Samsung HW-Q800A review: Samsung TV users will get the most out of it

With its tight, precise, and immersive sound, the $700 Samsung HW-Q800A makes for a compelling, compact, and feature-packed soundbar, although some of its best tricks are reserved for those with Samsung TVs and smartphones. Packing Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support, along with built-in Alexa and AirPlay 2, this 3.1.2-channel soundbar (upgradable to 5.1.4 with an optional wireless surround speaker kit) delivers rich, controlled sound, while its low-profile housing will prevent it from blocking the bottom of your TV screen.

Unfortunately, some of the Q800A’s most interesting features, including its “Q Symphony” audio technology and room-correction functionality, only work with Samsung TVs, which means owners of other TV brands won’t get the most bang for their bucks. That said, the Q800A’s $700 list price is pretty reasonable given its feature set, even if you don’t count the Samsung TV-enabled functions.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars. Click that link to read reviews of competing products, along with a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Specifications

The Samsung HW-Q800A is a 3.1.2-channel soundbar, which means it has discrete drivers for the left, right, and center channels (the “3” in the soundbar’s 3.1.2 designation), along with a subwoofer for low-frequency effects (the “.1”), and upfiring drivers for height effects (the final “2”).

The main soundbar unit has a total of seven drivers, including a pair of woofers and two tweeters that are split between the left and right channels, plus a wide-range tweeter for the center channel. Two more upfiring drivers (which use Samsung’s horn-style Acoustic Beam technology) bounce sound off the ceiling for the height cues of object-based Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks, an easier and cheaper alternative to installing actual height speakers in your ceiling. All seven of those drivers are powered by a quartet of Class D amplifiers, while a fifth Class D amp is dedicated to the 8-inch driver in the wireless subwoofer.

Because it lacks surround speakers, the HW-Q800A remixes Atmos, DTS:X, and 5.1-channel content for its 3.1.2-channel configuration. If you want true 5.1.4 surround sound (including two rear height channels, for a total of four), you can add Samsung’s $250 rear wireless speaker kit (SWA-9500S), although doing so will bring the soundbar’s overall price up to $950. That might sound like a lot of cash (and it is), but the reality is that a premium 5.1.4-channel soundbar with Wi-Fi connectivity (which is what you’d end up with once you add the wireless speaker kit) will cost you about a thousand bucks these days.

Besides the optional rear speaker kit, the HW-Q800A can sync up with the built-in speakers of “select” 2020 and 2021 Samsung TVs using a technology Samsung calls “Q-Symphony.” When paired together, the Q800A and a supported Samsung TV can deliver “perfectly synchronized” sound for a “harmonious, cinematic experience,” the manufacturer promises.

Sounds cool, but like many who end up choosing the Q800A, I don’t own a Samsung TV; instead, I have an LG C9 OLED TV. The upshot is that I wasn’t able to test the Q800A’s Q-Symphony capabilities, and indeed, this isn’t the only functionality on the soundbar that relies on either a Samsung TV or a phone. Those who don’t have a big-screen Sammy in their living room will need to consider whether they’re OK with spending top dollar on a soundbar like the Q800A with features they won’t be able to fully utilize.

One of the best qualities of the Q800A is its size: small, relatively speaking. Measuring 38.6 x 2.4 x 4.5 inches (WxHxD), the Q800A is much narrower and shorter than previous Samsung models I’ve tested. Take 2019’s HW-Q90R, a 7.1.4 soundbar that was so tall that it blocked a chunk of my LG C9’s screen. The Q800A, on the other hand (and like Samsung’s newer soundbars, including the pricier ones), has a much shorter profile that barely grazes the bottom edge of my LG OLED TV. Another option, of course, would be to install the soundbar under your wall-hung TV, which you can do using the included wall mount guide and bracket/screw kit.

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