The Samsung HW-Q70R midrange soundbar takes its design cues from 20188217;s HW-N650 but upgrades certain aspects, adding a larger subwoofer and adds support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
The Q70R 8211; which happens to be the same short-hand name for a model in the company8217;s QLED TV range 8211; uses Samsung8217;s Acoustic Beam technology, but the speakers are now arranged in a more traditional 3.1.2 configuration.
- 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 year8217;s N650. This means it retains the low form-factor of just 56mm, ensuring it shouldn8217;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 8216;mineral black ash8217;. There are metal grilles on the front and top, behind which you8217;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.
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 year8217;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. It8217;s well-made, with a look and finish that matches the soundbar.
- 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 Samsung8217;s Acoustic Beam technology to deliver a genuine immersive audio experience.
The new soundbar ditches the 8216;organ pipe8217; 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, there8217;s an optional SWA-8500S wireless speaker pack.
The acoustic beaming aspect of the soundbar8217;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 that8217;s flat, low and reflective.
This is one of the first Samsung soundbars to be fully developed in conjunction with the company8217;s Harman Kardon subsidiary. The majority of the design and testing was still performed at Samsung8217;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, there8217;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 Samsung8217;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.
- 1x HDMI input; HDMI output with eARC
- Wi-Fi (wireless), Bluetooth (wireless)
- Optical digital audio input
The Samsung HW-Q70R houses all its connections in a recessed area under the soundbar. It8217;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. That8217;s it, aside from a USB port for firmware updates and a connector for AC power adapter.
That8217;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. Thankfully Samsung has now added eARC, allowing for lossless audio to be sent back via HDMI.
In terms of wireless connections, there8217;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 year8217;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 aren8217;t obscured (don8217;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 it8217;s possible to send an Atmos track from the TV8217;s built-in Netflix and Amazon apps back to the soundbar via ARC. However for DTS:X, you8217;ll need to connect the source directly to the soundbar via HDMI.
The Samsung HW-Q70R is a definite improvement compared to last year8217;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 soundbar8217;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.
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 Hogwart8217;s Express in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban makes great use of its DTS:X soundtrack. There8217;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 it8217;s worth pointing out so potential buyers can manage their expectations.
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 there8217;s impressive stereo imaging. It8217;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.