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Samsung HW-Q800A soundbar review

Powerful new soundbar takes your living room to the movies

samsung soundbar
(Image: © Samsung)

Our Verdict

The Q800A is an impressive refinement on its 2020 predecessor, delivering improvements in two key areas. Firstly, if you’re able to combine it with the sound optimization features of the new Q70A or higher 2021 Samsung TVs, the improvements in audio performance prove unexpectedly worthwhile. For its second big improvement over last year’s Q800T, Samsung's added up-firing height channel drivers to the Q800A's optional extra rear speakers, providing a more satisfying and convincing Dolby Atmos sound experience. That said, the Q800A is good enough on its own that we suspect most people who buy it won’t feel any great compulsion to add the rears.

For

  • Powerful, immersive, room-filling sound
  • Excellent bass support from the subwoofer
  • Appealing and compact design

Against

  • Best features require a new and fairly premium Samsung TV
  • Expensive by typical soundbar standards
  • The 3.1.2 channel count could have been higher

Two-minute review

If you’re a movie lover, the Q800A is arguably the most all-round powerful, convincing, detailed and effective soundbars you can get at this price. Its subwoofer underpins proceedings with colossal amounts of bass too, and the system is so well made that its massive power causes no rattling, buzzing or distortion problems even when you’re playing action movies at crazy volume levels. 

More musically minded souls may prefer a slightly less aggressive sounding soundbar with a little more hi-fi refinement behind it, such as the Sonos Arc. Otherwise, though, the Q800A ticks the ‘huge sound from a compact speaker’ box uniquely well. Especially if you partner it with one of Samsung’s new premium TVs. 

The Q800A trim design looks great in its grilled finish, and should fit under most TVs without obscuring any of their picture or infrared receivers. 

Samsung hasn’t squeezed in quite as many speaker channels as one or two rivals have; for instance, while the Q800A provides a 3.1.2 channel system, the only slightly more expensive LG SP9YA carries a 5.1.2 system. However, Samsung’s Acoustic Beam technology is on hand to make the Q800A sound like it’s delivering more channels of audio than it really is by pushing height channel information through 56 distinct holes, creating a bigger, more widely dispersed overhead sound stage.

If you have a Samsung TV able to take advantage of the new Space Fit / Adaptive Sound + automatic sound optimization features, the Q800A can also produce a more convincing, immersive and well-rounded sound than its Q800T predecessor. 

As you would expect of a soundbar with height channels, the Q800A supports DTS:X and Dolby Atmos decoding. There’s also full eARC support, built-in Amazon Alexa voice control, and a new improved upgrade path that lets you add 2.0.2-channel rear speakers, complete with up-firing drivers, rather than the previous 2.0.0-channel upgrades available in previous years.

The Q800A’s sound is precise, powerful, and dynamic enough to ensure that you feel the full weight of every one of its available 3.1.2 channels. There’s a genuine sense of height as well as width to the sound, while the eight-inch subwoofer driver delivers some of the deepest rumbles the soundbar world can offer. 

The sound isn’t particularly different to that of 2020’s Q800T unless you’re using it in conjunction with a Q70A or above Samsung TV. Since the Q800T was already an outstanding soundbar, though, the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ adage applies. 

While it doesn’t mark a radical departure or step up from its predecessor, the Q800A is nonetheless a soundbar of rare power and precision that manages to make its $899.99 / £799 / AU$1,190 asking price feel like seriously good value.

samsung hw-q800a

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Samsung HW-Q800A price and availability

  • Widely available now in most global territories
  • $899.99 / £799 / AU$1,190
  • Confusingly given its name, the Q800A replaces 2020’s Q800T

The HW-Q800A is available now in all major territories, and will represent Samsung’s flagship soundbar offering until the brand’s Q900A and Q950A arrive a little later in the year.

It’s priced at $899.99 in the US, £799 in the UK, and $1,190 in Australia. That gets you the main five-channel soundbar, plus a substantial wireless subwoofer. You can also add a pair of optional SWA-9500S wireless rear speakers equipped with both up-firing and front firing drivers for $299.99 / £249 / AU$499.

The Q800A replaces 2020’s Q800T model, which also offered a 3.1.2-channel soundbar solution with DTS:X and Alexa built in. It improves on its same-priced predecessor by introducing an Active Voice Amplifier feature, an Adaptive Sound + / SpaceFit sound optimization system, and an improved rear speaker upgrade path. It doesn’t offer any obvious physical changes in terms of its design or speaker configuration.

samsung soundbar

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Design

  • Two-piece system of main soundbar and large subwoofer
  • Optional rear speakers available
  • Front-mounted LED

The HW-Q800A appears to be identical to 2020’s Q800T. Its dimensions are the same (980W) 980 x 60 x 115mm (W x H x D), enabling it to tuck under the screen of most TVs without infringing on their pictures or IR receptors. Its distinctive sculpting, where the front top edge angles down to optimize the way the height channels are dispersed, is the same. Its grilled finish is also the same. 

Even the chunky subwoofer, with its eight-inch driver, is the same as the one you got with the Q800T. 

