A Bluetooth connection is made using the pairing button on the remote, while the Wi-Fi is simply setup using the SmartThings app. Unlike some of the competition, Samsung doesn’t include support for Chromecast or Apple AirPlay.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T controls

There are basic controls centrally located on the top rear of the soundbar for multi-function (on/off and source select), volume up/down, and mic on/off. There are also control options using the SmartThings app, and minimal control using a TV remote via HDMI-ARC, or your voice thanks to the built-in Amazon Alexa.

 

There's a host of control options, including a well-designed remote, the SmartThings app and Amazon Alexa

The provided remote 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.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T remote

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 a choice of frequency bands, while doing the same when the soundbar is off will reinitialise it. 

Features and Specs

The Samsung HW-Q800T headline feature is its ability to decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, producing an immersive audio experience using a 3.1.2-channel speaker layout.

More: What is Immersive Audio?

This is based around three front channels, a wireless subwoofer and the company’s Acoustic Beam technology. The front left and right speakers are composed of a mid-range driver and wide-range tweeter, the centre channel employs a wide-range tweeter, while the Acoustic Beam tech uses 56 holes acting as individual speakers that create a panoramic spread of sound overhead.

The Q800T can go down to a claimed 35Hz thanks to the subwoofer, and has 160W of built-in amplification. The front left and right channels have 60W each, the centre channel has 20W, and the Acoustic Beam arrays each use 20W – giving the entire system (soundbar and subwoofer) a claimed total power of 330W.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T soundbar and subwoofer

The 3.1.2-channel speaker layout doesn’t include rear speakers, but there is a virtual setting that uses the Dolby and DTS up-mixers to create the illusion of surround channels. However, this is never as effective as actual surround speakers, so if you want to add rear channels, Samsung offers an optional SWA-9000S wireless speaker pack for £219.

 

The Q800T produces a 3.1.2-channel system out of the box, but there's the option to add wireless rear speakers

New this year is the Q Symphony feature, which integrates Samsung's latest soundbars with compatible 2020 TVs. This allows the combined system to take full advantage of the TV's built-in height speakers by simultaneously synchronising the sound from both devices to create a more immersive front soundstage. Although the Q800T wasn’t tested with a compatible Samsung TV, this feature has certainly impressed in demos that I've heard to date.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung's Q Symphony feature

The SmartThings app and Amazon Alexa allow for streaming from a number of services including Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn and Samsung Music. This SmartThings app also makes setup easier, and allows users to link directly to their Spotify, Deezer or TuneIn accounts. The Q800T supports Hi-Res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, along with the AAC, MP3, WAV, OGG, FLAC, ALAC, and AIFF file formats.

More: Audio Formats

The Q800T comes with Amazon Alexa built-in, making this soundbar a fully-functioning smart assistant. It’s easy to setup using the Alexa app, and allows users to ask questions, listen to music or podcasts, and enjoy hands-free voice control. There’s a far-field microphone built into the soundbar itself, but this can be muted for privacy if preferred.

Setup and Operation

The Samsung HW-Q800T 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, ideally on the right-hand-side of the TV as you face it, and avoiding the corners. 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-Q800T (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. If you've decided to add the optional rear speakers, there's a control for the rear levels as well.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T soundbar right side

A number of manufacturers now offer an automated audio calibration feature, and it would be nice to see Samsung include something similar. There are four sound modes: Standard which decodes the incoming audio with no changes; Surround which up-mixes audio to take advantage of the available speakers; Game Pro which creates a more immersive gaming experience; and Adaptive Sound which analyses the signal, and automatically optimises the audio using real-time processing.

 

The SmartThings app makes setup easy, and also offers quick access to streaming services and basic control

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 Q800T' 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/eARC is setup correctly.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung's SmartThings app

Operating the HW-Q800T is a cinch, 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. Thanks to built-in Amazon Alexa you can even use your voice to control the soundbar, simply use phrases like "Alexa, volume up".

For testing I used a Panasonic DP-UB820 4K Blu-ray player (for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X), and a Manhattan T3-R Freeview set-top box connected to my LG 77C9 4K OLED TV. I also tested the Atmos provided by the C9’s built-in Netflix, Amazon and Apple TV+ apps. To create a Bluetooth connection, I simply selected the BT function and then paired the soundbar to my Apple iPhone X. This allowed me to test the soundbar's capabilities with streamed music over Bluetooth, and I also streamed content using the SmartThings app.

Performance

In testing, the Samsung HW-Q800T proves to be an accomplished performer and a fantastic all-round soundbar solution. In part this is due to the company’s Acoustic Beam 2.0 technology, which creates overhead channels by using 56 angled holes to produce a panoramic effect that enhances the feeling of immersion.

Despite the lack of side-firing drivers, the wide-range tweeters in the front-firing speakers add width to the the overall presentation, creating an expansive soundstage that generates a wall of sound at the front of the room. The powerful and well-integrated subwoofer also lays down a solid foundation of bass that supports the entire system.

The Samsung expertly handles lossless audio, whether it was sent directly from the player to the soundbar, or via TV's eARC connection. Regardless of the method of connection, the recent 4K disc of Midway sounds spectacular, with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack that utilises every available channel to immerse you in the film's numerous naval battles. The opening attack on Pearl Harbour proves especially useful at demonstrating the particular strengths and weaknesses of this soundbar.

