Samsung HW-S800B: review in two minutes

To read this Samsung HW-S800B review is to discover a problem solver. And the problem is the size. In their effort to look cool and minimalist, some TVs keep their screens very low on their stands. That's great, unless you want a big, beefy soundbar, because when it's in front of the TV, it can end up cutting the bottom of the screen out of your sight when you're sitting on the couch. That's not an assumption, that's exactly the situation this reviewer found himself in.

But the Samsung HW-S800B negates this problem. Its gimmick is that it packs multiple angled speakers and powerful sound to rival the best soundbars, but the soundbar is about a quarter of the physical volume of the class-leading Sonos Arc. That's complemented by a fairly small subwoofer, to add the low-end growl that a compact soundbar unit can't.

  • Samsung HW-S800B on Amazon for €897.99 (opens in a new tab)

It's fully equipped for Dolby Atmos (updating drivers included) and ranks very high in delivering that positional audio. The aerial sounds really come from the ceiling, and the effects have convincing width and movement on screen.

Overall sound quality feels impossible for such a slim bar compared to much larger units, and the subwoofer helps by providing a controlled yet punchy low end. Compared to similarly priced but larger units, the mid-range is a bit less dynamic, but if you want something this small, nothing does it better.

Features are where it gets a little weird. It has Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for streaming music, and with Samsung TVs it supports fully wireless communication with the TV and Samsung's Q-Symphony feature (if your TV supports them)... but because of its small size, not only no It doesn't support HDMI pass-through (a shame for that price), but it's also an unusual mini-HDMI connector. Fortunately, it comes with a cable, but that means it doesn't support HDMI eARC lossless audio. There is also no optical connection.

So it has its quirks and limitations, but we were surprised by the breadth of sound this super-slim soundbar spits out.

There's plenty of speaker power packed into the small body of the Samsung HW-S800B. (Image credit: Future)

Samsung HW-S800B review: Price and release date

  • Released June 2022
  • €899 / €749 / AU$999

The Samsung HW-S800B launched in the summer of 2022 and, priced at €899 / £749 / AU$999, targets the more premium end of the soundbar market.

The price puts it in line with the Sonos Arc, which is a perfect example of the kind of tall, heavy soundbar the HW-S800B tries to offer you as an alternative. It also tells you a lot about the kind of quality Samsung is going for overall with the audio here, which it largely achieves.

There's not much that's a direct competitor to the S800B in terms of being so small, but the biggest danger probably comes from Samsung: the Samsung HW-Q800A is only slightly larger and also comes with a subwoofer and Dolby Atmos support, but it's available now for around €600/€550.

Samsung HW-S800B review: Features

  • Dolby Atmos 3.1.2 channel sound and DTS:X
  • Mini-HDMI connector only: no optical, no pass-through, no eARC
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi streaming, plus Samsung-specific features

The S800B is designed to deliver 3.1.2 channels of Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio, which means front, center and right sound, the bass channel from the subwoofer and two upstream channels of Dolby Atmos.

It does this by including eight separate speakers in the soundbar and two more in the subwoofer. That's a huge number for the amount of space it takes up and explains the quality of the directional audio.

As mentioned above, physical audio connectivity is limited to the mini-HDMI connector: there's no optical connector and no HDMI pass-through. This also means that there is only HDMI ARC support, not eARC. This means that only a more compressed and “lossy” version of Dolby Atmos sound is needed instead of the full eARC-compliant lossless Dolby Atmos.

Depending on your source, that might not really be a problem - the version of Dolby Atmos used by streaming services is "lossy" anyway, so not having eARC isn't the end of the world. But if you like 4K Blu-rays for their full fidelity, which offers lossless Atmos audio, you won't get the best of them here.

Other ways to route sound to the S800B include Bluetooth, and if you launch the Samsung SmartThings app, you can connect the soundbar to your Wi-Fi network, allowing Apple AirPlay 2 streaming and Spotify Connect (but not Google Cast) . It also has Alexa built in, including a microphone, so it fully functions as a smart speaker.

I had an issue where it didn't consistently show up as a Bluetooth target on my iPhone despite being connected in Bluetooth settings, but it's not clear whether to blame Apple or Samsung. Anyway, it was frustrating.

