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Samsung HW-S800B review: A slimline sonic stunner

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
749
inc VAT

The Samsung HW-S800B is ideal for those looking for Atmos immersion from an unobtrusive and lifestyle-friendly soundbar

Pros 
Immersive 3.1.2-channel delivery
Ultra-slim design
Alexa built-in
Cons 
No eARC support
Uses Mini HDMI connector
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Despite hailing from a less premium series of soundbars than the flagship HW-Q990B we reviewed earlier this year, the Samsung HW-S800B manages to deliver an immersive Dolby Atmos experience from an ultra-slim cabinet.

Its sonic capabilities are impressive and the compact wireless subwoofer that accompanies it is able to deliver surprisingly deep bass thanks to its innovative force-cancelling design. You’ll have to do without eARC, but a sleek, compact design, Alexa built-in and effective room correction make the HW-S800B an excellent lifestyle choice.

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Samsung HW-S800B review: What you need to know

The Samsung HW-S800B represents a change in direction for the company when it comes to its lifestyle soundbars. This new model ditches fabric coverings and large cabinets for an ultra-slim design where the emphasis is on discretion without compromising performance.

To achieve this, Samsung has managed to cram nine drivers into the slimline cabinet, and since these are obviously fairly small, the lower frequencies are handled by a compact but powerful subwoofer. The result is a 3.1.2-channel system that sounds bigger than it looks. If you add Samsung's SWA-9500S wireless rear speakers, the HW-S800B can be transformed into a 5.1.4-channel system.

The HW-S800B supports Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual:X, and offers a host of other features such as SpaceFit Sound room correction, built-in Alexa and Samsung’s Q Symphony integration with its supporting TVs. There’s also Active Voice Amplifier and Adaptive Sound processing.

Samsung HW-S800B review: Price and competition

The Samsung HW-S800B is attractively priced at £749, putting it in direct competition with a number of soundbar and subwoofer combos, including Samsung’s own HW-Q800B and HW-Q700B. The former offers a 5.1.2-channel system and costs £899, while the latter uses the same 3.1.2-channel layout found on the S800B and is available for £699. However, the two Q Series soundbars are aimed at consumers looking for better HDMI connectivity, lossless audio and full DTS:X support.

The big selling-point of the HW-S800B is its ultra-slim, lifestyle-friendly design, which means the main competitors will be soundbars from brands like Sonos and Bose. The Sonos Arc and Bose Smart Soundbar 900 are both great alternatives, although they are more expensive, use larger cabinets, and don’t include a separate subwoofer. However, they support lossless audio, have better HDMI connectivity, and both offer expansion options to add a sub and rear speakers if necessary. If you're wanting to add the SWA-9500S rear speakers to HW-S800B package, you'll have to fork out an extra £249.

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Samsung HW-S800B review: Design and features

The Samsung HW-S800B sports an ultra-slim cabinet that uses a robust metal mesh grille and an elegant and discreet design. The build quality is good, while the curved ends and black finish make for an understated but attractive appearance.

Measuring 1160 x 40 x 38mm (WDH), the HW-S800B is ideal for TVs with screen sizes of 55 inches and above larger. There’s a choice of stand or wall mounting, and if you decide on the latter, Samsung includes dedicated brackets for this purpose.

The wireless subwoofer is compact, measuring 238 x 238 x 241mm (WDH), and employs what appears to be a force-cancelling design. Back-to-back drivers fire out to the left and right, using this configuration to reduce cabinet vibrations and increase the maximum output.

The HW-S800B’s headline feature is its support for Dolby Atmos, along with Dolby’s new Wireless Atmos, which allows the format to be transmitted wirelessly via Wi-Fi using lossy Dolby Digital Plus from supporting 2022 Samsung TVs.

The product page for the HW-S800B is a little misleading, as it suggests that the soundbar also supports Atmos’ big object-based surround sound format, DTS:X. In fact, it only supports DTS Virtual:X, which uses processing rather than discrete channels to create an immersive audio experience.

The inclusion of SpaceFit Sound makes getting the most out of the HW-S800B easier by using a built-in microphone to better integrate the subwoofer and optimise the room correction for your specific acoustic environment. It also automatically recalibrates to reflect changes in the room.

Adaptive Sound works well, automatically enhancing voice clarity at low volumes, as well as optimising the sound based on scene-by-scene analysis of the content, resulting in a better overall performance. There are also Dialogue, Sports, News and Movie settings.

