(Pocket-lint) - The Samsung HW-Q70R midrange soundbar takes its design cues from 2018's HW-N650 but upgrades certain aspects, adding a larger subwoofer and adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
The Q70R - which happens to be the same short-hand name for a model in the company's QLED TV range - uses Samsung's Acoustic Beam technology, but the speakers are now arranged in a more traditional 3.1.2 configuration.
This new soundbar isn't cheap, but could provide a useful immersive multi-channel option in the sub-£1,000 price bracket.
Sleek and slim
- Soundbar: 1100 x 59 x 100mm; 3.6kg
- Sub: 205 x 403 x 403; 9.8kg
- Available in black only
The HW-Q70R uses an identical soundbar chassis as last year's N650. This means it retains the low form-factor of just 56mm, ensuring it shouldn't block the screen when placed in front of a TV.
The design is sleek and stylish, with a solid construction and a finish that Samsung refers to as 'mineral black ash'. There are metal grilles on the front and top, behind which you'll find three forward-firing and two upward-firing speakers.
Samsung has designed the soundbar to be used in conjunction with its Q70R QLED TVs, where it attaches perfectly, hence the rather confusing double-up model number. However, the discreet and minimalist look matches most other contemporary TVs, while the width means it can be used with screen sizes up to 65 inches.
The minimalist approach extends to the display, which lights up whenever the soundbar receives a command, providing basic information on the volume level, the selected input and various sound modes.
Samsung includes dedicated brackets, screws, and a paper template for those planning to wall-mount this soundbar. The company also includes a high-speed HDMI cable, which is handy.
The included wireless active subwoofer has been upgraded over last year's model too. It still uses a bass-reflex design with a port at the rear, but now boasts a side-firing 8-inch driver and beefed-up amplification. It's well-made, with a look and finish that matches the soundbar.
Samsung HW-Q70R features
- 3.1.2-channel configuration
- Wireless active subwoofer
- Decodes: Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
- Works with Amazon Alexa
The Samsung HW-Q70R primarily differs from the N650 thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Atmos and DTS:X decoding. This allows the soundbar to take full advantage of Samsung's Acoustic Beam technology to deliver a genuine immersive audio experience.
The new soundbar ditches the 'organ pipe' driver design, as introduced last year, opting instead for a more traditional speaker layout. The front left and right speakers are composed of a mid-range driver and tweeter, while the centre and upward-firing speakers each use a single mid-range driver.
The HW-Q70 goes down to a claimed 35Hz thanks to the subwoofer, and has a total claimed power of 330W. When you combine the bar and sub, you get a 3.1.2-channel configuration that not only sports upward-firing drivers, but also has a dedicated centre channel for dialogue. If you want to add rear channels, there's an optional SWA-8500S wireless speaker pack.
The acoustic beaming aspect of the soundbar's design primarily relates to sounds being bounced off the ceiling to create the illusion of overhead channels at the front of the room. This approach is effective, but for the best results you need a ceiling that's flat, low and reflective.
This is one of the first Samsung soundbars to be fully developed in conjunction with the company's Harman Kardon subsidiary. The majority of the design and testing was still performed at Samsung's California-based Audio Lab, but Harman tuned the soundbar and subwoofer.
There are four sound modes: Standard, which decodes the incoming audio with no changes; Surround, which upmixes audio to take advantage of the available speakers; Game Pro, which creates a more immersive gaming experience; and Adaptive Sound, which analyses the incoming signal and automatically optimises the audio.
For console gamers who also own a Samsung TV, there's a cool feature that detects a PS4 or Xbox One connected to the TV and automatically goes into the low input lag game mode, while simultaneously selecting the Game Pro mode on the soundbar.
The HW-Q70R can handle a number of different lossy and lossless audio formats, with file support for AAC, WAV, OGG, ALAC, AIFF and FLAC. There is high-resolution support up to 32-bit, as well as UHQ 32-bit upscaling for the highest quality audio playback on supporting devices.
You can setup and control the soundbar using Samsung's SmartThings app and it also works with Amazon Alexa, allowing you to easily access Spotify Connect and providing hands-free control using your voice.
Connections and controls
- 1x HDMI input
- Optical digital audio input
- Wi-Fi (wireless), Bluetooth (wireless)
The Samsung HW-Q70R houses all its connections in a recessed area under the soundbar. It's a stripped-down selection though: you get a single HDMI input, an HDMI output that supports ARC (audio return channel) and an optical digital input. That's it, aside from a USB port for firmware updates and a connector for AC power adapter.
That's pretty stingy for a soundbar that costs £800, but at least the HDMI connections support 4K/60p, 4:4:4, Rec.2020, High Dynamic Range (HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision), 3D and HDCP 2.2. Note: Samsung has not added eARC, so there's no support for lossless audio to be sent back via HDMI at present.
In terms of wireless connections, there's built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, allowing you to stream music from your home network or via third-party services. A Bluetooth connection is made using the pairing button on the remote, while the Wi-Fi is simply setup using the SmartThings app.
On the end panel of the soundbar are some basic controls for power, input selection, and volume. However, the primary method of control is the included remote, which is identical to last year's, with an ergonomic design and all the necessary buttons for setup and operation.
