Soundbars are everywhere these days, and you probably think you've seen it all. The slim style matches flat-panel TVs and residential decor in general. Plus, soundbars typically offer easy installation; it's a simple DIY project to add one.
The popularity of soundbars allows them to evolve so quickly as a category, and there are many to choose from. With the new Soundbar S800B ($799), Samsung breaks the mold: The company's latest offering is so shockingly slim that it lets you put immersive audio practically anywhere you want, in places where regular soundbars won't work—such as paired with a UST projector
It's not every day you see a soundbar that stops you in your tracks because it is so futuristic. But one glance at the Samsung S800B is enough to trigger a double-take. And when you hear it, you'll immediately wonder how something so svelte can sound so good.
Many soundbars—including this S800B system—come with a wireless sub. Some, like this model, have optional wireless rear speakers that you can add to boost the surround sound performance.
But even on its own, the S800B offers 3.1.2 Dolby Atmos sound; it is a soundbar with real up-firing drivers for the height channels. It provides better audio quality than entry-level virtualized Atmos models. When paired with compatible Samsung TVs, you get added exclusive features like wireless Dolby Atmos and Samsung's Q Symphony sound.
The S800B's slimness is a feature in and of itself. The dimensions tell the story: 45.6" wide, 1.5" high, and 1.57" deep. As a first, Samsung offers a wireless connection for Dolby Atmos on a soundbar, at least when used with compatible 2022 Samsung TVs.
Considering how much output it offers, I was surprised to see that this soundbar consumes only 28 W of power! When it is idling, it only consumes 0.5 W. On the other hand, I'm thrilled to see Samsung not attempt to exaggerate this specification. Because what really matters is that the soundbar has sufficient power to take full advantage of its drivers, and throughout this review, I was never under the impression that it is underpowered.
This soundbar's wireless subwoofer is equally shocking in the sense that it is so compact (a 9.37" x 9.37" x 9.48" cube); it sounds so good and, according to the specifications, only needs 26 W of power to accomplish all this. As with the soundbar itself, with the subwoofer, I was surprised at how far I could push it and still get clean, dynamic sound out of the system.
You can add Samsung's SWA-9500S ($299) wireless speakers to use as surrounds, which have 2.0.2 capability. The result is a low-key, high-fidelity wireless 5.1.4 Atmos system!
Another way to get more channels is with Q Symphony. You can create a more immersive and powerful AV experience by concurrently using the soundbar and built-in speakers of Q Symphony-equipped Samsung TVs.
This connected soundbar also includes a remote, which accesses all the functions and does not need a battery because it charges with USB C. The soundbar itself does not have a visual display. Instead, whether you use the remote or the touch-sensitive buttons on the unit itself, it relies on voice prompts and several LED dots that light up or change color to indicate status.
One of my favorite things about Samsung soundbars is how the company provides a discrete control for the subwoofer volume. Being able to easily adjust the subwoofer level without going into a menu or anything like that is extremely convenient. Apartment dwellers will strongly appreciate the option to only adjust the subwoofer—instead of the overall volume—if they find that the bass is too strong.
If you want to get the most out of this soundbar, use the Samsung SmartThings app. This app is available for Android and iOS devices and allows you to adjust all soundbar settings.
Regardless of the method you choose to control it, the soundbar uses voice prompts and has small flashing LEDs to indicate status but no alphanumeric or graphical display. It's quite intuitive. The soundbar is dark unless you change settings, which adds to its stealthy nature.
The S800B is designed for minimal wired inputs, with a single HDMI ARC connection. However, it offers wireless connection through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, including support for Dolby Atmos via Wi-Fi.
The S800B includes multiple listening modes, such as a dedicated Game Mode Pro, which upmixes game sound to use the up-firing speakers and create a highly immersive and enveloping soundfield.
It also has a Standard mode which keeps processing to a minimum, a Surround mode that does for movies what Game mode does for games and adds upmixing and some oomph to the mix. There's DTS Virtual:X that offers a remarkable sense of envelopment. And then there's Adaptive Sound, which to my ears always sounded good—I did not find a reason to select any different mode manually.
A hallmark of soundbars is simplicity, and the S800B achieves that while still offering a lot of features. I used the SmartThings app on my Galaxy S20 Ultra for initial configuration, although I also had the option to do the same with my iPhone or iPad since the app runs on both mobile platforms.
I used this soundbar with two displays: a 65" Samsung QN900A Neo QLED 8K TV and a WEMAX Nova UST (ultra-short throw) projector. While the pairing of this soundbar with the Samsung TV is an obvious application, I was particularly excited about how well the superslim design works within the soundbar placement limitations imposed by UST projection.