Q Symphony allows owners of compatible Samsung TVs to make full use of their extra speakers by simultaneously synchronising sound from both devices to produce a bigger and more immersive front soundstage.

The built-in Amazon Alexa turns the HW-S800B into a fully functioning smart assistant, with added voice control. There’s also Hi-Res Audio support, Tap Sound for supporting Samsung devices, and the Active Voice Amplifier (AVA), which boosts dialogue in noisy surroundings.

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Samsung HW-S800B review: Connections and control

The Samsung HW-S800B has a limited, and to a certain extent compromised, set of connections because while there’s Bluetooth (SBC) and Wi-Fi, along with support for AirPlay 2, the only physical connection is a single Mini HDMI port. This seems a strange choice by Samsung because there appears to be enough room for a regular HDMI port and optical digital input.

As a result, you’ll need to buy an HDMI to Mini HDMI adapter or cable to connect the soundbar to your TV. In addition, Mini HDMI connectivity only supports ARC rather than eARC, so the S800B is limited to lossy rather than lossless audio via HDMI. If you have an older TV that doesn’t support ARC, the lack of an optical digital connection means this isn’t the soundbar for you.

The included remote offers extensive control options, but remains intuitive to use. The SmartThings app makes setup easy, allowing you to quickly create a Wi-Fi connection, configure Alexa, and update the firmware. You can operate the S800B using the controls on the soundbar itself, the provided remote, the SmartThings app, your voice via Alexa, or the TV’s zapper.

Samsung HW-S800B review: Sound Quality

The Samsung HW-S800B might appear incredibly thin and sleek in terms of its styling, but it manages to sound considerably bigger than it looks thanks to some clever design and innovative technology from the boffins at the Samsung Audio Lab in California.

Contained inside the soundbar's svelte cabinet are nine drivers, producing three forward-firing speakers (left, right and centre) and a pair of upward-firing speakers for top front left and right. The addition of the wireless subwoofer creates a 3.1.2-channel system overall.

The speakers inside the soundbar are understandably small, but manage to produce a clean and clear midrange and some pleasing detail in the treble. The subwoofer is surprisingly powerful given its size, and thanks to SpaceFit Sound, it’s also well integrated with the other speakers.

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The result is an accomplished performance, with a soundstage that has width and height, plus a solid bass foundation that gives the overall delivery depth and impact. This makes the S800B great for music, which is useful because you can stream lossless audio via Wi-Fi.

When watching TV shows, the S800B proves equally as adept, with the dedicated centre speaker ensuring dialogue remains clear and focused. There’s some excellent stereo imaging as well, but obviously no surround envelopment due to the lack of rear speakers.

Despite being limited to lossy audio over HDMI, the Dolby Atmos performance is largely very good, with a pleasing sense of scale to the front soundstage. There’s some nice overhead audio, although the effectiveness of the upfiring speakers will depend on the height and shape of your ceiling.

What is impressive is the way that audio objects are moved around in three-dimensional space above and to the sides of the TV screen, and there’s excellent precision to this sonic placement. This effect is limited to the front third of the room due to the absence of rear channels, though you do have the option to these in the form of the SW-9500S if you want greater immersion.

The lack of lossless audio support over HDMI isn’t that big a deal, and most people would be unable to differentiate between Atmos delivered by lossy Dolby Digital+ and via lossless Dolby TrueHD. Given the lack of DTS:X content, the use of DTS Virtual:X also makes more sense.

Buy now from John Lewis


Samsung HW-S800B review: Verdict

The Samsung HW-S800B is an interesting new direction for Samsung, offering a lifestyle-friendly soundbar and subwoofer system that is both stylish and discreet. Anyone looking for a soundbar that won’t dominate the front of the room will be delighted by the ultra-slim cabinet, but they’ll also be pleased to discover that the clever speakers and powerful well-integrate subwoofer combine to ensure the S800B’s sonic performance isn’t compromised in the process.

Setup is easy, there’s a solid choice of control options, and a decent set of features that includes support for Dolby Atmos and DTS Virtual:X. The use of a Mini HDMI connection is a surprise, and it would be nice if Samsung included an adapter, but the lack of lossless support isn’t as impactful as you might expect. The soundstage may be front-heavy, but anyone looking for an immersive and lifestyle-friendly soundbar is sure to be impressed by what the HW-S800B is capable of.

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