Polk React Soundbar evaluate: Alexa’s favourite inexpensive audio improve

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Soundbars supply a easy option to improve the wimpy sound your TV pumps out of its comparatively tiny audio system. And whereas soundbars are nice on their very own, they’ll’t fairly compete with the audio output you get from a full encompass sound system. The Polk React soundbar handily beats your TV’s built-in audio all by itself. However, this Alexa-enabled speaker lets you construct a complete setup piece-by-piece if you end up bitten by the encompass sound bug. 

What’s the Polk React Soundbar?


Proper out of the field, the Polk React soundbar appears to be like a bit like an Amazon Echo product. The soundbar itself sits 34 inches extensive by simply 2.2 inches tall. Almost the entire thing sports activities a refined grey material wrap, not in contrast to what you’ll discover on Amazon’s first-party Echo audio system. The round button array on high additionally strikes a resemblance to an Echo Dot. 

At $250 retail, this isn’t a pricy soundbar, although it’s designed to compete with dearer fashions together with the excellent-but-expensive Sonos Beam. Polk touts the Alexa connectivity as considered one of its principal options and it’s really required if you wish to get the perfect efficiency out of whenever you’re streaming music (extra on that later). 

The bar is simply the beginning

Along with the React soundbar itself, Polk additionally presents supporting gear to assist construct out a complete encompass sound system. You’ll be able to add a $200 wi-fi subwoofer, and a $200 pair of encompass sound audio system to create a complete room full of drugs for roughly $650 whole. You don’t want to leap in totally when you’d fairly add simply the audio system or the sub. This sort of flexibility scores factors within the Polk’s favor.

For this evaluate, I spent a while with simply the soundbar after which with the whole system constructed out. 

Setup

Polk React soundbar connections
A primary set of connections. Stan Horaczek

Attaching the soundbar to your TV is lifeless easy. The first connector is an HDMI ARC. You’ll need to ensure that your TV helps HDMI ARC earlier than taking the plunge. It received’t make an enormous distinction in terms of sound high quality, however distant management compatibility can get a little bit wonky over optical. When you have a TV constructed within the final decade, you most likely have a minimum of one ARC HDMI port, however it could be only one so verify the labels in your set or in your guide to get the suitable connection. 

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It’s additionally value noting that you could’t use each the optical and the HDMI on the Polk soundbar on the similar time. Polk intends you to attach the soundbar to your TV and let that one connection do all of the work. You don’t even get a headphone jack, although, that type of connectivity has develop into a lot much less vital now that nobody has iPods and smartphones stopped providing analog jacks. 

Alexa joins the get together

When you plug within the energy cable and the soundbar activates, the Alexa app ought to routinely see the Polk soundbar and information you thru the method. Our take a look at unit wanted an replace and Alexa advised me about it after which routinely utilized it. It’s a very simple setup. It’s nearly Apple-level simple. 

I can say the identical for the opposite elements within the system as properly. As quickly because the rear audio system and sub had energy, they began attempting to hook up with the soundbar. I needed to re-pair the sub as soon as as a result of one thing bought bizarre, however it was clean crusing from there. 

Digging into this Polk soundbar {hardware}

Polk React soundbar compared to Sonos beam
Right here’s the React in comparison with the Sonos Beam. Stan Horaczek

That understated material cowl consoles a pair of mid-range audio system, two tweeters, and two passive bass radiators. This can be a pretty barebones association in comparison with a few of the extra superior fashions on the market which have a dozen or extra meticulously positioned audio system throwing sound in each route round your room. These additionally sometimes price significantly greater than $250. 

The accent audio system of this Polk soundbar take a equally primary and utilitarian method. The sub is a black field that’s plain sufficient to fade into the panorama of your front room when you’re used to it. The rear audio system look, properly, like audio system. Should you’re on the lookout for one thing really designer or space-age just like the Apple HomePod, you’re greatest to look elsewhere. 

Let’s watch some motion pictures

Earlier than you dig into your favourite flicks, you’ll need to select one of many preset sound choices the Polk React soundbar presents. Music, film, and sport modes accompany a particular night time mode that’s designed to make your rumbly sound system rather less offensive to the remainder of the individuals in your own home or house constructing. 