With the QN900A, I used ARC and Wi-Fi connections to bring sound from the TV to the soundbar. With the WEMAX projector, I relied exclusively on ARC since the Wi-Fi function is a Samsung TV-specific feature. You can also connect to the soundbar via Bluetooth, but you'll want to use one of the other methods for maximum quality.
One thing I was not able to test is Atmos via Wi-Fi because the TV I used is a 2021 model, and you'll need a compatible 2022 Samsung to use that specific feature.
I love how easy it is to find a spot for the super-compact subwoofer. It easily fits behind the TV on the IKEA credenza that I use in my setup. It's totally hidden there and takes up literally zero extra floor space. But I also found it easy to put on the floor next to the stand.
The one thing to look out for with Soundbar subwoofers is what's known as localization. Localization is when you can hear where the soundbar is located and is the result of using a relatively high crossover point compared to an AV receiver-based system with large speakers and a full-size subwoofer.
It is advantageous to keep the subwoofer near the soundbar. As long as you place it against the same wall, instead of behind you or along a side wall, you'll be fine! With the subwoofer close to the soundbar, I attained a completely cohesive soundfield with no localization whatsoever.
When it comes to placement, it's nice that the S800B will sit in front of a TV on a stand and not call attention to itself, and that's how I used it in conjunction with the TV. But perhaps its most spectacular application is when it is wall-mounted because the low profile in conjunction with the Dolby Atmos capability puts it in a league of its own.
Samsung demonstrated it for me in conjunction with the company's The Frame TV. You barely notice a soundbar under the screen, and if you use the Wi-Fi sound feature, you don't need a cable to connect the two, which results in the cleanest-looking installation.
TVs are great, and today big screens like 75" and 85" models are more affordable than ever. But the way the S800B works in conjunction with UST projection also got me excited. With UST, the projected light comes from underneath the screen, and anything that sticks out from the wall will block the light path, including pretty much every soundbar and center channel speaker that I've seen.
UST projectors need a helping hand when it comes to audio, and while an AV receiver-based system is ideal for performance, you can get an awful lot out of an S800B installed in a UST system.
This soundbar sits right underneath the UST screen and is practically invisible, but the sound that it puts out has the immersive scale and scope needed to match the big screen visuals. And having a cinematic experience is why you'd go with a UST in the living room, so you want audio that can keep up.
It is also possible to fit the soundbar right in front of the UST projector; depending on the model and the depth of the TV stand there credenza, you can get everything to fit, something that's not possible with most other soundbars. So home cinema fans, take note, this Samsung is the first Atmos soundbar that works well with UST projector and their dedicated screens, and this is only possible because it is so slender.
I also like that this soundbar is very light and will mount securely on a wall using regular anchors; there is no need to drill into studs. The entire mounting kit consists of two screws and two anchors; it's as easy as it gets.
No matter how impressive the design, the S800B needs to sound good if it will justify an $899 asking price!
Thankfully the S800B exceeded my expectations in terms of audio fidelity. Samsung has found a way to make this system sound rich, full-bodied, clear, and immersive—at least in what I expect to hear in a soundbar in its price range. It is a distinct improvement over built-in TV sound.
This Samsung offers a polished and detailed sound, with real depth and the ability to sound surprisingly expansive when recreating ambient effects. But it is also able to render highly defined and focused sounds as individual objects that you can track, so you'll hear a door slam or an offscreen voice come from the right direction, often seeming to simply float in thin air—far to the left or right of the actual screen.
The quality of the soundstage and imaging produced by this soundbar defies logic: It's panoramic, it's precise, and it most definitely gives the illusion that there is some full-sized, invisible 3.1.2 surround-sound system in the room.
The contrast between the smallness of the soundbar and the big, immersive soundfield that it can create is such that it seems magical. But the truth is it's achieved with science, particularly through R&D performed at the Samsung Audio Lab, which I had the pleasure of visiting a few years back and can attest it is truly world-class.
When it comes to content, I threw a lot at the S800B. Everything from NBA basketball (the Sixers are in the postseason and looking good!) to the latest movies.
The dynamic and crisp sound of the S800B made watching Atmos Blu-ray quite surprisingly engrossing and, yes, immersive! Using the QN900A TV, I started watching a concert scene from the UHD 4K release of The Doors Movie, remixed in Atmos and presented in HDR. Holy wow, it makes it sound like there's a full-on concert in your living room; I kid you not! OK, maybe not as loud as a concert, but something much bigger and more musical than you can imagine would come from a single soundbar of this size.
The cool thing about The Doors Movie is sound is such a big part of the film. If a system can't do vocals well, it will make a mess of it. But the S800B rises to the task and gives Val Kilmer's take on Jim Morrison—Kilmer did the singing if you can believe it… he truly became Jim Morrison for that film—it gives the Morrison character's voice the depth and texture needed to feel the emotions. The film is a masterwork by Oliver Stone, and I am truly impressed with how well this soundbar handled its complex soundtrack.