The Samsung HW-Q70R is a piece of cake to setup: simply place it in front of your TV and make sure the speakers aren't obscured (don't forget the upward-firing drivers). Install the subwoofer at the front of the room, on either the left or right of the soundbar and slightly away from the wall (not in a corner because that will cause boundary gain and will sound boomy).
You can set the levels for the centre and upward-firing speakers, although to do so requires an SPL meter (there are plenty of free smartphone apps available) and Atmos or DTS:X test tones (you should be able to find the latter online too).
Dolby Atmos can be delivered via Dolby Digital Plus, so it's possible to send an Atmos track from the TV's built-in Netflix and Amazon apps back to the soundbar via ARC. However for DTS:X, you'll need to connect the source directly to the soundbar via HDMI.
Big, bold, but front-heavy
The Samsung HW-Q70R is a definite improvement compared to last year's mid-range model. The upgraded subwoofer plays a major part in this, producing a solid bass foundation on which the rest of the soundstage is built.
The soundbar's upward-firing drivers create the illusion of overhead channels at the front of the room, while the left and right speakers spread audio either side of the TV screen, allowing the centre channel to keep dialogue focused on the action.
The combined result is an overall performance that lends itself to movies and games, but also sounds great with music.
Watching TV shows and movies
The HW-Q70 has no problems with TV shows, delivering the news, gameshows, documentaries and cooking competitions with ease. This kind of programming has little in the way of effects, but on a show like the Great British Menu the music is rendered with precision, while dialogue always remains clear and centred on the screen.
The Adaptive Sound mode can prove very handy at enhancing basic programming, with voices brought to front of a mix, or the sound of the crowd in a football match having greater presence. The Game Pro mode is also useful, and a session of Star Wars: Battlefront has us ducking for cover as explosions tore across the room and laser blasts zoomed overhead.
Star Trek: Discovery has a dynamic soundtrack, and the soundbar does an excellent job of placing effects across the front of the room. There is very little in the way of surround sound, but engaging the Surround mode does add more height, making the audio feel bigger. The sub ensures there is also plenty of low-frequency action.
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
The HW-Q70R's big selling point is its ability to decode Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. We started by sending Atmos from the Netflix app on the Samsung QE55Q70R via HDMI ARC.
The Haunting of Hill House has a particularly good Atmos mix that makes great use of sound effects to scare the life out of you. One episode takes place at night in a funeral home battered by a storm, and the soundbar reproduced the thunder overhead, the frightening bangs, and all the other ghostly effects. Throughout all this spooky action the dialogue remained crystal clear.
The 4K Blu-ray of Aquaman has a titanic Atmos mix that uses bass as a way of underscoring even the slightest action. The low frequencies are almost relentless, from the opening storm all the way to final battle, and the sub handled them extremely well. During the climactic battle the soundbar produced a pummeling wall of sound.
The scene where the dementors search the Hogwart's Express in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban makes great use of its DTS:X soundtrack. There's the sound of ice freezing and cracking that fills the air, while the train lurching to a halt is accompanied by a massive sub-sonic thump. The HW-Q70 delivered these creepy effects with skill, making the film all the more dynamic.
However, the acoustical presence was very front-heavy, with sounds extending into the first third of the room. This is to be expected with no surround or rear overhead channels. In fairness, this limitation applies to any soundbar trying to deliver immersive audio without dedicated surround channels, but it's worth pointing out so potential buyers can manage their expectations.
Listening to music
The influence of Harman Kardon has certainly paid dividends, and in the Standard mode the HW-Q70 is surprisingly good with music. The left and right speakers produce an excellent mid-bass performance, while the tweeters deliver high frequencies that never sound harsh or bright, even as Kate Bush sings Wuthering Heights.
The sub handles the low-end with skill, too, giving drums plenty of bass impac and integrating with the soundbar. As a result the percussive drive of Autumn Song by the Manic Street Preachers retains plenty of depth, and there's impressive stereo imaging. It's debatable how often someone will use a soundbar to listen to music, but if you do the HW-Q70R is certainly up to the job.
The Samsung HW-Q70R is an impressive mid-range offering from the company that slots into an area of the market which contains very little competition. The soundbar benefits from the numerous improvements compared to last year's product, while the performance with immersive audio is excellent.
The combination of the soundbar and subwoofer creates a wide soundstage that has genuine height and is capable of delivering some deep bass. If you're a movie fan or a gamer this soundbar is sure to please, and thanks to Harman Kardon it also sounds great with music.
The performance with Atmos and DTS:X is understandably front-heavy given the lack of any rear speakers, and the single HDMI inout is disappointing. In all other respects, though, this is a solidly-made and well-specified offering.
If you're looking for a sub-£1,000 immersive audio soundbar then this Samsung certainly comes recommended.
This article was originally published June 2019 and has been updated to reflect the absence of eARC update
In terms of soundbars that support Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, there isn't a massive amount of choice for around £800. However, if your budget is tight, Sony's HT-ZF9 is a solid soundbar and wireless sub combo that can be picked up for around £650. It supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, but does so using 3.1 channels and psychoacoustic wizardry, rather than upward-firing drivers.