This is perhaps a little disappointing in the sense that it suggests Samsung hasn’t any significant internal hardware changes since 2020. However, in pure form factor terms, we were actually fans of the Q800T’s design. So naturally we’re fans of the identical Q800A too.

The main soundbar and subwoofer are both very robustly built, and while the subwoofer isn’t especially attractive (few are), you can hide it away at the side of the sofa or under a side table without necessarily spoiling its sound.

It’s great to see the Q800A retaining a little LED readout on its front edge. Mercifully Samsung has not done what it did with its Q950T soundbar last year and placed the LED on the top edge, where you can’t see it when you’re sitting down.

samsung soundbar

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Most Q800A buyers will simply set the soundbar on the surface their TV is standing on. If you want to wall mount it, though, Samsung helpfully provides the necessary bracket and screws.

The speaker set up inside the Q800A continues to ape that of the Q800T. The 3.1.2 drive array delivers front left, front right, centre channel, and two height channels in the main soundbar, while the external subwoofer provides the .1 bass channel – all powered by a healthy 330W of total output.

For an extra $299.99 / £249 / AU$499 you can add in Samsung’s new 9500T optional rear speakers, each of which adds an up- as well as front-firing driver in order to better deliver that hemisphere of sound effect that’s so important to a full Dolby Atmos experience. The Q800T’s optional rears don’t have up-firing drivers.

samsung soundbar review

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Features

  • Adaptive Sound / Space Fit
  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • Hi-res audio support

The Q800A also differs from its predecessor with its new Adaptive Sound + / Space Fit system to optimize the sound to local room conditions. Note, though, that this feature is only available if you have the soundbar running with one of Samsung’s new QLED TVs (from the Q70A series upwards). 

This is partly because it depends on the TVs’ built-in mic and processing, and partly because it’s more about optimizing the way the TV and soundbar work together in Samsung’s Q-Symphony mode than it is a formal ‘Auto EQ’ room calibration system. 

Also new for the Q800A is an Automatic Voice Amplifier that can detect when there’s a lot of ambient noise in the room and crank up vocals accordingly, so you don’t miss any key dialogue.

As with its predecessor, the Q800A supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding, supported by eARC technology for passing lossless object-based sound over HDMI from eARC TVs. The HDMI system also supports passthrough of all the main HDR formats, including HDR10+ and Dolby Vision. It’s a little disappointing, though, to find only one HDMI input to go with the eARC-capable HDMI output. We think it isn’t too much to ask for two HDMI inputs at this price, even where eARC is available. 

Specs

Power: 330W | Speakers: 3.1.2 | Dimensions: Main soundbar 980 x 60 x 115mm / Subwoofer 403 x 210 x 403mm (W x H x D) | Connections: HDMI input and output with eARC, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi | Subwoofer included?: Yes

While it’s great to find the Q800A’s HDMI loop-through supporting all three HDR10, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision flavors of high dynamic range technology, gamers should note that it can’t pass 4K at 120Hz, or variable refresh rates. But then neither can the HDMIs on any other soundbar – and you can always use eARC to get sound from 4K / 120Hz / VRR games via your TV into the soundbar.

The only other physical connection is an optical audio input – though as you would expect, there’s both Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and AirPlay 2 wireless connectivity. 

This wireless connectivity is most effectively accessed via Samsung’s Smart Things iOS / Android app, which also makes it much easier to get the Q800A onto your home network than it used to be with Samsung soundbars in days gone by.

SmartThings also enables straightforward streaming through the soundbar of a variety of music services – most notably Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, and Samsung Music, and the soundbar is capable of playing all the most popular hi-res audio file types.

If you’re not listening to a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X source, you can choose from four different sound processing modes. Standard, as you’d expect, just plays the incoming sound ‘as is’, with no processing added. Surround remixes sub-Dolby Atmos / DTS:X sources to take advantage of all the available speakers. Adaptive Sound analyzes incoming audio sources and continually attempts to optimize them to the soundbar’s specific sound characteristics. Finally there’s a Game Pro mode that makes game soundtracks feel more immersive.

samsung hw-q800a

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Audio performance

  • Exceptional power and projection
  • Big dynamic range, with plenty of bass from the subwoofer
  • Excellent handling of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • Palpable benefits when used with compatible Samsung TVs

Starting with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, the Q800A proves to be exceptionally powerful for such a compact soundbar. It can comfortably hit levels of volume and dynamic range during action scenes that are hard to reconcile with its slender build, reaching far beyond the point where even the most enthusiastic home cinema fan’s ears would likely comfortably want to reach. All without a hint of distortion or harshness in even the densest soundtracks. 

The Q800A is not just about ‘big moments’, though. It’s also sensitive and sophisticated enough in the way it projects its sound to ensure that no detail goes missing in even the densest mixes – no matter how subtle or quiet it might be. 

At the same time, small details never become over-exaggerated. In fact, one of the best things about the Q800A is its instinct for which parts of a mix are highlighted to be emphasized, and which parts are background ambience.

