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Samsung HW-Q800A review: Big sound without the bulk

Our Rating :
£450.00 from
Price when reviewed : £799
inc VAT

Samsung does it again with the Samsung HW-Q800A: this 3.1.2 soundbar package delivers detailed, powerful sound which belies its size


  • Natural, detailed sound
  • Deep bass
  • Compact size


  • Some features require a Samsung TV

The Samsung HW-Q800A is the priciest 3.1.2 soundbar in the South Korean company’s Q-Series range, but while it lacks the surround channels of its top-end siblings, this compact package delivers aural fireworks from the off. With a newly refined design and a wireless subwoofer in tow, this £799 soundbar is ready to add some rock, rumble and roll to movie night.

First impressions bode well: Dolby Atmos and DTS:X support is present and correct, Alexa is built-in, and a range of features allow the HW-Q800A to join forces with Samsung’s 2020 and 2021 TV models. It’s a shame that some of those features are restricted to Samsung TV owners, but thankfully there are plenty of other reasons to buy the HW-Q800A.

Samsung HW-Q800A review: What do you get for the money?

Its size is a key appeal: this is a refreshingly petite soundbar. It measures 980 x 115 x 60mm (WDH) and weighs 3.6kg. Samsung suggests that the HW-Q800A is a match for a wide selection of its own models, ranging from 50in up to 75in screen sizes. In truth, its width makes it a good match for most TVs ranging from 49in and up, although it may be a tad too tall to fit neatly underneath smaller 43in screens.

Naturally, the wireless subwoofer is bulkier, but it still slides easily behind a TV stand or sofa – it’s a reassuringly solid 9.8kg box, measuring 210 x 403 x 403mm (WDH). And you get a basic remote control, which also slides easily between sofa cushions when you’re not paying attention.

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There are two HDMI inputs at the rear – one of which supports eARC – and an optical digital input, too. Four touch buttons on the top panel allow you to turn the soundbar on and off, adjust the volume, toggle the microphone on and off, or switch sources.

The HW-Q800A’s 3.1.2 speaker arrangement incorporates two woofers and five tweeters, one of which is a wide-range tweeter, to reproduce the front, centre and front height channels. Two dedicated drivers in the soundbar bounce sound off the ceiling to produce the two height channels, while the active wireless subwoofer handles the .1 and serves up all the tasty Low-Frequency Effects (LFE) channel rumble.

It’s also possible to upgrade the HW-Q800A to a 5.1.4 system with the addition of Samsung’s SWA-9500S surround speakers (£249). These little Atmos surround speakers have two small drivers in each box, one facing forward and one facing upward to bounce sound off the ceiling.

The HW-Q800A has a broad range of features at its disposal, but sadly some of the most intriguing among them are only available to owners of certain Samsung TVs.

For instance, the “SpaceFit” feature is capable of tailoring the soundbar’s frequency response to suit your room, but as it relies on the microphones inside compatible Samsung TVs, it’s not available to everyone.

Similarly, the Q-Symphony feature allows the soundbar to work in tandem with compatible Samsung TVs. Depending on the model, the TV’s speakers take on surround or virtual surround channel duties and allow the pairing to produce an even more immersive sound. It also allows Samsung’s Object Tracking Sound (OTS) technology to track onscreen action more accurately and deliver a more immersive viewing experience.

Thankfully, other features are universal. Active Voice Amplifier (AVA) is a simple, yet rather ingenious, concept: it monitors the ambient noise levels in a room and dynamically boosts the dialogue volume to ensure it remains audible. For those of us who live with noisy children (or even noisier adults), this is actually a very helpful feature to have, as it saves the need to constantly raise and lower the volume while watching TV – or resort to the nuclear option of activating subtitles.

Apple AirPlay 2 and Amazon Alexa compatibility is welcome, too, and you get Bluetooth and Wi-Fi streaming to boot, although the latter requires you to first install Samsung’s SmartThings app on your phone or mobile device.

Initially, there were some teething issues with Alexa not responding to commands; something other users have had trouble with, according to one Reddit thread. After a couple of resets, the issue turned out to be something simple: the microphone is muted by default, and there’s no mention of toggling it on or off on the soundbar before using Alexa in the instruction manual.

Once enabled, the microphone does a good job of picking up the wake word, even in the midst of raucous action scenes. That means you can adjust the volume of the soundbar with voice commands, which can come in handy when you lose the remote, but unfortunately you can’t switch sources or change settings, nor can you take advantage of Alexa’s communication features. That said, you can still use voice commands to control other Alexa-enabled devices on your network, so it’s still nice to have it built in.

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Samsung HW-Q800A soundbar review: How does it sound?

In a word, impressive. The HW-Q800A is only 98cm wide – which is positively tiny compared to some rivals – yet despite its compact dimensions, the soundbar cranks out a thrillingly dynamic performance. The wireless subwoofer delivers surprisingly deep bass for its size, too, getting down to 30hz before starting to roll off, which is very respectable indeed – and especially so given that it uses a single modestly sized 8in bass driver.

Wind up the volume on the Incredibles 2’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack and the HW-Q800A’s talents come to the fore. The retro-sounding spy film soundtrack is rendered with a beautifully deft touch, and the subwoofer delivers pleasingly sharp kicks of sub-bass alongside earth-shaking rumble. Even with the volume cranked up, the soundbar keeps dialogue crisp and clear, and effects spread nicely around the front of the room. It’s a shame that sound doesn’t really spread out left and right of the soundbar – it sounds rather narrow compared to discrete surround speakers – but it’s an enjoyable presentation nonetheless.

Even standard 5.1 and stereo material sounds great. You don’t get quite the same wall of sound experience that the HW-Q800A can muster with the best Atmos or DTS:X content, but activating the HW-Q800A’s surround mode does a good job of closing the gap. Sound spreads upwards and around a little more immersively, and adds that little bit of pizzazz that’s lacking in Standard mode.

The HW-Q800A also acquits itself well with music. It doesn’t over-hype any part of the sound spectrum, so everything from the deepest bass to the highest treble sounds natural and well balanced. It’s still a shame that there’s not much in the way of stereo width, but that’s to be expected from a soundbar. In any case, the surround effect works well with music, too: it expands the soundstage upwards and gives a more airy sound, even if it does tend to add a little too much top-end in the process.

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Samsung HW-Q800A soundbar review: Should you buy it?

If you’re looking for a soundbar that can deliver big, bombastic sound in a relatively small package, the Samsung HW-Q800A is a superb buy. Even if you haven’t got a compatible Samsung TV, the Active Voice Amplifier feature and Alexa support are welcome – and if you have got a compatible Samsung model, the extra features will doubtless be very welcome indeed.

The clincher here is the sheer quality of the sound on offer, though. Whether it’s music or movies, this is a soundbar that sounds superb and reaches impressively high volumes – and most importantly of all, it also knows how to shake the furniture when movie night comes around. Add in the ability to upgrade to full surround sound a little further down the line, and Samsung has a winning formula on its hands.

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