(Pocket-lint) - The Samsung HW-Q800T is a mid-range soundbar, which replaces the outgoing HW-Q70R. The two are similar, with 3.1.2-channel speaker layouts, Dolby Atmos and DTS:X immersive audio decoding, and an HDMI output with eARC. However, Samsung has made a number of changes and additions for this 2020 model. 

For a start, the Q800T boasts a more slimline design that moves the Acoustic Beam tech towards the front of the cabinet, making it easier to position the soundbar in front of modern TVs without blocking the drivers or the screen. It also adds Q Symphony for an integrated sonic experience with supporting Samsung TVs, and built-in Amazon Alexa voice control. 

Design

  • Soundbar: 980 x 60 x 115mm; 3.6kg
  • Subwoofer: 205 x 403 x 403mm; 9.8kg
  • Available in black only

The Samsung HW-Q800T uses a slightly revised cabinet, with a low form-factor designed to fit snugly in front of a modern TV without blocking the screen. The reduced width also makes this soundbar ideal for smaller TVs, but it can still handle screen sizes up to 65 inches.

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The overall appearance is sleek and stylish, with a solid construction and a black finish. There's a metal wrap-around grille, behind which you'll find three forward-firing speakers and the Acoustic Beam holes, which Samsung has moved forwards to avoid being blocked by any TV.

The Q800T has a proper display, which is always a relief, and it's located at the front right, providing basic information on the volume level, the selected input, and various sound modes. Samsung offers the choice of stand- or wall-mounting, and provides brackets for the latter.

Connections and control

  • 1x HDMI input; HDMI-eARC output
  • Optical digital input
  • Wi-Fi; Bluetooth

The Samsung HW-Q800T comes with an HDMI output, and a single HDMI input. It's a shame there isn't a second HDMI input, but at least the HDMI output supports eARC, which means you can send lossless audio back from a compatible TV.

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The HDMI connections also pass resolutions up to 4K/60p and every version of high dynamic range (HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision) – which is something of a rarity.

The only other physical connection is an optical digital input, but 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. Unlike some of the competition, Samsung doesn't include support for Chromecast or Apple AirPlay.

There are basic controls centrally located on the top rear of the soundbar for multi-function (on/off and source select), volume up/down, and mic on/off.

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The included remote is the same as previous years, but that's not a bad thing because it's ergonomically designed, comfortable to hold, and easy to use. All the necessary buttons are laid out in a sensible fashion, and are easy to reach when using the zapper with one hand.

Features

  • Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
  • Q -Symphony
  • Hi-Res Audio support
  • Built-in Amazon Alexa voice assistant

The Samsung HW-Q800T's headline feature is its ability to decode both the Dolby Atmos and DTS:X object-based audio formats for a more immersive sonic experience.

Samsung

New for 2020 is the Q Symphony feature, which integrates the 'bar with compatible Samsung TVs to make full use of their extra speakers by simultaneously synchronising sound from both devices to create a more immersive front soundstage. Although the Q800T wasn't tested with a compatible Samsung TV, this feature has certainly impressed us in demos before. 

There are four sound modes: Standard, which decodes the incoming audio with no changes; Surround, which up-mixes 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. 

The SmartThings app and Amazon Alexa allow for streaming from a number of services - including Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn and Samsung Music. This SmartThings app also makes setup easier, and allows users to link directly to their Spotify, Deezer or TuneIn accounts. The Q800T supports Hi-Res Audio up to 24-bit/192kHz, along with the AAC, MP3, WAV, OGG, FLAC, ALAC, and AIFF file formats.

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The Q800T comes with Amazon Alexa built-in, making this soundbar a fully-functioning smart assistant with voice control. It's easy to setup using the Alexa app, and allows users to ask questions, listen to music or podcasts, and enjoy hands-free control. There's a far-field microphone built into the soundbar itself, but this can be muted for privacy.

Performance

  • 3.1.2-channel audio
  • Acoustic Beam 2.0
  • Wireless active subwoofer
  • 330W of Class D digital amplification
  • Optional wireless rear speakers

The Samsung HW-Q800T employs a 3.1.2-channel speaker layout based around three front channels, a wireless subwoofer, and the company's Acoustic Beam technology. The front left and right speakers are composed of a mid-range driver and wide-range tweeter, the centre channel employs a wide-range tweeter, while the Acoustic Beam tech uses 56 holes acting as individual speakers that create a panoramic spread of sound overhead.

