Samsung's California-based audio lab has been on a roll. In the last few years, the lab has helped the company put together the award-winning Samsung HW-M650, last year's powerful, Dolby Amtos-ready Samsung HW-N850, and now, the Samsung HW-Q70R, a soundbar designed to keep up with the Korean giant's 2019 QLED TVs.
If you've followed Samsung's naming structure in the past, the Samsung HW-Q70R represents a revised version of last year’s HW-N650 and although the new model costs more at $800 (£800, AU$1,099), the good news is that the Q70R adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X and still uses Acoustic Beaming technology that widens the soundstage.
While Samsung has designed this bar to be used in conjunction with its Q70R QLED TV - hence the rather confusing model number - it’s also aimed at all movie fans and gamers in general, regardless of which TV they own.
Not sure if you're ready for an $800/£800 soundbar? Here's everything you need to know before making your decision.
Samsung HW-Q70R Specs
Dimensions: 1100(w) x 59(h) x 100(d)mm | Speaker configuration: 3.1.2 | Claimed audio power: 330W | Connections: HDMI input and output with ARC, optical digital audio input, Bluetooth
The Samsung HW-Q70R uses an almost identical design to last year's N650 - basically it’s a slim and stylish soundbar with a low form-factor that’s only 59mm high. It has a build quality that’s commensurate with its price tag and metal grilles at the top and front, along with an attractive metal finish to the edges and sides.
While primarily designed to pair with Samsung's 2019 QLED TVs, given its width of 1100mm, it will complement most TVs and not just the Q70R. Even better, because of its low-profile, it shouldn’t block the screen. That said, if you’d prefer to wall-mount the soundbar, Samsung includes dedicated brackets, screws, and paper template for that very purpose.
On the front, there’s a simple LED display on the right that lights up when you use the controls, and provides basic information on the volume, inputs and sound modes. To the right of this display, on the end plate, are some equally basic controls for power, input selection and volume.
The provided remote is the same one Samsung has been using with its soundbars for the last few years, and it gets the jog done. It’s ergonomically designed and has all the necessary buttons sensibly laid out, making setup and operation as intuitive as possible.
The connections are located in a recessed area at the bottom of the soundbar, and are composed of an HDMI input, an HDMI output with ARC, and an optical digital audio input. There’s also a USB port for firmware updates, and a connector for the AC power adapter.
The HW-Q70R comes with a newly designed and much bigger wireless active subwoofer that measures 205 x 403 x 403mm (WxHxD), weighs in at 9.8kg and has an 8-inch side-firing driver. The bar and sub should pair automatically, and you can tweak the bass levels using the remote.
Design TL;DR: The sleek design and wide body will complement most TVs, and not just its namesake; while the speaker layout and beefed-up sub promise suitably immersive audio.
The Samsung HW-Q70R uses a 3.1.2-channel speaker configuration, with a claimed frequency range of 35Hz to 20kHz and a total claimed power of 330W. There are three forward-firing speakers, which means the soundbar has a dedicated centre channel for dialogue.
It has a pair of upward-firing speakers that literally bounce sounds off the ceiling, thus creating the illusion of overhead channels. This is what Samsung refer to as Acoustic Beaming, and it can be very effective, although for the best results you need a low, flat, and reflective ceiling.
The '.1’ part of this system is the wireless active subwoofer. This newly-designed bass-reflex model uses a side-firing 8-inch driver, coupled with a rear port to deliver an impressive amount of bass extension for a bar and sub combination.
The HW-Q70 supports both Dolby Atmos and DTS:X, along with all their other variations aside from IMAX Enhanced DTS:X. The soundbar and subwoofer can deliver 3.1.2 channels out of the box, but those wanting to add rear channels can buy the optional SWA-8500S wireless speakers.
This is the first of Samsung’s 2019 soundbars to have been fully developed in conjunction with its Harman Kardon subsidiary. The main design and testing was still conducted at Samsung’s Audio Lab in California, but Harman added its expertise and tuned the resulting system.
Samsung has really stripped back the connectivity on the HW-Q70R, but at least the HDMI ports can handle 4K/60p, 4:4:4, HDCP 2.2, and high dynamic range (specifically HDR10, HLG, HDR10+, and Dolby Vision).
If we had one major criticism it would be that a single HDMI input is disappointing at this price. It wouldn’t be so bad if the soundbar supported eARC with lossless audio, but at least you can send Dolby Atmos back from the TV’s built-in apps via HDMI-ARC.
There are four sound modes: Standard, Surround, Game Pro, and Adaptive Sound. The latter is a new feature that analyses the incoming audio and adapts the acoustics to give you the best sound performance on a scene-by-scene basis using all the available channels.
The Standard mode leaves the audio as it was encoded; the Surround mode is adds a greater sense of envelopment to movies and TV dramas; while the Game Pro mode is designed to make you feel like you’re in the world of the game.
Speaking of gaming, if you use a PS4 or Xbox One and also have a Samsung TV there are some very cool features. When the TV detects a games console connected via HDMI, it automatically goes into game mode. At the same time the soundbar will automatically select the Game Pro mode, resulting in a seamless gaming experience.
