I tried Samsung's cheaper Dolby Atmos soundbar, and its best trick is with music, not movies

Samsung HW-Q700B soundbar
(Image credit: Samsung)

The primary purpose of any soundbar is to elevate TV sound. The most affordable and basic will simply step in to replace TV speakers that are woefully inadequate, while higher spec (mid-range and upwards) Dolby Atmos soundbars will go one step beyond and deliver something approaching cinematic sound.

The Samsung HW-Q700B is very much in the latter camp, with dedicated height drivers to handle the more lofty elements of spatial audio. Like all the best soundbars, The Q700B is compatible with both Dolby Atmos (available in a Dolby Digital Plus wrapper from streaming services like Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video) and DTS:X, as commonly found on Blu-ray discs.

But the Q700B isn’t just for movie soundtracks. It’ll serve equally well as a wireless music system. It’s wide enough for convincing two channel music, sounding a good deal more stereophonic than the majority of the best Bluetooth speakers.

The HW-Q700B is hi-res audio compatible, but that’s not where I think the big musical win is. If you’ve not yet experienced Dolby Atmos Music, what are you waiting for?

The object-based codec may now be the defacto sound standard for movies and high-budget TV shows, but increasingly it’s the most entertaining way to listen to music too. Music subscription services including Apple, Amazon, Tidal and Qobuz all offer 3D audio as part of their premium tier offerings, but when you select and listen to Atmos music on headphones, you’re actually listening to a binaural render.

While this can sound more immersive than two-channel stereo, it’s not the same as hearing native Dolby Atmos delivered via a speaker system. The audio design of a Dolby Atmos Music mix takes on a whole new dimension when it comes from physical speakers. It’s spatially larger, with greater dimensionality. The audio mix has greater focus.

The Samsung HW-Q700B comes into its own with Dolby Atmos Music, and you can get it from a number of sources. The most easily accessible is the Tidal service. Connect one of the best streaming devices, like an Amazon Fire TV 4K stick, which has the Tidal app, and you’ll be able to explore an ever growing collection of 3D audio, both classic albums remixed and new stuff, like Tears for Fears' The Tipping Point, or Def Leppard’s Diamond Star Halos (both mixed by Dolby Atmos Music maestro Steven Wilson).

If you have a smart TV running the Android OS, the Tidal app there will do the same job. Alternatively, Apple Music subscribers can stream spatial audio (aka Atmos) directly from an Apple TV 4K player into the Samsung bar.

Once you’ve tried Dolby Atmos Music, you may never find time to binge-watch again.

Steve May
Home entertainment AV specialist

Steve has been writing about AV and home cinema since the dawn of time, or more accurately, since the glory days of VHS and Betamax. He has strong opinions on the latest TV technology, Hi-Fi and Blu-ray/media players, and likes nothing better than to crank up his ludicrously powerful home theatre system to binge-watch TV shows.