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I didn’t discover large variations between the three principal modes, however the night time setting does appear extra refined than the remainder. Sport additionally dropped the bass a bit within the combine, however it retains the highs vivid and clear so it’s simpler to listen to individuals speaking. 

I selected the fashionable motion flick, Gunpowder Milkshake on Netflix to actually give the soundbar a pay attention. By itself, the React gives loads of quantity and punch–the gunshots had the jarring affect the filmmaker supposed. In the case of immersion, although, skilled audio ears could begin to discover the comparatively small variety of drivers inside. You’re primarily listening to a pair of stereo audio system contained in the bar, which implies you don’t get fairly the identical in-your-face impact that comes from a system with a real middle channel. 

Including the secondary audio system to this Polk soundbar

Polk React soundbar speaker
You don’t have to put the speaker close to a bizarre fish sculpture, however you may. Stan Horaczek

When you connect the encompass audio system, the React system predictably presents a lot better immersion. Every speaker packs a single driver inside, which retains the models comparatively compact. Since this was a evaluate, I merely sat them on cabinets behind my sofa, however you could possibly simply completely set up them when you don’t have a floor on which to stay them. 

The subwoofer additionally did its job, pumping out decidedly extra rumble throughout on-screen explosions and the rest with a number of low-end. The soundbar itself depends on passive radiators for low-end, which simply bests your TV’s built-in audio system, however can’t compete towards one thing with actual energy behind it. 

Curiously, you’ll discover that the system adjustments the soundbar’s output to accommodate the subwoofer’s presence within the combine. The Polk soundbar pumps out much less low-end to get out of the sub’s manner, which is wise and occurs routinely. 

I discovered the sub’s output punchy and clear, however it did get a little bit muddy after I first set it up instantly subsequent to my TV cupboard. Shifting it round and giving it some house across the unit helped make it sound tighter and cleaner. 

What about music?

I exploit Spotify as my principal music streaming service and this Polk soundbar performs properly with Spotify join. Because of this, I had no subject connecting and enjoying tunes by way of my cellphone or utilizing Alexa voice instructions. Alexa doesn’t help each platform, nonetheless. So, when you’re counting on YouTube Music or Apple Music to pump out jams, then you definately’ll need to depend on the React’s built-in Bluetooth connection. Hooray for platform-specific options. 

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General music playback sounds good however not mind-blowing. Should you’re counting on the bar itself, it actually sounds higher than listening by means of your TV and even most of Amazon’s personal Echo speaker line. As a result of Alexa finds itself so built-in into the soundbar, nonetheless, it does help options like whole-home audio. That’s a giant promoting level for pricier soundbars just like the Sonos Beam and you will get it cheaper right here when you’re dedicated to the suitable platforms. 

I performed some Kendrick Lamar and my daughter opted for some Impartial Milk Lodge with a view to get a really feel for the sound. The sub is available in clutch when listening to bass-heavy music, however that shouldn’t come as a lot of a shock. The additional rumble wasn’t as mandatory with extra guitar-driven tracks.

Polk React soundbar remote
The distant is sturdy and feels good to carry. Stan Horaczek

Weirdly, the included distant has controls for tweaking bass ranges, quantity, and highs (which it calls “voice”), however it doesn’t embody any music controls for play/pause or skipping tracks. You are able to do so utilizing your voice and Alexa or management it by way of your cellphone, however buttons would have been helpful. 

In the end, the React presents some actually helpful wi-fi options, which makes it really feel like a Sonos system, even when it doesn’t fairly sound like a Sonos system. 

Who can buy this Polk soundbar?

The Polk React soundbar represents a reasonably profound improve over most built-in TV audio system. Add within the subwoofer and the accent audio system and also you’ve bought a reasonably great-sounding system for a similar worth as a Sonos Arc soundbar by itself. 

There are some tradeoffs. It doesn’t help the favored Dolby Atmos encompass format, which has gained extensive help over the previous few years. It additionally just about requires that you just purchase into the Alexa ecosystem to get essentially the most out of it. Should you’re already closely invested in Apple’s HomePod ecosystem (you’re most likely not) or the Google’s Nest Audio platform, then you must most likely look elsewhere. 

Should you’re coming in contemporary and also you need a dead-simple, however very noticeable bump in your house theater sound, then the Polk soundbar will get you there and depart you with cash left over to hire some motion pictures. Would possibly I like to recommend Encino Man?