In terms of its strengths, the Q800T delivers undeniable scope to the soundtrack, and reveals the sheer scale of 'Battleship Row'. As the camera follows the Japanese Zeroes down through the US fleet, machine gun fire strafes across the room, and the flak explodes above you with precision. The sub also plays its part, giving the explosions added impact, but within all the chaos the dialogue remains clear and focused.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T system left view

As far as weaknesses are concerned, what the film's titular battle reveals is a soundstage that essentially fills the first third of the room, effectively creating a wall of sound. While this is expected of a soundbar without rear speakers, it does mean there's an acoustical hole behind you, into which planes will disappear as they fly from the front to the rear channels in the sound mix. So if you really want to experience genuine immersion, you should probably invest in wireless rear speakers.

In reality, most people don’t want speakers all over their lounge, which is why they're considering a soundbar instead of an AV receiver and multi-channel speaker package in the first place. Instead, what they want is the cost-effectiveness and relative simplicity of a soundbar and subwoofer at the front of the room, and in this regard the HW-Q800T is sure to please with an impressive all-round performance, regardless of what you're watching.

The Dolby Atmos performance remains equally compelling when it comes to streamed soundtracks from the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV+ – sourced from the TV's built-in apps, and sent via ARC as lossy Dolby Digital Plus. The Q800T does an admirable job, with the terrifying The Haunting of Hill House delivering some well-timed scares. The film Extraction also benefits from the soundbar's bruising performance, with plenty of brutal action.

Since this soundbar is also capable of decoding DTS:X, it only seemed fair to give the alternative object-based audio format a go, and the result is basically the same as with Atmos. The HW-Q800T displays the same strengths and weakness as I enjoy the over-the-top-action in Bad Boys for Life. This soundbar is certainly able to produce an energetic and enjoyable ballistic experience, delivering effects with precision and placing them around and above the screen.

Samsung HW-Q800T
Samsung HW-Q800T system right view

Moving on to broadcast TV and the delivery retains the same sense of composure, whether it’s in terms of the news, game shows, concerts or documentaries. The voiceovers retain clarity, the music sounds natural and uncluttered, and while 5.1 soundtracks obviously lose that sense of surround envelopment, panning across the front of the room is good, and the soundbar is able to project effects into the room with some effectiveness.

The Q800T certainly has enough amplification to fill even a reasonably large living room, and it can go loud without distorting or sounding strained. The various sound modes each have their advantages, with Standard sounding the smoothest and working best with music. The ability of the Adaptive Sound mode to bring out the fidelity of dialogue works well with general TV viewing, while Surround can give TV dramas and movies a greater sense of envelopment.

Streaming music from Spotify produces a balanced two-channel delivery, with good stereo separation and imaging that results in precise localisation of effects. There’s a pleasing musicality to the delivery, and listening to the La La Land soundtrack renders breezy renditions of the jazz-influenced numbers, and a pleasingly precise bass kick to the percussion. The soundtrack to Man of Steel also demonstrates how well the sub is integrated as it gives the drums a percussive kick.

Tidal has recently added Dolby Atmos music to its library, and this allowed the Samsung to display its all-round capabilities with some wonderful sonic journeys. Thanks to the immersive mixes, When Doves Cry by Prince has an epic sense of scale, whereas Poison's Every Rose Has Its Thorn retains a breathy intimacy. However, the real treat is Riders on the Storm by The Doors, which opens with disembodied voices in the studio, before thunder rolls overhead and rain falls all around.

Verdict

Pros

  • Expansive soundstage
  • Dolby Atmos & DTS:X
  • eARC support
  • Dolby Vision/HDR10+ passthrough
  • Option to add wireless rear speakers
  • Sleek design and well made

Cons

  • Limited connections
  • Quite expensive

Samsung HW-Q800T Soundbar Review

Should I buy one?

The Samsung HW-Q800T is another great soundbar from the manufacturer, delivering an accomplished all-round performance that undeniably enhances TV shows, movies, music and gaming. When it comes to Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, you'll be immersed in a powerful wall-of-sound that draws you into the action on screen. So whatever you enjoy watching, this compelling system will make it sound better.

Samsung's emphasis is undoubtedly on sound quality, but the company has also included plenty of useful features including built-in Amazon Alexa and Q Symphony for greater sonic integration with the Samsung’s high-end 2020 TVs. There’s only one HDMI input, but the inclusion eARC expands the number of lossless sources, and it passes every version of HDR, which makes a nice change.

An auto audio calibration feature would be nice and, as is the case with any soundbar lacking surround channels, the experience is very front-heavy, but Samsung offers a wireless rear speaker package for those who desire greater sonic envelopment. Overall, the HW-Q800T is an excellent all-round soundbar and subwoofer system, producing an expansive immersive audio experience that's sure to please.

What are my alternatives?

In terms of a direct competitor, the obvious alternative is the LG SN9YG. This 5.1.2-channel soundbar also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but goes one better by adding side-firing speakers for greater width. It swaps Alexa for built-in Google Assistant, and doesn’t just include eARC but also has HDMI 2.1 connections. There’s Hi-Res audio support, an option to add wireless rear speakers, and a handy AI room calibration feature. In fact, about the only thing missing is HDR10+ passthrough, but otherwise the SN9 is the complete package.

Finally, if you've got an extra £100 to spend, you could consider the JBL BAR 9.1. This awesome 5.1.4-channel system includes detachable and rechargeable rear speakers, resulting in a genuinely immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X experience. There's an automated audio calibration feature, eARC support, Chromecast, AirPlay 2 and Dolby Vision passthrough. There's no dedicated remote app, nor can it pass HDR10+, but in most other respects this soundbar is hard to fault.

Highly Recommended

Scores

Build Quality

.
9

Connectivity

.
.
8

Ease of use

.
9

Sound Quality

.
9

Features

.
9

Value for Money

.
.
8

Verdict

.
9
9
AVForumsSCORE
OUT OF
10

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