You can use the SmartThings app to setup and operate the HW-Q70R, and it also works with Amazon Alexa, providing access to Spotify Connect and hands-free control. Just make sure you rename it in SmartThings or Alexa won’t know which device you’re talking about.
There’s support for lossy and lossless audio formats including AAC, WAV, OGG, ALAC, AIFF and FLAC, along with UHQ 32-bit upscaling for supporting devices. You have a choice of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, but unsurprisingly you don’t get Chromecast or Apple’s AirPlay.
Features TL;DR: The combination of Acoustic Beam technology and Atmos/DTS:X audio promises an immersive front soundstage that’s perfect for movies; while other features also ensure a seamless gaming experience.
The Samsung HW-Q70R delivers an impressive audio performance, with the kind of expansive and bold soundstage that lends itself to movies and games. When watching a film, the music is spread either side of the screen, and effects are placed with real precision across the front of the room, and dialogue is centred on the action.
The upward-firing speakers are also effective, creating the illusion that sounds are emanating from above you. Meanwhile the redesigned subwoofer gives the system a serious bass boost, although this low frequency slam is effectively integrated and never overpowering. The result is a veritable wall of sound at the front of the room.
Pop on a disc like Overlord and the film’s highly aggressive Dolby Atmos mix is delivered with all the force the system can muster. The opening parachute drop is a cacophony of sounds that surround the screen, creating a full-frontal assault. And yet within the chaos of war, dialogue always remains clear and focused.
Jurassic Park’s DTS:X mix is a sublime masterclass in sound design, and the HW-Q70 is more than up to the task of delivering this dino-classic. The rain falls all around you as the T-Rex attacks, the sub gives each giant footstep genuine weight, and her roar is as visceral as it is loud. There’s no denying that this soundbar is sure to please any movie fan.
When it comes to immersive audio, the only limitation to the performance is front-heavy nature of the overall sound. In fairness this applies to any Atmos/DTS:X soundbar that doesn’t use rear speakers, but it does mean the soundstage only extends into the first third of the room. Of course you can always buy the optional wireless speakers if you want to fill out the rear channels.
The various sound modes are disabled when the soundbar is decoding an Atmos or DTS:X mix, but they can be very useful with less immersive content. The Adaptive Sound mode proved particularly effective at enhancing just about any content, rendering dialogue in more detail and giving the crowds in sports broadcasts greater presence.
The same goes for the Surround mode, which can take content and use the overhead channels, to create a more enveloping experience. The Game Pro mode is equally as impressive, thrusting you into the world of whatever you’re playing. A cheeky session of Red Dead Redemption II had us swatting flies from our face and diving for cover as bullets ricocheted around the room.
No doubt thanks to Harman Kardon’s involvement, the HW-Q70R is also a great soundbar when it comes to music. Select the Standard sound mode, and it will deliver two-channel audio with surprising subtlety. Listen to Kate Bush and her vocals are delivered without sounding bright, put on some Nick Cave and the sub adds more gravel to his voice.
Performance TL;DR: This powerful bar and sub combo delivers a big and bold soundstage that makes movies and games more immersive. It’s surprisingly musical too, and although the sound is rather front-heavy that’s to be expected given the lack of rear speakers.
Samsung has cleverly positioned the HW-Q70R into a niche in the market where there is very little direct competition. As a result this 3.1.2-channel soundbar has been priced accordingly and while not cheap it certainly does enough to justify the cost. It’s solidly built, has a host of features, and supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The performance is excellent, and that burly sub helps differentiate this soundbar from competitors.
Speaking of competitors, however, the Sony HT-ZF9 remains a good choice, especially if you’re on a budget. This soundbar and wireless sub combo, which can be picked up for around £650 also supports Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. However it doesn’t use upward-firing speakers, relying instead on psychoacoustic trickery to create an immersive experience from 3.1 channels.
The most obvious direct competitor comes in the form of the LG SL8YG. In fact it’s almost identical with a 3.1.2-channel configuration, plus support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. In terms of differences the tuning is by Meridian, there’s Chromecast, and LG offers Google Assistant built-in. The wireless sub isn’t as big, but considering its £100 less it’s certainly worth consideration.
The Samsung HW-Q70R is another great soundbar from a company that has made some serious advances in the audio arena over the last few years. Bringing Harman Kardon into the fold has certainly paid dividends, with a soundbar and subwoofer system that’s extremely musical.
However it’s with movies that it really shines, thanks to a 3.1.2-channel speaker configuration and support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. The upward-firing drivers are highly effective, dialogue retains crystal clarity, and the redesigned sub delivers some seriously deep bass.
The resulting soundstage is big and open, lending itself to larger screen sizes. The overall effect is somewhat front heavy, but that’s to be expected given the lack of rear speakers. However once you take into consideration the looks, build quality, and features, this is a solid midrange combo.
- Don't miss our round-up of the best soundbars in 2019