Details are typically uncannily well placed in the soundstage, too, while dialogue sounds rich, believable, perfectly contextualized, and clear without becoming over-prominent. Sometimes voices sound as if they’re coming from slightly below the image, but not usually to a distracting degree. You can mitigate this issue, too, if you can take advantage of Samsung’s Q Symphony system, as we’ll explain later. 

The bottom end of the soundbar’s range usually blends into the subwoofer’s deep rumbles remarkably well, too. Just occasionally a particularly heavy and sustained bass sound becomes fractionally overwhelming using the soundbar’s default settings, but it’s not difficult to fix this via provided EQ and channel adjustments. 

samsung hw-q800a

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The Q800A excels with its presentation of height effects. There’s a genuine sense of audio coming from above the soundbar, and these sounds appear strikingly accurately placed in both height and width terms. As a result, the Q800A does more justice to Dolby Atmos soundtracks than you’d imagine possible from a compact 3.1.2-channel system. 

Side to side sound effect transitions sound convincing, even when they’re delivered by the height channel drivers, and there’s even a limited sense of front to back and back to front sound movement, despite the lack of any rear speakers. 

We’ve been mostly talking so far about the Q800A’s handling of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks. The Q800A also handles less sophisticated, less channel-rich sources extremely well too, though. Every source you feed it sounds clean, powerful, surprisingly dynamic, and impressively spacious and detailed. In fact, 7.1 and even 5.1 mixes take on an almost Atmos feel.

It’s a shame that there isn’t a dedicated music preset, though. The presets you do get can all sound a little aggressive and dense with some types of music (most notably layered guitar rock and heavy orchestral pieces). 

Even the soundbar’s Adaptive mode, which claims to automatically recognize and optimize playback to different sources, can sound a touch forced with music. Though the way this mode expands music to fill the room more makes it a pretty good party option.

Having said all that, the Q800A’s power, projection and dynamic range ensure it’s anything but a flop with music. The scale of its sound is a mammoth step up from your average mini hi-fi, and its dynamic range is huge. As with movies, the volume levels the system can hit with music without distorting or losing cohesion are immense. Even relatively mild-mannered CDs can sound like they’ve been mixed for a massive concert hall experience. 

samsung soundbar

(Image credit: TechRadar)

The last part of the Q800A experience to touch on is the extended functions it enjoys when combined with a compatible new Samsung TV: Q Symphony and the new Sound Optimiser+ system. 

Combining the soundbar with the TV’s speakers instantly adds a stronger sense of height to the mix – not least because the vertical effects seem to have more directness thanks to the way they’re coming forwards from the TV rather than only being reflected from your ceiling by upfiring drivers. Q-Symphony appears to help lift voices to a slightly higher place in the mix, alleviating the low vocals issue noted earlier. 

The speakers of two Samsung TVs we used the Q800A with, a 65QN95A and a 75Q900A, blended in with the power and tone of the soundbar surprisingly well overall. There’s a slight reduction in mid-range meatiness in Q Symphony mode compared with using the soundbar alone, and dialogue sounds a touch thinner. 

Nonetheless Q Symphony is a genuinely interesting option that will suit some installation scenarios well – especially rooms with beamed or vaulted ceilings.

The sound calibration option made possible by combining the Q800A with the mic in compatible Samsung TVs proves very useful indeed. After running the routine, the soundbar / Q Symphony soundstage was notably more balanced, controlled, detailed and convincing – which also makes it more immersive. In fact, it’s probably this feature that gives the Q800A its biggest step up over last year’s Q800T. Just remember you need the right Samsung TV to unlock this key refinement.

Should I buy the Samsung HW-Q800A soundbar?

samsung soundbar

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Buy it if...

You want Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
The Q800A supports both of the latest object-based sound systems, meaning you can enjoy the best soundtrack options available from any disc, stream, or broadcast you play through it. 

You like your movies loud
The Q800A really loves to be played loud, delivering its biggest advantages over its rivals when cranked up to the sorts of high volume levels serious movie fans love to hear. 

You have a Samsung Q70A or higher 2021 TV
The Q Symphony and Adaptive Sound + features you unlock for the soundbar if it’s partnered with a compatible TV are worthwhile enough to warrant considering buying them as a package deal.

Don't buy it if...

You're on a budget
While actually good value for what it offers, it is one of the more expensive soundbars out there. So much so that you might be even be able to put together a good separates system for not far off the same money if the convenience of the soundbar approach isn’t that important to you.

Music matters to you more than music
The Q800A is far from a slouch with music. Especially live concerts mastered in Dolby Atmos. Its aggressive approach does seem to be tuned more with film soundtracks than stereo music in mind, though.

You want a one-bar solution
While its big subwoofer is one of the Q800A’s biggest selling points from a sound quality perspective, if you don’t mind compromising on bass for the tidier approach of a single soundbar system you should be looking at something like the Sonos Arc instead.

First Reviewed: April 30 2021

John Archer

AV Technology Contributor

John has been writing about home entertainment technology for more than two decades - an especially impressive feat considering he still claims to only be 35 years old (yeah, right). In that time he’s reviewed hundreds if not thousands of TVs, projectors and speakers, and spent frankly far too long sitting by himself in a dark room.