Samsung

The Q800T goes down to a claimed 35Hz thanks to the subwoofer, which is the same bass-reflex design as the HW-Q70R before it. It boasts a side-firing 8-inch driver, a bass port at the rear, and 160W of amplification. The front left and right channels have 60W each, the centre channel has 20W, and the Acoustic Beam arrays each have 20W – giving the entire system a claimed total of 330W.

The 3.1.2-channel speaker layout doesn't include rear speakers, but there's a virtual setting that uses the Dolby and DTS up-mixers to create the illusion of surround channels. However, this is never as effective as actual surround speakers, so if you want to add rear channels there's the optional SWA-9000S wireless speaker pack.

The Q800T is easy to setup, with controls for adjusting the level of the centre, top and, if you've added the wireless speaker pack, rear channels. The upward-firing drivers can be very effective, but this will largely depend on your ceiling – the lower and flatter the better. Sadly Samsung doesn't offer any kind of automated room calibration feature, which is a shame.

Samsung

However, if you take a little time to setup the system correctly, you'll be rewarded with an expansive delivery that creates a compelling wall of sound at the front of the room. There are effects spread either side of the screen, with sounds emanating from above and the sub laying down a powerful foundation of bass. The resulting soundstage fills the front third of the room with a bold and cinematic presentation.

When it comes to Dolby Atmos, Avengers: Endgame's climactic battle feels suitably epic, while the more personal action in 1917 retains the sense of first-person perspective that the film's single-take structure requires. The placement of effects is impressively precise, the explosions hit with a powerful percussive kick, and thanks to the dedicated centre channel the dialogue remains clean and clear no matter how complex the mix.

Sending Atmos back via ARC from the TV's built-in apps is equally as effective, with The Haunting of Hill House retaining plenty of spooky bumps in the night, and the fight scenes in Extraction sounding as brutal and bruising as they look. The DTS:X performance is equally as impressive, whether its the hyped-up undead kills of Zombieland: Double Tap or the equally over-the-top action in Bad Boys for Life, this soundbar is sure to please.

Samsung

The Q800T is a capable all-rounder, so it not only sounds great with TV shows, movies and games, but also manages to deliver a neutral musical performance. Whether you choose regular two-channel music or the more immersive Atmos mixes now available on Tidal, the delivery retains detail and clarity, while the localisation of instruments is impeccable. The Doors' Riders on the Storm is a particular treat in Atmos, with thunder rumbling overhead and rain falling all around.

Verdict

The Samsung HW-Q800T is undeniably an accomplished soundbar, delivering the kind of sonic performance that immediately enhances TV, movies, music and gaming. Feed it Atmos or DTS:X object-based formats and you'll be greeted by an immersive wall-of-sound that draws you into the action on screen, but whatever you're watching this compelling system will make it sound better.

While the emphasis might be on sound quality, there's a host of cool features including built-in Alexa voice control, and Samsung's Q Symphony for greater sonic integration with the company's high-end 2020 TVs. There's only one HDMI input, however, but the inclusion eARC helps expand the number of connected devices, and this 'bar passes every flavour of HDR too. 

As is the case with any soundbar lacking surround channels the experience is very front-heavy, but Samsung offers a wireless rear speaker package for those who desire greater sonic envelopment. Otherwise the Q800T is an excellent all-rounder that's sure to please.

Also consider

Sonos

Sonos Arc

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This highly-accomplished piece of kit not only brings the Sonos ecosystem to the party but adds Dolby Atmos, eARC, and AirPlay 2 as well. Like the Samsung it has built-in Amazon Alexa, but goes one better by also including Google Assistant. It's not cheap for a soundbar that doesn't support DTS:X, has no HDMI inputs or a separate subwoofer, but if you're already invested in Sonos then this compelling speaker system can elevate your sonic experience.

LG SN9YG

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This 5.1.2-channel soundbar also supports Atmos and DTS:X, but goes one better by adding side-firing speakers for greater width. It swaps Alexa for built-in Google Assistant, and doesn't just include eARC but also has HDMI 2.1 connections. There's Hi-Res audio support, the option to add wireless rear speakers, and a handy AI room calibration feature. In fact about the only thing missing is HDR10+ passthrough, but otherwise the SN9 is the complete package.

Writing by Steve Withers. Editing by Mike Lowe.