It has several listening modes, including a night mode to limit sound volume, a DTS Virtual:X mode to convert stereo sound to 3D, and a game mode, among others. It also includes Samsung's SpaceFit technology, which listens to the soundbar's output and adjusts it to compensate for quirks caused by room layout.

The subwoofer connects wirelessly to the main unit, and both units support wireless communication with compatible Samsung 2022 TVs as long as they're both on the same Wi-Fi network, so there's no need for everyone to need an HDMI cable.

It also works with Samsung's Q-Symphony feature, where the TV's soundbar and speakers work together to create an even bigger sound field.

You can add Samsung wireless rear speakers in the future if you want to create a complete surround sound system.

Samsung HW-S800B review: Sound quality

  • Stunning Dolby Atmos motion and height effects
  • Mid-range fights when busy
  • Controlled but rich bass

If you're looking for a relatively low-profile soundbar that still delivers a class-leading Dolby Atmos experience, this is it. There's width, there's height, there's movement in the scenes…it really makes the most of object-based audio.

It's also a very well balanced sound. We were concerned that the small soundbar wouldn't be able to move enough air to achieve a convincing mid-low, which meant the subwoofer and subwoofer wouldn't integrate smoothly, but that wasn't a problem - the sound is perfectly full and blends perfectly between the two units. That said, we weren't entirely wrong to be wary of midrange, but we'll get to that in a bit as we still appreciate the importance of Dolby Atmos effects.

During Kylo Ren's flyby over the bridge in The Last Jedi, the familiar sound of the TIE spreads from left to right near the top of the TV, then the metal of the ship rumbles and creaks from the aftereffect with a compelling threat. , thanks to the subwoofer In the Battle of Crait at the end, the Millennium Falcon appears with a shadow on the screen, but the engine roars from the top of your roof.

This height effect is better than that achieved with the similarly priced Sonos Arc, which struggles to put sound directly up to the ceiling. However, the S800B nails it right into the ceiling right in front of you.

Samsung HW-S800B soundbar in TV unit shows exhilarating driver

The Samsung HW-S800B's improved drivers really put sound above you. (Image credit: Future)

It also beats the Sonos Arc when it comes to bass, simply because it has a subwoofer and the Arc doesn't, and there's no substitute for a proper subwoofer (well, except the Devialet Dione, but this is a special case).

The sweet rumble of the Kingpin's machine in Into The Spider-verse really shows off the subtle power of a subwoofer. Without being loud and without shaking the room, it clearly shows the scale of the giant rotating machine as the subwoofer gently hits the corner in a way that a single-unit soundbar can't really match.

When the machine explodes a few minutes later, the subwoofer adds meat to the sound, but the shockwave sound comes out of the screen and hits you right through the subwoofer. In movies that make the most of it, it's exciting.

In the most extreme bass scenes, the subwoofer might sound like it's pounding your ear a bit more, but the remote allows for a quick recovery if needed (and then you can reset it back to normal with a push of a button, cleverly).

However, as mentioned above, the S800B isn't perfect. In moments of dense, music-focused movie soundtracks, it can sound weaker than the Sonos Arc or Samsung's other excellent soundbars. It just seems like it lacks the space to be as dynamic as others: sometimes a great speech and a busy music feel together, nor do they jump as much as they ideally would. The effect is greatest when someone yells over an energetic soundtrack: the yells get slightly sucked into the mix, almost as if the actor isn't giving it their all.

With more background music, speech is very clear and precise, so it's not an issue with overall clarity.

Samsung HW-S800B soundbar in TV cabinet with TV behind

The small volume of the Samsung HW-S800B might slow it down a bit in the midrange, but the overall freedom of its sound seems impossible for the size. (Image credit: Future)

Treble effects, in particular, always come out of the mix; in some cases, this just makes it even clearer when the midrange struggles to do the same. But the powerful highs add prominence and excitement in many cases: a brighter, sharper effect from gunshots, lasers, or slamming doors.

Of the multiple sound modes, we generally liked either 'Standard' (the plain and simple mode) or 'Adaptive', which adjusts the output based on the type of content it detects, best. "DTS Virtual:X" generally sounded hollow and unnatural, and "Surround" mode for a "wider" sound field seemed unnecessary. The "Game" mode did not seem necessary in general either.

The S800B isn't bad with music either: it doesn't have a music mode, but I quite enjoyed the standard mode. However, it doesn't have the same rhythm and energy as the Sonos Arc for music, which is almost…

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