Polk React soundbar review: Built-in Alexa for your TV speaker

    I’ve had a voice assistant in my home for the previous few years and it is laborious to understand how I ever did with out it. The complete household makes use of it to show off the lights, ask for the climate or, to my horror, take heed to limitless quantities of Spotify-skewing pop music. The Polk React brings the comfort of Alexa right into a TV-friendly, soundbar kind. The important query is: Do we actually want a TV speaker that is additionally an assistant? 

    LikeAmazon Alexa onboard works nicely.Excellent sound high quality for the value.Smart wanting design

    Don’t LikeOnly one HDMI inputOptional sub and surrounds are pricey.

    The new React follows up Polk’s authentic almost-but-not-officially-an-Echo soundbar, the Polk Command Bar. The React differs from the Command as a result of it does not embrace the wi-fi subwoofer — it is only a single bar. The React sounds superb and is equally comfy with films and music, and its integration with Alexa is even slicker than earlier than. The result’s a well-rounded package deal in your cash.But again to that important query. Honestly I favor preserving my assistant in a separate, devoted speaker. Ask Alexa a query on a hybrid machine just like the React and the audio grinds to a halt whereas the assistant does your bidding. That could be annoying, particularly when it’s important to interrupt your The Nevers session to ask a associated query.

    Then once more, you would possibly favor an all-in-one answer, particularly if you happen to do not have already got an Alexa speaker in your residing space. And the React is a greater worth than the $400 Sonos Beam, one other Alexa-powered soundbar, though it lacks Sonos’ multiroom chops. At the time of publication the React is on the market for $200, and if you wish to enhance the sound you’ll be able to add an optionally available sub ($180) and/or the SR2 surrounds ($180), offering a pleasant improve path for the long run.What’s within the field?The Polk Command Bar lacked the stylishness of the Sonos Beam, however the React smooths out the awkwardness with touches like its comfortable, woolen grill. The distinctive central ring part stays — with quantity, motion and on/off buttons set in a circle that appears like the highest of an old-school Echo — however the exercise mild is now an illuminated bar throughout the entrance edge. 
    Ty Pendlebury/CNET
    The bar itself measures 2.2 inches excessive, 4.76 inches deep and 34 inches vast. The soundbar is wall-mountable by means of keyhole keyhole mounts on the again. The audio part consists of two midrange drivers, two tweeters and two passive radiators beneath for added bass.

