When you invest in a top of the line new TV, like the Samsung 8K QLED Q900R, you need to consider the audio too. Yes, TVs have internal speakers, but they’re just not built to handle all the sound details that come along with high resolution video. I’ve been reviewing an 8K Samsung TV in my home over the last month, and to go along with it, I tested out the Samsung Harman Kardon Sound bar with Dolby Atmos, model HW-Q70R. Yes, Samsung partnered with audio tech masters Harman Kardon on this rig, wisely letting each company focus on what it does best.
In this blog we’ll take a look at what this sound bar can do and its special features, how it sounds, how to get it set up, and whether it’s a good match for your 4K or 8K TV.
By the way, if you want to read more about that Samsung 8K QLED Q900R, the full review is here too.
How to set up Samsung Harman Kardon Sound bar
Getting this sound bar set up is super easy, since I’m using it with exactly the TV it’s designed to be used with. Here I’m connecting it to the Samsung TV’s One Connect Box, which connects to the TV with a slim nearly invisible cable, and lets you plug in everything else you want out of the way of the TV so there’s no cord clutter.
Plug your HDMI cable into the HDMI Out (TV ARC) port on the sound bar, then connect it to the HDMI ARC port on the One Connect Box, and power up.
All about Samsung Harman Kardon Sound Bar
The Samsung Harman Kardon Sound bar with Dolby Atmos, HW-Q70R is a 3.1.2 channel sound bar with 330W of power, a built in dedicated centre speaker channel designed for clearer dialogue, and it comes with a wireless subwoofer.
It’s compatible with all the newest audio technology, like Dolby Atmos (more on that in a moment) as well as DTS:X. It can be connected to a full surround sound set up and it’s got 4K pass-through built in, which means connecting 4K video sources like your game console is easy and seamless. It also works with HDR 10 sources.
The HW-Q70R has technology called Samsung Acoustic Beam, which Samsung says is designed to have sounds move around you from all directions. The sound bar also has a setting called Game Mode Pro, where the sound bar detects when you’re gaming and automatically optimizes the sound in real time. I’m not a gamer, so I’m not testing that out, but for those of you who are interested, know it’s in there.
Sound quality: Samsung Harman Kardon Sound bar
The key feature that drives the sound quality of this device is Dolby Atmos technology.
What is Dolby Atmos?
When you have a 5.1 or 7.1 channel home theatre sound system, you create the illusion of 3D sound by pushing specific audio to specific speakers. With Atmos, instead of pushing sound to a particular speaker, it’s pushed to a particular spot in 3D space in your room, sometimes by more than one speaker (We’ve discussed Atmos several times on the blog over the last few years; here’s a primer about the technology). Atmos often uses overhead speakers to achieve this effect precisely, but with a sound bar, you don’t have that. Instead there are upward firing speakers built into the sound bar, and those help push that sound up, over and around you.
Trying to replicate this effect in a YouTube video, or to describe it in words is impossible, so the best way to hear how amazing this sounds is to head down to one of Best Buy’s Dolby Atmos demo rooms, sit in a comfy chair and experience it. The experts there will also help you learn more.
The Atmos effect is pretty cool. The best way to try it out on this sound bar is to load up a Samsung demo audio file, like this plane flying overhead, sit yourself in the middle of the room and let is wash over you.
The Samsung sound bar sounds amazing, and it does really feel like you’re sitting in the middle of the action. With TV and movies, the dialogue is super crisp and cuts through. There are lots of subtleties in the audio and the 3D sound is really noticeable. I did find that it’s a lot better if you’re sitting well centred in your room; sitting off to the side and you’ll miss a bit of that depth and detail.
When it comes to music, this set up is a dream; clear sound, no raspiness, tinniness or anything that sounds unbalanced. And fantastic bass. Overall when it comes to sound quality, I have no complaints.
Smart Things Connectivity for remote control
The sound bar comes with a physical remote control that lets you adjust volume and pair the sound bar via Bluetooth. There are also mute controls and access to some preset sound modes. You can also control the sound bar with your phone using Smart Things. Smart Things is an app and home control system that lets you control many smart devices, like lights, speakers and your TV using your mobile device. You can use it to control and customize your TV and control your HW-Q70R sound bar.
With Smart Things and the sound bar, you can make adjustments to volume and some of the settings like Equalizer and the Sub.
Bluetooth connectivity for music play
While the Samsung Harman Kardon Sound bar with Dolby Atmos, HW-Q70R is designed to work with your TV, you can also use it as a Bluetooth speaker to play music from your smartphone, or via Spotify. It’s as simple as choosing the HW-Q70R as the output source when you’re playing music. Get it connected by going to your phone or device’s Bluetooth Settings menu and linking it.
Stream music in Ambient Mode
A neat feature of using Bluetooth audio is that the TV will show info about the music while it’s playing on the sound bar. You can also play Bluetooth music and set your Samsung QLED TV into Ambient mode for relaxing ambience. In my testing it seems this will only work with Android phones, not iPhones.
Does Samsung Harman Kardon Sound bar work with Alexa?
Most of our in home technology is moving to hands-free, and this sound bar is no different. The HW-Q70R has Alexa voice control compatibility. Sadly this is easier said than done.
One other note about this; the Alexa voice control is not built into the sound bar: you need a separate Alexa device like the Amazon Echo, Show or Dot in order to control the sound bar. No Echo, no control.
How to set up Alexa Voice Control for Samsung Harman Kardon Soundbar HW-Q70R
Getting Alexa feature set up is not easy. Initially, I tried to simply “Add Device” in the Alexa app. That didn’t work and the app couldn’t find the speaker. Next, I found some instructions online that is said to enable Samsung Audio as a Skill inside the Alexa App—these instruction didn’t work either. Next I tried to link Smart Things as a skill and Discover Devices again. While Alexa found the 8K TV, there was still no dice on the sound bar.
After numerous attempts and a bunch of online reading it looks like a lot of folks are having trouble navigating this. It seems you need some kind of odd combination of a Samsung account, the Smart Things app and Alexa. But how you get them to work together is a mystery. Here’s how I connected the sound bar:
- I decided to link the sound bar in the Smart Things app first.
- Go to Smart Things.
- Click Add Device then scan for new devices—it was seeing the Sound bar!
- I then went back to the Alexa app and tried to Add Device. Bingo—the app was finally seeing the sound bar.
The controls here are somewhat limited. The main feature is the volume being adjustable. There aren’t much more features beyond that since to play/pause are controlled either by your smartphone’s music app or Spotify or something similar. (It appears you need a Spotify premium account to get full Alexa functionality, a service I don’t currently have.)
Overall review of Samsung Harman Kardon Sound bar HW-Q70R
This sound bar has a lot of positive features:
- The sound quality is outstanding.
- The Dolby Atmos works amazingly well.
- The sound bar is pretty compact, and easy to set up and connect.
- I also love the fact it works as a plain old Bluetooth speaker for streaming my music.
On the downside?
- It wasn’t easy or intuitive to get Alexa voice control working.
- The Smart Things control for this sound bar seem pretty limited with just the EQ and bass adjustments.
But this sound bar is all about the sound and the Dolby Atmos, and the overall package is pretty great. So, if you’re looking for something that sounds amazing for your new 4K or 8K TV, this is a great option.