The Game Pro mode on this soundbar is designed to take regular video game surround sound and upmix it, including using the up-firing drivers. It engages automatically when the soundbar senses the TV is in Game mode. It offers a dynamic plus immersive take on the audio mix that puts you inside the action and renders sounds in a wide area, even way off-screen. And it does all this with precision so that you can estimate both direction and distance.
Another benefit of Game Mode Pro is how it lifts the soundfield, so instead of the sound appearing to come from beneath the screen, it floats at a mid-screen level. Crucially this effect includes the dialog, and having the voices seem to come from the screen is a very cinema-like effect.
You'll get a similar effect with Movies that lack Atmos sound if you use the S800 B's Surround or Adaptive Sound setting; you'll get an upmix from regular surround sound that lifts the whole soundfield. The effect is even more pronounced if you pair the soundbar with a compatible Q Symphony equipped Samsung TV, particularly the 2022 models that can utilize all the TV's speakers concurrently with the soundbar.
I can't believe I enjoy listening to music through this soundbar. That's the only way I can put it. I was not expecting it to do such a great job at making stereo recordings sound like they are playing on a nice stereo system. Good speakers, with plenty of detail, smooth sound, and holographic imaging. It's truly amazing.
Using Roon as the source, I sent Tidal HiFi streaming music to the S800B via Apple AirPlay (it shows up as an output option). I fed it a wide variety of genres and listened to how it interpreted stereo imaging. I even queued up the original Hi-Fi rock demo classic, The Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd, and played "Money" and "Time" because that's what you do!
If you could travel back in time to 1973, almost 50 years ago, and play this soundbar to that band, they would surely believe that you are, in fact, from the future—simply because of the alien audio technology you brought with you.
For the listener, the S800B can make all those clocks and alarm bells in "Time" sound distinct, individual, and dynamic. When the big bass comes in, it has the heft you anticipate like a dog under Pavlov's spell, knowing what comes next and barely able to contain the excitement. Imagine just being let down at that moment? Ha, not with this soundbar. It takes you on the full trip, track by track, beginning to end.
If it can do Floyd, I thought, hey, it's gotta be good for The Orb, too (The Orb is the group that basically invented ambient dub). So I played No Sounds Are Out of Bounds and sat back as the swirling synths, tight studio drums, and dreamy singing immediately set the chill mood. The Orb is not shy about making its mixes sound huge, and right away, you can hear the grandeur the band wanted to convey with its use of echoes and reverb.
The S800B sounded great to my ears, but I also wanted to see what was going on "behind the scenes," so I took some measurements using a miniDSP UMIK-2 calibration mic and REW (Room EQ Wizard) software.
I found that the measured performance matched up quite well with my subjective impressions. Amazingly, this system's subwoofer produces audible, usable output down to 35 Hz. Below that frequency, it's silent, which is nice because some soundbar subwoofers start chuffing when they try to play below their port tuning frequency. Still, this design uses a passive radiator and totally avoids that issue.
Once I set the subwoofer level appropriately, the measured response of this Soundbar system shows reasonably good linearity that stays within a +/-3 dB range from roughly 60 Hz up to 20 kHz, with a slight dip where the subwoofer crosses over to the soundbar itself (which appears to be at around 120 Hz). When I activated the Adaptive Sound feature, it tightened up the response of the soundbar to a +/-2 dB range from 60 Hz on up, smoothing out some peaks and dips.
For a feature that requires no setup, just checking a little box, it is demonstrably effective. However, please note that the soundbar disables adaptive sound if you turn off the built-in microphone.
• 3.1.2 channels with up-firing Atmos drivers
• Wireless Dolby Atmos
• Expandable to 5.1.4
• Excellent wireless connectivity
• Samsung Q Symphony support
• Adaptive Sound calibration
• DTS Virtual:X
• Super slim design
• Easy low-profile wall mount
• Compact wireless subwoofer
Samsung pushed the boundaries of what's technologically achievable with this sleek surround-sound system. It's a legit solution for movies, TV, games, and music. Its super-slim form factor is a dramatic step forward in design that opens up new placement options, fitting into spaces other soundbars cannot.
Somehow, Samsung achieves all this without sacrificing audio fidelity. The S800B earns its asking price with features, aesthetics, and fidelity that sets it apart and above the competition. The fact you can have wireless Atmos and expand it to 5.1.4—or go even beyond that with a Q Symphony equipped Samsung TV—is icing on the cake. It's a great soundbar for any display you choose to pair it with.
This technological tour-de-force among slim soundbars is an easy choice for an Editor's Choice award.