    Inputs run to a single HDMI (ARC) output, an optical enter for TV audio, Bluetooth, and a USB that is strictly for firmware updates. I do want it had the Polk Command Bar’s second HDMI port, which is a boon for customers with a number of gadgets. The unit additionally provides Wi-Fi connectivity, although not Ethernet, for connecting the voice assistant to the Internet. 
    Ty Pendlebury
    The React contains Amazon’s Multi-Room Music compatibility along with Spotify Connect, however sadly no AirPlay or Chromecast in-built. I did respect that music requests through Alexa could be performed by means of Tidal by default, although.The React can work with an optionally available Sub and/or {surround} audio system.
    Ty Pendlebury/CNET
    The optionally available wi-fi Polk React Sub is hefty, akin to the one I noticed on the JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, and it prices a reasonably penny, too, at $180. The giant 16.5-by-8.6-by-13.7-inch field has a 7-inch woofer onboard. Meanwhile optionally available rear audio system are available devoted Left and Right variations and have 10-foot lengthy energy cables. The audio system, formed vaguely like a glasses case, are completed in grey marle and measure roughly 8 inches lengthy by 4 inches sq..For a comparatively cheap soundbar, the distant management is fairly complete. It’s chunky however in a practical manner and it provides loads of management capabilities — even for the degrees of the rears and the sub. These latter controls is also seen as a not-so-subtle upsell try.Interacting with Alexa
    Ty Pendlebury/CNET
    In the time because the introduction of voice assistant-enabled soundbars, I’ve some second ideas on the expertise, as have seemingly many producers. There are two main causes. First, folks most likely have already got a digital assistant of their lounge by now, as a result of they’re fairly low cost. Second, the sound from the principle speaker “ducks” or mutes everytime you difficulty a command, that means your present or film is interrupted. Those caveats apart, the Polk React was comparatively painless when it got here to issuing instructions, listening to my “Alexa” wake phrase even when on the highest quantity. The speaker does not mute utterly when it geese, that means you’ll be able to nonetheless type of hear what is going on on. Queries had been shortly resolved and so the interruption wasn’t as nice as with different good soundbars I’ve examined, such because the Yamaha YAS-209 or JBL Link Bar.
    Ty Pendlebury/CNET
    If you do not need to use the distant you can too use your voice for the entire controls, together with the flexibility to change the sub and rear volumes. In a associated trend, the one factor that irked me throughout setup was that neither the soundbar nor the subwoofer guide inform you the way to sync the peripherals. Hopefully the corporate can repair this for its May launch, however if you happen to’re caught you must press the sync button on the soundbar for 4 seconds, then the synching machine’s for 4 seconds, after which contact the soundbar’s button shortly once more.An evening on the couchAs with the wonderful collection of TV audio system earlier than it, the Polk React is equally at dwelling with films as it’s with enjoying music. The array of quickly-changeable sound modes means that you could ask Alexa on the fly if you wish to enhance intelligibility (voice quantity) or bathe in pseudo-surround sound (film mode).Sadly, I didn’t have the Sonos Beam available for direct comparability, however I did have two subwoofer-less soundbars, the Vizio M21D-H8 ($150) and the JBL Bar 5.0 Multi Beam ($350), that bookend the Polk in worth.I began my testing with some of the memorable sequences from a superhero film — up there with Superman flying world wide backwards — which is Wonder Woman going “over the top” of the World War I trenches (1:14:00). Bullets fly as our hero strides confidently by means of the mud earlier than bracing herself with the assistance of her defend for a machine gun assault. The scene introduced me chills.The Polk was capable of seize the film’s epic sweep, the soundtrack swelled and bullets zinged, however I did miss a few of the oomph and immersiveness a bigger system may deliver. In comparability, the Vizio wasn’t as clear and did not have as a lot bass. It merely felt a bit underpowered for this scene, even with the oft-reliable DTS Virtual:X processing employed.But it was the JBL Bar 5.0 which sounded essentially the most majestic on this take a look at. With the JBL’s Smart Mode turned on, dialogue was nonetheless clear however bullets whizzed across the room in a manner that they did not with the opposite two bars. There was additionally loads of backside finish for the shells that exploded round our mates as they approached the German line.With this and different materials I discovered that the Polk provided one of the best compromise of sounding full for an inexpensive sum, however the JBL was the higher dwelling cinema speaker. Maybe it may very well be price the additional $100 for film watching, however not if you wish to take heed to music.Like different Polk’s earlier than it, the React is ready to faucet out a tune very convincingly. Nick Cave’s Red Right Hand sounded pure and balanced on the Polk at each quantity stage. While the JBL can go a lot louder than the Polk, its musical efficiency got here with sonic artifacts. The bass line began to distort and grow to be synth-like past solely midway up the dial.When I added the optionally available sub and rears the Polk was at its greatest, as you’d anticipate from a system that now prices $650. The advantages of the sub and rears may very well be felt whichever sort of materials I used to be listening to, typically in surprising methods. For instance, Dead Can Dance’s Yulunga Spirit Dancer, particularly in Movie mode, was as pleasant as ever — the world-music-tinged tune sounded enormous, and it was laborious to imagine it was coming from a soundbar system.Should you purchase it?With the Polk React the producer has given customers a transparent improve path, a rarity on this class, by providing the optionally available sub and surrounds. If it’s important to select between the 2 it is a robust name. If you primarily watch TV sports activities or dramas, then the surrounds will take advantage of distinction as they offer the listener the best sense of immersion. On the opposite hand if you happen to like your music loud or your motion films explodey, then it is the sub it’s best to get. Without the optionally available audio system, the Polk React provides wonderful sonics for a single bar with a smattering of nice options for the cash. For individuals who need a hybrid Alexa speaker, it is one other satisfying system that lives as much as the good soundbar legacy created by the unique Polk Command Bar.

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