I love seeing new tech, especially tech that’s considered a little more high end, like the Samsung Q800A soundbar. The new Samsung Q800A is almost identical in design to last year’s Q800T though there are some significant improvements to performance that we’ll be going through in this review that you might fancy upgrading to.
The soundbar itself is rather wide, though not very tall, and for good reason. Its measurements come in at 98 centimetres wide but only seven centimetres tall and 12 centimetres in depth. It’s covered in a metal grille around the front and top, though the back and bottom are made from hard plastic, so the quality of the soundbar feels excellent. It’s definitely been designed with TVs in mind, as a unit that slots between the feet, though you’d be hard-pressed to find a TV 55-inches and under that can cater for it. No worries though, sitting it in front of a TV is no problem either, as it’s so low, and will not block off IR receivers for remote controls, unless the TV’s stand makes TVs sit flush to TV cabinets. It can be wall-mounted too very easily if that’s more your thing, though I must say it’ll look better if it lived below a TV rather than above it. On the front is again some subtle branding by Samsung and also some small LED lights on the right-hand side, hidden by the grill, which gives you your source and menu prompts and it’s actually quite bright so can be seen during the day, and very clearly at night.
The Q800A has a 3.1.2 style setup with the three speakers in front delivering front left, front right and centre, and two up-firing speakers for that surround sound style audio, while the single-channel woofer provides that thumping bass, and it does absolutely boom if you’ve got it turned up. There are an additional two satellite speakers that offer both front and up-firing speakers for an additional cost, and they’re designed to go behind you or at least either side of your main viewing positions to give that true Atmos feeling. It’ll up the system to a 5.1.4 setup, but they’re an additional £300 or so, which is pretty hefty after spending £800 on a soundbar already. The Q800A is capable of 330W worth of total output, so it’s safe to say this thing is LOUD and can minimalize distortion excellently at higher volumes.
Round back are two HDMI inputs, one of which offers eARC, so you can connect it directly to your TV using that HDMI port and receive audio directly from the TV itself, very much a standard with soundbars these days. The HDMI inputs can pass through a number of signals including HDR10+ and Dolby Vision and do your Atmos or DTS-X sound from compatible devices, though one thing that’s a little disappointing is the HDMI passthrough isn’t compatible with VRR gaming or even 4K resolutions at 120FPS refresh rates as you can now get on current-gen consoles and even PCs. The other audio input on the back is an optical port, but if you’re using eARC, there’s no real need for this. It’s nice to have in case you don’t have eARC compatible screens. You’ve got WiFi if you’re a Samsung SmartThings user and want to play music across the network using Spotify, Tidal or music stored on your phone, you’ve also got Bluetooth and Airplay 2 if these are important to you as well, so the number of ways to play audio is pretty decent. Just a shame it’s only got one HDMI as a passthrough.
The Q800A soundbar is paired with a subwoofer which on the first impression was unusually large, but I must say it packs a punch. It’s primarily made from wood with some subtle branding on the front and soft fabric to cover the woofer. Its size comes in at around 20 centimetres by 40 centimetres by 40 centimetres. It also connects to the soundbar wirelessly, so you can keep it hidden out the way if desired, as having a subwoofer on display is never really a great thing. Mine is usually next to the sofa and used as a small table for drinks. Just don’t spill it when reaching over the arms of your sofa.
But, it’s a soundbar, how does it all sound? Well, it sounds absolutely phenomenal. The Samsung Q800A seems to deliver excellent clarity whatever you’re listening to. Sure, audio is essentially coming from the front of your room, and unfortunately, we were not sent a set of satellite speakers, I can only comment on the soundbar and subwoofer, but everything I heard was just absolute bliss. Samsung has given you several audio modes, depending on what you’re listening to or watching. The first is their Standard mode, which delivers audio from the source without any kind of post-processing effects or digital changes. Their Adaptive sound feature takes audio sources and optimizes them to the soundbar itself.
There’s a Surround Sound option that will use all the speakers to digitally enhance your audio giving you a surround sound effect which was great for non Atmos and DTS-X sound sources, like Disney Plus on my Xbox One, and there’s also a game mode that enhances gaming soundtracks. Once the Dolby Atmos kicks in though, and with my TV especially it prompted when a Dolby Atmos signal was detected for the soundbar like it was when I played Drive To Survive and Extraction on Netflix, the soundstage of the audio completely widens, and it sounds absolutely fantastic. Though very front heavy, I mean of course it’s a soundbar, and the effect of the audio flowing round the room is there but isn’t hugely prominent, it still meant that subtle sounds are heard with perfect clarity like when Hemsworth was pulling a new magazine from his vest and reloading his gun at the start of Extraction. It was all so prominent and will easily fill larger living rooms. To let you know as well in the settings, I was using the soundbar set to Treble – 4, Bass – 2, I had the Standard mode switched on, Centre Speaker Level at 3 and Top Front Speaker Level at 6 to give a boost to the up-firing speakers.
For my living room, I also couldn’t go above +2 for my subwoofer power, and it goes up to +6, purely due to the fear that my neighbours would start to get frustrated. It was already rumbling enough during action scenes and scenes that had loud boomy engines in it, like the start of Underground 6. It’s a mental amount of bass, and really shakes your insides if the subwoofer is placed close to where you sit to watch movies. And although it wasn’t in Atmos, playing the movie Dunkirk through the Netflix app on my TV, produced some wonderful audio moments. I had the Surround mode switched on to simulate surround sound, and the voices from the pilots flying, with droney engines in the background were absolutely clear, and there was even a scene where two soldiers were carrying a gurney across the beach to the boats, with a subtle string orchestral soundtrack behind it, I could still easily hear the crunching of sand under their boots and the waves crashing in the background scenery of the beach.
There are a couple of features that are important if you’re using it with a new QLED TV from Samsung. To let you know, these features are available on the Q70T and newer. These are the new Adaptive Sound+ and Space Fit systems. What these will do for your audio is use your room’s noise conditions and give you a volume level based on this, as well as room layout using the sensor in the front of Samsung compatible TVs. I say you need a Samsung QLED TV because it needs to be used with the microphone and sensor that’s built into Samsung TVs to get a reading of what room conditions are like. Samsung’s Q-Symphony technology which enables TVs and soundbars to work together, by pushing audio from the top of TVs to add yet another layer to that up-firing audio is also missing here, as I am not using a Samsung TV for this review. The second new feature for this soundbar is its Auto Voice Amplification, or AVA as it appears on the Q800A menu, which essentially makes voices from content on the TV louder when there’s noise going on in the room. Again, you need the microphone of a Samsung Q70T or newer to take advantage of this. I used the Q800A with my Hisense U7Q, so I couldn’t use the two features to give you an opinion, unfortunately.
The remote control supplied is very much on par with what Samsung are offering now with their TVs and home cinema products. It’s small, has a few buttons on there to access your settings and to turn the soundbar on, but once my settings were dialed in, I never really had much use for it as my Hisense TV remote kicked in and I could change volume levels with that.
Yes the Samsung Q800A is expensive, and yes, if you’re buying this soundbar for anything other than a Samsung Q70T or newer TV you’ll miss out on some fantastic features, but as is, plugged into my Hisense Q7U, playing some Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos compatible content, was absolutely marvellous. The rear speakers would only heighten the surround effect, and as I said it’s a shame I couldn’t test. But from the soundbar and subwoofer alone, once you fine tune the settings to match your room, it was awesome! It’s a shame I have neighbours, otherwise the soundbar would be cranked! But even at volume levels that I could get away with without an angry knock at the door, I was super impressed and everything sounded clear and punchy and it’s a great all round performer for both movies and even music.